Spankings, Samuel and a Box of Lemonheads

Proverbs 23

13Don’t fail to correct your children. They won’t die if you spank them. 14Physical discipline may well save them from death. (Proverbs 23:13-14, NLT)

1 Samuel 3

11Then the LORD said to Samuel, “I am about to do a shocking thing in Israel. 12I am going to carry out all my threats against Eli and his family. 13I have warned him continually that judgment is coming for his family, because his sons are blaspheming God and he hasn’t disciplined them. 14So I have vowed that the sins of Eli and his sons will never be forgiven by sacrifices or offerings.” (1 Samuel 3:11-14, NLT)

The Daily DAVEotional

I’ve mentioned before that the Bible reading program I’ve been following for the past several years in the Grant Horner Bible reading plan. You can read about the plan here from a pdf that includes a handy list of the 10 “lists”.

What’s unique about the plan is that every day, you read one chapter from each of 10 different lists – Gospels, Pentateuch, Wisdom literature, Psalms, Proverbs and so on. Each successive day, you read the next chapter from that list. When you reach the last chapter in any list, you return to the beginning. Since each list has a different number of chapters, you will never be reading the same 10 chapters. What you begin to realize, as a reader, is how Scripture is interwoven and how different sections comment on and bring clarity to other sections.

A perfect example of this occurred just a few days ago.

On one day, I read Proverbs 23, which included verses 13-14 and the writer’s admonition to not avoid spanking your kids.

Spanking was very common when I was a kid but it seems that there has been a lot of talk in recent years about whether or not spanking is moral. Those against spanking generally feel that it is abusive and unnecessary and that there are more effective ways of dealing with bad behavior and problem youths.

I agree that spanking, when done in anger, and done in a punitive manner, can absolutely be abusive. But it doesn’t logically follow that all spanking is abusive. When done properly, it can be very corrective.

I remember when I was 10 years old, I used to walk home from school with a friend. Some times we would stop off at a Pharmacy that was on the way home and browse and maybe by some candy. When my dad found out that I was sometimes stopping at the pharmacy, he told me he didn’t want me doing that anymore.

Not long after that, as I was walking home from school, my friend wanted to stop at the Pharmacy. Against my dad’s wishes, I went along, and I even bought a box of Lemonheads.

When I got home, my dad happened to be home from work early and he noticed the bulge in my front pocket where the Lemonheads were. He asked, “what’s that in your pocket?” I pulled out the Lemonheads and my dad replied, “you stopped off at the pharmacy didn’t you?” I told him I had and he reminded me that he had expressly forbid me from going there on my way home from school. I was supposed to come straight home and I hadn’t done that.

My dad then informed me that there were consequences for my disobedience. I had been spanked before with a belt and I expected that would be forthcoming. But my dad actually gave me a choice. I had a Little League game later that afternoon and I was scheduled to be the pitcher. My dad told me I could get a spanking, or I could skip the game – it was my choice. I told him I wanted to think about it.

So I went to my room and I thought about it, and I thought about it some more, and even more. I honestly didn’t want to get a spanking. I was a small, scrawny kid and I didn’t have a lot of meat on my glutes to soften the leathery blows.

But I was scheduled to pitch in the game and I knew that if I didn’t get the spanking, I would be letting my team down and my coach would be wondering why I didn’t show up.

At the last possible moment, I went to my dad and told him I would take the spanking, after which, I threw on my uniform and we raced to the field, where I was already late for pre-game warm-ups. I didn’t miss the game though, and like the verse states, I didn’t die from getting spanked. Instead, it was a valuable lesson in obedience and consequences, one that I obviously still remember to this day.

So what does this have to do with the Grant Horner system?

Well, the very next day, I read the chapter in 1 Samuel 3. Actually, on the same day I read Proverbs 23:13-14, I read 1 Samuel 2, where I learned that Eli’s sons Phineas and Hophni were priests who were taking advantage of Israelites who came to the temple to worship the Lord. The text calls them “scoundrels”. Eli is warned by God about what his sons are doing but Eli essentially does nothing about it. He does not discipline his sons. He provides no meaningful correction.

As a result, in 1 Samuel 3, the Lord speaks to the boy Samuel and tells him that he’s going to bring about justice for the wrongs committed by Eli’s sons. Verse 13 says that God is bringing this about because he has warned Eli about what his son’s are doing but Eli “hasn’t disciplined them.”

I think our culture has a hard time with physical discipline like spanking because we think of discipline as punishment. But the more general understanding of discipline is the word “training”. Athletes discipline themselves in order to train their bodies. Spiritual disciplines are for the purpose of training ourselves spiritually.

So when we think about disciplining our kids, we are not trying to punish them, though there may be negative consequences for disobedience and bad behavior. Instead, we are training our children to know what is right and to respond in right ways in varied circumstances. This is godly and as we can see from these passages, it is also biblical.


What was your experience with discipline growing up? If you’re a parent, what has been your practice of discipline with your kids? What do you think are some effective ways you have found for correcting and disciplining your kids?

The idea of spanking has become a controversial issue in our culture today. What are your views on spanking and physical discipline? What has shaped the position you hold today?

In what ways can physical discipline, such as spanking, be done in a way that is corrective and not abusive? 

We often think of discipline as “punishment”. When you think of discipline in it’s broader sense, as training, how does this affect your view and understanding of discipline as a corrective measure?

What are some common ways you discipline or train yourself (i.e. finances, fitness, sleep, other habits and routines)? 


Photo by Dave Lowe

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