Proverbs 22:6a - Recognising and Appointing Young Leaders

Proverbs 22:6a says "Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it." This proverb has been long understood as advice for parents on the way to raise and educate their children. However, this understanding (and translation) is based on some very dubious word studies. The Hebrew word translated "child", does not carry the concept of age, but rather status - in particular, high status! The same word refers to Joseph at age 17 (Genesis 37:2) and age 30 (Genesis 41:12). The person being referred to may be a young man but the point is not his age but his status and responsibility. In light of the way this word is used elsewhere in the Old Testament, and the context of Proverbs, the so-called "child" is a young adult who is NOT a rank novice with little or no experience. It is someone who is outstanding among his/her peers, but has not yet reached their full potential or maturity. "Train" is also incorrectly translated from the Hebrew. There is virtually no evidence that the Hebrew word means anything close to "train" in the Old Testament. Rather, it refers to initiating someone who has already completed their training, for a new position or responsibility. Also, "in the way he should go" appears to be an idiom for "according to a service that best suits his character and skills". Therefore, this verse would be better translated: "Initiate a young cadet according to a service that best suits his character and skills, and when he is old, he will not turn from it." This verse teaches that a young outstanding Christian who has been suitably trained, should be recognised and initiated into a position of responsibility and given the full respect that accompanies that position. It also teaches that when such a person is given the recognition and responsibility due to them, they will continue to serve and persist even when they get older.

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