Punishment as a Last Resort

It helps to understand the symbolic and figurative meanings when we realize that the word translated “beat” is “nakah” and is the same word used when the sun beat down on Jonah — it represents a constant presence. The verse is telling parents that their discipline is required as a constant presence in their child’s life in order to guide them.

Is this a pleasant constant presence? No, not necessarily. Even in the book of Jonah, when the sun was beating down on him, it was unpleasant, so unpleasant he wanted to die. And discipline does seem unpleasant at the time — just tell your toddler no and see what happens. Anytime we stop someone from doing what they want to do we are reigning in their passions and we are all resistant to having this happen to us.

If you are a constant presence of discipline in your child’s life, you will not kill him and he will not make choices that lead to his own demise. By being a constant presence of wisdom and instruction, you will prepare him and keep him from making choices that lead to death. Yes, being a constant presence of discipline can lead to saving your son’s soul from hell. This verse is speaking truth and wisdom.

You will also be able to say, as Solomon does in the next few verses, “My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine. Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.” (verses 15-16)

One thing that many people don’t realize is that the book of Proverbs IS discipline! Solomon was disciplining his son by compiling the wisdom sayings of his day for his son’s instruction.

Like Solomon, we can have faithful instruction be on our tongue and we can be a presence of discipline for our children. We don’t have to hurt them physically to do this, even if they don’t seem to be learning a lesson in our timing or to our liking. And they might not like what we are teaching them. This doesn’t mean that we need to become harsh or cruel or punitive. It just means that we need to also be disciplined as we develop patience and kindness in the face of the struggle and challenge that is disciplining a child.

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