Promise or Warning?

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.


  • Original language explanation
    • Not used to “correct”
    • Could be, but we have found the KJV to be accurate
    • Once we understand how words are/can be used
    • Complete confidence in the KJV – any confusion, apparent contradiction, or error is ours
    • We can look to the original language to help our misunderstandings
    • We never “soften” scripture by understanding it better!
  • Hebrew and Greek – biblical languages
    • Hebrew – broad for stories
    • Greek – precise for doctrine
  • Last Summer (Skill in Godly Child-rearing)
    • This verse has been taught as a precious promise
    • This verse can perceived to be “neutral” so choose (act) wisely
    • But let’s read it as a Consequence Proverb
      • B happens when you A
      • Train a child in the way HE wants to (would) go
      • When he is old, he won’t depart from it!!!
      • Even maturity won’t grab him from the foolish way he was set upon

Observations and Explanation

Extremely literal translation: Initiate (for-the-child) (on-the-mouth-of) (his-way)

(Even-when) (he-is-old) (he-will-not-turn) (from-it)

Initiate (Train up)

  • Start out – Deuteronomy 20:5-7
  • Temple dedication or inauguration
  • Getting something going–on its way
    • Not just the foundation
    • All the way to the full-running “process”

For-the-child (a child)

  • A youth — many biblical uses, from pre-born to 17, and even 30 (Joseph)
  • All other uses in Proverbs = a child in need of instruction

On-the-mouth-of (in the way)

  • Idiomatic expression
    • Often, a standard, measure or controlling factor
    • Also, according to the command of…
    • Once, at the mouth of (a cave)
  • How to start out a child? After which standard?
  • Next word gives the answer

His-way = darko (he should go)

  • Clearer expressions of the traditional understanding
    • 2:20 – That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.
    • 4:11 – I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.
    • 6:23 – For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
    • 9:6 – Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.
    • 10:29 – The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
    • 16:31 – The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.
    • 21:16 – The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.
    • 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
  • Other Proverb occurrences of “darko”
    • 8:22 – The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
    • 11:5 – The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.
    • 14:8 – The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.
    • 16:9 – A man‘s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.
    • 16:17 – The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.
    • 19:3 – The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the LORD.
    • 20:24 – Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?
    • ***all but one of these have the referent expressly named in the same phrase
    • 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Even-when (and when) he-is-old (he is old)

  • Even should he grow old
  • A child on this (his) path may not even grow old
  • But even if he were to physically mature…
  • He will not turn from his indulgent beginnings


  • Most (80% – 13) other uses of turning (in Proverbs) are turning from evil to good
  • Three times used to show turning from good to evil

from -it

  • His own way
  • When a child is started out after the measure of his own chosen, foolish, godless way, even if he should manage to grow old, he will not turn from the evil of that way to the good of God’s way.

Conclusion – full circle

  • This is not a command or promise
    • Ironic imperative
      • Judges 10:14 – go pray to your gods
      • 1 Kings 18:27 – cry louder to Baal
      • John 2:19 – destroy Me
  • It is a warning
    • Maturity is not automatic
    • Maturity in the Lord even less
    • Maturity (the fear of the Lord) must be instilled early
    • The rod and reproof give wisdom
  • The lesson from the warning
    • If you start out a boy according to his own way, he will never grow out of it
    • Therefore, do not start him out according to his own way, rather, start him out according to God’s way.

“You don’t believe me?” Solomon says, in effect. “You think your child is an exception? You think it best just to give him his lead, let him track his own course? Is it just too much trouble for you to love God, take in His Word, follow Him, and teach His ways to your child? Is it too hard to cross your child’s will, to teach him, to reach out to his heart? Are you, after all, not wiser and not stronger than your child? Is it too hard to care, to work, and be consisten both in teaching and in discipline?”

“Fine then,” he says, “Have it your way. Leave him be. Start him off thinking that there is no God to answer to, that there are no borders and no consequences, that there will be no day of judgment. Let him think it’s safe to follow his own impulses, unjudged, and unfiltered. Start him off following his own foolish heart, his own desires, his own drives. Start him off according to his own way.”

“But I’ll tell you this: even if he does make it to adulthood–which I can’t guarantee–he’ll never, ever turn from that evil way you started him on.”

“Sound like fun?” — “No?” — “Then don’t do it”

All in eight Hebrew words!


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