10 Key Bible Verses on Parenting

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.

1. Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Train up a child. This proverb, founded on the covenant with Abraham (cf. Gen. 18:19), encourages parents to “train” (i.e., to “dedicate” or “initiate”; this is the sense of the word in Deut. 20:5; cf. Ezra 6:16) their children in the way (i.e., the right moral orientation) by pointing to the kinds of conduct that please or displease the Lord, and to the normal outcome of each kind of conduct. The training will include love and instruction as well as “the rod of discipline” (Prov. 22:15).

2. Psalm 127:3–5

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

The Blessedness of Children. Like the first section, this does not eliminate human activity: children are a heritage from the LORD, and therefore his gift, and yet husband and wife must do something in bringing the children into the world and in raising them to be faithful members of God’s people. Here the stress falls on the children of one’s youth, now grown up and standing with their father when he speaks with his enemies in the gate (i.e., the place where justice was administered. It will be hard for the enemies (who are assumed to be unfaithful) to intimidate such a man.

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3. Ephesians 6:1–4

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Children. The second family relationship illustrating submission to proper authority (Eph. 5:21) is that of children and parents. The Mosaic law prescribed death for the child who struck or cursed a parent (Ex. 21:15, 17; Lev. 20:9), and Paul lists such disobedience as one of many grave sins (Rom. 1:30; 2 Tim. 3:2). However, Paul urges in Eph. 6:1–3 the positive duty of children to obey their parents. Obedience is due to both parents; the mother’s submission to her husband does not remove her parental dignity but rather increases it. In the Lord modifies the verb “obey.” right. What makes such obedience “right” or “just” is that it conforms to God’s holy commandment, quoted in Eph 6:2–3.

Honor. Children obeying their parents (Eph. 6:1) is in part how they honor them; see also Prov. 31:28, which describes children rising to bless a wise and godly mother. promise. There were earlier commands of God with promises (e.g., Gen. 17:1–2), but this is the first and only of the Ten Commandments to contain a promise (see also Ex. 20:12). In the new covenant the promise of the land is not physical land on earth but eternal life, which begins when one is regenerated here and now and comes to full reality in the age to come. Paul is not teaching salvation on the basis of works. The obedience of children is evidence that they know God, and it results in receiving blessings from God.

Fathers. As earlier, Paul begins his admonition with a negative action to avoid, followed by a positive action to develop. Paul addresses the responsibility of fathers in particular, though this does not diminish the contribution of mothers in these areas (see Proverbs 31). provoke … to anger. Obedient children are particularly vulnerable, so a domineering and thoughtless father’s actions would be discouraging to them (Col. 3:21). bring them up. Parents play a crucial, God-ordained role in the discipleship of their children “in the Lord” (Eph. 6:1); see Deut. 6:1–9. Parental discipleship in the discipline and instruction of the Lord should center on the kinds of practices already outlined in Ephesians 4–5.

4. Deuteronomy 6:5–9

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

love.* See Deut. 4:37. all. That the Lord alone is Israel’s God leads to the demand for Israel’s exclusive and total devotion to him. heart … soul … might.** All Israelites in their total being are to love the Lord; “this is the great and first commandment” (Matt. 22:38). In Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30, and Luke 10:27, Jesus also includes “mind.” In early Hebrew, “heart” included what we call the “mind”. “Might” indicates energy and ability.

on your heart. Cf. Deut 4:39. The demand is for a heart that totally loves the Lord. Deuteronomy anticipates the new covenant, when God’s words will be truly and effectively written on the heart (Jer. 31:31–34; also Deut. 30:6–8).

The two pairs of opposites (sit/walk, lie down/rise) suggest any and every time, place, and activity. bind them … write them. Many Jews have fulfilled these commands literally with phylacteries (v. 8) and mezuzot (v. 9), i.e., boxes bound on the arm and forehead or attached to doorposts containing vv. 4–5 and other Scripture verses. See also Deut. 11:18–20.

5. Hebrews 12:7–11

*It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

exhortation that addresses you as sons. God is viewed as speaking through the proverb; God’s discipline proves that he considers believers to be his sons (on sonship, see Heb. 2:10), since God chastises every son whom he receives (Heb. 12:6; see Heb. 12:7–8). Discipline (Gk. paideia) was a common term for childrearing through instruction, training, and correction; however, here Hebrews focuses on the call for perseverance (endure in Heb. 12:7) in the painful tests of life (Heb. 12: 11). These tests are to their benefit, prove their sonship, and require a response of perseverance. The readers, then, should not be discouraged.

This lesser-to-greater analogy from the readers’ own childhood training shows that it is appropriate for the heavenly Father to discipline, and it calls for a response of respect and submission; as a loving Father, the Lord always disciplines his children for their good.

6. 1 Timothy 5:8

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

worse than an unbeliever. Provision for one’s own family is a spiritual issue of utmost importance. Failure to live out the gospel in this way is tantamount to a denial of the faith.

7. Psalm 103:13

As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

God is a father to his people as a whole (Ex. 4:22–23), and to the particular faithful members (Prov. 3:12). Of course many human fathers fail to embody this idea; this image assumes that biblically informed people have an intuition of what fathers ideally should be like. But it also serves as a goal for faithful fathers: they will seek more and more to be the kind of father who shows compassion to his children.

8. Exodus 20:12

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Honor your father and your mother. The word “honor” means to treat someone with the proper respect due to the person and their role. With regard to parents, this means (1) treating them with deference (cf. Ex. 21:15, 17); (2) providing for them and looking after them in their old age (for this sense of honor, see Prov. 3:9). Both Jesus and Paul underline the importance of this command (Mark 7:1–13; Eph. 6:1–3; 1 Tim. 5:4). This is the only one of the Ten Commandments with a specific promise attached to it: that your days may be long—meaning not just a long life, but one that is filled with God’s presence and favor. See note on Deut. 5:16.

9. Colossians 3:20–21

Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Paul’s words to children reflect the fifth commandment (Ex. 20:12). do not provoke your children. Men are urged to restrain their anger and any other attitudes that can embitter their children (cf. Eph. 6:4), lest they despair of pleasing their parents.

10. Proverbs 17:6

Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers. Read More

ESV Study Bible Notes

Families depend on one another for their identity and joy. Both young and old should cherish their intergenerational relationships.


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