Did OT Law Really Allow Parents
The Option of Stoning Rebellious Children?
Yes, according to the following passage:
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard. 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. Deuteronomy 21:18-21
But, as far as we know this law was never invoked in OT days and there is good reason to believe God never expected it to be. It was intended to make a point not prescribe a rule. It reads more like satire. No doubt Jonathan Swift got the idea for “A Modest Proposal” from this very text.
Then and now, parents were the primary influence in molding the character of a child’s life and, as the following text indicates God expects parents to use every waking moment to nurture good qualities in the lives of their offspring.
Keep these words, which I say to you this day, deep in your hearts; 7 Teaching them to your children with all care, talking of them when you are at rest in your house or walking by the way, when you go to sleep and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:6-7
When that approach isn’t taken the result can be disastrous for child and parent.
God considers the parent the number one factor in shaping a child’s life, and if that is true then the success of the child will reflect favorably on the parent. However, the opposite must also be true. When children completely fail, parents inevitably feel a strong sense of responsibility for that failure. Kind and understanding words, which are often expressed to those whose children have gone badly wrong, can mollify the pain only partly, for just a little while.
Remember, this stoning wasn’t to be done in the privacy of your home. It was done only with the consent of the city fathers and in full view of the public. Can you imagine the embarrassment of bringing your child to the city elders and admitting you did so little with them when they were young that you now can do nothing with them at all? Are there words than make that better?
What kind of parent would raise a child to be so undisciplined, so uncooperative, so unproductive and self consumed that stoning would become the only remaining option? What parent would be desperate enough to publicly admit their failure?
This was not an escape clause for parents to be rid of an unwanted inconvenience. It wasn’t an endorsement of abuse. It didn’t legally justify parental neglect. It was a warning that failing to monitor your child’s life when they are young will produce a life that is unmanageable and worthless when they are old. It was a reminder that nurturing our children is not an option.
The fact is, parents either raise children to be contributing members of society or to be leaches. They either prepare their children for life or they encourage them to waste space and resources, an existence comparable to slow death. A child’s success is directly proportional to the diligence of a parent in fulfilling their responsibility.
There is no middle ground when it comes to parenting. Parents who don’t diligently monitor the development and growth of their children may be slowly stoning them to death, metaphorically speaking. Parents either execute the responsibility or their child. Which will it be?
This same theme is consistently emphasized throughout the Bible:
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6
Fathers, don’t exasperate your children by coming down hard on them. Take them by the hand and lead them in the way of the Master. Ephesians 6:4
Disclaimer: This passage is not addressing parents or children who make mistakes. No parent or child will ever be perfect but the child characterized in this passage was completely worthless. That doesn’t happen by accident – when you aren’t looking – and is not the by-product of mistakes, which we all make. It is the outcome of complete neglect. The stoning of undisciplined children is tantamount to an indictment of parental neglect in the extreme.
What do you THINK!Aboutit?
Don’t rely on intuition alone. If you care about your child’s well being then draw on the wisdom of books like Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham.
Drawing on the wealth of data from the Gallup International Research & Education Centre, Marcus provides great insights on how to isolate a person’s particular blend of talents and strengths. A “must” read for every caring parent.
Words Kids Need to Hear is another parenting-how-to offering by David Staal in which he explores seven key phrases or words every child needs to hear, words that strengthen the heart of a child.
Although these words should be heard first and most from parents, they are universal ideas. Every relationship can benefit from the sincere and repeated use of these words.