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.
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.