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A Discussion on The Teaching Of Proverbs On Displinclinary and The Right Of Children In Zimbabwe.

The book of Proverbs is like medicine it is food to the soul of the wise and those who intends to live a life full of health and blessings. One can appreciate that Proverbs is indeed a portion of scripture where wisdom is embedded in short and prudent sayings that affects our day to day lives. The teachings of the book covers an array of subjects that affects our lives. One among the many is disciplinary of children in a home set up and in the community. Hence this paper seek to discuss the teachings of Proverbs on disciplinary and the rights of children in Zimbabwe.

A Discussion on The Teaching Of Proverbs On Displinclinary and The Right Of Children

Solomon was identified with all wisdom literature (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs) as with the apocryphal book the Wisdom of Solomon. While pseudonyms were popular in the intertestamental period, this was not the case in pre-Hellenistic Israel. In addition it is probable that Solomon’s reputation came from real compositions of wisdom (Gleason L. Archer: 480). This implies that the book of Proverbs was authored by Solomon since it is included in the wisdom writings.

Furthermore, strong traditions connects Solomon the King of Israel (970-930 BC) wisdom and specifically with the proverbs form. The book of 1 kings credits Solomon with pursing and receiving the gift of wisdom from God. Solomon’s fame is associated with his great wisdom, how he composed three thousand proverbs and his songs number a thousand and five. This wisdom was not only in the narrative form but it was also his being which led even international icons like Queen of Sheba marvel at his wisdom (Longman:2006:23). His wisdom connects him to the writing of all wisdom literature including Proverbs.

Proverbs from the onset suggest its writer, it is without controversy that the book indicates that its author is Solomon.  Solomon’s name appears in the opening verse as well as in 10:1 (Longman: 2006; 9). though 25:1 states that these proverbs were “copied by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah.” This indicates that a group of wise men or scribes compiled these proverbs as editors and added chapters. 25–29 to the earlier collections.

According to Longman (2006:24) he asserts that, though the first impression might be to conclude that Solomon was the author of Proverbs the situation is actually significantly more complex. Before the discovery and decipherment of these extra biblical texts, scholars who applied to the Old Testament a historic-critical method (which presupposed the evolutionary development of religion) concluded that the biblical witnesses to Solomon's contribution to wisdom could not be taken at face value .Instead, they argued, the postexilic Jewish community under Grecian influences must be credited for these literary achievements (Waltke: 179:221).

The book also bears other names in it of suggested writers, to have contributed to the writing of Proverbs. Other authors are mentioned in the book; Agur in 30:1: Lemuel or his mother 31:1 and the wise men in 22: 17. This proposes that the book was not solely written by Solomon, fairly it was written mostly by Solomon, and other authors such as Agur, King Lemuel or his mother, and the men wise man of King Hezekiah contributed to the writing of the book.

 The purpose of the book of Proverbs is to challenge its readers to obtain wisdom. The term translated as “wisdom” in Proverbs can be understood as biblical skill in living. This is to say wisdom enables one to live a successful and godly life (Gleason: 1967: 140)
Proverbs can be seen as a book that wants to correct and teach the youths and children to walk in the path that brings wisdom and a successful lives. In the same manner the book encourages parents to teach and discipline their children so as to impart wisdom and embed a Godly life style in a child by disciplining them.

The word discipline musar sometimes translated instruction and its frequent word pair correction tokahat may imply at times physical coercion in the service of education or growth in wisdom but here we are looking at those passages that explicitly mention physical discipline.  And this is most often signaled by Hebrew word sebet, which translate rod. The rod must not be taken metaphorically in the book but rather as a tool of physical discipline.  However, there are passages that does not mentioned the rod and yet clearly have to do with physical punishment 19:18 (Longman: 564)

Proverbs teaching on the discipline of children is that there is need for a parent to, at times use the rod to eliminate foolishness. (Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-15, 29:15,). The writer emphasizes the important of using the rod to physically strike a children to impute wisdom and discipline.

The biblical book of Proverbs, in its original Hebrew, contains five passages which refer to disciplining children with a shebet." The word is usually translated in English as "rod." The rod in the Old Testament was basically a wooden walking stick, a stout club, staff, or a tree branch used primarily for defense as in the Twenty-third Psalm, or for marshalling the sheep, or for thrashing cumin. Other uses of the rod included a scourge to inflict punishment or to strike a servant or slave (Ex. 21:20). It was also used as a scepter of authority, the symbol of a king's power, and an instrument of miracles, such as those performed by Moses and Aaron. But, essentially, the 'rod of God' (Ex. 4:20; 7:9; 12:19f.) was used for disciplining people, including children (Prov. 3:11-12; Heb. 12:5-11) . At first glance, these passages seem to instruct parents to discipline their children using violent means by physically hitting them with a rod, paddle, belt, or similar implement.

According to Derek Kidner (1994:51) “Its maxim, he that spareth his rod hateth his son proverbs (13:24) is a corollary of its serious doctrine of wisdom; for if wisdom is life itself (8:35, 36) a hard way to it is better than a soft way to death (Thou shalt beat him with a rod and shalt deliver his soul from Sheol, 23:14 cf 19:18)”. The way has to be hard for two ways. First, foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child. It will take more than words dislodge it (22:15). Secondly, character in which wisdom embodies itself is plant that grows more sturdily for some cutting back and this from early days.

 The "rod" in Proverbs imply that it is a wooden stick of some sort which a parent, guardian, or teacher should use to hit a misbehaving child, causing them pain, and thereby discipline them. This can cause a quick change for the better in the child's behavior. However, many child psychologists recommend against this practice because of their perception that disciplining children through pain damages the adult/child relationship and often leads to long-term emotional and addiction problems later when the children reach adulthood.
Will hitting a misbehaving child or inflicting pain on them will it bring transformative elements?

 According Derek Kidner (1994:51) the rod is no panacea, solution and answer to treating the issue of character building. Rather it is the duty of the parents to show a life that is exemplary since it is evidenced that children always learn from their parents. Hence using a rod will to some extent affect the child psychology. He further argued that “The parents’ chief resource is constructive, namely, their law taught with loving persistence. This law is a wide term which includes commands but is not confined to them: basically it means direction, and its aim here is to foster wise habits of thought and action, which, so far from enslaving a person will equip him to find his way through life with sureness and honor”( Derek Kidner).

Some scholars believes that proverbs supports the idea of inflicting pain by violent means to a child. If one applies such violent means to hit and to discipline a child one is guilty of an offense of assault and has infringed on the right of a child “to freedom from all forms of violence from public or private sources”, and not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment as read with Section 53 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (20) Act 2013. However the Criminal (Codification and Reform) Act 9:23 2004 states the authority that a parent, guardian and school teacher has in terms of administrating punishment for disciplinary purposes.

The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act 2004 states in article 241(2) (a) that “a parent or guardian shall have authority to administer moderate corporal punishment for disciplinary purposes upon his or her minor child or ward”.
Thus a parent has authority to administer moderate corporal punishment upon his or her child. The law further explains what moderate, subparagraph (6) clarifies the matter
Subparagraph (6) states: “In deciding whether or not any corporal punishment administered upon a minor person is moderate for the purposes of this section, a court shall take into account the following factors, in addition to any others that are relevant in the particular case: (a) the nature of the punishment and any instrument used to administer it; and (b) the degree of force with which the punishment was administered; and (c) the reason for the administration of the punishment; and (d) the age, physical condition and sex of the minor person upon whom it was administered; and (e) any social attitudes towards the discipline of children which are prevalent in the community among whom the minor person was living when the punishment was administered upon the minor person.

In actual fact the Law in Zimbabwe affirms the position in Proverbs. (13:24, 22:15, 23:13-15, 29:15,), that asserts that a parent must discipline their children by administrating moderate corporal punishment. Adlen (1999:109) acclaims, that the bible recommends physical discipline of children, spanking for instance is proof of a parent’s love for his child in the sense that he cares for enough for the child to discipline him. Furthermore, Discipline is never to be done out of anger or hate or desire to harm but out of love and a desire that the person improve. In this way parents will follow the model of God, who disciplines his children (Longman: 2006:565).

Moreover, the book tacitly condemns the tyrant, perfectionist and disciplinarian by its own reasonable approach, it’s affectionate, earnest and its assumption that the old find their natural crown, and the youth their proper pride in each other (Derek Kidner: 1994).Thus there is no room for child abuse in Proverbs nor depriving them their rights.
It is clear in the in the Children Act 1972 that corporal punishment is lawful in the home. According to Article 7 of the Children’s Act 1972 punishes ill-treatment and neglect of children and young persons but states: “(6) Nothing in this section shall be construed as derogating from the right of any parent or guardian of any child or young person to administer reasonable punishment to such child or young person.

However, the new Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (20) Act 2013 does not include the provision authorizing corporal punishment of persons under 18. Rather, it protects the rights of all persons to respect for and protection of their human dignity and physical integrity, including the rights “to freedom from all forms of violence from public or private sources”, and not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; it states that no law may limit these rights. However, it does not explicitly prohibit corporal punishment. (Notice of Amendments: General Laws Amendment Bill, 2015)
 A General Laws Amendment Bill intended to harmonize laws with the Constitution is under discussion but the Bill as drafted in 2015 deals with “minor” amendments to existing laws: it does not prohibit corporal punishment of children. Further amendments proposed in November 2015 similarly do not address corporal punishment of children (Notice of Amendments: General Laws Amendment Bill, 2015)

The book of Proverbs teaching discipline of children gives parents admonishment to use physical corporal punishment so as to remove foolishness and impart wisdom. The discipline must out of love and in accordance to the statute of the nation Zimbabwe. Which also encourages parents, guardians and school teacher to administer moderate corporal punishment and not to assault or abuse Children. It will be misleading to suggest that proverbs teachings incites violence against children nor in its application rob children’s rights of freedom from all forms of pain, and violent.  Rather in love and parents leading exemplary to rebuke and administer moderate punishment. The Zimbabwean Statutes as at present does not restrict parents from administering corporal punishment in homes and to a male student at schools. 

Archer, G.L. 1964. A survey of Old Testament introduction. Moody Press.

 Adlen, R.I., 1995. Proverbs A commentary On an Ancient Book of Timeless Advice.                                Michigan.  Baker Book House

Kidner, D 1994. Proverbs Leicester: Inter Varsity Press:

Longman, T Ed 2006. Proverbs. Michigan; Grand Rapids

The Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act 2004

Children’s Act 1972

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act 2013

 Notice of Amendments: General Laws Amendment Bill, 2015 (HB 3A, 2015) National Assembly Order Paper for Tuesday 24th November 2015

Draft Discussion Paper on the Review of the Children’s Act and Related Legislation. Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare (2015),