Does the Bible Teach Corporal Chastisement?

I say again, one of the main books quoted by the many Gentle Parenting advocates is Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me by Samuel Martin. But where did Martin get higreeks ideas?

“That all changed when I read a book by Dr. Philip Greven titled: Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse” (p.7).

So Martin was converted when he read a book by a secularist whose sole purpose, as stated by the title, is to take down the biblical worldview. As is my habit, I purchased the book and studied it all the way through, word by weary word, Hebrew exegesis by Hebrew lexicon, right to the end, taking serious notes as I followed his twisted reasoning.

Martin, trying to direct our faith to Dr. Greven, says, “Biblical interpretation should be left into the hands of those who are trained to do so.” Bible believers are supposed to just humbly withdraw from the discussion and wait to be told what to believe.

Re-think Scholarship

When the secular philosophy that spawned Gentle Parenting came up against the believing community who continued to trust their Bibles, it was apparent that something had to be done to break down the wall of faith. So they pulled the old “original language” ruse. They invite you to follow them into the Hebrew weeds where they know you cannot see, and after they have dragged you through incomprehensible linguistics, you are supposed to emerge on the other side believing them and not the Bible. That’s right, in these modern times when new-think justifies abortion, sodomy, gender fluidity, and infanticide, we suddenly discover that the Holy Bible supports the new-think ideas on child rearing as well.

I will show you that the authors on this subject have lied to you, boldly and blatantly, misrepresenting Hebrew scholarship and rewriting history. I will make it a lot easier to understand than the Bible correctors, and this I will do without breaking a sweat or performing original language gymnastics.

Keep in mind that their dissenting views are not based on the historical translation of Scripture in any language; they are based on re-think scholarship. But then Samuel Martin admits that in investigating how ancient Hebrews viewed the subject, “it is surprising what is not available.” A contributing author, David Kraemer, in a recent work, “Images of Childhood and Adolescence in Talmudic Literature” (published in The Jewish Family: Metaphor and Memory) agrees with the lack of Hebrew scholarship in regard to spanking children: “but as for a treatment of the child in the Bible itself, there is very little information available from Jewish sources.” After admitting the lack of evidence, he proceeds to quote a few modern Hebrew commentators—none ancient—to dismiss traditional interpretation of the Scripture by Hebrew and Christian commentators alike.

Text Attack

In his book Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me, Samuel Martin says:

“It is not appropriate to simply quote the five texts in Proverbs that refer to the ‘rod’ as the authoritative evidence for smacking children and imagine that there is little else to discuss in this matter. This does a disservice to the book of Proverbs itself, the whole of the rest of the Bible, and especially the New Testament (p.14).”

He tries to convey the idea that our position is derived solely from the book of Proverbs and then has the audacity to accuse Bible believers of doing a “disservice to the book of Proverbs itself, the whole of the rest of the Bible, and especially the New Testament.” He is not well informed. Even without the book of Proverbs, the support for corporal chastisement is overwhelming in the Bible, and especially in the New Testament.

Again Samuel Martin says:

“Most proponents of smacking have many supporters in the religious community. Most people simply quote a few passages in the book of Proverbs as their authority and think there is little else needed to do. This is problematic especially concerning the question of what the Bible says about children. Most religious teachers do not point out that the Bible, in the original Hebrew language in particular, (which the bulk of the Old Testament and the book of Proverbs were originally written in) uses more than nine different words in Hebrew to describe the various phases of life for children up to adulthood. This was a revelation to me because all of the verses in the book of Proverbs focus on a single word translated as children, but not referring to young child under the age of about ten!”

Summation of Dr. Greven’s Argument

Dr. Greven goes to great lengths to make the point that there are ten Hebrew words for child, as in “train up a child,” and that the words are age-specific. Indeed, some are, and they are seldom used. Then he says that the two Hebrew words behind the English words child and son found in the four passages that mention the rod are age specific to young men, not children. The logical conclusion being that the rod is reserved for older young men only—a point he ignores. I will prove this to be false.

The five uses of the word rod linked with the four uses of son/child are listed below. I have made bold the English words that are translations of the two Hebrew words he claims speak only of young men—not children.

Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son [Hebrew: ben]: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child [Hebrew: na’ar]; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child [Hebrew: na’ar]: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child [Hebrew: na’ar] left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

Samuel Martin is correct when he says, “Just as in English there are words in Hebrew that specifically describe a particular age group,” but he glossed over the fact that just as in English there are Hebrew words for child that are not age specific.

In English we might hear someone say, “Meet my children.” And standing before us is a man about twenty three, a young lady about twenty, a boy about twelve, a six year old, and a toddler—one word, not age specific, stating their parentage. In English we use words like child, offspring, descendant, posterity, progeny, and many more to express parentage, not age. None are age specific.

He is suggesting that because none of the Hebrew words specific to a small child are employed with the command to use the rod that the rod is designed for older children only. That argument has meaning only to naïve people who are told it has meaning.

The layman is no longer at the mercy of Hebrew scholars in discerning the definition of a word. In this digital age there are aids available to the layman that enable him to see the evidence for himself. As in any language, a word is defined by its contextual use. When it is used many, many times, it is easy to define. When a word in the Bible has very limited use, one or two times, and very little context, that is when scholarship shines, for they can search many extra-biblical sources—literature from the same time period—and read the word in context a number of times. But the words for son/child are used thousands of times in the Bible. We just need a program that enables us to read in English the many passages where the Hebrew word was translated son, child, little one, young man, etc. I use the Bible program Logos.

First Hebrew Word: Na’ar נַעַר [na’ar /nah·ar/]

Na’ar is translated “young man” 76 times, “servant” 54 times, “child” 44 times, “youth” 6 times, “babe” once, and “young” once.

Samuel Martin says:

“The word that we find used in three of the verses that advocate smacking in Proverbs is “na’ar.” The phase of life associated with the “na’ar” (which means the “one shook loose”) is that of young adulthood or the teenage years. This is significant. Based on this evidence, it is safe to say that all of these texts in the book of Proverbs have no application to anyone less than about ten to twelve years of age (p.32).”

Is that so? Let’s just look at the facts.

Exodus 2:6 And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe [na’ar] wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.

Baby Moses, three months old, is placed in a basket floating in the backwaters of the Nile River. The same Hebrew word na’ar is used in the passages in Proverbs that speak of the rod.

Proverbs 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child [na’ar]; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

The context indicates that there is a time when foolishness can be driven from a child by application of the rod. It would be absurd to suggest it is any age other than a young child.

1 Samuel 1:22 But Hannah went not up; for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child [na’ar] be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever.

Hannah called her not-yet-­weaned child na’ar, the same word used above in connection with the rod.

Proverbs 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child [na’ar]: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Again the same word used in Proverbs in connection with the rod speaks of a child not yet weaned.

1 Samuel 4:20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it.

21 And she named the child [na’ar] Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband.

Her newborn son is called na’ar just as in the passage below.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child [na’ar] left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.

Anyone who does not see a child in this passage is beyond intelligent reasoning.

Isaiah 7:16 For before the child [na’ar] shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

A child (na’ar) is too young to know the difference between good and evil.

Isaiah 8:4 For before the child [na’ar] shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.

A child (na’ar) is not old enough to say father or mother—the same Hebrew word connected with the rod in the book of Proverbs.

I am not suggesting that a newborn or a three-month-old, as was Moses, should meet with corporal chastisement and neither is the Scripture. It uses the same word na’ar to refer to newborns, teenagers, and old men who are offsprings. The King James Bible most accurately translates it “child,” referring to a descendent of various ages. But Dr. Greven and Samuel Martin based their entire argument on the lie that the Hebrew word na’ar applies only to older children. They lied to bolster a leftist agenda.

Second Hebrew Word: Ben בֵּן, בְּנׄו, לַבֵּן [ben /bane]

Ben is translated “son” 2978 times, “children” 1568 times, “old” 135 times, “first” 51 times, “man” 20 times, “young” 18 times, “child” 10 times, and miscellaneously 92 times.

Hebrew lexicons are in agreement, providing similar definitions of the Hebrew word bane: son, grandson, child, member of a group, male child, grandson, children, youth, young men.

Proverbs 17:6 Children’s [ben] children [ben] are the crown of old men; and the glory of children [ben] are their fathers.

The Hebrew word ben applies to all ages just as does children in the English language—perfect translation.

Genesis 21:7 And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children [ben] suck? for I have born him a son [ben] in his old age.

The children (ben) were nursing. Can you imagine the Hebrew men beating the back of a 20-year-old son while he was nursing?

Genesis 25:22 And the children [ben] struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD.

The children (ben) were still in the womb. That is the same Hebrew word found in the passage below.

Proverbs 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son [ben]: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

There is no age designation in the context. That is why the author did not use any of the several words that are age specific.

Proverbs 29:17 Correct thy son [ben], and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.

How does a man correct his adult son resulting in giving rest to the parent? Would physically chastening an adult son so change him as to bring delight to the father? The passage assumes an age when correction would result in a change of heart. Only a young child would be so affected.

Proverbs 3:12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son [ben] in whom he delighteth.

The Bible makes no attempt to reveal the age appropriateness of chastisement, nor even the spectrum of its application, leaving that to the culture, unique circumstances, and wisdom of the parents.

Proverbs 19:18 Chasten thy son [ben] while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.

Is the chastened son in his twenties? At what age does he mature to where there is no hope? Does the adult son cry when he is chastened? The context suggests a younger son who would profit from the chastisement. That age will differ from one child to the next, something left to the wise discretion of parents.

Samuel Martin sums up his walk through the Hebrew weeds by confidently saying, “We have to let the original Hebrew words and their meanings come through into our understandings or else we can lose the richness of meaning that is there for the interested party to investigate” (p.33).

Yes, I am in full agreement. And since the Hebrew expresses precisely the traditional understanding derived from the King James Bible and practiced by Christian parents down through the ages, to deny that the Bible teaches corporal chastisement of children of various ages is arrogant, if not infidelity, and it is an affront to Bible believers everywhere.

Now this will blow your mind! After our walk through the Hebrew weeds, Martin admits, “This word (ben) is used hundreds of times in the Bible and can refer to a son of any age.” Then where is his argument against corporal chastisement of children? He goes on to argue that since na’ar means older children, then ben would have to be older children as well. Huh? Any intelligent, open-minded person would have to say since na’ar means child of any age and ben is child of any age, then the Bible does not dictate the age at which to either commence chastisement or conclude it. God trusts parents to be wise and judicious in that regard. Two whole books wasted on foolishness; what a shame.

I must conclude by saying to all the quacks propagating this lie, shame on you for dismissing 3,500 years of Bible believers with a come-lately, novel interpretation spawned from the womb of reprobate theologians impregnated by socialists.

If you want to get the biblical and practical lowdown on child training, read the book that has sold over one million copies in multiple languages worldwide—To Train Up a Child by Michael and Debi Pearl. It was written 25 years ago. All of our children were spanked from time to time, and all turned out to be delightful human beings.