Hebrew Explanation of the ‘Rod’ Verses About Spanking Children
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The Bible clearly indicates the importance of parents being present and active in their child’s life, and although physical discipline is never prohibited by the Bible it clearly isn’t suggested (let alone commanded) either. It is important to note that all of these “rod” verses come from Proverbs – a book of wisdom in the Bible yes, but not to be interpreted as LAW unlike other books of the Bible.
As you are looking at the interpretation of these verses, be sure to notice the translation for “child.” In English we can use the word “child” to mean a very wide rang of ages, but in Hebrew different words indicated different ages of a child. Look at the following Hebrew words for, “child.”
yeled or yaldah – newborn boy or girl
yonek or yanak – nursing baby
olel – nursing baby who also eats solid food (translated ‘young child’)
gamal – weaned child (around 3-4 years old)
taph – young child
elem or almah – older child, more independent
na’ar (m) or na’arah (f) – independent child, young adult child (older teens and young adults)
For our verses in question, “child” is better translated as a young man (na’ar). It is not talking about toddlers or even young children. That translation alone should be enough to question the broad Christian recommendation to begin spanking children at a very young age.
Read the following images for yourself and decide what you think.
What is the Biblical Alternative to Spanking?
If after reading these verses closely you come to the conclusion that spanking is not going to work in your family, you might be wondering what alternatives there are.
Some families might find that spanking works for them, but Gentle Parenting (also known as respect-based parenting, peaceful parenting or positive discipline) is just as effective as spanking, if not more so.
Through Gentle Parenting you will first learn to regulate your own emotions, then focus on nurturing a strong, trusting relationship with your child, and then use positive discipline strategies to correct behaviour. It’s what we call the “Know-Yoke-Grow System to Creating a Child’s Heartfelt Willingness to do What’s Good.”
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