By Timothy Falk
There is considerable difference in the words discipline and punishment, Discipline is not just trying to get even, but rather correction with teaching. Likewise there is a huge difference between
the words chasten and chastise. Unless that difference is understood, people with good intentions can end up in serious conflict with the Word of God, or even into child-abuse patterns, all the while thinking that they were obeying the scripture.
We shall examine each of these two words, and thereby shed light on the scripture, establish a direction for discipline.
In both the Greek and Hebrew, the word translated Chasten has the same meaning. In the Hebrew the word is YASAR, meaning “to instruct. ” It does not mean hit, spank, knock around. It only carries the one meaning.
Examine the following scripture where YASAR (chasten) is used: Psalm 6:1 ; Psalm 94:12; Hebrews 12:6-8; Proverbs 19:18; Revelation 3:19a; Job 5:17; Deuteronomy 8:5. The word YASAR does not indicate physical punishment, but rather instruction because of the “father – son” relationship enjoyed.
In Psalm 118:18, the word “sore” does not mean what the modern English would indicate, but rather it means “exceedingly”, and indicates that the Father “hasn’t given up on me,” or “where there’s life there is still hope.”
In Proverbs 13:24, the word “betimes” means literally “every dawn,” or every morning he teaches me.
The word Chastise, on the other hand, means physical punishment and condemnation, or the threat of it, handed out by a government or city elders to a criminal. It means whipping or flogging. It was always directed to adults, never children, and never from parent to child. See Psalm 94:10; Deuteronomy 22:l8, or Luke 23:l6
Be assured that the Bible does support spanking (Proverbs 23:13-l4),but we must be very careful how we administer this form of discipline.
The Rod the Bible speaks of is most often translated from the Hebrew word “Shebet,” meaning reed, rod, scepter; or from the word “choter,” meaning rod, staff, shoot, twig, sprout. The rod we are to use is a flexible switch or limb (possibly belt, or better, hand!), so that we will not inflict physical damage.
To review: Chasten is instruction and teaching. If the child continues to ignore or rebel against the teaching, the Bible does authorize spanking, within limits. The chastening is based on the tact that you love the child. Chastise, on the other hand, is severe beating or whipping as a result of a condemnation by a government or elders upon an adult criminal.
The Scripture tells us to not provoke our children unto wrath, and we can sometimes do this by misunderstanding what the Bible says about chasten, chastise, and rod.
(The above material appeared in a Jan, Feb., 1990 issue of The Journal of Christian Education.)
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