Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).
1. What does Proverbs 13:24 (printed below) say about disciplining a child?
He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently. (Proverbs 13:24)
Genuine love for your son/daughter will be expressed in the form of diligent training—training that involves both instruction and discipline (note Ephesians 6:4). This proverb declares that withholding “the rod” of discipline is actually an expression of hatred, not compassion (hatred in the sense of not having the child’s best interest as the father’s number one priority.) The Scriptures define love as doing what is necessary for the well-being of the other person, despite the unpleasantness or personal cost of the necessary action.
2. According to Proverbs 29:15 (printed below,) what two things are necessary for a child and what happens if they are not provided?
The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. (Proverbs 29:15)
This proverb speaks of the necessity of both “the rod and rebuke.” “Rebuke” is verbal instruction, correction; the giving of biblical direction and supplying biblical reasons for the parents’ instruction to the child. “The rod” is the disciplinary action that reinforces the rebuke. The combination of the rod and rebuke “give wisdom;” that is to say, the two working in tandem provide the direction and discipline needed to walk in a way that is pleasing to God and in accordance with His divine standard. This proverb goes on to teach that when a child is left to himself without the loving combination of the rod and reproof, he “brings shame to his mother.” Note: the consequence of the father failing to take the lead in nurturing the child in the discipline and instruction of the Lord is especially felt by the mother.
3. According to Proverbs 22:15 (printed below), why is it necessary to discipline a child?
Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him. (Proverbs 22:15)
What is the nature and purpose of discipline, and why is it necessary, according to Scripture? Proverbs 22:15 provides the answer: “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child.” The Hebrew word translated “foolishness” means not merely behavior that is stupid and ignorantly dangerous, but rather an attitude that is impious, irreverent, rebellious and resistant to authority. Scripture teaches that this foolishness or rebelliousness is “bound up in the heart of a child;” i.e.; the child has a sinful nature (note Psalm 51:5). Proverbs 22:15 is teaching that the use of discipline is necessary because of the nature of the child’s heart. It is not enough to reason with the child, he is not an innately good and enlightened little human being who, if only shown the right way, will be very much inclined to follow it. On the contrary, his sinful nature, resistant to authority, must be addressed and counteracted.
4. What counsel does the father give his son in Proverbs 19:27 (printed below?) Do you think he really intends for his son to follow this counsel? If not, why do you suppose he gives such counsel?
Stop listening to instruction, my son, but then you will stray from the words of knowledge. (Proverbs 19:27)
The father facetiously instructs his son to “stop listening to instruction;” stop paying attention and submitting to parental authority and counsel. The father is saying to his son, “I know what your heart is inclined to do, what you by nature desire to do; namely, to stop submitting to the burden of parental authority.” But the father informs his son that should he, indeed, give in to that impulse of his heart and actually carry out that desire to stop submitting to the authority and counsel of his parents, he will “stray from the words of knowledge.” The point of this proverb: although it presently seems to be grievous, nevertheless, godly training and discipline are essential: they keep us on the path of life and they eventually produce spiritual fruit and maturity (note Hebrews 12:11).
5. Consider Proverbs 20:20 (printed below.) What offense perpetrated by the child against his parents is addressed in this proverb? What is the penalty for such an offense?
Whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness. (Proverbs 20:20)
Described here is a very severe offense, not only neglecting the command to honor parents, but blatantly doing the opposite: cursing one’s parents (subjecting them to verbal assault and abuse, treating them with contempt). Here, too, is a very severe penalty: the offender’s lamp (his life) shall be extinguished in blackness of darkness.