Bible Question:

Proverbs 20:30 reads, “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.” What does this mean? I think I have heard that when a wound is “blue” or bruised, it is healing without infection. How do “stripes” cleanse the “inward parts of the belly”? Surely, it is not saying to cleanse evil and disease by beatings? Please illuminate.

Bible Answer:

The passage that you quoted comes from the King James Version (KJV) Bible. The expression “blueness of a wound” is old English. Newer translations provide a clearer translation of the original Hebrew. Here is a better translation from the original Hebrew language.

Stripes that wound scour away evil, and strokes reach the innermost parts. Prov 20:30 (NASB)

The Hebrew word that is translated as “stripes” refers to a “hit” or “blow” that results in welts on a body. [1] The Hebrew word that is translated as “scour” implies a repeated “scrapping or blows.” If we put this all together, we discover that the first phrase refers to repeated physical “blows” that remove evil. Parents often physically discipline children to accomplish this effect. When parents avoid disciplining flagrantly, willfully disobedient children, they allow “evil” to remain. Such evil does not go “away.” The second phrase reveals that such discipline results in a change of heart for the good.

God assumes that parents, especially fathers, will be wise and loving when they apply discipline to a willfully disobedient child. In Ephesians, God warns fathers not to provoke their children to anger. Children may be angry for awhile after they are spanked. That is normal, but sustained and prolonged anger must be avoided.

And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Eph 6:4 (NASB)

And in Colossians we read,

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart. Col 3:21 (NASB)

Each child has a unique character or “bent” from birth. That “bent” needs to change because it is crooked due to sin. Proverbs 22:6 tells us each child is born into this world with an unique personality or character that needs to be changed – or trained or guided.

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. (NASB) Prov. 22:6

The actual Hebrew rendering is not usually given in the English. But it is important to understand this often misunderstood passage. It sounds like broken English, but here it is . . .

Train a youth upon the mouth of his way and when old will not turn away from.

Proverbs 22:6 has the word “mouth” in the original Hebrew. We are to understand that each child when born into this world, starts on the road of life. He or she is at the “mouth of his or her way.” When a child is born into this world, he or she has a personality “bent.” That bent is evil since he or she is a sinner. We are all born as sinners. That is how we start – on the “mouth of our way.” Part of that bent results in negative attitudes, wrong preferences, and evil desires that if not changed could result in an unpleasant type of person – a person that is evil. It seems best to understand the passage to say that if a child’s character or bent is left unchanged, that is how he or she will turn out when he or she is older. We are sinners from birth, and each of us needs to be changed.

Conclusion:

Fathers and mothers should lovingly and carefully change the natural or sinful direction of their children. In the process they are not to discourage them. This means that parental discipline must be applied lovingly. It must be planned with discretion and care. The goal is to remove evil from the heart and actions and not create evil in the heart.

References:

1. Bruce K. Waltke. The Book of Proverbs. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Eerdmans. 2005. p. 167-168.

Reference Links:

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A Call: Teach The Word