Is Proverbs 22:6 A Promise For Parents? -- By: Jonathan Akin

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 20:2 (Fall 2015)
Article: Is Proverbs 22:6 A Promise For Parents?
Author: Jonathan Akin

Is Proverbs 22:6 A Promise For Parents?

Jonathan Akin

Pastor Fairview Church
Lebanon, Tennessee

Is Proverbs 22:6 a promise?

Many Christian parents feel guilty when their children do not “turn out right.” They ask questions like, “What did we do wrong? What else could we have done?” What is more problematic is that the guilt so many Christian parents feel finds its root in the Bible. After all, Proverbs 22:6 states, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

This verse has produced much shame in Christian parents because it seems to promise that if parents will raise their kids in the right way when they are young, then when they are grown they will continue to live the right way, and if you do not raise your children in the right way, then they will live the wrong kind of life. The logic seems clear and straightforward: if you have grown children who did not turn out right, then you must not have raised them right. So, added to the heartache of a child not walking with the Lord is the biblical condemnation of your parenting.

Getting To The Heart Of The Promise

Is that really what Proverbs 22:6 teaches? Some scholars try to scoot around the problem by contending that the Proverbs are not promises. But there is a different way to understand Proverbs 22:6 without undermining its promissory nature. Instead of being a promise that “if you do right then your kids will turn out right,” it is a reverse promise – a warning – that if you do not correct your children when they are young, then they will run amuck, wanting their own way as an adult.

Almost every English translation of this verse adds a word to the text that is not in the Hebrew. The English says something along the lines of “train a child in the right way” or the “way he should go.” In the Hebrew, there is no descriptor or qualifier; so English translations add the word “right” or

“should” to aid in interpretation. Literally the verse should be rendered, “Train a child in his way, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” What does that mean? If you give a child his way when he is young, then when he is old he will insist on having his own way. This translation best fits with the flow of Proverbs that teaches children are foolish by nature and need to be corrected (cf. Prov. 20:9; 22:15; 29:15).

The clear warning ...

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