Commentary On Proverbs 22:6

Proverbs 22:6 (ASV)

"Train up a child in the way [marginal reading - Heb. "according to his way"] he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it."

Introduction

The Hebrews taught that nothing was more important than the rearing of a child in godliness. Discipline was an integral part of that training (cf. Prov. 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15, 17). No reward in life was more satisfying than to have a "wise son", and no sorrow was greater than to have reared a "foolish son" (Prov. 10:1; cf. 15:20).

The Phrase "Train Up"

1) The Hebrew word "Chanac", which we translate "train up" or "initiate," signifies also "dedicate," and is often used for the consecrating of anything, house, or person, to the service of God.

"Dedicate, therefore in the first instance, your child to God; and nurse, teach, and discipline him as God's child, whom He has entrusted to your care" (Adam Clarke, Commentary On The Bible; Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press, 1967, 546).

Responsibility Of Parents And Children

Parents often fail in their responsibility; but, so do the children!; and, regardless of the efforts of the parents if the children do not receive the training, and actively assimilate it into their lives, the result is failure. A puny, undeveloped person might listen to lectures on pugilistics (boxing) all of his days and never become an effective boxer in the ring; a one-legged man may listen to the finest instruction in track, and never be able to run; both parents and children have responsibility in the training effort, and in the case of failure on the part of either the conclusion which Solomon draws does not follow. Often, two sons in the same family, and with equal training, turn out to be vastly different in disposition and character -- the one faithful, the other wholly worldly and sinful. This can properly be explained only on the ground of difference in the sons, and not in the training which they received.

"In The Way He Should Go"

2) The phrase, "in the way he should go," is often misapplied. The assumption is that it means "in the way of righteousness and the true religion," -- a course which all, both young and old, ought to follow -- but his is not what Solomon meant here.

The Hebrew phrase from which the words in the way he should go," means "according to the tenor of his way," that is, in harmony with his disposition, his natural talents, and his individual character.

Taught here is the obligation of parents to study the nature and disposition of their children and to train them accordingly. This is in harmony with Paul's instructions to the Ephesians and Colossians (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). Instead of giving all the emphasis to a rigorous standard to be applied "indiscriminately," each child's "temperment" is to be closely considered and the teaching is to be done so as to achieve the greatest possible adaptation to the childs need.

"When He Is Old"

3) Strangely, the words, "when he is old," are usually interpreted these days to mean, "when he is grown" -- has reached adulthood -- but this the passage neither says nor teaches.

The affirmation of Solomon deals with the fruits of training in old age; and, the meaning is, that an individual who has been trained properly in the principles of truth and has lived in harmony therewith until he reaches old age will not then abandon that which has become "second nature" to him. Seldom indeed do people who have followed the course of rectitude and devotion to God abandon this life-long mode of living in their declining years.

The scriptures do not teach the impossibility of apostasy; Were it taught here that a child, having been properly taught, "cannot fail" to be faithful in adulthood, it would be in conflict with many, many passages asserting that anyone can fail of the grace of God and be lost (1 Chron. 28:9; Rom. 11:22; Gal. 5:4.)

Comments By An English Writer On Proverbs 22:6

I have not found a finer statement than the following observations penned by an English writer named "Clarkson" many years ago regarding the principles involved in Proverbs 22:6, and I adopt it as teaching the truth on this matter:

"Not the very best training of the very wisest parents in the world can positively secure goodness and wisdom in their children. For when they have done everything in their power, there must remain that element of individuality which will choose its own course and form its own character. Our children may choose to reject the truth we teach them, and to slight the example we set them, and to despise the counsel we give them. In the will of every child there is a power which cannot be forced, which can only be won. Therefore:

(1) Let all parents seek, beside training their children in good habits, to win their hearts to that Divine Wisdom in whose friendship and service alone will they be safe. Where sagacity may fail, affection will triumph. Command and persuasion are the two weapons which parental wisdom will do its best to wield.

(2) Let all children understand that for their character and their destiny they must themselves be responsible. All the very worthiest and wisest influences of home will lead to no good result if they oppose to them a rebellious spirit, if they do not receive them in the spirit of docility. There is but one gate of entrance into life, and that is the personal, individual acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Lord and Saviour of the spirit. The parent may lead his child up to it, but the child must pass through it of its own accord."

Conclusion

There is bitter irony in the fact that he who penned these words (Solomon, son of the dedicated David, the "friend of God"), forsook the counsel of his father (1 Chron. 28:9; 2 Chron. 7:17), and "turned away his heart after other gods," in flagrant, open disobedience to the expressed will of God (1 Kings 11:1-13). And, it is remarkable that the sacred historian particularly observed that it was "when Solomon was old," that this occurred (1 Kings 11:4). He had not properly received and adapted the instruction of his illustrious father.

--Excerpts from Bro. Guy N. Woods (deceased) book, "Questions And Answers, Open Forum, Freed-Hardeman College Lectures" (Henderson, TN: Freed-Hardeman College, 1976), 192.

Note: For further commentary on this subject, the following link is provided: Christian Courier.

 


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Mike Riley
Montana Street Church of Christ
El Paso, Texas

June 23, 2003