Train Up or Celebrate? Pro. 22:6

There is a lot of debate of the verse Proverbs 22:6, which says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”[1] And I would like to add my fist to the melee. I would first start with a proper understanding of the verse itself, particularly the word “train up.” The Bible only uses this word 4 times and it is translated as dedicated three out of the four times. The other references are:


Dt 20:5 Then the officials shall address the troops, saying, “Has anyone built a new house but not dedicated it? He should go back to his house, or he might die in the battle and another dedicate it.
1 Ki 8:63 Solomon offered as sacrifices of well-being to the Lord twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord.
2 Ch 7:5 King Solomon offered as a sacrifice twenty-two thousand oxen and one hundred twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God.


Thus one wonders where the words “train up” came from. This meaning comes from a much later use of the similar sounding word in Arabic which means to train up. In my mind, this seems a little anachronistic.

Another point that I would mention: the word child is not as accurate as it could be translated. The idea behind this word means young man, like a boy in his teens. So, while on the one hand child is a legitimate translation of this word, it seems better to translate it as young man here also.

The phrase translated “in the way he should go” literally reads, “upon the mouth of his way.” This phrase, of course, is an idiom which does not translate into English. But, is “in the way he should go” the best way to translate this phrase? Again, I think there is a better way to render this phrase. Mouth is one of those tricky words in Hebrew which can mean several different things depending on the context of the word. I think here, mouth communicates the idea of beginning or a starting point. Thus, the phrase is rendered “the starting point of his path.”

So, the verse reads “Dedicate a young man at the starting point of his path, and when he grows old, he will not turn aside from it.” But how do you interpret this phrase?

First, the best way to understand dedication is by the context of the temple. Solomon dedicated the temple and sacrificed several thousand offerings. The people rejoiced and feasted before God. They made this event a significant moment in the history of the nation. So too, the dedication of a young man in the verse must signify some sort of celebration.

Thus, one should dedicate/celebrate the starting of a young man’s way. This seems to me to be indicating a coming of age celebration of some kind. Now, we do not have Biblical examples of this dedication, so I do not know the exact context of it. But, applicationally, we can say that if you celebrate the significant events of a young person, later in life he will not turn away from the path that you set him on. When you make a big deal about achievements in someone’s life, he is less likely to give up when the pressure gets hard.

Optional thought: Perhaps, we should consider this verse in light of a person’s coming to faith. When a person gets baptized, that is the beginning of his journey of faith (or it should be). Maybe we ought to have more than just a ceremony. Maybe we should consider celebrating this new arrival to the faith and dedicating him to it.


[1] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Pr 22:6.

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