The previous installment discussed three questions and their answers in Proverbs 22:15. (1) What is a rod (shebet)? (2) What is the purpose for using the rod? (3) Does this verse indicate when one should stop using the rod?
Proverbs 29:15 provides important additional information regarding the use of the rod: “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother”(NASB).
The purpose of discipline is to give wisdom (yiten chakmah). Importantly, Solomon defines wisdom in Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10 as the fear of the Lord. Biblical parental discipline is designed to instill the fear of the Lord in our children. To some readers, that might sound awful (putting the fear of God in our kids is so 20th century, right?), but either we are operating from a biblical platform or we aren’t. The fear of the Lord is a centerpiece of what God demands of His children (1 Pet. 2:17), and without it we can’t begin to think or act properly.
It is not enough to understand fear as simply respect. The word is much stronger than that—the Hebrew is yirah, and is often invoked when people fear for the lives (e.g., 2 Kings 10:4). The Greek is phobos, and is used in the same way (e.g., Matt. 28:4). I would suggest the idea is that we should have the proper, lofty, perspective of God—understanding who He really is (in all His greatness, His ability to execute judgment, His sovereign rights over His creation, His holiness, etc.)—who He reveals Himself to be. This is the goal of biblical parenting.
Proverbs 29:15 describes two tools that work together—interdependently, it seems—to help achieve that end: the rod and reproof. The rod without reproof seems cruel (could that be what Paul was warning against in Ephesians 6:4? Notice his inclusion of the two terms discipline [paideia] and instruction [nouthesia]). Reproof (Heb., tokahat) correction without the rod may be totally ineffectual. Ever watch a parent try to reason with an angry, willful, impertinent child? It is a sight to behold—and a mournful one at that.
As the next portion of the verse indicates, a child (nayer) who gets his own way (who sends himself forth, Heb., pual stem, shalah) brings (causes, Heb. hiphil, mebiyish) shame to his mother.
This phrase presents an interesting contrast between wisdom (God’s way) and foolishness (the child’s own way). It reminds us of the truth of Proverbs 22:15—that foolishness is in the nature of the child. The rod and reproof together remedy the problem.
This verse prescribes an important balance of the two tools (the rod and reproof), and reminds us of the end-goal. If we are to trust Solomon’s words, employing the methodology properly—with the end-goal in mind, and motivated by love (Prov. 13:24), we can look forward to predictably positive results.
As we are told in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
In the final forthcoming installment, let’s consider God’s example of fatherly discipline in Hebrews 12. That He shows us how to parent is tremendously helpful, and quite an encouragement. As the old saying goes, a good leader doesn’t ask his followers to do anything that he himself is not willing to do.