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The Rod or Shebet: An Indepth Examination

by Joan Renae

A Christian Who Does Not Spank?

A close examination on the "rod" Scriptures in Proverbs.

I do not claim to be a Hebrew scholar by any stretch of the imagination. I can only use resources such as Vine's Expository Dictionary and the Hebrew dictionary in the Strong's Concordance, discernment, and comparing the meanings of words by looking over all of the counsel of God. I use the King James Version in this study. Which Scriptures are we referring to when we say "rod" scriptures?


Pr 13:24 He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.

Pr 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Pr 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

Pr 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

Pr 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.


The word "rod" is shebet in Hebrew. This word is defined as following in Strong's Hebrew Lexicon #7626:
rod, staff, branch, offshoot, club, sceptre, tribe
a. rod, staff
b. shaft (of spear, dart)
c. club (of shepherd's implement)
d. truncheon, sceptre (mark of authority)
e. clan, tribe From an unused root probably meaning to branch off; a scion, for example literally a stick (for punishing, writing, fighting, walking, ruling, etc.) or figuratively a clan.

King James Word Usage

tribe 140, rod 34, sceptre 10, staff 2, miscellaneous 4

Matteh is another Hebrew word for rod. This word can mean branch as a vine and is not used here.

Maqqel, which has no meaning that can be applied here and is not used in this Scripture anyway.

Choter, another Hebrew word, is branch, twig, rod and is not used here.

Therefore, we are focusing on shebet.

There are 31 other Scriptures using this word, translated "rod" in the KJV. These verses will be grouped into categories according to how the word "rod" (translated from "shebet") is used.


THE ROD OF A SHEEP HERDER OR AS AN INSTRUMENT OR TOOL

Leviticus 27:32 And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.

Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 2:9 Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

Isaiah 28:27 For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.

Exodus 21:20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. 

SYMBOLIZING DIRECT HERITAGE FROM GOD

(offshoot) Psalm 74:2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.

Jeremiah 10:16 The portion of Jacob is not like them: for he is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: The LORD of hosts is his name.

Jeremiah 51:19 The portion of Jacob is not like them; for he is the former of all things: and Israel is the rod of his inheritance: the LORD of hosts is his name.

SYMBOLIZING THE AUTHORITY OF THE WICKED

Psalm 125:3 For the rod of the wicked shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands unto iniquity.

Proverbs 22:8 He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.

A ROD TO BE USED ON A FOOL

(Fool meaning stupid or silly, literally meaning fat...has a connotation of cocky)

Proverbs 10:13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding.

Proverbs 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.

SYMBOLIZING MAN'S AUTHORITY

II Samuel 7:14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:

Ezekiel 19:11 And she had strong rods for the sceptres of them that bare rule, and her stature was exalted among the thick branches, and she appeared in her height with the multitude of her branches.

Ezekiel 19:14 And fire is gone out of a rod of her branches, which hath devoured her fruit, so that she hath no strong rod to be a sceptre to rule. This is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation. 

SYMBOLIZING GOD'S AUTHORITY

Job 9:34 Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me:

Job 21:9 Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.

Psalm 89:32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.

Isaiah 10:5 O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation.

Isaiah 10:15 Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.

Isaiah 11:4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

Lamentations 3:1 I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. 

Micah 7:14 Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.

Ezekiel 20:37 And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:

Ezekiel 21:10 It is sharpened to make a sore slaughter; it is furbished that it may glitter: should we then make mirth? it contemneth the rod of my son, as every tree.

Ezekiel 21:13 Because it is a trial, and what if the sword contemn even the rod? it shall be no more, saith the Lord GOD.

SYMBOLIZING THE AUTHORITY OF A NATION

Isaiah 9:4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian.

Isaiah 14:29 Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.

Isaiah 30:31 For through the voice of the LORD shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod.

Micah 5:1 Now gather thyself in troops, O daughter of troops: he hath laid siege against us: they shall smite the judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek.


Now we have seen all 36 places where this word is recorded "rod" in the KJV, let us examine the use of this word. There are only a few places that "shebet" is possibly referring to a literal rod in connection with hitting someone.


Exodus 21:20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.


The Exodus scripture reference shows us that if this rod were used on a maid or servant and killed them that it was punishable. So, we see that it had to be a heavy duty instrument to kill someone which would be consistent with the idea of a staff or club. We see that if it is ok to spank a child using this instrument, that it is not mentioned here and if it were, then the child could die by it's use.


II Samuel 7:14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men:


Here is a lengthy quote from Matthew Henry's Commentary on this particular verse:

I will be his father, and he shall be my son. We need no more to make us and ours happy than to have God to be a Father to us and them; and all those to whom God is a Father he by his grace makes his sons, by giving them the disposition of children. If he be a careful, tender, bountiful Father to us, we must be obedient, tractable, dutiful children to him. The promise here speaks as unto sons. [1.] That his Father would correct him when there was occasion; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? Afflictions are an article of the covenant, and are not only consistent with, but flow from, God’s fatherly love. "If he commit iniquity, as it proved he did (1 Ki. 11:1), I will chasten him to bring him to repentance, but it shall be with the rod of men, such a rod as men may wield—I will not plead against him with the great power of God,’’ Job 23:6. Or rather such a rod as men may bear —"I will consider his frame, and correct him with all possible tenderness and compassion when there is need, and no more than there is need of; it shall be with the stripes, the touches (so the word is) of the children of men; not a stroke, or wound, but a gentle touch.’’ [2.] That yet he would not disinherit him (v. 15): My mercy (and that is the inheritance of sons) shall not depart from him. The revolt of the ten tribes from the house of David was their correction for iniquity, but the constant adherence of the other two to that family, which was a competent support of the royal dignity, perpetuated the mercy of God to the seed of David, according to this promise; though that family was cut short, yet it was not cut off, as the house of Saul was. Never any other family swayed the sceptre of Judah than that of David. This is that covenant of royalty celebrated (Ps. 89:3, etc.) as typical of the covenant of redemption and grace. 2. Others of them relate to Christ, who is often called David and the Son of David, that Son of David to whom these promises pointed and in whom they had their full accomplishment. He was of the seed of David, Acts 13:23. To him God gave the throne of his father David (Lu. 1:32), all power both in heaven and earth, and authority to execute judgment. He was to build the gospel temple, a house for God’s name, Zec. 6:12, 13. That promise, I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son, is expressly applied to Christ by the apostle, Heb. 1:5. But the establishing of his house, and his throne, and his kingdom, for ever (v. 13, and again, and a third time v. 16. for ever ), can be applied to no other than Christ and his kingdom. David’s house and kingdom have long since come to an end; it is only the Messiah’s kingdom that is everlasting, and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. The supposition of committing iniquity cannot indeed be applied to the Messiah himself, but it is applicable (and very comfortable) to his spiritual seed. True believers have their infirmities, for which they may expect to be corrected, but they shall not be cast off. Every transgression in the covenant will not throw us out of covenant. Now, (1.) This message Nathan faithfully delivered to David (v. 17); though, in forbidding him to build the temple, he contradicted his own words, yet he was not backward to do it when he was better informed concerning the mind of God. (2.) These promises God faithfully performed to David and his seed in due time. Though David came short of making good his purpose to build God a house, yet God did not come short of making good his promise to build him a house. Such is the tenour of the covenant we are under; though there are many failures in our performances, there are none in God’s. (End of Matthew Henry quote)


When we see the use of the rod on fools, this would be adults who are "fools" because they are grown and still have no self control. It would be comparable to a criminal being beaten. This is not speaking of a young child. We see examples of criminals being beaten in Scripture.

There are no examples of children being beaten with a rod.

We see in most other instances that the word "rod" is used to symbolize God's authority or the authority of a nation.

If you read the "shebet" passages in Proverbs, you will see that you can always substitute the word "authority" for "rod." If "rod" can be referring to God's authority or a nation's authority in some of the above verses, then it is referring to a parent's authority in the following verses:


Pr 23:13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.

Pr 23:14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.


In the preceding verses, we see that he shall not die with this rod. Yet in Exodus, we saw that a man COULD cause someone to die with a literal shebet. If Scripture were talking about a literal rod here, we would be finding a contradiction because it says he SHALL NOT die. You cannot kill someone with your authority. You can be striking (beating) them with your authority by using your authority to discipline (teach, disciple, educate, instruct) and guide them. I hold to the figurative interpretation of this verse.

IF this Scripture were referring to a literal beating, taken in context, it would have to be speaking about a grown child. The verses before and after are written by a father speaking to his grown or almost grown son. However, you still have the problem of the contradiction as far as whether or not a "shebet" can cause someone to die.

Another observation worth mention is the word child used in all of these "rod" Scriptures in Proverbs. This word is "na'ar."

This word means as follows:

a boy, lad, servant, youth, retainer
a. boy, lad, youth
b. servant, retainer

Concretely a boy (as active), from the age of infancy to adolescence; by implication a servant; also (by interchange of sex) a girl (of similar latitude in age).

The KJV translates it as follows: young man 76, servant 54, child 44, lad 33, young 15, children 7, youth 6, babe 1, boys 1

This would mean that we are speaking about boys most of the time when we see this word (since a lad would be a male) here and usually young men.

Therefore, *if* one took these Scriptures to mean literal physical punishment, than it would possibly only apply to fathers spanking their sons who are older (since adolescence can go through the early 20's). Most Christian discipline "experts" do not mention this. Yet, if you're going to interpret it literally, this would have to be the explanation. Most Christian parenting authors say you should be able to STOP spanking by the time they become 12 or 13, yet according to this Scripture, you would not even START using physical punishment until then. So, we see that these Scriptures, if taken literally, would be referring to this form of punishment as an absolute last resort to save the child (which was possibly a boy only) from hell.

So many Christians have taken FIVE verses and hung a whole child rearing philosophy on them! Parents are told to use this as a primary form of punishment (what these experts refer to as discipline). Some use the words "punishment" and "discipline" interchangeably when they mean two entirely different things. These people are basing their theology on nothing more than the traditions of men!

Further, we are told in Deuteronomy 21:18-21:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

So, the parents are told first to talk to their child (he has not heard their voice). Then, they are told to chasten him. Chasten simply means correct with words or blows. It seems they were supposed to instruct then correct him. Then, if this does not work, he is to be stoned.

If we are no longer to stone, then why do we assume we should use physical beatings to bring about repentance? Shouldn't we make examples of a few children and stone them too? Why were they to go ahead and stone them to death if they would not repent and be oobedient? This was because the Holy Spirit was not actively convicting hearts and they did not yet have direct access to God. Jesus said in the case of the adulterous woman to let him who was without sin to cast the first stone. Parents don't stone their kids because the parents themselves are just as much a sinner as their rebellious child.

Jesus was gentle with children. He is a shepherd to the sheep. The shepherd uses HIS rod to guide the sheep, not to beat them! Psalm 23 uses "shebet" to describe the shepherd's "rod." I have had people tell me that the shepherd would use his "rod" to break the legs of a wandering sheep to keep it from going away and getting hurt, so this is proof of how we should physically punish our children. However, I think this only proves that we should try to keep our children's hearts and keep them on the right path by praying for God to protect them. He is the GREAT Shepherd, and He will work in their lives in a much more effective manner than I can. If He chooses to allow some kind of circumstance or situation (to break their legs) in their life, to keep them in the fold, then so be it! He is much stronger than I am. Our children's "legs can be broken" by natural, spiritual and logical consequences even more effectively than by man made pain.

A postscript two years later: There came a time when I was doubting my decision to stop spanking and doubting what God had shown me here. After all, it is hard to be an "outcast" in some Christian circles when your beliefs differ from others. God sent a wonderful Christian women who has raised her three children according to this interpretation of the rod Scriptures. She read this study and then sought out my phone number and called me long distance to talk for five hours. She confirmed almost verbatim from her own 13 pages of notes what God had shown me and told me that God had given her the information 25 years earlier. She had the Hebrew checked by three rabbis who confirmed this interpretation of "shebet." Thank you Lord for sending this Godly woman to confirm what your Spirit had already made apparent.

This article is copyrighted by Joan Renae and is used by permission. You can visit her website and read more of her articles at Suffer the Little Children.

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