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Proverbs 22:6 Re-Examined

PROVERBS 22:6 RE-EXAMINED: with Wes McAdams
“Train Up”
Proverbs 22:6 begins with the Hebrew word, “hanak.” This word appears in three other verses in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 20:5; 1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chronicles 7:5). Interestingly, every other time this word is used, it is not translated, “train up,” it is translated, “dedicate.” It means to get something started or initiate something.
So the first part of the Proverb is about starting a child off in a certain direction or starting him on a path.

“In the Way He [Should] Go”
The next phrase is very interesting. The word “should” does not actually appear in the original Hebrew at all. The phrase literally means, “in his way.”

The Hebrew word for “way” appears 69 times in the book of Proverbs. It is used to describe BOTH the way of wickedness (e.g. Proverbs 12:26) and the way of righteousness (e.g. Proverbs 13:6). Essentially, it is a road or path metaphor that simply describes a manner of life.

What Does It Mean?
So if you take what we’ve discovered, the literal reading of Proverbs 22:6 would read something like, “Initiate a child on his path; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” It seems to simply mean we are set on a path as children and we seldom deviate from that path.

This proverb could be a warning. It could warn me, as a parent, if I allow my children to follow the “way that seems right” to them (Proverbs 14:12), I will have a hard time getting them off that path when they become adults. After all, the path that children are naturally inclined to follow is a path of foolishness and it takes discipline to keep children from going down that path (Proverbs 22:15).

On the other hand, it could be an encouragement to “dedicate” or “initiate” children on the path of holiness, righteousness, and wisdom when they are young. In other words, get a child started on his path of doing right when he is young; it will be harder to get him off that path when he is an adult.

Another possibility is that this proverb is intentionally ambiguous in order to highlight the malleability of children and the challenge of getting adults to change their ways once they’re on a particular path. Either way, there is a lot of wisdom in this one little proverb and God’s people would do well to meditate on it and apply it to our lives.
I love you and God loves you,
Wes McAdams - Radically Christian Blog