Monday, 21 November 2011

The Rod Verses: What are they really saying?

This is the third in a three-part series on the "rod verses" included in Proverbs. Part 3 (What are they really saying?) was preceded by Part 1 (Taking the rod verses literally) and Part 2 (Taking other Proverbs literally).

Introduction

The five rod verses included in the Book of Proverbs are often used to support the "biblical model" of corporal punishment of children. Despite the rich figurative language used throughout Proverbs, these rod verses are interpreted literally and then applied in a pseudo-literal manner. These five rod verses include the following:

He who spares his rod hates his son,
but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
(Proverbs 13:24)

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
the rod of correction will drive it far from him.
(Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold correction from a child,
for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die.
(Proverbs 23:13)

You shall beat him with a rod,
and deliver his soul from hell.
(Proverbs 23:14)

The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
(Proverbs 29:15)

The word translated "rod" comes from Hebrew word "shebet". It is used both literally and figuratively throughout Scripture.

When used literally, "shebet" refers to a shepherd's club (used to protect his sheep), a ruler's sceptre (used to represent his authority), or a tribe. When used figuratively, "shebet" refers to the authority of a person, a nation, or God.

As discussed in Part 1, a literal interpretation of the "shebet" contradicts itself. Exodus 21:12-27 is clear that a man can indeed die from being struck with a rod. Other instances of the rod being used to physically strike someone are referring only to grown adults. Boundaries are provided regarding the use of a rod on slaves. Nowhere in Scripture is there an example of a young child being struck with a rod, nor are any instructions or boundaries given to ensure its judicious use.

We will now look beyond the literal view to the deep meaning and wisdom these proverbs contain.

The Rod as Parental Authority

The Book of Proverbs is rich in figurative language. In Part 2, particular emphasis was placed on the concepts of metaphor, hyperbole, and proverbs as general principles rather than promises or guarantees. With these things in mind, it is logical that a well-known object would be used in Proverbs to bring to mind its culturally-understood symbolism.

If we replace a literal interpretation of the rod with its common figurative use of "authority", we find the rod verses speaking to the idea of parental authority over a child. Such an interpretation removes all contradictions and concerns of the literal view.

A parent's authority is one of purpose, leadership, and teaching. It comes from a place of life experience and has as its goal the idea of transferring this experience - knowledge, lessons, teachings, principles, character, morals, responsibilities, and more - over to the child as he grows. This authority is not intended to be used in an overbearing or selfish manner, but is intended for the benefit of the child.

What does that authority, practically speaking, look like? To examine this concept further, we turn again to the idea of the rod, exploring the rod as Corrective Discipline and the rod as Protective Guidance.

The Rod as Corrective Discipline

Proverbs 22:15 specifies the rod as being a "rod of correction" or, in other translations, a "rod of discipline". Here, the word correction or discipline comes from the Hebrew word "muwcar", meaning "discipline, chastening, correction". Of all 50 instances of this word, the KJV translates it as "instruction" a total of 30 times. It is never used in a manner which specifies physical chastisement.

This word "muwcar" is translated as "instruction" in Proverbs 15:5: "A fool despises his father’s instruction, but he who receives correction is prudent." The connection here is between instruction ("muwcar") and correction ("towkechan"), which means "rebuke, argument, reproof, correction". As with "muwcar", physical punishment is not inherent in this word.

Proverbs 23:13 states: "Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die." The two statements are used in a connective manner, with the idea of "beat him with a rod" being an illustration of the first part, "do not withhold correction". The word "beat" comes from the Hebrew word "nakah". This is the same word used in Jonah 4:8 to describe the sun "beating" on Jonah's head. This speaks to the idea of the sun being a constant presence, relentlessly striking down upon him. Likewise, quite apart from dealing physical blows, parental authority and discipline (correction, instruction, teaching, discipling) should be a constant presence in a child's life, even when such correction is unpleasant for the child. As we are reminded in Hebrews, no discipline seems pleasant at the time, but it bears righteous fruit.

Punishment, as understood in our culture, is the use of an undesirable action intended to make the child feel bad in order to reduce or eliminate the desire to exhibit the same behaviour again. The focus is on control over external behaviours to achieve compliance. The word "punish" comes from the Latin "peona", meaning "penalty". To repeatedly demand payment where payment has already been paid (on our behalf through Jesus Christ) is to negate the message of the Gospel.

Discipline is the continuous process of coming alongside the child to teach and guide them into maturity. The focus is on the internal, inspiring proper motives for heart-level obedience. It's goal is to impart knowledge, wisdom, self-control, an understanding of right from wrong, and an internal desire to choose the right course of action.

Proverbs 29:15 tells us that "the rod and rebuke give wisdom." While punishment (including spanking) can be used to modify behaviour (external), it does not impart wisdom (internal). A parent's corrective discipline draws from a much larger base of tools and relies on a strong foundational parent/child relationship. Physical chastisement is unnecessary as a tool to achieve the desired goals of discipline.

The Rod as Protective Guidance

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

-Psalm 23:4

When we consider the picture of the rod as a shepherd's rod, we find two more ideas to add to our understanding: the use of the rod as protection and as guidance.

In his book "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23", shepherd and author Phillip Keller described the use of the shepherd's rod ("shebet") in protecting his sheep:
"...[T]he shepherd boy spends hours practicing with this club, learning how to throw it with amazing speed and accuracy. It becomes his main weapon of defense for both himself and his sheep.

...The sheep asserts that the owner's rod, his weapon of power, authority and defense, is a continuous comfort to him. For with it the manager is able to carry out effective control of his flock in every situation.

...There is a second dimension in which the rod is used by the shepherd for the welfare of his sheep - namely that of discipline. If anything, the club is used for this purpose perhaps more than any other. If the shepherd saw a sheep wandering away on its own, or approaching poisonous weeds, or getting too close to danger of one sort or another, the club would go whistling through the air to send the wayward animal scurrying back to the bunch."

A shepherd also carried a second instrument, a staff. In Hebrew, this word is "mish'enah" and means support or staff. Although this word is not used in the rod verses, the idea is worth exploring in order to provide a more complete picture of a shepherd's care of his sheep. Keller described the use of the staff as well:

"The staff is essentially a symbol of the concern, the compassion that a shepherd has for his charges. No other single word can better describes its function on behalf of the flock than that it is for their comfort.

Whereas the rod conveys the concept of authority, of power, of discipline, of defense against danger, the word 'staff' speaks of all that is longsuffering and kind.

...There are three areas of sheep management in which the staff plays a most significant role. The first of these lies in drawing sheep together into an intimate relationship. The shepherd will use his staff to gently lift a newborn lamb and bring it to its mother if they become separated.

But in precisely the same way, the staff is used by the shepherd to reach out and catch individual sheep, young or old, and draw them close to himself for intimate examination. The staff is very useful this way for the shy and timid sheep that normally tend to keep at a distance from the shepherd.

The staff is also used for guiding sheep. Again and again I have seen a shepherd use his staff to guide his sheep gently into a new path or through some gate or along dangerous, difficult routes. He does not use it actually to beat the sheep. Rather, the tip of the long slender stick is laid gently against the animal's side and the pressure applied guides the sheep in the way the owner wants it to go. Thus the sheep is reassured of its proper path."

According to Keller, sheep will not lie down and rest unless they are free of all fear. Thus the rod and the staff are used only for the benefit of the sheep. At no time is either instrument used to strike the sheep. Likewise, our "rod" (parental authority, corrective discipline, and protective guidance) must ultimately be a comfort to our children, never a source of fear.

The Rod Verses Restated

Taking each of these ideas into account, how would the rod verses read if we included all of the rich meaning below the surface, with the figurative language spelled out in a more literal manner?

He who spares his [authoritative discipline and guidance] hates his son,
but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.
(Proverbs 13:24)

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
[a parent's authoritative discipline and guidance] will drive it far from him.
(Proverbs 22:15)

Do not withhold correction from a child,
for if you [constantly correct and discipline him in your authority], he will not die.
(Proverbs 23:13)

You shall [constantly correct and discipline him in your authority],
and deliver his soul from hell.
(Proverbs 23:14)

[A parent's authoritative discipline] and rebuke give wisdom,
but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
(Proverbs 29:15)

Thus we have explored the concept of metaphor and how it is used in the rod verses. The two other figurative concepts mentioned earlier - hyperbole and generalities - come into play as well. Focusing particularly on Proverbs 23:13-14, we see it stated that this idea of authoritative discipline will cause the child to "not die" and will "deliver his soul from hell". This is both hyperbole (exaggeration) and generality. We understand that a parent does not literally have the power of salvation; Scripture tells us that only the Grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ can bring about our salvation. Furthermore, proper discipline does not guarantee the salvation of a child.

As parents, however, we have a weighty responsibility and much influence over our children. We must discipline them, instruct them, teach them, guide them, pray for them, and steep them in the knowledge and love of God, all while understanding that their ultimate salvation will come from Christ alone - and indeed, can and has come to many in spite of their parents' failure to properly disciple them.

Further exploration of Proverbs 23:14 leads to another interesting insight. The word "hell" comes from the Hebrew word "she'owl" and has a number of meanings:
  • sheol, underworld, grave, hell, pit
  • Sheol - the OT designation for the abode of the dead
  • place of no return
  • without praise of God
  • wicked sent there for punishment
  • righteous not abandoned to it
  • of the place of exile (fig)
  • of extreme degradation in sin

Here we find the idea of "hell" as the "abode of the [eternally] dead" expanded to also include the meanings "without praise of God" and "of extreme degradation in sin". A parent's authoritative discipline can not only point them towards God (who ultimately has power over their salvation), but can also assist in preventing the child from being "without praise of God" and from entering into "extreme degradation in sin".

The Rest of the Bible

While God's Word is inspired and unchanging, it has also been subject to much cultural interpretation over time. The rod verses have been burdened with man-made ideas of corporal punishment as it relates to children, and much of the wisdom in these verses has been overlooked as a result. When we examine the rod verses alongside the rest of Scripture, we find a very different message than the one usually drawn from them, one of gentleness and mercy alongside authority. Consider the following passages:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
(Matthew 18:1-7)

Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.
(Mark 10:13-16)

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
(Ephesians 6:4)

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
(Colossians 3:21)

But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.
(1 Thessalonians 2:7)

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
(1 John 4:18)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
(Ephesians 4:2)

Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’
(Matthew 18:32-33)

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
(John 8:3-7)

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:17-21)

What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?
(1 Corinthians 4:21)

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12)

Summary

A literal interpretation of the rod verses fails to reveal the rich meaning, wisdom, and truth the proverbs contain. The literal interpretation was examined in Part 1, while the figurative language found throughout the Book of Proverbs was examined in Part 2. Part 3 has looked beyond the literal interpretation to the deeper meaning these verses hold.

The rod was, at the time the Book of Proverbs was written, a culturally-understood representation of authority. In the rod verses, this speaks to the idea of parental authority over a child. This authority is one of vision, leadership, and instruction, with the parent's life experience (knowledge, principles, right-living, and more) transferred from the parent to the child as he grows.

The rod verses also speak to the idea of corrective discipline. Examining the Hebrew words behind these concepts reveals nothing that points specifically to physical chastisement. Rather, we find the idea of a parent's authoritative discipline and correction being a constant presence in a child's life. From a foundation of relationship, this discipline seeks to impart wisdom and generate internal change rather than merely modify external behaviour.

Finally, when examining the picture of the shepherd's rod, along with his co-tool, the staff, we discover the idea of the rod as protective guidance. The shepherd's rod was used to defend and discipline his sheep, and was a symbol of his power, authority, and defense. The shepherd's staff was used to gently lift and guide his sheep, and was a symbol of comfort and compassion. Neither tool was ever used to strike the sheep. Likewise, a parent should use his authority not to instil fear, but to gently protect, guide, and comfort them.

In short, the rod is a picture of a parent's constant authoritative discipline as he gently guides his child along the right path.


For further study:
Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the spanking controversy by Samuel Martin
A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller
A Study of "The Rod" Scriptures
An Answer to Proverbs 23 and 'beatest'
Christian Child Discipline: Is Spanking Biblical?
Train up a Child in Whose Way?

15 comments:

  1. Good article. You clearly have done some homework and have a gift of displaying your arguments with organization and flow. I've never been quite so gifted in that area, so I admire you for that, amongst other reasons.

    I also admire your mission to raise up your little ones in the admonition of our Lord.

    I can't, however, completely agree with your intended stance on corporal punishment, though I do agree that it is misused as much if not more than it is used correctly.

    While I find your definitions of the terms used in Proverbs enlightening, I fail to be convinced that a completely non-corporal punishment style of parenting is what was intended in these scriptures. Neither can I make this void of corporal punishment become parallel with our relationship with our heavenly Father.

    To become as children to enter the kingdom of heaven is to believe our Father's teaching without doubt, without outside influence, as children do with their parents. Children believe what their parents tell them without question. This is one of the reasons that they do not get sarcasm. They will be confused by the literal meaning of the sentence being spoken.

    By completely removing the possibility of the literal meaning of the scriptures that you quote it almost appears that you have attributed some sarcasm to the proverbs.

    You say that a literal meaning contradicts the rest of scripture by quoting a single verse and through word redefinition, but I would argue that sin and its resulting physical consequences are prevalent throughout scripture, most notably at the physical torture done to Jesus as payment for all sin.

    As children, we do not fully understand the concept of the unseen nor of right and wrong. They, in turn, are not eternally responsible for their actions during this age. However, to train them up to admonish the Lord does include teaching the reality of a physical punishment for sin. To teach otherwise suggests that Jesus bore such physical abuse simply because those involved just didn't like Him. Or, worse that the beating was itself evil, rather than the result of our sin.

    We are to represent God during this time and after. This can only be done with relationship with our children as you suggest as well as our own personal relationship with our Father. We are to love as He loves, guide as He guides, and also teach as He tells us to teach.

    To teach our children that the only consequences to their sin is the taking away of their toys, free time, or the approval of their parents fails to teach them the most important lesson of all, that sin separates us from Him. He is love, hope, joy, peace, etc. Separation from Him is separation from everything that He is.

    The rod is a literal one and when used correctly, without anger but with love, it teaches His principles and will train them up as He intended.

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  2. Levi, I appreciated your gracious response. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

    The rod verses on their own do not specifically exclude the use of physical punishment; however, neither do the verses mandate its use. If it is not a necessary component of discipline, then the many drawbacks of corporal punishment (both research-based and anecdotal) are enough for me to remove it from use altogether.

    While I understand what you are saying, I disagree with your conclusion that a lack of physical punishment in response to a child's misdoings suggests that Jesus bore physical abuse for nothing. Quite the opposite, I believe that to continue to inflict further punishment for sin is to negate all that Jesus accomplished on the cross. He bore that punishment "once for all"; further punishment only serves to suggest that his sacrifice was insufficient.

    I fail to see how spanking a child will teach them, in a way that no other discipline can, that sin separates us from God.

    If the rod is a literal one, then all of this rich meaning is lost.

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  3. I would gently say that your inability to see the use of correct corporal punishment in the proverbs does not negate their teaching in the verses you must so twist and stretch for some conclusion that meets your desires for understanding the proverbs.
    I commend you as well to love and raise your little ones in the Lord.
    I certainly don't want to encourage you to violate your conscience either in regards to corporal punishment.

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  4. A beautiful and well thought out conclusion to this series. Thank you!
    This statement says it all:

    "I believe that to continue to inflict further punishment for sin is to negate all that Jesus accomplished on the cross."

    If the ultimate goal of (Christian) parenting is to raise up well adjusted (Christian) adults, and this *has* been done both with and without corporal punishment...then logically, it can be stated that the means by which this goal is accomplished is what is important.

    Perhaps this is just my take on the whole issue, but I just don't see how Jesus' teachings jive with spanking.

    Thank you again for this extremely thought provoking series. It has blessed me, and I pray that it will continue to bless others as well.

    Love in Christ.

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  5. Anon, I know it is hard to reconsider our biases and our long-held understanding of particular passages, but I think it is important to examine them carefully to see if they hold up to honest scrutiny. There is so much wisdom lost when we restrict our understanding of these verses to a solely literal view.

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  6. Little Red Hen, thank you for sharing those wise and thoughtful words.

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  7. Levi,

    God is not sarcastic?

    Job 38:4,5

    “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.
    Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
    Or who stretched the line upon it?"

    If that's not sarcasm, then I don't know what is.

    Yes, we are to accept God as a young child, but He also calls us "to come, let us reason together." The "Bible" as we know it did not exist in those times. All these teachings were handed down by word of mouth, passed down through tradition, wrapped in the garments of culture - something that we are completely separated from by thousands of miles and years. Christians today go about interpreting scripture on a whim and pay no heed to cultural conditioning or mistranslation. The only truly inspired, infallible version of scripture is the original Greek, Hebrew and Arabic. Now certainly I believe God has preserved and still works through modern translations, but things are still lost in translations.

    "To become as children to enter the kingdom of heaven is to believe our Father's teaching without doubt, without outside influence..." Without outside influence? From what? Nothing other than the Bible? This is also one reason why I do not believe in Sola Scriptura. The Bible was not even bound into one book until 300 ad, and then not available to individuals until the printing press in the 1500s. The Lord works in mysterious ways. YES, the Scriptures are incredibly important. Yes! We should bind them on our hearts and minds. But it isn't only through scripture that we see and know God. In fact, I'm afraid too many Christians these days have taken Christ and turned Him into a book. I'm afraid some people love their Bibles more than they love their God. I'm afraid too much damage has been done by those same Christians who then use their Bible as a weapon (and NOT the good kind: a two-edged blade dividing truth).

    "To teach otherwise suggests that Jesus bore such physical abuse simply because those involved just didn't like Him. Or, worse that the beating was itself evil, rather than the result of our sin." I for one have come to believe that gentle, non-punitive discipline is valid exactly BECAUSE of what Christ did on the cross. How can Christ say to me: "I have paid your punishment" and then I turn around and punish my child? The parable of the debtor is so much the same and so fitting here. Those who beat Him didn't like Him. Even Christ says that the world will not like us. But even though they thought they were just doing away with a nuisance and a greater work was being done. The centurion at the cross realized this, even though he himself had beaten Jesus. The beating was evil. Christ was beat by evil, manipulative men! God didn't sweep His hand down and beat His own Son. Rather Jesus KNEW what was to befall Him and accepted this. The punishment we were deserving of was ultimate death. The beating Christ received is NOT equal to corporal punishment of our CHILDREN.

    The NT is just FILLED with admonitions to gentle spirits, grace, self-control, turning the cheek, and forgiveness. How is hitting another person because they did something wrong fit in with those things? And I'm saying "person" instead of "child" because that's what they are: a child. We can be those things and do those things because Christ has made us new creations. We are no longer bound bind the sin and wickedness and originally bound Him to the cross. So why should we bind our children as if they were? (Which brings up another interesting theological viewpoint on Children and protestants treating their children as though they are not also Christians.)

    Christ died so that we don't have to. Christ was punished instead of us....ALL of us.

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  8. Thanks for putting together this series! I pray that it will give well-meaning but punitive Christian parents food for thought...

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  9. Things like wisdom and discretion are not tangible, so it is obvious that one should take it figuratively when it is said to "tie them around your neck." With words that have obvious literal tangibility, and have been used literally within the book of Proverbs itself (10:13, 26:3) have to have a lot of evidence in order to prove that they cannot be taken literally in the verses in question. All you are going on are one verse (Proverbs 14:3) and one possible verse ("the rod of correction" 2:15) as figurative.

    To quote from the article I've linked before (http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=7&article=1255), regarding even figurative uses of the word "rod":

    "In passages where the term “rod” is used figuratively, the figurative use presupposes the literal meaning (e.g., Job 9:34; 21:9; Isaiah 10:24; 11:4; 14:29; 30:31; Lamentations 3:1; Micah 5:1)."

    Unless you can prove your assertion in a previous comment that the truly literal view of the rod verses absolutely means striking a young man with a thick rod and nothing else, your argument holds no water. All you have done in this regard is raise doubt as to whether na'ar can include children of all ages and then staked your claim on the benefit of the doubt.

    Also, you have not allowed for my plausible conclusion regarding the relationship between the law and the gospel. You give yourself grace in your interpretation where you do you not for rod verse literalists. You state the prescriptive reality of the salvation of kids is not always descriptive, too, as I've also allowed for as a literalist. You stick to your original point that a literalist negates the Gospel when I have already shown that corporal punishment and the Gospel are not mutually exclusive and that our deserved punishment taken on by Christ does not negate earthly punishment for wrong doing. You don't have to agree with this conclusion but it surprises me that you don't even allow for it.

    Your figurative interpretation of "rod" in Proverbs 23:13 does not match the "plain sense, common sense" rule. Yes, someone could be killed with just about any object, but a parent seeking wisdom from Proverbs to discipline his child will not kill him with it. There is no specific prescription for its judicious use because as I've stated before, it's a wisdom issue, not of the law, where "Three swats should do it."

    I would be fine with you promoting against corporal punishment to your readers, but that you claim corporal punishment is unbiblical by your limited exegesis and allow for no other conclusion lacks integrity.

    I hope you allow this comment because I haven't yet (and don't plan to, hopefully :) monopolized this post's thread.

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  10. Michelle,

    Thank you for picking apart my argument. You're correct then, I suppose, that there is sarcasm to be found within the pages of God's written word. However, I'm sure that you would agree that it would be ridiculous to imply that having found some sarcasm we can therefore liberally apply that wherever else in the Bible we so freely choose. My point was simply to say that a literal punishment seems rather obvious and unavoidable yet the blog in which this refers would rather substitute a figurative definition in its place.

    Also, I agree that the written Word is not our sole means of communication with God, however I find it clear that all other communication should be tried and tested with it. Though, that's not at all where I was going with the "as children" comment such as you so quickly suggest. Rather, when given clear instruction from God, we are not to pick it apart, look at it from all angles, have discussions over the subject, write dissertations, debate, etc., etc. We are to obey. Simple, I know. But, that's what we want our children to do with our clear instruction. We aren't flattered by their deep thinking about what we have instructed. Instead, we are satisfied and proud with their submission. No doubt, you are sneering to that and already attaching more meaning to what I just said, but nonetheless all parents know this.

    Also, I find your argument opposite of mine relating Jesus' payment for sins less than biblical on a number of levels. Punishment is common throughout the Bible. What is justice if not drawing a line between right and wrong, rewarding those who do right while doling out punishment to those when they do wrong? We talk about a just God, while simultaneously personalizing Him as some all-encompassing loving being who fails to punish. It's more than just unbiblical. It's wrong. Jesus paid a penalty for all sin, but He didn't stop our ability to sin and continue to face the wrath of God, the very wrath that Jesus bore. The penalty for sin is death. Our free will still exists and we can freely choose death. Thank God for clear teaching rather than convoluted questionable material.

    Don't forget that the loving, smiling, peaceful Jesus you speak of will as the Lion of Judah personally open the seven seals releasing the four horsemen of the apocalypse, amongst other judgements. He is just and as the Psalms say, "your eyes will see the reward of the wicked."

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  11. " What is justice if not drawing a line between right and wrong, rewarding those who do right while doling out punishment to those when they do wrong?"

    Can you point out any place in scripture where God does this to a child? A small child? An infant, even? I know of none. I firmly believe there IS a difference in (physically) punishing someone who is not mentally capable of comprehending that punishment. To me, it's akin to punishing a mentally retarded person. Both a young child and a handicapped person have similar brain functions (rather, limitations). I DO believe there is an age where punishment can used effectively - and for each child it will depend on when they reach that maturity.

    "Don't forget that the loving, smiling, peaceful Jesus you speak of will as the Lion of Judah personally open the seven seals releasing the four horsemen of the apocalypse, amongst other judgements."

    And I most certainly don't think of Jesus as some hippie guy up in the sky (and I didn't say anything about "loving, smiling, peaceful Jesus" - but I did speak of Christ redeeming us from our sinful states).. I firmly believe in the natural consequences of sin. (Or should I say UNnatural, as sin is not our truly natural state?) But it also seems that there is a difference in US dishing out punishments on our small child for really what is childishness and rarely intentional sin, verses God allowing ME to face the consequences of MY own sin. One is a sinful person judging another person - who is mostly helpless, the other is a righteous God judging a sinner who knows better. YES! Jesus will release those judgements, those horsemen. But who are they released upon? Believers? Or the world?

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  12. A thoughtful and well put together series :)

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  13. So many emotions are flowing through me right now after reading your series and this last page of responses...

    First off, thank you for your wonderful series.

    One poster wrote, "The only truly inspired, infallible version of scripture is the original Greek, Hebrew and Arabic. Now certainly I believe God has preserved and still works through modern translations, but things are still lost in translations." This is so true. In order to fully understand any scripture, book, poem, essay, etc, a person should study it in the original language. If they cannot, then they must rely upon knowable scholars - whether they are Christian or secular. Another thing that one needs is to know the culture and time period in which the article/book/etc was written. If one does not do this, the book/article/etc if interpreted/translated will be translated by using the current modern definition for a period word. For example...the KJV uses the word "gay" in James 2:3 "And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing." In today's culture, "gay" can be translated into "glad or happy" or "homosexual." So if we don't study the culture, we may end up interpreting/translating this passage as "And ye have respect to him that weareth the 'homosexual' clothing." or what about Matthew 19:14 "But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Are we going to let the children "hurt" when going to Jesus or will we "allow" them to come to Jesus. AND, as you all know the correct answer to both these questions are "glad/happy" and "allow/let." But we only know this because we have studied the King James era and know that they used these words commonly in their day and we have studied THEIR definitions of the words.

    Why then, do we not do the same thing when it comes to Proverbs? Hundreds of years of engrained doctrine is hard to shake. I really do understand this. I was raised this way and raised my kids this way. But why can't the "rod" advocates even consider this? They complain that others won't consider that these verses could actually mean what it literally says...they are doing the exact same thing. When different Bible verses contradict themselves, then we need to step back and ask ourselves "WHY" and "How can verses be read so that they don't contradict themselves?" The answer lies in the cultural definitions of the words and delving into other historical writings as to how the people of the Bible during this time/age lived.

    Some scripture cannot be translated at face value, Even the disciples had to ask Jesus for understanding behind some of his parables when he taught. If the disciples who understood their own culture didn't understand the parable Jesus was teaching and had to ask him, how much more do we need to study the culture and how they defined their words and look at the scripture from all the definitions of the "troubling" word until we find the definition that makes the most sense when reading that scripture. And that needs to be done over and over, with each scripture that causes us to scratch our heads instead of taking it at OUR face value with OUR cultural definition.

    So, if you want to take the rod verses at our cultural face value, then do so. But, be sure when you apply the rod that it is a 5-6 foot long, 1.5-2 inch in diameter stick when you spank your child because the Bible hasn't said anything about using a wooden mixing spoon.

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  14. Dear Housewife, I'm so grateful for this series on the rod verses! We are a family [from Romania] that came to embrace gentle parenting after many struggles with the "biblical model of corporal punishment". When I first red these posts I've already came to these same conclusions, but you manage to organize them with logic and good arguments and links to studies so these became my point of reference when addressing this issue.
    I would like so much to pass the link to my friends but most of them don't handle English so well. So I would like to ask your permission to translate them in Romanian and post them on my blog (http://arisiame.wordpress.com/) with link to the source, of course.
    Thank you and waiting for you answer!

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    1. That sounds like a lovely idea, Delia. I'd be more than happy to consent to that. Thank you!

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