Jonathan Merritt (the author) has no biblical rationale for verbally spanking Jonathan Merritt (the parent)

According to the latest article from The Other Merritt (TOM), I’m “hell-bent on hitting” my kids— and without any moral rationale.

I assume most unenlightened (i.e. conservative) Christians found TOM’s article objectionable on a number of fronts. For my part I can deal with the condescending attitude; the categorical association of spanking with hitting, beating, slapping, and violence; and the arrogant presumption that I can’t be trusted if I claim to spank “compassionately & rarely.” The enlightened progressives castigate the unenlightened conservatives. {Yawn}

However, I was shocked to read that my rationale for spanking rests on a one word in one verse (Prov 13:24) whose interpretation is authenticated by one author in one theological journal—The New York Times. {Now I’m awake}

If TOM had spent as much time investigating Scripture as he did gleaning the immutable truths of sociology he might have discovered that the issue is more complex than a one-off proof text. Maybe he’d have learned:

1) that the Hebrew word shebet, translated as rod in Prov 13:24, occurs approximately 190x in the OT and w/ two meanings: (i) rod, staff, club, scepter and (ii) tribe

2) that the very first entry for shebet in the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon reads “rod, staff (evidently common article), for smiting [emphasis added]

3) that shebet occurs 8x in Proverbs and one is hard-pressed to find any shepherding metaphor let alone the sense that the rod is for verbal(?) guidance/discipline

Proverbs 10:13 On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.

Proverbs 13:24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.

Proverbs 22:8 Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.

Proverbs 22:15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.

Proverbs 23:13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.

Proverbs 23:14 If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.

Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools.

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.

4) that multiple times the Lord himself uses a shebet to do more than coax & nudge little lambs

2 Samuel 7:14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men

Psalm 89:32 then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes

Isaiah 10:5 Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury!

I don’t know TOM but I’d wager he’s a decent guy (they don’t hand out the Merritt surname to just anyone!). I’m sure that he’s written many pieces where deadlines & a lack of available sources don’t permit him to investigate as thoroughly as he’d like.

But speaking as a parent who believes he has a biblical (and moral) rationale for spanking, maybe he could spare me the condescension until he does a little more homework.

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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