Does the Bible allow a husband to spank his wife?

What a crazy question right? Of course, we all know the answer is NO the Bible does not allow a man to spank his wife. Case closed. This is the typical way that many moral questions are answered today by Christians without them even cracking open their Bible. Wife spanking might be wrong – but if it is wrong we must prove that by looking to the Word of God and not to our feelings or our culture.

The Bible tells us:

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

Romans 12:2 (KJV)

So, we are told that we are not to be conformed to what our world or our culture thinks is right but rather we are to renew our minds according to what God thinks is right.  But then how do we know what the will of God is? How do we know what is moral by God’s standards?

“10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:10-12 (KJV)

“4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Matthew 4:4 (KJV)

The answer to the question of knowing what is the will of God is to look to his Word found in the Bible.  We need to be as the Bereans who searched the Scriptures daily for the truth of God’s Word and once we find that truth we need to apply it to our lives no matter if it conflicts with our cultural upbringing or not.

What does the Bible say about Wife Spanking?

The Bible does not specifically speak to the situation of wife spanking and some believe because this is the case then wife spanking is forbidden.

But we must be careful when we come to the Bible and it does not address a specific case of behavior with either a positive example or a command.  In these cases where we do not have a situation specifically addressed we must be careful of two extremes.  One is the extreme that we can do anything we want if it is not specifically addressed and the other is if it is not specifically addressed than we cannot do it. Both extremes are wrong.

Instead we must look for general principles the Bible does teach that we can then apply to specific situations the Bible may not speak to.

For instance, the Bible does not say anything about phone sex and web cam sex.  So, would we say it is ok for a man’s wife to have virtual sex through a web cam or phone with another man because the Bible does not address this specific situation? Of course not.

Instead we would look to this general truth taught in the book of Hebrews:

Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.”

Hebrews 13:4(KJV)

God only honors and allows sexual relations between a man and woman within the covenant of marriage.  We don’t have to physically touch one another to sexually relate to one another.  We can sexually relate to one through things like web cams, phones, texting and emailing as well.  Any type of sexual relation that is not that of a man and woman within the covenant of marriage is not honored by God, but rather it is condemned.

Another area the Bible does not specifically speak to is physical abuse in the family.  We don’t see the Bible specifically condemning men punching their wives or children in the face but we have this condemnation of masters toward their male and female slaves:

“26 And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. 27 And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.”

Exodus 21:26-27 (KJV)

How would a person get their tooth knocked out or their eye permanently damaged? In most cases it would be their master either punching them in the face or shoving them to the ground where they knocked their head on something causing the injuring.  This tells us God does not approve of punching and shoving as acts of discipline.

So, while this passage in Exodus 21:26-27 does not specifically speak to marriage we can apply this as a general truth to marriage and the family.  If God condemns masters doing these things to their slaves then he certainly condemns husbands and fathers doing these things to their wives and children who have more rights under God’s law than slaves.

Now we need to apply this same method of searching the Scriptures to this area of wife spanking.

Two Biblical Principles That Allow for Wife Spanking

While the Bible does not specifically speak to wife spanking (either specifically allowing it or specifically condemning it) we must ask the question “Are there general principles of the Scriptures that would speak to this issue?” The answer is YES.

Principle #1 – Husbands Have a Right and Responsibility to Discipline their Wives

The Bible tells us that husbands are the head of their wives “as Christ is the head of the Church”:

“23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Ephesians 5:23-24 (KJV)

Not only are husbands the head of their wives as Christ is the head of the Church but God created marriage to model the relationship of Christ to his Church.  Husbands are to model Christ’s headship over his Church by loving their wives as Christ loves the Church.  One of the primary ways in which Christ loves his Church is in his spiritual washing of her:

“25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

Ephesians 5:25-27 (KJV)

This spiritual washing by Christ of the spots and wrinkles of his Church is discipline.  Christ alludes to this same concept in the book of Revelation after rebuking his seven Churches:

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

Revelation 3:19 (KJV)

So, it is clear from the Scriptures that if a husband is modeling the relationship of Christ to his Church with his wife he has not only the right, but also the responsibility of spiritual disciplining his wife.

Principle #2 – God Allows Physical Punishment As A Form Of Discipline

The Bible tells us that God approves physical punishment as a form of discipline in the following passages:

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

Proverbs 13:24 (KJV)

“13 Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. 14 Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

Proverbs 23:13-14 (KJV)

“If there be a controversy between men, and they come unto judgment, that the judges may judge them; then they shall justify the righteous, and condemn the wicked. 2 And it shall be, if the wicked man be worthy to be beaten, that the judge shall cause him to lie down, and to be beaten before his face, according to his fault, by a certain number. 3 Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee.”

Deuteronomy 25:1-3 (KJV)

“Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools.”

Proverbs 19:29 (KJV)

“A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool’s back.”

Proverbs 26:3 (KJV)

As we can see from these passages of the Scripture – not only is physical discipline approved by God for children but it is also approved by God for adults.

When we take these two Biblical principles together we see that God has given men both the right and responsibility to discipline their wives and God approves of physical discipline for adults.  Therefore, we can rightly conclude from these two Biblical truths that God allows men to spank their wives.

Objections to Wife Spanking

The primary objection to wife spanking is that such an action infantilizes women, or in other words it treats women as children.  I receive comments like this one I did today all the time:

“Women are no more sinful than men, no less intelligent and shouldn’t be treated like naughty children. If a husband has authority to discipline his wife than a wife should have authority to discipline her husband. They should treat each other with love and fairness. Both are adults; none is a lesser being. A marriage should be a loving partnership.”

There are several false presuppositions in the statement above.

Spanking no more infantilizes a woman than a speeding ticket from a police officer infantilizes a man. Adults can and do discipline other adults all the time.

But some will answer my police officer giving a ticket analogy with “a speeding ticket is a piece of paper and the officer is not bending you over his knee and spanking you”.  The reason for this kind of answer is because in our modern culture we look on any type of physical punishment with disdain.  We think physical punishment, especially toward adults is “uncivilized”.  But such thinking is at odds with the Bible.

Another problem we have is that we think wives are immune from discipline in the home because our culture teaches the false ideology of partnership marriage. Discipline in the home we are told is strictly reserved for children.  So it is easy to understand with these false beliefs about physical punishment and discipline how many people might think wife spanking infantilizes women.

However, the Bible makes it clear in passages like Ephesians 5:22-33 and I Peter 3:1-7 that marriage is not a “partnership” but rather a patriarchy.  It does not get any clearer than “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23).

The fact that “both are adults; none is a lesser being” or in other words that both husbands and wives are fully mature human beings is irrelevant.

Does it matter that at my job my boss is an adult and I am adult? The fact is the owner of my company who is an adult has put my boss whose is an adult in charge of me an adult.  It does not even mean that my boss is necessarily smarter than me.  It does not mean I am less of a human being than my boss but rather it means I have a lesser POSITION than my boss.

And the fact is that the Bible is clear that as Christ is the head of the Church so too God the owner of humanity has put male human beings in charge of female human beings in marriage.  It really is that simple.

I also agree that “Women are no more sinful than men” but that is not why God has placed men in charge of women.  Read I Corinthians 11:1-16 and Ephesians 5:22-33.  Really read it.  These passages show it was no accident and it was not because of sin or God just rolling some cosmic dice that he placed men over women in marriage.  These passages show that God created women and the institution of marriage to help men fully image God as husbands and fathers.

Conclusion

God made man to image him and by doing so bring him glory (I Corinthians 11:7).  In order to help man fully image God’s attributes as a husband and father he created woman and by extension marriage for man (I Corinthians 7:9).  God created marriage to create a model of the relationship of God to his people and in the New Testament era of Christ to his Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Just as Christ loved his Church by giving himself up for her to wash her spiritual spots and wrinkles with the Word of God so too husbands are called to wash their wife’s spiritual spots and wrinkles, in others words they are called to discipline their wives (Ephesians 5:25-27 & Revelation 3:19).

No Scriptural principle or command forbids a man from using physical discipline as method of discipline with his wife. In fact, the Scriptures show God allows physical punishment of adults as a form of discipline in Deuteronomy 25:1-3, Proverbs 19:29 and Proverbs 26:3.

I have received many emails over the years from Christian women who willingly allow their husbands to use spanking as a form of discipline. What they have in common is that they have told me this is a humbling experience for them and reminds them of two things.  It reminds them of their position before their husband that God has placed them in.  It also reminds them that their husband truly loves them as Christ said of his Churches in Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

I know a lot of other women who truly believe in Biblical gender roles and try very much to submit to their husband’s leadership and even non-physical discipline.  But they struggle with this concept of wife spanking because in our modern culture spanking is only associated with children so they believe it is a husband treating his wife as his child instead of his wife.

I would encourage such women to reconsider these thoughts and not conform their thinking to the culture they have been raised in.  I would encourage these Christian women to renew their minds according to the Word of God.

A Word of Caution to Christian Men Regarding Wife Spanking

But I want to close this with some words of caution on this subject of wife spanking.

Am I saying a man can do anything he wants to his wife and call it physical discipline? Absolutely not! See my article on “What Does The Bible Say About Abuse?” for more on that subject.

But even if wife spanking is not practiced in an abusive way we as Christian husbands need to exercise caution in this area. I have stated multiple times in this article that the Scriptures show that husbands have that right and responsibility to discipline their wives.  But as in many other areas in life there is more than one way to skin a cat.  The Bible does not command men that the only way they may discipline their wives is through spanking.

We as Christian husbands who are trying to being faithful to God by fully exercising Biblical gender roles need to realize there is a great persecution going on against God’s design of gender roles and those who would exercise them.  I believe that because of the “present distress” (1 Corinthians 7:26), in other words the persecution of those who would fully exercise all their rights under the doctrines of Biblical gender roles, that we should do as Paul did and forgo exercising some of those rights (1 Corinthians 9:1-15).

I am not in any way saying we as Christian husbands should forego exercising our spiritual headship over our wives including disciplining them. In fact, if we don’t discipline our wives in one way or the other we are failing to image Christ in his relationship with his Church.  Christ does not leave his church uncorrected or undisciplined and neither should we as husbands leave our wives uncorrected or undisciplined.  But there are non-physical ways that we can discipline our wives.  See my article “7 Ways to Discipline Your Wife” for non-physical ways that you can still exercise this right and responsibility as a Christian husband.

I think in this area of wife spanking that we as Christian husbands need to heed Christ’s admonition in Matthew 10:16 to be wise as serpents.  While we do not need our wife’s consent to spank her anymore than we need her consent to discipline in her in any other way we need to realize that the wicked culture we live in is completely hostile to the teachings and exercise of Biblical gender roles. If you were to try and physically force your wife to receive a spanking you may accidentally cause serious harm to her in the process of forcing her to receive a spanking. Even if you can physically force her to receive a spanking without bringing any harm to her the fact remains under our legal system you could be arrested and brought up on charges if she were to report you.

So, my final word on this subject is this.  Wife spanking is within the rights that God has granted to a husband as his wife’s spiritual head.  I would never condemn any man for engaging in wife spanking as long as he did not engage in truly abusive physical behavior toward her.  If wife spanking is done in a loving and controlled manner as all discipline should be done then this is holy and righteous before God.

Note: This article has been completely rewritten as of February 18, 2018 from it original posting on September 20, 2016.  Because of this I have removed the previous comments and invite new comments on this updated version of the article.

9 thoughts on “Does the Bible allow a husband to spank his wife?

  1. Bravo. I love everything about this rewritten article, BGR. I am so happy to see that you have studied the word of God, and that He has brought you to these conclusions.

    Have you applied this to your own marriage?

  2. Tina,

    As you can see from this article I believe that spanking is a perfectly acceptable and allowable method of discipline that God allows by husbands toward their wives in marriage. However as I also pointed out it is not the only method of discipline we can use with our wives – God allows physical discipline for adults but he does not say it is the only discipline that can be used. I also pointed out that we need to wise as serpents and understand the hostile culture that we live in toward Biblical gender roles.

    For instance – I just spend several hours counseling a Christian friend of mine this week. He has been married 4 years. He started out believing his Christian wife was very submissive and things looked good for about the first year. Then all of sudden his wife’s true rebellious tendencies came out and now she openly rejects Biblical male headship. She and I have had some heated discussions when I have come over his house. They will get in arguments and his wife will literally follow him around the house and not leave him alone as he is trying to just separate himself from her. He went in the bathroom to shave and did not shut the door and she came in still wanting to argue with him. He told her to leave and she said “no”. So he said he was leaving and she said “no you are not” and she blocked the door way. So he literally picked her up under her arms and moved her out of the way. He did not shove her out of the way – he picked her up and moved her. His wife accused him of ABUSE! She said “Don’t you ever touch me like that again! Ever!” Now who was really abusing who in this case? If we are looking at this from the Biblical perspective of abuse the husband did nothing wrong in picking up his wife and moving her out of the door way so he could leave the room.

    But I counseled him next time to pull out his phone and video record his wife blocking him and him trying to scoot around her so he has proof of what she was doing in case she ever says anything. And yes divorce has been discussed many times by both them but he is trying to save the marriage and do what is right.

    With all that said I would not engage in wife spanking with my wife unless she came to a point where she accepted this as a God ordained method of discipline(which she does not). Do I need her consent? No. I could take her by force and attempt to fold her body into a spanking position to administer this discipline and before God I would be within my rights as her husband to do so.

    However if I were to try and force this issue with my wife(who is by the way a very strong willed woman) and I were to hurt her and she were to call the police and I went to jail would this bring glory to God if I lost my family and my ministry all over trying to force a spanking on my wife? Rather there are non-physical ways that we as husbands can discipline our wives and those are the methods that I choose to use. With my wife the two primary methods of discipline I use is verbal rebuke and removal of my time. Occasionally it is me removing a date night or other outing we were going to do together.

    There are two things my wife can’t stand – a verbal rebuke(especially a public one with an audience) and the removal of my free time. If the rebuke is something that is just between us I will keep it private. But if my wife disrespects me or disobeys me in front others I will often call her out right there on the spot. And that is often(but not always) a powerful incentive for her not to say or do certain things in front of the kids or others. And if I think it warrants it – or she does not act in a repentant fashion I will not give her as much of my free time as I usually do that week. I do go and do other things with my time leaving her to consider her actions.

    My wife could call the police all day long about me verbally rebuking her, taking away my free time from her or canceling dates or trips we were going to take and you know what? I have no fear whatsoever of being arrested and going to jail – the worst that can happen is she can divorce me. This to me is following Christ’s Words to “be wise as serpents”. There is absolutely no arrest or prosecution of such things even if our wicked society calls these things types of “abuse”. So I can discipline her as God has called me and every other husband to do so and yet I do not have choose between keeping my freedom, my family and ministry and disciplining my wife.

    If a wife comes to agree to physical discipline like we have talked about here I think that is a great step. In fact I think wives who do not resist their husbands efforts to spank them and accept this as a Biblical form of discipline are generally at a much higher level of submission than the average wife.

  3. @BGR,

    I noticed something the example you gave of your friend removing his wife from his path (without using too much force or doing anything that could cause her serious harm) and with the some of the examples that you used in your other article (a husband physically preventing his wife from undertaking suicidal actions or striking him). It seems that these are more defensive than disciplinary. Of course, you also pointed to instances of discipline and argued convincingly from a biblical perspective that they were permissible in certain circumstances. But I think that it’s worth making a distinction here for two reasons:

    1. Legally, a husband who uses controlled force to defend himself from a wife who’s attacking him isn’t doing anything wrong. Similarly, a husband who uses force to restrain his wife when she’s trying to harm herself is on legally solid ground. Even in your friend’s case, his wife’s actions would legally be closer to abuse while his would be defensive. From a practical perspective, he should try to get proof that he acted in self defense because unfortunately, physical abusers (both male and female) often frame defensive actions on the part of their partner as equally or more abusive.

    2. Wives aren’t allowed to discipline their husbands, but from a biblical perspective, I don’t think that a wife who defends herself by blocking her husband’s punch or getting out of a chokehold is sinning either. Nor would she be wrong for trying to thwart her husband’s suicide attempt.

  4. Alex,

    Your Statement:

    “I noticed something the example you gave of your friend removing his wife from his path (without using too much force or doing anything that could cause her serious harm) and with the some of the examples that you used in your other article (a husband physically preventing his wife from undertaking suicidal actions or striking him). It seems that these are more defensive than disciplinary.”

    I agree that both of those examples are in fact more defensive than disciplinary uses of physical force as opposed to a controlled front handed slap across the cheek or a spanking which would be purely disciplinary actions. I actually think even most of those who oppose spanking or slapping of wives would not condemn the man in those “defensive” actions I gave.

    But I gave those examples for two reasons. The first is that they prove that physical force by a husband toward his wife is not always wrong even by what I would argue are the corrupt moral standards of modern culture. Secondly, going to your point here men have to be very careful even in exercising these defensive forceful actions toward their wives because our culture always assumes physical abuse of the man toward the woman if he lays a finger on her when she did not want him too.

    On your second point:

    “Wives aren’t allowed to discipline their husbands, but from a biblical perspective, I don’t think that a wife who defends herself by blocking her husband’s punch or getting out of a chokehold is sinning either. Nor would she be wrong for trying to thwart her husband’s suicide attempt.”

    I agree that while wives cannot discipline their husbands the Bible does not forbid them from taking defensive actions for themselves or toward their husbands. I would agree that a wife could attempt to physically intervene if her husband were trying to commit suicide. I would also agree that if he using her as punching bag or chocking her she has the right to defend herself from serious harm or a life threatening injury.

    But we must be careful of the slippery slope on this issue and I will be addressing this in my upcoming article on how someone who is being abused(mistreated) in various ways should respond according to the Bible. I will give this hint of the direction I am going but I won’t respond to comments here until I finish the article.

    Our culture teaches us a one size fits all approach to when others mistreat us(abuse us). They teach us we should NEVER suffer(allow) any type of mistreatment(abuse) from others. We are told we must confront all forms of abuse from wherever they come and they make absolutely no distinctions between a husband and wife, a parent and child, an employer and employee, a church member and a Pastor or a citizen and his government.

    So from our world’s perspective children are encouraged to correct and rebuke their parents for every harsh word they may speak toward them. Wives are encouraged to confront every harsh word their husband speaks toward them. And this pattern is seen in churches as well as nations. In other words – every perceived or actual injustice is encouraged to be confronted no matter where it is or how it occurs.

    The Biblical approach to us handling mistreatment(abuse) is not a “one size fits all approach”. The type of abuse and the sphere it occurs in(whether in marriage and the family, the church or in society with government) are handled differently. So on the one hand Biblicaly speaking we do not have to suffer(allow) every kind of abuse from every sphere in our life but on the other hand the Bible does not allow us to or encourage us to do what the world says and confront EVERY kind of abuse(mistreatment) toward us no matter what the offense is or where it comes from.

    I will elaborate more on these principles in my upcoming article.

  5. 1. How hard should the spankings be and how long should they last? Should the husband be careful to only cause pain but not any damage?
    2. Should the husband use a paddle, cane etc. or do it with his hand?
    3. When has the wife been punished enough? Is it when her bottom starts to become light pink, when she starts to cry, when she starts kicking and crying like a baby (I’d say that’s the point when her stubborness and pride are gone) or when?
    4. Must the spankings be done in private where no one can hear and/or see?
    5. Should husband spank the wife when he is angry or should he calm down first?
    6. How can the husband decide how hard to spank her? Are the some kind of “set of rules” (like 20 minutes of hard paddling for adultery for four days), 5 light hits with a hand for minor obedience, 5 minute medium hand spanking for public disobedience etc.)?
    7. How does the husband make sure the spankings are done in justice (she gets what she deserves) and not in an unjust way (she gets spanked for nothing, she gets more than she deserves)?

  6. YES, ENOUGH SAID! Doesn’t matter what people say. Yes he does. God put the husband is the authority of the home. What’s the use of having the authority if you can’t back it up, when most women need a good but paddling for being disrespectful and disobedient to their husbands. And believe me, I know many wives who need a good paddling on their bare bottoms.

    So yes, he does allow husbands to spank their wives when they need it.

  7. Bottom line is this. If women are taught to respect, submit, and obey their husbands, and men are taught 2 love a woman with all his heart as Christ does, but yet be strong and how he disagrees with her without being a chauvinistic dictating jerk and use the authority God has given him in the home, we wouldn’t have the problems we have. Society would be a much different place to live in. But the problem is, feminism has snuck into the church and has turned women into rebellious childish acting Bratz. Then they pushed the man around and he doesn’t know what to do. But if the roles are taught growing up, then the wife would know how she should act and behave. We would not have the divorce as we have.

    Heck, I would love to go back to the 50s wear spanking your wife for Disobedience wasn’t even looked on as anything but normal. But we have too many spoiled brats and these women. And our men are not exactly holding up their end of the bargain either. It’s learned rolls in a Godly fashion that will turn society around, when Society turns around, marriages will turn around.

  8. 1. They should be hard enough to cause pain great enough to prompt the disobedient wife in question to think twice before persisting in any sinful rebellion against God or her husband again, while at the same time not causing any permanent or substantial harm to her(hinted by the Scripture which says that slaves, who had less rights than wives, in the OT had to be set free if their masters, which the husband also is to his wife in Earthly terms, caused them any permanent or substantial harm such as putting out an eye or knocking out a tooth. How long they should last is up to the husband to decide,
    but within these parameters.
    2. He could use his hand, or anything he pleases that would not cause permanent or substantial harm.
    3. When she has been punished enough is again up to the husband to decide, within these parameters.
    4. Nothing wrong with having the spanking be purely private, but if the husband is punishing his wife for rebellion she committed against God and him unrepentantly in front of their children, then I suppose if he wanted them to hear or see her punishment as a way of deterring them from committing the same conduct in any way by showing what will happen if they do, as well as to further humiliate his wife by having them see her punishment as an additional way to also entice her to think twice before committing this conduct again, then the husband could also do that.
    5. If he punishes her in anger, then it must be righteous anger, which would mean he is angry at her sin, not spanking in any kind of vengeful rage for her conduct. But since it is not very easy to discipline in this way, I would recommend he calm down first indeed.
    6. Based on the guidelines given above, the husband could easily decide how to do the spanking.
    7. The husband could easily make sure they were done in justice by only doing them in response to unrepentant sinful rebellion, though as to the number of licks I’m not sure that could be answered in any way other than the number is his to decide.

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