The Rod of Discipline

The Biblical point of view explored – Stop Using the Cane 8

One of the main reasons why the idea of not using the cane as the main means of punishment is distasteful to most of us is the Biblical quotes about the rod, unfortunately we view the Bible as the bedrock to support our incessant understanding of corporal punishment.

Today I want us to really look deeply into why these Bible verses may not be telling us to actually beat our children black and blue in order to get them to behave right.

Now let us look at the verses that are so often quoted to support the idea that it is acceptable and even very Christian-like to beat a child for bad behavior:

  • Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them
  • Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away
  • Proverbs 23:13 Do not withhold discipline from a child, if you punish them with the rod they will not die
  • Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey ad a rod for the back of fools.

Wow! You may actually be thinking as you read over this that if the Bible says all this then why are we talking about the cane and not using it? Shouldn’t we actually be finding ways to use it over and over again in order for our children to turn out right?

Now I would like us to look at some deeper meanings of this. Simply put Proverbs are words of wisdom giving us a guide on how we are to live our lives, but there are some other points within the purpose of this book of wisdom for living we must consider:

  1. Proverbs are poetry in motion. They use simple imagery and memorable words to drive a message home. It is therefore words of wisdom within the form of beautiful literature.
  2. Proverbs have a specific, cultural perspective. It is a mistake to impose our African mindset on the Bible just as it is wrong for a Westerner to do the same. These sayings, each proverb, has an ancient setting and the meaning is embedded in the ancient standards.
  3. Proverbs are words of wisdom from men and not promises of God. The Bible is the inspired word of God. Yes. But it does not mean that everything should be interpreted literally.

Now with all this in mind let us look at the meaning of the passages of scripture quoted above.

The main word that we must understand to get the imagery, wisdom and meaning of these passages is ‘the rod’.

What does ‘rod’ mean and refer to in Hebrew? What would be the understanding of the people of Israel to what the Proverbs were saying in those ancient times?

The most prominent image of the rod is the staff of the shepherd, it was used to guide the sheep, rest upon for support and a weapon of defense from predators.

Remember this Psalm?

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalm 23: 4

So all in all the word ‘rod’ conjures up several different images: guidance, correction, support, defense, protection, punishment.

The reality of the rod is that it encompasses more than beating and punishment. The core message of ‘Stop Using the Cane’ is not to decapitate the right of the educator or parent from disciplining a child. Instead the aim is to point us to other means of achieving the same goals without over using the one punitive method, the cane!

Discipline is absolutely important and must be a very major part of parenting and education. The Bible does not say abuse the child to discipline him, in fact Exodus 21: 20 says if you kill your male or maid servants you will be punished!

Violence is not an acceptable way to correct wrong doing. We are aware of children who have died or been maimed because of this so called ‘not sparing the rod’ issue.

In Exodus 21:24 God says to the children of Israel: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot.

Yet Jesus Christ says in Mathew 5: 38 – 39 You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’. But I tell you…If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

In Matthew 18 Jesus also tells Peter his disciple that he must forgive seventy seven times!

What is my point?

We are living in a new dispensation. A new world order that Jesus has given us. Yet we keep referring to the old law.

About the law Jesus says he came to fulfill it and not abolish the law. Yet with each major law he sets the heart of God in motion for us to emulate and understand.

With murder, Jesus says it goes deeper than killing even our anger against each other should be checked. Adultery is one thing, but lust is just as bad! Divorce was accepted before, but by Jesus’ standards the only time it is acceptable is when immorality is involved! And the list goes on…

Why do we keep bringing up ‘do not spare the rod and spoil the child’? Yet we find it difficult to remember the following verses:

Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

And even Paul asks in I Corinthians 4:21 What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?

We can interpret the rod of discipline to mean canning if we so like, but please step back and consider that even in this verse an alternative method is given by Paul and it is his preferred choice!

Lots of alternative methods of discipline so our children can learn how to behave are available. I have provided a short eBook to help us start looking at basic steps we can consider taking. I will be adding to these in the next couple of weeks.

Please download your eBook here.

Your comments and input on the biblical perspective of the rod as a discipline tool will be well appreciated. Please leave your comments below.


3 thoughts on “The Rod of Discipline

  1. Very insightful. I have always thought that the prerogative to use the cane on the child lies with his parents, and even at that, should be used with caution. There are several ways to discipline a child without resorting to the use of the cane. You have spoken well.


  2. hello,
    Michael Tovar, here at We Spanked; God biblically said that his people are starving for lack of knowledge. I think God also means to say, people are spanking children for lack of knowledge. Indeed, it’s also not for lack of incorrect information we all thought spanking was correct and inspired. Boy, as in The Christ Child, were we ever wrong! ‘Time to suck up and abhor ourselves, maybe with some sackcloth and ashes?


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