What about the “rod” in the 5 verses in Proverbs that pro-spankers take literally to mean spanking young children? In Crystal Lutton’s book, Biblical Parenting, she includes an in-depth study of the rod as it is used throughout the Old Testament. Interestingly, as I will show in a bit, there are only two verses in the Old Testament in which the rod is used to hit someone! For now, let’s look at the Hebrew word for rod.
The Hebrew word for rod is shebet. Shebet is defined in Strong’s Hebrew Lexicon #7626 as “rod, staff, branch, offshoot, club, scepter, tribe:
a) Rod, staff
b) Shaft (of spear, dart)
c) Club (of shepherd’s implement)
d) Truncheon, scepter (mark of authority)
e) Clan, tribe”
Here is Strong’s definition of rod: “From an unused root probably meaning to branch off; a scion, for example literally a stick (for punishing, writing, fighting, walking, ruling, etc.) or figuratively a clan.” In the KJV of the Bible, rod is used for tribe 140 times; rod 34 times; scepter 10 times; staff 2 times; and miscellaneous 4 times (Lutton, 2001). It is quite interesting that shebet or rod is used to symbolize tribes. Also, while it is considered a tool (see Leviticus 27:32, Psalm 23:4, Psalm 2:9, Isaiah 28:27, and Exodus 21:20) in all 34 places in which the word “rod” is used, it is in conjunction with the full council of God. It is clear that if we look at all the places in which shebet is used for rod in the Old Testament, it is used as a symbol of authority the majority of the time. It symbolizes the authority of God, nations, and parents as in Proverbs.
In Exodus 20:21 a rod is used to hit someone. Let’s take a look at the verse.