What does Scripture mean by a “rod”?

Dr. William Barrick, Professor of Old Testament at The Master’s Seminary, helps to interpret passages like Proverbs 23:13, which encourages us to discipline our children with a “rod”, in a letter he wrote.

to limit it to only a stick or a rod, would be too legalistic… It seems obvious that 2 Samuel 7:14 cannot be limited to just a stick (a wooden staff or rod). Job 9:34 is clearly non-literal – God does not use a literal stick. Psalm 89:32 shows the parallelism between scourging from a whip and beating with a rod – essentially categorizing them together as one. Proverbs 26:3 expands the category by adding the bridle to discipline or guide the donkey. Isaiah 11:4 shows that the words of the mouth (God’s, in this case) perform the same action as the rod. This might provide us with the concept of verbal discipline or punishment that might be more fitting in some situations with our children than an actual physical chastisement. Paul is obviously not using “rod” literally in 1 Corinthians 4;21, but is talking about chastisement or discipline. Conclusion: Proverbs 23:13 speaks first and foremost of the actual physical rod or stick that might be used in physical punishment or discipline, but does not exhaust the intent, since the same truths apply with regard to other physical instruments (such as a whip – in modern parlance, a cord or strap or belt) as well as verbal discipline. Too take the “rod” too literally can result in taking a proverb too literally. Remember, the nature of the proverb is to present a general axiom or truth, not to present a universal prescription or truth…

HT: Andrew Callaway

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One thought on “What does Scripture mean by a “rod”?”

  1. Well put. Now excuse me while I go beat my son with a length of PVC pipe. HAHA! Just kidding.

    OK, seriously now – I appreciate Dr. Barrick’s insight on this matter. No question that discipline is Biblical, and that discipline is good. Different “crimes” call for varying amounts and severity of discipline, as the Bible demonstrates. To discipline is to love.

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