Many Christian advocates of spanking children quote the following Proverb in order to support their philosophy that spanking children will save their souls from Hell. It says: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. 14Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell” Proverbs 23:13-14 (KJV). Now, the Hebrew word for Hell is Sh’ol. However, throughout the Hebrew Bible sh’ol doesn’t always mean the eternal, fiery Hell that we immediately conjure up in our minds. Look at Jonah 2:1-2 where Jonah is talking about being stuck in the whale’s belly:
“From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. 2 He said:
“In my distress I called to the LORD,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry” (NIV).
Obviously, Jonah wasn’t in eternal Hell or permanently dead. In Job 17:13-16, Job speaks of his only hope in following his family to the grave, sh’ol is translated as grave and corruption. Sh’ol is also translated as pit as in falling into a pit. It is clear that the Hebrew word sh’ol does not always mean the eternal Hell and it’s not used in this way any place in the book of Proverbs. The new NIV translation shows a bit more accurate translation of Proverbs 23:13-14:
“Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.
14 Punish them with the rod
and save them from death.”
It is clear given the historical and context in which the book Proverbs was written that we have discussed that the more accurate meaning of the word sh’ol in this verse is death as in dying a premature death from getting involved in a life of crime as an adult. Young children are not capable of purposely committing sin like young adults and adults can. They do not know what sin is. Even though it may feel to a parent or teacher that they purposely disobey, they in fact are not. Young children cannot control their impulses. A 5 year old does have better impulse control than a 2 year old, but they still are developing it and can’t be expected to always be in control. Therefore, young children who believe in Jesus wholeheartedly do not go to Hell if they die.
“The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea” Isaiah 11:6-9.
And Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 18:3. Only after a child is able to truly understand sin and purposely reject Jesus Christ as Savior will they go to Hell if they die.
Some prospankers point to the fact that Paul and other apostles receive beatings for crimes they committed. “Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.” 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!” 4 Those who were standing near Paul said, “How dare you insult God’s high priest!” 5 Paul replied, “Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: ‘Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.’” 6 Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” 7 When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.)
9 There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. “We find nothing wrong with this man,” they said. “What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” 10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.
11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” Acts 23:1-11. “The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully” Act 16:22-23.
And of course, Jesus Himself was beaten. What we need to remember is at that time in history society was still under the Law of Moses, and beatings and prison time were the punishments called for when adults broke one of the laws. Notice that Paul was an adult at the time of his beating for bringing a non-Jew into the Temple. Children were never spanked for breaking the Law; only adults.
Therefore, when a parent spanks a child, he/she is parenting under the Law and acts as a judge. The child commits an offense, the parent tries the child and decides a spanking is necessary, the parent doles out the punishment, then the child is free to go on since he/she paid the price. Only, as Christians, the Law is no longer binding. If we want children to learn the grace, peace, love, and mercy of the Law of Christ, why do we parent under the Law of Moses?
In conclusion, I leave you with the words of John:
” For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” John 1:17.
The Truth will set us free!
(Thank you for reading this sample from the soon-to-be-released book, “Gentle Firmness.” You may read part 8 here.)
Spanking is NOT God’s Will by Steph is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.whynottrainachild.com.