What is the Biblical view of domestic discipline (aka wife-spanking)? What were cultural views of wife spanking in America before the modern era? These are two different questions that we will be answering in this new series.
There are many behaviors and teachings that were the norm from ancient civilizations to just before the modern age that we as Bible believing Christians would disagree with. I have written on my own disagreements with some of the teachings and practices of the early church fathers, the reformers and even traditions of my own church upbringing in Independent Fundamental Baptist churches.
In other words, I would be the first to say just because something was taught or practiced in past eras does not make it moral or right. On the other hand, just because our modern culture thinks something is moral or immoral does not make it so. The question then becomes how can we determine the morality of a given belief or practice?
Jesus Christ answered this question of how we can determine the morality of a belief or practice when he said in Matthew 4:4 “…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God“.
And the Apostle Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe”.
The Word that God gave to the Prophets before Christ, the Word that Christ himself spoke and the Word of God given to the Apostles after Christ collectively form the Scriptures. In 2 Timothy 3:16 we read that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”.
The Scriptures then are what we are to build our beliefs and practices upon. However, does that mean history has no value? Of course not. We can learn from past civilizations and compare their behavior to moral standards found in the Word of God. We can then see how some past cultural practices which align with the teachings of the Bible helped to keep those cultures strong. And we can also see how past cultural practices which violated Biblical principles or commands ultimately led to the weakening and downfall of those earlier civilizations.
In this first article we will demonstrate how the practice of domestic discipline aligns perfectly with Biblical principles and commands regarding marriage. And then after that we will spend several articles looking at cultural views of domestic discipline in America before the modern age.
The Biblical Case for Domestic Discipline
Throughout the Bible, God pictures his relationship with us in one of two ways. As individuals God pictures his relationship to us as father to his children. But he pictures his relationship to his people as a group as that of a husband and wife.
In Isaiah 54:5 God said to Israel “For thy Maker is thine HUSBAND; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called”. And he consistently referred to the nation of Israel as his wife. When Israel was unfaithful to him, God stated in Jeremiah 3:20 “Surely as a WIFE treacherously departeth from her HUSBAND, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord”.
In Deuteronomy 8:3-5 God speaks of his humbling and chastening of his wife, the nation of Israel:
“And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live. Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years. Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God CHASTENETH thee.”
So, God shows us that a husband chastens his wife as he would his child. So how does God say a child is to be chastened in the following passages:
“Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.”
Proverbs 23:13 (KJV)
“Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
Proverbs 19:18 (KJV)
And now let’s move from the Old Testament to New Testament.
In the Gospel of John we read the following account of Jesus Christ:
“13 And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 15 And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables”
John 2:13-15 (KJV)
Jesus Christ showed that he had absolutely no problem with the Old Testament commands and practices regarding corporal (physical) punishment, aka beating someone with a whip or rod as a form of punishment.
Later in the New Testament, in Ephesians 5:25 the Bible states “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”. Most churches today stop at verse 25 and bastardize the Scriptural command to say God wants husbands to “give themselves up for their wife’s happiness”. This of course plays right into the false doctrine of feminism which so infects the churches today.
It is absolutely true at times that a husband must sacrifice himself for his wife. But his sacrifice is not for her happiness, but rather his sacrifice is for her holiness. See the full passage from Ephesians 5:25-27 that most churches today ignore:
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 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.”
The Scriptures above are clear. Husbands are to model their love for their wives by how Christ demonstrates his love for his church. That means husbands are to wash their wives spiritual spots and wrinkles with the Word of God.
In Revelation 3:19 we see that this washing involves a husband rebuking and chastening his wife:
“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”
In the Old Testament, we read in Deuteronomy 8:5 that God said he chastened his wife, the nation of Israel, “as a man chasteneth his son”. And God tells parents to use corporal punishment on their children in Proverbs 19:18 & Proverbs 23:13.
In the New Testament, we read in Ephesians 5:25 that husbands are to love their wives “even as Christ also loved the church” and Christ says of his churches in Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent”.
The case could not be more clear that the practice of a man using corporal punishment on his wife, also known as wife-spanking or domestic discipline, very much aligns with the teachings of the Bible. A man using corporal punishment on his wife images God’s behavior as a husband to his wife, the people of God.
If you as a husband are interested in learning more about how to implement domestic discipline into your marriage in a safe and effective manner which stays within the bounds of God’s law please consider subscribing to my podcast site. At BGRLearning.com, I have hundreds of podcasts about the teachings of the Bible related to gender roles including the podcast “A Husband’s Guide to Implementing Domestic Discipline” which you may find very helpful. There is also a companion episode for in the Christian women’s subscriptions entitled “A Wife’s Guide to Receiving Christian Domestic Discipline and Rough Sex“.
Because of the wicked post-feminist and humanist society we now live in, I must always give this warning when writing on the subject of a husband using corporal punishment to chasten his wife.
First, let me be clear that God’s law no more requires a husband to get his wife’s consent to chasten her than he does a parent to get their child’s consent to chasten to them.
But Jesus Christ also told us as Christians to be “wise as serpents” in Matthew 10:16. This means that we need to be careful in the exercise of our rights as husbands.
Applying this principle of being wise as serpents to domestic discipline means you first need to educate your wife on the Biblical command for husbands to chasten their wives as God chastens his. And only after your wife fully accepts this as part of the Christian faith, and by extension Christian marriage, and consents to you incorporating this into your marriage should you attempt to do this.
If you attempt to do this with a wife who rejects the principle of Christian domestic discipline, you could land in jail.
If you have a wife who rejects the Biblical allowance for a husband to use corporal punishment to chasten his wife, or even if she rejects all forms of chastening, I would refer you to my article “7 Ways To Discipline You Wife“. That article will teach you how to use non-physical means to fulfill your Biblical obligation as a husband to chasten your wife.
17 thoughts on “The Biblical Case for Domestic Discipline”
I’m just going to be the one to say it, but most christian wives, and christians in general, will never be on board with wifely discipline. Modern christian culture is now one that is very much steeped in feminism and wife worship and to lay a hand on a woman is akin to a grievous sin. Heck, to even point out the wrongdoing of a woman is seen as ungodly! Personally I would say that even if you have a wife you would consider to be a “strong believer” she may not be on board with you even chastising her vocally, much less physically. And even if she was you also need to be concerned about her friends, family members and other members of the church, who can easily start problems if they report anything they see or hear.
As much as I hate to say it, because women need to be corrected, but I think the time of this particular practice in the West is done. Because women are a protected class and almost anything a man does to offend or hurt one is criminalized the idea of physical correction is extremely dangerous. Though it is our duty as christian husbands to correct our wives, I think we are kind of hosed on this.
I used to think very much like you, but now that I have become acquainted with more and more Christians who practice domestic discipline I believe we could see a come back of this form of discipline for wives.
Over the last couple years I have spoken with and even referred some couples who wrote me to mentor couples who help them incorporate domestic discipline into their marriage. These couples have seen radical transformations in their marriages as a result of incorporating this kind of discipline.
I recently had a couple for whom I wrote my “7 Ways to Groom Your Young Christian Wife” article for, which have been in one of these mentoring programs for about 3 months now. And the changes in his marriage as a result of incorporating the Biblically based principles of that article, including incorporating domestic discipline, have totally transformed his young wife. I will be writing an update article with emails he and his wife send me probably within the next month.
He went from having a young slightly rebellious Christian wife who told him “your not my father, you can’t tell me what to do”, one who overspent on her weekly budget, and one who gave him sex perhaps once a week – to now having a wife that is fully submitted to him. One that stays within her budget, who regards her husband as greater than her father, who regards her husband as her earthly master, and one who is fully submitted to him in all areas, especially the sexual arena. He has sex now anytime he wishes, in whatever way he wishes.
She has been mentored by a Christian wife during this period and her husband has presented the Scriptures to her as well. But what has helped to apply these Scriptural principles and broke down the walls of stubbornness in her? This practice I am describing here of domestic discipline. And as long as she fully accepts it and embraces it as part of her Christian faith and Christian marriage, he has nothing to be concerned with from her family or friends. In fact, one of the things these women often do is share testimonies with other Christian wives as to how domestic discipline has helped them grow in their faith and improve their marriages.
But in most cases (not all), bringing Christian women to full acceptance of domestic discipline only works for young moldable wives, wives beneath the age of 25. I have seen a few above that age come around to it as well, but it more difficult for older women to change their views on this and many other areas.
The nation of Israel was Jehovah’s son in one metaphor, and Jehovah’s wife in another. When He is explaining how he used trial to reform the nation, he uses the metaphor of chastening a son. Likewise, in Revelation, where he says “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” it is the son metaphor.
Prov. 3:12 For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
Heb. 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
I respectfully disagree with you. The nation of Israel is never referred to with the title of God’s “son”. There is a difference between God using a metaphor, and the titles God gives himself.
God is clear about his title in relationship to the nation of Israel:
If you look at Revelation 3:19, the context is of Christ to his churches, not a father to his sons. Again, we cannot confuse metaphors with titles. Is Christ’s title in relation to the church “father” or “husband”, the Scriptures are clear that it is “husband”:
You are confusing metaphors with titles and actual relationships. Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6 are referring to our relationship as individuals to God. Yes God is our father as individuals, and he chastens us as sons individually. Amen. But God is a husband to his people collectively. So in Deuteronomy 8:1-5, God was saying that in his position, his title, as husband to Israel that he chastened his wife as father chastens his son. The first part is his title, the second part is a metaphor. And Christ also chastens his bride, the church which is sometimes referred to in the plural sense as churches as it is done in Revelation 3:19.
I agree that there God’s relationship with his people goes beyond metaphor. Some human relationships are designed to model the spiritual realties of God’s relationship with his people. Particularly marriage.
Exodus 4:22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. 23 So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn.
Hosea 11:1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
When God says that he has chastened his people, he does not say “as a man chasteneth his wife.” He says “as a man chasteneth his son.” The word “as” forms a simile, so Jehovah’s correction of his people is likened to a father spanking his son.
I completely agree this should be a part of every biblical marriage. We are older (60) and I have told my husband I’m completely on board with domestic discipline. I grew up with no belief that a husband has authority over his wife and, therefore, I am quite rebellious, snarky, and disrespectful more times than I care to admit. Our problem is that he can’t stand hurting me and he isn’t really certain it’s okay to do. I will say that the week we did practice domestic discipline I was much more respectful towards him and felt truly loved. But he stopped practicing it and my disrespect reared it’s ugly head again. I keep trying to be better but I do wish that week would have lasted longer. Thanks for the work you do, it is very much appreciated!
I’m sorry if I’m making duplicate posts. I keep getting error messages and I’m not sure if they are getting through.
Then you have situations where women are coming to repentance after reading blogs like yours Larry, but after asking their husbands to implement domestic discipline they are turned down. Some women are truly looking to reflect Christ and the church after repenting. My husband and I are in our early thirties and my eyes were just opened. I don’t have many more words to describe it. I never want to go back to being in rebellion in any way. I sincerely asked my husband a few times to use domestic discipline because I’d rather get spanked or whipped than chance experiencing the fruit of rebellion and the regrets that go along with it. I even asked if I could call him master just to reinforce our marriage roles, so that I could always have my place at the forefront of my mind even when life gets busy and I’m not mediating on my role. I was turned down for both.
Unfortunately it’s not just culture. There are interpretations of scripture, or the new covenant interpretation of the nature of God that keeps people from embracing these things even if the woman in the relationship does.
BGR, I think you have it backwards. If you research DD relationships, you will find that they are usually instigated by the wife, and she is usually over 30. It is not the women who need to be groomed and trained, it is the men.
IMO – this subject should be brought up in premarriage counseling for every couple. A wife should know that her submission includes corporal discipline lovingly administered by her husband when he sees it fit. Having the expectation up front can avoid minefields in the future. If in counseling the wife is contentious about it, then the area of submission is revealed to be an area of needed repentance. In marriage counseling for established marriages it also ought to be addressed. Without clarification such discipline might be wrongly labeled as abuse. The mixed messages from the church do create misunderstandings and conflict, but clarity creates confidence in both the husband and the wife.
Michaela, I dont disagree that some women in 30s actually ask their husbands to incorporate DD in their relationships. This is one of the reasons I am writing this series, to help men know it is ok, it is actually good, it was practiced historically and it really makes a great impact in Christian marriages.
I get that spanking is the “best” way to discipline because it doesn’t do much harm (leaving visible bruises or causing cuts), but the issue here that makes me untrust is; what if a man punches his wife in the face or hits her with something in the head or in other place of the body hurting her? Will it be okay too if she was having very bad attitudes? And even if it’s not right that form of discipline, can we still justify his acts? Would the acceptance of domestic discipline cause physical abuse with the excuse of the husband’s right/duty to discipline his wife’s behaviour…?
BGR, thank you for writing this series. I know many women in DD relationships, and the biggest obstacle they seem to face is that their husbands are afraid of injuring them. There is a huge difference between hurting someone and injuring them and I wish more men felt confident that they do know the difference, because they do. DD is not “hitting a woman”. It is a way to handle conflict in a relationship, and I think a very good one. It is weird, however, that more women are on board with this plan then men. I don’t get it.
In the Scriptures we see that God had a relationship with Israel the man(Jacob), Israel as an ethnic group (the seed of Jacob) and Israel as a nation. In Exodus 4:22, God is speaking of Israel the ethnic group, the seed of Jacob, before God converted ethnic Hebrews, the seed Israel, into the nation of Israel. When God made his covenant with the ethnic group of Israel, this was a wedding covenant between a groom and and his bride and they became husband and wife. From that point forward God’s dealings with Israel are as husband to his wife. And Hosea 11:1 is looking back at Israel as an ethnic group, the seed of Israel the man, when he called them out of Egypt and then they became Israel the nation – his wife.
In regard to you concerns about physical abuse. Below is your statement, but all I have done is changed the authority and the one under authority being disciplined:
So should we ban parents spanking their children because some parents abuse their power to physically discipline their children? A lot of humanists, both Christian and non-Christian alike would answer with a resounding “YES”. This is why many European countries have actually banned parents from spanking their children. But as Bible believing Christians we know that the Bible is clear that physical discipline of children when done in a proper way is a good thing to assist in the child’s moral development despite the myriads of studies from humanists which say otherwise.
When spanking of children was the norm in western society did we have children in mass acting in the rebellious ways they are now? Did we see teens and young adults shooting up schools and colleges and burning down buildings in the streets? The answer to all these questions is NO.
God grants the civil government, parents and husbands the right to use corporal punishment (incidentally he does not grant this right to church authority). But whenever authority is granted, there is always the potential for that authority to be abused by the one given it. There have been kings, governors, magistrates, parents and yes even husbands throughout history that have abused their right of physical discipline and gone too far. But it is one thing to condemn the abuse of an authority’s right to exercise physical punishment, and another to take away that power altogether for fear of abuse of that power.
I am going to address this topic in an upcoming article in this series, of how 19th century feminists used the truth that some men did physically abuse their wives to abolish God’s institution of patriarchy from American society. They literally used your very concerns, not only to have domestic discipline outlawed, but to give women all kinds of rights God did not give them and in the process they gutted men’s power and authority over their wives. Yet we have women running around today asking “Why won’t men seek marriage, or when they marry take leadership and responsibility in their homes” and the answer is because society has robbed them of their masculine birthright. This is one of the tasks of my ministry here, and others which support the traditional and Biblical model of masculinity, to help teach men about their God-given birthright as men, and the grave responsibilities that come with that birthright.
Thanks for your answer, it’s very clarifying.
This is a quite controversial topic, so much that even the most anti-feminist women who preach about pro-patriarchy are against it, but it’s necessary to discuss it.
I liked your article on what suffragettes did about DD, very informative!
Hebrews 12:3-11 also apply to this conversation. It discusses the benefit from the discipline of God mirroring the discipline of an earthy father. As you have shown, the principal still applies to other authority structures not explicitly mentioned in this passage.
I believe A husband should be in control of his house that the husband should be the one in charge, that is how it is in my home and has been for the past nine years and I still have a lot to learn but I wouldn’t change it or have it any other way…..