Does the Bible Teach child Abuse, ‘Beat him with a rod?’

Does the Bible Teach child Abuse, ‘Beat him with a rod?’

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


In this article we are going to examine Bible passages which encourage child abuse and other things that are related to the topic. The Biblical Book of Proverbs contains many passages which approve of beating a child with a rod.

The book of Proverbs is not the only place in the Bible where it encourages such atrocious acts. There is a lot of evidence that beating a child physically has long-term physical and psychological damage.

1. Bible: To become a follower of Jesus you must hate your children

Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

2. Bible: Disobedient children must be put to death

Exodus 21:15 Whoever strikes his father or his mother is certainly to be put to death.

Exodus 21:17 Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

Leviticus 20:9 Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head.

Matthew 15:4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’

3. Biblical verses, instructions how to beat a Child

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

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

Proverbs 19:18 Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.

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

Proverbs 23:13-14 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.

As we have read we see that the verses all teach, and encourage beating children. Not only that but also, if you do not hate your children you cannot become a follower of Jesus. The command of Jesus is made very clear, in order to become his follower you have to hate your children.

Coming back to the topic of child abuse:- Take for example Proverbs 23:13-14 it says, ‘Do NOT withhold correction’, meaning do NOT withhold back from beating a child. It says then, if you beat him with a rod (STICK) he will not die but live.

Towards the end of the verse it commands that you beat him with a stick. It is due to these verses in the Bible that many children have died. I cannot comprehend even imagine how these children must feel when going through these horrific, barbaric acts the Bible encourages.

There are Christians (missionaries) out there that want to reform their Religion and make it more pleasing to non-Christians, they have tried to change the meanings of Proverbs where it encourages beating a child. They say, ‘the words that are used such as ‘Beat’, actually does not mean that, but show ‘love’. Since when is the word ‘beat’ meant ‘love’?

4. Interpretation of ‘Beat’ & ‘Rod’ in Proverbs by Christian Experts

Peter Muffet A commentary on the whole Book of Proverbs says:

Parents are now admonished to correct their children, and moved hereunto by the declaration of the great benefit which they shall procure unto them by using the rod, and chastening them according to their deserts. ‘Withraw not chastisement from the child;’ neither altogether withhold correction from that youth that deserveth the same, nor correct him too seldom or too sparingly.

‘When thou shalt smite him with the rod he shall not die.’ When thou shalt moderately chasten him with a twig or wand thou shalt only cause his flesh to smart, but not kill or slay him; for a rod will break no bones.

‘Smite him with a rod, and thou shalt deliver his soul from hell.’ Scourge him with moderation, and he by his means being amended, will not afterward deserve temporal or eternal death, but shall be preserved by the stripes which he hath received from the grave and destruction.

The cockering of parents is the very cause that divers children come to the gallows, and the correction which wise fathers and mothers exercise their sons and daughters with, is the means whereby divers others are saved from sin and the punishments thereof, yea, and oftentimes from the very place of execution. [1]

Professor Moses Stuart A Commentary on the Book of Proverbs (1852) says:

The Child, with the article which refers to the child of the person addressed: and so with the rod, i.e. the appropriate rod of a teacher.-.. has the same sense of CHASTISEMENT here…. [2]

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible:

Verse 13-14
While there is little danger that the use of the “divine ordinance of the rod” will produce bodily harm, there is great hope of spiritual good. [3]

The Book: ‘A Proverb a Day Keeps the Devil Away’ written by Dr. Philip Ayers says:

“The same principles are true for parents. We must apply strict rules and consequences for our children, or they will run from us when the opportunity comes. WE MUST SPANK OUR CHILDREN AT TIMES. THE WORLD CALLS THIS UNUSUAL AND UNACCEPTABLE PUNISHMENT: CORPORAL IN NATURE. GOD CALLS IT DIVINE LOVE. Genuine affection for children will not withhold corporal punishment. Parental discipline will produce Godly virtue, parental joy, and blessed children. [4]

Natalie A. Francisco:

….discipline, then you must step up (as judge and prophetess Deborah did when she accompanied Barak to war in Judges 4:4-9). You can fill in the gap by disciplining the children when needed rather than putting it off until your husband steps up (which may or may not happen). Notice what the scripture says, which puts more onus on mothers than you might think:

Proverbs 29:15 ‘The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brigs shame to his mother. Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul.’ Proverbs 23:13-14 also tells us: ‘Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. 


J. C. a Christian commenting on Proverbs says: ‘Spanking is not child abuse’, read it for yourselves:

….To withhold discipline from a child will result in a confused, chaotic and unhappy life for that child. Regardless of the pseudo-Psychology being spewed from the unwise, a human child needs discipline to mature into a successful member of society. SPANKING A CHILD IS NOT ABUSE …IT IS A COMMANDMENT FROM GOD THAT HELPS SUBDUE OUR EVIL NATURE AND RESTORE SOME SEMBLANCE OF A HEALTHY LIFE. NEGLECTING TO DISCIPLINE A CHILD IS THE GREATEST LONG-TERM ABUSE ANY PARENT COULD INFLICT. [6]

5. Apocrypha

There are two additional verses that encourage child abuse. Protestants might say:- ‘we don’t accept Sirach, because it is an apocryphal book’. According to them since it is apocryphal book, it is not reliable, fake. But that is incorrect; the word Apocrypha originally meant ‘Hidden or secret’.

Sirach was always accepted part of the canon and there are over a billion Christians today that still accept it as scripture. I have already written on the word ‘Apocrypha’ and the experts (Christians) will give you the original meaning of it. Click on the Link below for more Info:

Marriage of Mary to Joseph The Carpenter

6. More verses on Child abuse from the Bible

Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 30:1He who loves his son will whip him often, so that he may rejoice in the way he turns out. He who disciplnes his son will profit by him, and will boast about him among acquaintances

Sirach [Ecclesiasticus] 30:12 Bow down his neck while he is young, and beat his sides while he is a child, lest he grow stubborn, and regard thee not, and so be a sorrow of heart to thee.

Could you believe what you are reading? Sirach encourages/commands that you beat a child’s sides while he is young. So, that in the future the child doesn’t ‘grow stubborn’ as their Scripture states. By beating a child it wouldn’t make things better, but worse and the child might even in worse cases commit suicide from such beatings. Commentary on the verse, Professor John J. Pilch says:

Proverbs and Sirach exhort fathers to punish sons physically because they are considered basically evil and need strong correction if the father does not want to suffer neglect and abuse later in life (Prov 13:24; 19:18; 22:15 23:13-14; 29:15, 17, 19; Sir: 30:1-13). [7]

It is quite clear from reading all the evidence that the Bible encourages violence against children.

7. Jesus came to fulfil the Old Testament Law & commanded his followers to teach/Practice it

Before a Christian says, “Old Testament verses are not to be followed because we are now under a ‘New Covenant’”, they are wrong. Jesus made it abundantly clear that he did NOT come to abolish any Law of the Old Testament but to fulfil it. All the verse mentioned are still applicable today because Jesus never came to abolish any law. Jesus says:

Matthew 5:17 (GWT) “DON’T EVER THINK that I came to set aside Moses’ Teachings or the Prophets. I didn’t come to set them aside but to make them come true. 18 I can guarantee this truth: Until the earth and the heavens disappear, neither a period nor a comma will disappear from the Scriptures before everything has come true. 19 So whoever sets aside any command that seems unimportant and teaches others to do the same will be UNIMPORTANT in the kingdom of heaven.

But whoever DOES AND TEACHES WHAT THE COMMANDS SAY WILL BE CALLED GREAT in the kingdom of heaven. 20 I can guarantee that unless you live a life that has God’s approval and do it more faithfully than the experts in Moses’ Teachings and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

As you have read Jesus makes it evidently clear that he did not come to abolish anything but to fulfil it. Not just that, but also said: ‘whoever sets aside any command that seems unimportant to them. They will be unimportant in the Kingdom of Heaven.’ In other words he/she will not enter heaven for not following the commandments in the OT. Jesus further said, ‘whoever follows the commandments and teaches it will be called ‘great in the kingdom of heaven’.

Jesus praises and loves those who follow and practice OT Law. Christian (missionaries) won’t be able find one verse in the entire 4 Gospels, Jesus ever hinting/saying to people not to follow the Old Testament Laws, it does not exist. Jesus never abolished anything, but encouraged/commanded his followers to follow/practice the Old Testament Laws.

8. Long-term Psychological damage to children

This section we are going to bring evidence that beating a child has long-term Physical and Psychological damage according to the experts. Professor Murli Desai says:

Physical abuse is often used for disciplining the child and results in physical injuries as well as psychological damage. (Winton and Mara 2001). Beating a child causes pain, injury, humiliation, anxiety, anger and vindictiveness that could have long-term psychological effects. It may reduce a child’s sense of worth and increase vulnerability to depression.

Even minor forms of violence can cause injuries, and in the worst case permanent disability and even death. Children subjected to repeated violence may exhibit dysfunctional behaviour such as poor communication and they may display aggressive behaviour towards themselves and others.

Child abuse and physical punishment can produce feelings of guilt, violation, , loss of control and lowered self-esteem. sometimes the child may not clearly understand the reason for the punishment, or the punishment is inconsistently given, and in these cases, corporal punishment can lead to passivity or strong feelings of helplessness.

While biological and various social factors interact in contributing to a child’s development, studies show that child abuse and physical violence in early years contribute significantly to a higher risk of children turning violent themselves. (UNICEF 2001). [8]

Professor Colin Pritchard, Research Professor in Psychiatric Social Work in the University of Bournemouth also echoes the same statements:

“Physical abuse is the most commonly recorded type of abuse, and it is easiest to define, observe and take action against this kind of maltreatment. Severe bruising and fractures caused by blows, head injuries, shaking, eye damage, suffocation, poisoning, marks made by sticks, whips and cords, marks of burning, biting and scalding are the most extreme examples (kemp et al. 1985; Meadow 1993).

While these extreme forms of physical abuse may not effect more than 2 per cent of the population, ‘ordinary’ physical discipline in the form of frequent smacking and hitting is much more frequent, and can also cause long-term harm…..” [9]

9. Discipline VS Punishment

Most experts would agree that spanking (mildly) a child on the bottom is not abuse. But when passages shown earlier encourage beating a child with a ‘rod’ (stick), and further saying they will not die, now that is abuse, or the other Biblical verse (Sirach), where it commands that you beat the sides of your child so that he/she respects you when they grow up, that is abuse. This kind of discipline as Christians call it should not be tolerated in any shape or form.

Nobody is discouraging parents from disciplining their children. We need to discipline our Children in order they thrive as individuals. As parents we need to set boundaries and structure in the Childs lives. However discipline does not necessarily mean punishment.

As parents we can discipline children without even laying a finger and they could still be happy/healthy, and well-behaved.

we can see the Bible encourages abuse, beating a child black and blue is ‘OK’ according to Christian scripture. What makes it even more worrying to me is how Christian today still encourage/command other Christian to abuse their children. They might sugar coat it and say it is only ‘correction when the child is naughty’.

Even if the child is naughty, they still have no right to hit them with a stick. A Child should be brought up with love, not constant beating so that he/she submits to their tyranny. As we examined the passages, I gave scholarly evidences that this is a command.

I also gave two Professors views on this type of abuse commanded in the Bible, and the implication of the child in the future, going through such ordeals, both of the Professors acknowledged, made it clear that beating a child has long-term Physical and Psychological damage.


[1] Peter Muffet A commentary on the whole Book of Proverbs (1868) page 126
[2] Professor Moses Stuart A Commentary on the Book of Proverbs (1852) page 349
[4] A Proverb a Day Keeps the Devil Away Dr Philip Ayers page 357
[5] Wisdom for Women of Worth & Worship: Lessons for a Life of Virtue, Value & Victory By Natalie A. Francisco page 150
[6] Mysteries of the Universe By J. C.
[7] The Cultural World of Jesus: Sunday by Sunday, Cycle By John J. Pilch page 140
[8] A Rights-Based Preventative Approach for Psychosocial Well-being in Childhood By Murli Desai page 347
[9] The Child Abusers: Research and Controversy By Pritchard, Colin page 12

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Indiana Mother Who Beat Her Son with a Coat Hanger Because of Jesus Gets Year of Probation (123,)

 Pat Robertson: Non-Religious Children Should Be Beaten Until They Respect Christian Beliefs (1,2,)

Smacked children more successful later in life, study finds” (1, 2, 3)

DA: Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz Killed Daughter With “Religious Whips” for Mispronouncing Word” (* * *)

Christian Parents Receive Massive Sentence for the Starving and Freezing Death of Their Adopted Daughter” (* * *)

Dead child’s mom sought discipline tips; Lynn Paddock ordered books by a minister and his wife that recommended using pipe to spank kids” (* * *)

Pastors, Counselor at Christian Boot Camp Get 20 Years for Child Abuse” (* *)

Church-goer faces at least 21 years in jail for murdering two-year-old boy” (* * *) NAME: Chevaze Sanchez McGregor. 24th June 2017

Five Decades of Research Confirms: Spanking Produces Similar Outcomes in Children as Physical Abuse.” (*) 8th March 2017

“Turpin: Shackled siblings found in Perris, California home” (16th January 2017)

“Pat Robertson: Non-Religious Children Should Be Beaten Until They Respect Christian Beliefs” (5th Jan, 2015)