So, I’ve been wrestling with the issue of spanking my children recently.  An old friend of mine is on the verge of having his first child be born, and is essentially set that he will rarely, if ever, spank his children.  One of his main arguments is that it teaches violence to solve problems and that the primary outcome of spanking is the children obey merely out of fear.  Spanking, they reason, is a quick, easier method of discipline that is not the best way things could be done.  There are a host of other reasons that were spouted off in the ensuing discussion, when I essentially came back to the fact that the Scriptures urge us not to “spare the rod”.  If there is a Biblical basis for spanking, opponents (at least Christian ones) can’t argue against it effectively.  So I was pointed to this website:

If you peruse the article, you will see that they attempt to legitimize their position by going to the Hebrew root of all of the “spanking”/discipline passages in Scripture.  In my view, they fail.  It’s a very wooden interpretation of a very elastic language to say that each of the Hebrew words they mention means exactly one thing, every time it is used and in every context.  One good thing is that it definitely got me thinking, and whenever I am tempted to spank or discipline in anger, I find myself doing my best to take a breath, and be patient.  But I’m looking for peoples’ opinions out there.  If you spank, why?  Just because of experience, or your parents did?  Do you have good, concrete, Biblical reasons?  What do you think of the article and how it translates passages that have historically been seen a certain way?  Are you convinced?  I would love a good-hearted discussion, if y’all would  oblige me.  I was told in my other discussion, point blank, that even if a child of 18 months disobeys, it is better to put up with it and treat them with love, then spank and teach them to fear.


17 Responses to “Spanking”

  1. jamesbradfordpate Says:

    I don’t have kids, but I don’t think it’s wrong to use fear as a deterrent. Society does that! Of course, you’re not society, since parents have a loving relationship with their children. But teaching obedience out of fear is preparing kids for the real world.

    I’ll take a look at the article, since I’ve not really studied the “spare the rod” verses. I know some view the rod in terms of guidance rather than a switch, but I haven’t heard any arguments based on the Hebrew.

  2. jmmelton Says:

    Thanks for the comment James. But if I could play devil’s advocate for a moment.

    From a Christian perspective: have you seen our society lately? I’m not sure I want to model my relationship to my kids after that (which you mentioned). And aren’t we called to be not a part of this world? Should we really use “real world” as a legitimate argument? I don’t want to advocate sheltering my children from everything they might encounter, but I certainly don’t want to do what the world does. We are called to be separate, to set a higher standard, and a good example to the increasingly pagan society around us. Shouldn’t that say something, as perhaps even doing the OPPOSITE of what society teaches us to do? There’s more to it than that, but it’s just something to think about.

  3. Maggie Says:

    Isn’t there a similar and probably stronger biblical basis for slavery? Is this something that, therefore, also cannot be effectively argued against by a Christian?
    Example: Leviticus 25:44-46: “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.” (NIV)

  4. jmmelton Says:

    Seriously? That’s the best you got? There are so many New Covenant and cultural examples that I could give you that reduce that viewpoint to nonsense, I’m going to just leave it and move on. If you’d like to argue for or against spanking, I’d happily reply, but to seriously move slavery forward as a counterexample is boring. It’s like saying that because Israelites were instructed to stone people, we shouldn’t believe anything the Bible says.

  5. jamesbradfordpate Says:

    You may already know this source, but a good place to do word studies is From there, I found that the word na’ar (the word used for “boy” in Proverbs 23:13) can encompass a variety of ages. It is used for baby Moses (Exodus 2:6) and also for seventeen year old Joseph (Genesis 37:2). I have the same problem with the article that you do: it has a very wooden approach to words that can be fluid in meaning.

    Plus, I thought the article it links to, “The Rod or Shebet,” somewhat undermined its argument, since it cited places where a shebet is used for physical chastisement (Exodus 21:20; Proverbs 26:3; II Samuel 7:14). Moreover, in the verses in which the Shebet is metaphorical, it involves some kind of pain (e.g., God smiting the earth with the rod of his mouth–Isaiah 11:4). I’ve not done a word search on what a Shebet is (since it’s used so often), but I’m not sure why we have to assume it’s always a billy-club when it’s used for physical force. Maybe there can be big and small shebets (or shevatim). And, sure enough, the article acknowledges it can be broad in meaning–it lists five sets of definitions.

    The above paragraph may address your point about imitating the world: are we imitating the world alone when we spank, or are we imitating God, who sometimes does inflict pain as a means of discipline?

    As far as the psychological studies go, I’m not sure what to say about them. Maybe there are studies for both sides.

  6. jmmelton Says:


    Excellent! Thank you for your insightful look into those words and contexts, that helps immensely.

  7. Maggie Says:

    That’s not what I was doing at all. I was simply asking the question because I felt confused by your argument as stated: “There are a host of other reasons that were spouted off in the ensuing discussion, when I essentially came back to the fact that the Scriptures urge us not to “spare the rod”. If there is a Biblical basis for spanking, opponents (at least Christian ones) can’t argue against it effectively.” Isn’t it just as ridiculous to say that a Christian can’t rightly argue against spanking, just because it is in the bible as it is to say that just because Israelites stoned people, then none of the bible can be believed or followed?

    I would like to qualify this with the fact that I am neither against nor for spanking, as I feel it is the decision of the parent to use whatever means of disciple that works for them and for their child, within reason. Also, I am not a Christian, but a Jew, and I was honestly confused by your argument that something, such as spanking, can’t be opposed by Christians because it is in the bible, when there are so many other things that modern Christians, and Jews for that matter, have eschewed as being relics from a less enlightened time, such as slavery and, your example, stoning.

    Again, I am not attacking your position on spanking, as that is your choice and your right as a parent. But, I also think there is probably some room for acceptance of those that take the meaning of those proverbs to be figurative or, perhaps, completely misinterpreted.

  8. jmmelton Says:

    That’s fine, no problem. I suppose I could have worded that better. What I was trying to get at, is that if the Scriptures are clear that we are not to spare the rod, then Christians must accept that spanking is a disciplinary measure that must be used in order to train our children in a Godly fashion. Which is why Christians against spanking have attempted to interpret those passages in different ways (discrediting the Victorian understanding of spanking in the Bible), hence the article I linked. But I think your argument about slavery, etc. is invalid, and I think it’s fairly obvious. That’s all. If you disagree, that’s fine too.

  9. I Bring You…the Scholar from Wife Swap! « James’ Ramblings Says:

    […] life on TV, but also because I was discussing the spanking issue on Josh Melton’s blog (see Spanking). Josh was discussing an article which tried to argue that Proverbs 23:13-14 does not promote […]

  10. timmyjimi Says:

    Josh, food for thought on the “real world” argument (by the way, your comment “have you seen our society lately?”… cracked me up, I totally pictured you saying that …anyway): I suspect the United States is in the minority of Western cultures that still physically discipline their children, yet has one of the highest rates of violence. Norway, on the other hand, by law does not spank their children (I remember this being something my parents respectfully disobeyed whenever I respectfully disobeyed as a kid when we lived there ;). Norwegian kids can be spoiled little brats just as easy as the next nationality, but they grow out of it with the help of their loving parents to become law-abiding, loving parents themselves. I’m guessing we’re talking about Gibbs here, and I think he has a point when it comes to teaching violence.

  11. Jordan Says:

    Josh et al, the Bible makes plain that admonition saves souls from damnation, and that chastisement with the rod drives folly from the heart. There is nothing morally wrong with whacking your kid on his ass.

    Nextly, there is a difference between admonition and violence. Admonition is loving, violence is hatred. Spanking should be executed selflessly. It should never be carried out in anger. We are removing sin, not skin.

    Thirdly, to be an obedient follower of Christ we must learn to submit. Just as Christ submitted to his parents, our children must submit to us. Which is why we must submit to Christ, so that we may lead them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Fear is not a bad thing, we are required to fear God and serve the King.

    But precisely because we are to fear God and not our parents, is why discipline (spanking), should never be done with the hand or foot. We should use an instrument, like a rod, to apply discipline. Spanking is also never done without instruction. They ought to understand that their disobedience is deliberately despising God and His grace. It should always conclude with forgiveness. If they don’t learn how to forgive, they will never know what it means to be forgiven.

    We are to write the law on our hearts, the bible teaches that the rod will keep us from departing those ways in old age. Do not spare the rod, but do not cause one of the little ones to fall either. As with all things it takes wisdom, so ask God for it.

  12. jmmelton Says:


    I think you’re comparing apples to oranges. You’re speaking strictly from what you’ve seen, but have you talked to every family in Norway and America? What studies are you citing? What about the violent criminals in America, have you talked to all of them? My guess is most of them weren’t spanked. Also, there are many more ultra-urban areas in America, which have the highest rate of violent crimes, so perhaps that factors into it. I think your paragraph was far too naive, and I think a bit more should go into it than just observing a few Norweigians. Just a thought.

    • timmyjimi Says:

      It was more of an observation than an absolute statement. I’m working on talking to every family on both sides of the Atlantic, but I’ve been tied up compiling studies to cite. I pretty much agree with everything Jordan said above.

      If your response to comments on this post is any indication of how you intend to reason with your kids as they get older, I recommend couching your disagreement in less aggressive language. I think Maggie would concur that you’re more likely to scare readers away than engage us when you follow conversational input with presupposed criticism.

  13. jmmelton Says:


    Thanks for the parenting advice, I’ll take it under extremely serious consideration. It’s just a guess at this point, but I’m thinking that the way I interact online with people I hardly know (besides the fact that we hung out a bunch 7 years ago) is probably just a tiny smidge different than I’ll reason with my children as they grow up. Seriously man, as far as the studies/research and American/Norweigian families stuff is concerned, I was having a little fun at your expense (and I laughed out loud at your retort). I suppose sarcasm is quite difficult to detect online, so that’s my own fault. I re-read all of my posts with a certain tone in my head that doesn’t always translate, so I apologize. But I don’t know about pre-supposed criticism. I was more reacting to what I saw as you giving experiential evidence, but it’s not really important at this point. Hopefully you won’t be too frightened of my brutal rhetoric to post in the future.

  14. Jessica Says:

    You can scroll down and you will see what to do if you feel you need to spank and warning signs that is gone to far. It also explains the biblical perspective on the matter.

  15. Kate Says:

    This is certainly a very interesting topic, and I look forward to reading what others may post. But may I offer a friendly, humble word of caution?

    Pick any major debate, and there are usually people from both sides picking and choosing different passages from the Bible to prove why their side is right. People have a long history of choosing verses, translations, and interpretations to suit their own needs. Then the rest of us tend to just declare the side that we agree with as ‘more credible’ because it feels more natural to us.

    It is important to remember 2 Corinthians 2:6 which states, “. . . the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” This reminds us that an earthly knowledge of the written scriptures isn’t enough. Didn’t the Pharisees have great knowledge of the Law? When we forget to view the scriptures through the lens of the Holy Spirit, it is easy to miss the point.

    To quote popular Christian author John Bevere about the role of the written scriptures, “They are guidelines to assist and direct us. They are God-breathed, and when quickened by the Holy Spirit they become alive in our hearts and not just in our heads. They are the standard we use to confirm that we have heard from the Spirit of God. . . But we can get hung up when we limit what the Holy Spirit can say or do to that which fits into our mental understanding of the Scriptures. This was the error of the Pharisees.”

    To truly to discern the will of God, isn’t it simpler to just prayerfully ask Him what His will is in each of our lives? And then commit to being willing to do what He tells us, even if it is different from the way we were raised, or the way our neighbors raise their kids, or the way such and such pastor on TV says? The Bible says that when you ask God what to do, he will answer. And it is certainly okay to ask again to confirm things if you are not sure.

    By all means, it is definitely worthwhile to try to learn more about the written scriptures and what the writers of the Bible were trying to communicate. But when there’s any room for doubt, don’t forget that we can always just go to the source. Aren’t we blessed?

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