Proverbs 23:13b-14

The Benefits of Corporal Punishment


1. Last week we looked at the first part of this proverb, which contains the main COMMAND in the proverb: Do not withhold correction from the child.

2. We know that the kind of correction Solomon had in mind here is corporal punishment because he speaks of the rod… an instrument for spanking.

3. Tonight we want to look at two REASONS to obey this command:

a. He won’t die.

b. You might just deliver his soul from hell.

He Shall Not Die

A. Beat Him With a Rod

1. The terminology used here is often misunderstood and misapplied.

a. Both the verb (beat) and the instrument described (rod) are subject to wide variation in meaning.

b. It is important to define more clearly what those terms mean in this context… what the author meant.

2. Beat:

a. Defined: Make physical contact with a blow; to strike; smite; hit; to cause one to become ill or sick; slay; kill; defeat; conquer; i.e., have a military victory over an opponent or enemy.

b. That is quite a variation in the shades of meaning!

c. Ex. 5:16 – The term is used for the BEATING of the slaves in Egypt. No doubt that was a pretty severe beating or whipping… not recommended for spanking children.

d. Josh. 10:10 – and he SLEW them (same word) with a great slaughter.

e. II Sam. 11:15 – Uriah was put in the front of the battle that he might be SMITTEN (same word) and die.

f. Obvious, this is not recommended with our children.

g. Isa. 58:4 – Here is it used of punching someone with the fist. Certainly this is NOT what Solomon had in mind. (We know that because Solomon spoke of smiting with a rod, not a fist.)

h. Ex. 9:31 – the flax and barley were SMITTEN. (This might be a little closer to how it is used by Solomon… though not for the purpose of crushing, but the idea of striking with a stick or fan.)

i. II Kings 11:12 – “And he brought forth the king’s son, and put the crown upon him, and gave him the testimony; and they made him king, and anointed him; and they CLAPPED (same word) their hands, and said, God save the king.”
• This usage of the term is perhaps the closest in meaning to the way Solomon used it in Proverbs 23:13.
• The only difference is the object that is being “clapped”—not the hand, but the rear end of the child.

j. Because of the wild variations in the usage and connotation of this term, it is not surprising that there is not unanimity concerning just how aggressive a parent should BE with spanking.

k. A couple of things ARE clear:
• Solomon is speaking about corporal punishment (striking or hitting) and not a “time out” or “going to bed early” or “no dessert tonight.”
• That corporal punishment (smiting) is supposed to hurt.
• That corporal punishment can be misapplied:
» Either so lightly that it does not hurt and thus is ineffective.
» So hard and brutal that it physically damages the child and is thus ineffective—because you have “provoked your child to anger.”
» It can also be misapplied when not used consistently—so that the child never knows what the limits really are.
» It can be misapplied when the parent is angry and out of control. (wrong spirit)
» It can be misapplied when the child is never told what it is for… or when the child is never told what the rules are.
» It can be misapplied when a child is spanked for an unintentional accident.
» It is also misapplied when the rod is continually threatened, but not used.

l. The spanking (“beating”) must be done correctly to be effective and God honoring.

3. Rod: This term is also open to wild variations.

a. Defined: Rod; staff; branch; offshoot; club; scepter; staff; stick; i.e., a wooden stick of various lengths and thicknesses

b. II Sam. 18:14 – Three DARTS (same word) were thrust through the heart of Absalom as he was hanging in the oak tree.

c. Again, note the wide range of meaning.

d. The Hebrew term for rod used here could refer to anything from a thin switch off a willow tree to a massive club used to crush someone’s skull… to a dart or javelin used to kill someone.

e. Obviously, a little common sense needs to be applied in choosing the kind of “rod” to use in spanking your child.

f. I recommend the small flexible “rod” that comes with the mini blinds. It won’t do any damage, (as a wooden spoon could do if it hit a bone accidently) but it sure does sting. It communicates the message that needs to be communicated.

4. I would prefer to translate “beat him with the rod” as “strike him with a thin, flexible switch.”

a. Or as others have said, “Apply the board of knowledge to the seat of understanding.”

b. It is not a beating in the sense that we use the term today.

c. It is a striking of the rear end (where you are unlikely to do any real harm).

d. It is a striking that inflicts enough pain to get the point across.

e. Common sense needs to be applied on the part of the parent—and the parent needs to be under the control of the Holy Spirit.

f. And as a side note, corporal punishment should not be applied for each and every tiny infraction. Other forms of punishment might well be applied in those situations.

g. Corporal punishment ought to be applied in cases of direct rebellion and disobedience… when that disobedience is done with full knowledge that they were breaking the rules.

h. One man wrote, “It is medicine, not food.” (For an occasional sickness that needs fixing; not for daily ingestion.)

i. It should also be balanced with encouragement, praise, and even rewards for good behavior.

j. Parents are to be to their children as God is to us: gracious, longsuffering, and loving, but firm and just. Parents are to be more like a loving father than a drill sergeant.

B. He Shall Not Die

1. The proper use of the rod will not KILL the child.

a. Solomon is not talking about child abuse or brutality.

b. He is talking about sane and sensible corporal punishment that is age appropriate.

c. When punishment is applied properly, the child will not die.

d. Nor should they end up with cuts, wounds, or bruises.

e. It will sting, but it shouldn’t do any lasting damage to his body.

2. Why do you suppose Solomon had to tell parents that their children will not die if they experience the “rod”?

a. Perhaps (today at least) because our culture tells us that spanking IS damaging to a child.

b. Or perhaps because the child’s pitiful cries and pleas might cause a parent to THINK that he is seriously harming the child.

c. Bob Schaffer – One time Bob shared how when spanking his cute little red headed daughter that in the middle of the spanking the girl shrieked out in a pitiful cry, “Daddy, you’re killing me!”

d. She was mistaken. Dad—don’t let a three year old convince you that she knows more than Solomon.

e. The three year old might THINK she is dying, but Solomon said, “She shall not die!”

f. Therefore, continue to use corporal punishment… and don’t let your emotions or the cries of the child cause you to change your methodology from that which is recorded in the Word of God.

You Might Save His Life

1. Verse 13 states that won’t KILL him.

2. Verse 14 states that corporal punishment might even save his life.

3. “Delivering his soul from hell.”

a. This expression sounds very much like Solomon had salvation from condemnation in the Lake of Fire in mind.

b. To understand what Solomon meant, it is necessary to consider the terms that he used.

c. Deliver: Rescue; saved; plucked out of; spared; safe from danger.
• The term itself has no theological connection (like being saved from sin.)
• The context has to determine the nature of the deliverance.

d. Soul: Soul; self; life; creature; person; that which breathes and is alive.
• I Sam. 19:11 – The term is often used of one’s physical life. Here saving David’s life clearly meant his physical life. He was in danger of being murdered.

e. Hell: Sheol; underworld; grave; hell; pit; the underworld; Sheol—the Old Testament designation for the abode of the dead.
• I Sam. 2:6 – “The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the GRAVE, (same word) and bringeth up.”

f. I understand Solomon to be saying here that by applying the rod, the parent might save his child from a premature, untimely death.
• In vs. 13 the author says, “He won’t die.”
• In the next verse he says, “You might deliver his life from the grave” or “You might save his life.”
• Understanding this expression to mean “save his life” completes the contrast between life and death.
• Understanding it to mean salvation from sin confuses the contrast in my opinion.

4. The point is that (in spite of what the child might think or say) the spanking won’t kill him. BUT it might just teach him to control his temper, turn from his rebellion, and change his behavior… which down the road, if left unchecked could result in a premature death.

a. Spanking him won’t kill him, but allowing that rebellious wayward spirit to grow might just kill him down the road!

b. There are a number of other proverbs that speak to this very issue. Correction drives folly OUT OF a child… the kind of folly that can lead to his destruction and even death.

c. Prov. 6:32 – Adultery could destroy your soul—ruin your life. It could even lead to disease that cuts short your life.

d. Prov. 16:17 – The one who departs from evil and stays on the right highway (straight and narrow way) guards or preserves his own soul – protects his life from being cut short.

e. Prov. 15:32 – Refusing instruction destroys one’s soul – Refusing instruction is self destructive behavior. It could lead to death.

f. Prov. 29:1 – He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.
• Destruction comes to the one who is unteachable… in many forms… even death.

g. Corporal punishment (as hard as it is for a parent to deal with on their cute little toddlers) is actually much EASIER to deal with than not applying corporal punishment and down the road having to deal with a drug overdose… or getting the call at 2:00 in the morning that your son and his five buddies were all drunk and died in a head on collision on route 93…

h. Spanking won’t kill them. But not correcting their behavior via corporal punishment when they are young could set them off on a life of rebellion, sin, and violence that ends in a tragic death.

i. That’s Solomon’s point in this proverb. Beware!

5. Of course, making an application from this passage to salvation is perfectly legitimate.

a. Teaching a child to respect authority… teaching a child personal responsibility… teaching a child to follow the example of his Christian parents… may very well lead a young child to put his faith in Christ too.

b. A parent who neglects his responsibility to discipline his son can expect an undisciplined son… one who does as he pleases… one who has no respect for any authority… and one whose rebellion has never been kept in check.

c. Don’t be surprised if this child lives in rebellion against God too and ends up in the Lake of Fire.