Proverbs 23:14

ESV If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.
NIV Punish them with the rod and save them from death.
NASB You shall strike him with the rod And rescue his soul from Sheol.
CSB Punish him with a rod, and you will rescue his life from Sheol.
NLT Physical discipline may well save them from death.
KJV Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

What does Proverbs 23:14 mean?

Solomon continues his exhortation to discipline a child (Proverbs 23:13). His point here is that proper discipline instructs children about consequences and choices. This knowledge is best learned at home, where penalties for mistakes are light. Undisciplined children tend to become unruly adults, and the adult world brings consequences through law enforcement, loss of jobs, and violence. Though the imagery here involves a rod, the point is not about any literal object or even physical punishment, itself. The meaning involves the concept of loving, guiding discipline, which varies based on the child and the situation.

Each person is ultimately responsible for their own decisions. Even diligent parents have, at times, mourned to see their children suffer from foolish choices. Solomon's point here is not an absolute promise. Yet it is a sensible, reasonable general truth. How many people suffer permanent consequences due to a lack of self-control or disrespect for authority? If any of those might have been avoided through proactive parenting, that seems to be a wiser and more loving choice.

An English-language proverb which echoes this idea says that "as the twig is bent so grows the tree." Proverbs 22:6 endorses child discipline by stating, "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." Other statements in this book make the same general point (Proverbs 3:11–12; 5:23; 13:1; 19:18; 22:15). A positive example of this comes from Timothy's grandmother and mother. Paul commends those two women in 2 Timothy 1:5 as having the same faith that Timothy now exhibited. In 2 Timothy 3:15 Paul reminds Timothy that he was acquainted from childhood with the sacred writings that were able to make him "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
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