I love reading different people’s perspectives on the rod verses. Even when they don’t all agree, I find that studying the verses and the interpretations of the verses is a great way to both reinforce and rethink my beliefs 🙂
I am currently enjoying Heartfelt Discipline as one of my reads, so I thought I’d discuss his beliefs on the rod. As always, please buy the book if you want the details! It truly is excellent, even if I disagree with a few little parts 😉
In his book, Clarkson talks about how he spanked and even fashioned his own paddle for a “rod” for his children. It didn’t feel right though. He says
As much as I preferred other methods, I used the paddle for one reason only: I believed it was God’s ordained method of disciplining children. I didn’t want to be disobedient to God in my role as a father, and I certainly didn’t want to contribute to my children’s becoming rebels. And yet my spirit was deeply troubled every time I used the paddle. It didn’t seem to fit the character of God or be consistent with the nature of a loving parent. It didn’t seem to be proportional discipline for a young child. Neither did it seem to have sufficient biblical support. in short, it just didn’t seem right.
He started to research it some more. In his research, he learned several things (buy the book if you want the hebrew word study! This is just an overview):
- The “child” in Proverbs 22:15, 23:13-14, and 29:15 (all of the “rod” verses except for one) is the hebrew word “naar”, which means a young adult… usually mid-teens – could be 16-24 according to Jewish rabbinical law. Naar was used to describe men such as Joseph when he was sold into slavery, David when he defeated Goliath, and Joshua when he scouted the lands. The only other rod verse applied to children (13:24) uses the word translated “son” (“ben”), and there is no need to assume this means anything other than a “naar”. All other rod verses refer to adult fools.
- The rod is literal, but not as most Christian parents use it
The rod is an instrument of punishment and correction. It’s not a switch or a paddle or a dowel or a wooden spoon. If you accept the rod passages of Proverbs as a divine mandate for disciplining young children and you take those passages literally, you’ll find yourself beating your child with a heavy stick or branch.
Preach on, brother! 😉
- Children are not the focus of these verses. These chapters are all about older teens who are to the point of deciding good and evil. Young children are not yet to that point. They are not yet believers and are expected to think like children.
- Proverbs are proverbs. They aren’t law. They should be read proverbially 😉
Clarkson closes the chapter with this quote
When I finally began to “spare the rod,” I naturally wondered about the biblical alternative to rod-based discipline. Answering that question has shown me not only a heart-oriented approach to discipline, but also a biblical relationship with my children. I was missing the relational part of discipline that would enable me to open and to win my children’s hearts; I was missing the biblical picture of discipline as a journey along a path with my children; and I was missing the life of the Holy Spirit in the discipline and training of my children.
The link above goes to my previous article on the same topic 🙂
Clarkson agrees that the rod was probably used on older children. Then again, as he also points out
Should we use the rod on rebelious sons today? No, I think not… We are no longer bound to the Old Testament Law (for instance, we don’t stone rebellious sons). We are instead guided by the liberty and grace of the New Covenant, made possible by the shed blood of Jesus on our behalf… So should we be just as serious in dealing with rebellious sons as Solomon suggests? Yes, emphatically so! But we need to discipline our sons in light of the rest of Scripture, which was not available to Solomon. There is so much more to biblical discipline, as we will see in the chapters that follow, than what is found in a few passages in proverbs.
And I shall write about those future chapters very soon 🙂