Church Education Resource Ministries



For this message we will be focusing on a few well-known passages that are quoted by those in favor of spanking. We will also be addressing the anti-spanking argument. But first we need to define the difference between a Christian Fundamentalist and a liberal, how they interpret the spanking argument, and more importantly the book of Proverbs--which is the foundation for the spanking argument.

Religious Conservatives- They generally believe that the book of Proverbs was assembled by King Solomon around 1000 BCE. They believe that the passages that deal with spanking reflect his parenting beliefs with respect to his son, Rehoboam. They interpret these passages literally.

Religious Liberals- They generally believe that Solomon first introduced "ancient wisdom" to Israel and it later became a practice to attribute all his books to his literary genre he uses in this and other books. Thus, Proverbs in its current form cannot date from earlier than his reign in the 8ith century BCE. It may have been assembled as late as the 4th century BCE. So to sum it up, these people do not believe that the book of Proverbs is the Word of God.

I will start by addressing the anti-Spanking argument, and afterwards will address the pro-spanking argument.

Anti-Spanking Argument

Often the "anti-spankers" view the rod often mentioned in the book of Proverbs (some 9 times) and in the entire Bible (some 61 times) as a figure of speech.

The two Hebrew words used in the book of Proverbs (at least according to the New American Standard Bible translation) are the words choter and shebet.

The Hebrew word shebet is from an unused word, which can be translated into English as rod, staff, club, scepter; or tribe.

The verses that this Hebrew word are used are (according to the NASB)

Proverbs 10:13
Proverbs 13:24
Proverbs 22:8
Proverbs 22:15
Proverbs 23:13
Proverbs 23:14
Proverbs 26:3
Proverbs 29:15

The Hebrew word choter is also translated from an unused word that can be translated in the English as branch or twig.

The one verse that uses this Hebrew word is Proverbs 14:3.

Looking at this verse in its CONTEXT it would appear that this verse does advocate corporal punishment, but in its tendering does not address children. The other 8 occurrences in Proverbs using the Hebrew word shebet address children specifically in 5 of the 8 verses. Now looking at the original Hebrew itŐs very hard to imagine how anyone can come to a conclusion that the Bible does not condone the literal spanking of children. I believe opponents of spanking come to this conclusion because they do not view the Bible as THE AUTHORITY for their lives.

I looked at my Dictionary of Biblical Imagery by Leland Ryken and found out some useful info on the meaning of the word rod.

Ryken provides a good picture of two different types of rods typically used in the biblical times. I wish I could digitally scan them and post them here, but I believe I would be in violation of Ryken's copyrights. However, looking carefully at the images it would appear from initial impression that a spanking from either of the rods used in the biblical times would be very painful, and often more painful than the type of spanking that is practiced today. Ryken goes into a bit of depth about the usage of rods throughout the Bible, but this is what he says about the usage of the word in the book of Proverbs:

Rods were also used to punish wayward *children*, slaves, fools or misbehaving adults.
The RSV uses the image for discipline administered by human authorities approximately a
dozen times; with nine of the references coming in the book of proverbs.
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, page 734)

So here we have a well-known Bible scholar, Leland Ryken, saying that Proverbs speaks of a literal interpretation of the usage of rods on children. Critics of the Bible will always be there, but quite honestly one has to wonder if any of these critics have actually studied the Bible in depth, and responded to it using a proper and biblical hermeneutic. Opponents of biblical spanking often link spanked children to criminal, anti-social, aggressive behavior problems that they might have later in life. While they may have a point, the fact is that there is a huge distinction between biblical spanking and abusive spanking. Also, they cannot connect the spanking experiences to the later problems in adult life. Just because someone has been spanked properly does not necessarily mean that the child will grow up as the Lord would want him or her. Sometimes peer pressure and other worldly influences are so strong that the child cannot resist and feeds into them. Or perhaps the child lacks the Holy Spirit and does not intend to live for God in his or her life. Just because a child was raised in a Christian home does not mean they are saved.

One anti-spanking website argues that spanking can cause serious physical damage, but they fail to differentiate between those who abuse children, and those who spank with love. The Bible says:

Proverbs 22:6

"Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it."

So the verse implies above that spanking a child should not be the only response to a childŐs misbehaving and should not be something that a child experiences on a daily basis. Obviously this would be common sense if one were to put "training up a child in the way he should go" into practice. I once knew a gal named Stephanie. She was very beautiful, but had all kinds of psychological problems. She was twenty years old at the time I knew her, and had a very abusive mother. I remember attending Calvary Chapel with her once, and after the service we walked into a bookstore. I was browsing some books while Stephanie chatted with her mother. Stephanie said something or asked her mother something (I donŐt remember any details) which got her mother upset and angry. She took Stephanie aside and gave her a spanking. Her mother made the spanking of her twenty-year-old daughter a public scene. But sadly none there, including myself, said a word to her. Stephanie was in tears and left the bookstore. I ran into her a little later after I had browsed or purchased what I had to buy. I did not mention the incident to her at the time, but later while we were together in my car (to a Newsboys concert), she went into some detail about her family abuse. Since I was responsible for driving Stephanie home that day, Stephanie told me that she would be spanked if she was not on time and pleaded with me to leave the Newsboys concert earlier than the others in the church college group.

So the anti-spanking argument does have some merit, but its problem is that it overlooks all the spanked children that have grown up to be successful people in the world.

Pro-Spanking Argument

The religious conservatives often firmly believe that the Bible is the Word of God and all scriptures are God inspired.

2 Timothy 3:16
"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness..." (

2 Peter 1:20-21
"...knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (

I am personally a Christian Fundamentalist and often interpret scripture literally. I do so because I believe the Bible is the Word of God, and not from men. This hermeneutic philosophy has often gotten me into trouble with liberals and those who do not view the Bible as the authority and don't take it seriously. Below are some of these verses used to aid the pro spanking argument:

Proverbs 13:24
"He who spares his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him promptly."

Proverbs 19:18
"Chasten your son while there is hope,
And do not set your heart on his destruction."

Proverbs 22:15
"Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him."

Proverbs 23:13
"Do not withhold correction from a child,
For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die."

Proverbs 23:14
"You shall beat him with a rod,
And deliver his soul from hell."

Proverbs 29:15
"The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother."

Conservative Christians often equate the words punishment and discipline as corporal punishment. They also often equate the word rod with the contemporary practice of spanking, or whipping. Sadly, many kids today are not being spanked, and this shows in our society. Kids of today do not care about authority, and so are disobedient to their parents. Parents that do wish to spank their children are facing an uphill battle against the ACLU and society in general. For example, spanking sticks and whips seem to be hard to find these days. Many schools no longer spank, and those that do are often chastised. I know that in California (my home state) spanking in the schools has been outlawed. In Oregon spanking is not only outlawed in the schools, but has been outlawed in the home as well! Consequently, the children that are not spanked are often more disobedient to their parents and authority in general.

What God tells us to do


1. Spanking is a valid form of discipline

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

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


2. Use of a paddle or rod is appropriate

Proverbs 10:14
"In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod [is] for the back of him that is void of understanding."

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

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


3. We should not feel guilty about spanking our child

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


4. A child who's throwing a temper tantrum should not be left alone to cry it out; he should be promptly disciplined

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


5. No disrespect of the parents should be tolerated

Titus 1:6
"If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having children not accused of riot or unruly."

Ephesians 6:1-2
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;)"

Colossians 3:20
"Children, obey [your] parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord."


6. Some reasons God gives for having well disciplined, respectful children:

Proverbs 20:11
"Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work [be] pure, and whether [it be] right."

Proverbs 22:6
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

Proverbs 23:13-14
"Withhold not correction from the child: for [if] thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell."

Proverbs 23:24-25
"The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise [child] shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice."

Ecclesiastes 4:13
"Better [is] a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished."

I Timothy 3:4-5
"One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)..."

I Timothy 5:1-4
"Rebuke not an elder, but intreat [him] as a father; [and] the younger men as brethren; The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. Honour widows that are widows indeed. But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God."


7. Parents shouldn't abuse their children either mentally or physically:

Ephesians 6:4
"And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."

Colossians 3:21
"Fathers, provoke not your children [to anger], lest they be discouraged."


I personally believe that the only form of corporal punishment authorized by the Bible is spanking on the buttocks. I also feel that the jerking of arms, slapping of faces and all other types of corporal punishment are not supported by the Bible, are disrespectful to the child, and carry with them the risk of causing a injuries.


What about "Christians" who abuse their children?

Most of us have seen at least one news media report where some person or group that claims to be "Christian" was being investigated for what appears to be genuine child abuse. I've seen a few news reports like this over the years. I have also seen some of the "don't spank" advocates point to those stories as examples of why they are right, and we are wrong. The problem is that they're comparing apples and oranges. When considering the whole counsel of God on this matter, it is clear that He in no way sanctioned the physical or mental abuse of their children. The people who engage in this kind of abuse are acting outside of what God says they should be doing. Pointing to them as examples of what the Bible teaches and what Christians in general are doing is highly misleading. The overwhelming majority of Christian parents do not engage in abuse of their children. When real abuse does occur, it occurs with people of all religions. If you are discerning, you won't be deceived by these misleading tactics.

For those who are looking for guidance from experienced parents who use these God mandated teaching, training and discipline methods, seek guidance from the ones who have well-behaved, respectful, God-fearing children. Get opinions from several Christian parents who obey God on these matters if you can. Children can be so different, so a variety of opinions can be helpful. Some of our children were very compliant children from the get-go. Others had (and still do have) very strong wills and are much more of a challenge to parent. Try to find parents who have children who's personalities are similar to your own children.

In addition to talking with experienced parents, approach your parenting like you would a earning college degree. Educate yourself, and keep up-to-date as your children grow older and their personalities, training and discipline needs change. We have found the following resources to be excellent ones and highly recommend them to others.


Some other resources to aid the pro spanking argument.


What the Bible says about Child Training

Author: J. Richard Fugate

ISBN: 0-86717-000-X


The Strong-Willed Child

Author: Dr. James Dobson

ISBN: 0-8423-0664-1


Dare to Discipline

Dr. James Dobson

ISBN: 0-8423-0631-5

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