"You shall strike him with the rod and rescue his soul from Sheol"
We suffer in our day from a high number of parents who want to be friends of their children rather than parents. This proverb demands that parents be parents or they consign their children to the dregs of the pathways of selfishness.
Children have selfishness bubbling from within them. They want what they want and they do not know how to hide or mask their contempt of what they do not want. They will pass up gold to play with mud pies if it is entertaining to them. They will rush to a relationship with a cute person, totally ignoring the person's character. They are looking for the next buzz and assume its safe because they heard someone say it was. They will skip class to sleep or go to another party. They will keep spending money on trinkets and junk with no thought of budgeting or saving or the future. Now is all that counts. These are all evidence of foolishness and selfishness, pushing them towards their own destruction.
This is why God constantly needs to remind parents to parent. There is a battle going on between the sin nature within them – which endlessly produces selfish demands – and the skills, demands, and responsibilities of an adult life. Parents must make sure that adult life wins or the child and the parents lose.
strike him with the rod
This means the use of a stick or switch to redirect the child who is being directly defiant. There is a need for children to realize at various points through their life that the world does not revolve around them; that their will and desires are not supreme in the universe. Strong discipline of a physical variety often is the only way to bring the message home to a young child with the power that is needed.
The word used for child in the verse before this directs this form of discipline to the child: naar is the Hebrew word usually used for a person between weaning and marriage.
This phrase speaks of strong discipline and correction. There are seven ways of bringing strong discipline to a child: Verbal Rebuke, Restraint, Isolation, Removal of Privileges, Chastisement, Work, Exercises.
rescue his soul
This is the Hebrew word natsal which means to deliver, to escape, to rescue, to save. Solomon is clearly saying that every person who consistently gets his own way will end up dead very quickly. Their natural selfishness – born into them from birth – will deceive them in to following some distorted path, usually pleasure; but it could be power or money. This wrong path – which feels right – will lead them to a premature death and will most certainly lead them to a residence in the place where all unrepentant selfish people go: hell.
Well placed boundaries cause the child to realize that the world does not revolve around them. A child needs to hear, “No, you cannot get what you want.” A civilized society needs people who know how to control their selfish impulses and put the good of others ahead of their own desires.
This is the Hebrew word nephesh which means soul or inner part of mankind. Each person has three aspects to their being – roughly analogous to a computer. We have body, soul, and spirit. The computer has hardware, software programming, and software storage. It can be helpful to understand our soul as the software storage of our lives. It is the sum total of the information that we have seen, heard, thought about, collected, discovered, read, and concluded. Our soul is an invisible part of our lives that makes up the real us. When we are small, the boundaries that our parents put into our soul often stay there and operate as a limiter on our conduct. This is why Solomon says that it is crucial that discipline and boundaries are essential to the upbringing of children. They cannot be allowed to get whatever they want with no limits. Our soul tells us how to live. It takes some direction from our body and significant direction from our spirit, but ultimately it decides which direction and actions to take. It must have internalized that certain actions bring significant consequences, painful consequences, or an early death is inevitable and a spot in hell is reserved.
This is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for the place of the dead and death itself. In the Old Testament it was the place that both the righteous and the unrighteous went when they died, so it is often thought of as hell or an early death.
Technically Sheol was divided into at least two compartments as Jesus describes in Luke 16. An upper compartment where the righteous dead lived, waiting for the sacrifice of God's ultimate lamb in actual time. This was called Abraham's bosom or paradise. The second compartment of Sheol was called Sheol or the abode of the dead or Hades in the New Testament; the place where the unrighteous dead were being housed in a temporary way with a temporary judgment waiting for the final judgment. The typical understanding of death in the Old Testament times was that every person went to Sheol but the question was which part of Sheol – the part that was for the righteous or the part that was for the wicked?
In this verse Solomon is saying that a parent who is wise in the use of discipline and boundaries will keep their child from an early death and from ending up in the wicked compartment of Sheol. This clearly states that parents have a huge impact on the path that their children live on. If the parents are selfish, oppressive, and evil, then the children will have a much higher likelihood of being that same way.
Parents must put in the time. They must sacrifice some of the things they could accomplish to be there for their children and enforcing boundaries and lovingly saying NO so that the child has the best chance of going down the right road. I still remember watching teenagers who had such a hard time staying on the right road because their parents took the selfish road. They can stay on the right road, but it is so difficult if they watched their parents smoke dope or divorce or commit adultery or do any number of stupid things. Don't do these things. Your children are watching.