There is severe discipline for one who forsakes the way,
but one who hates a rebuke will die.
My translation: Harsh discipline for the one who forsakes the path, the one who hates reproof will die.
We are moving from the proverbs of “judgment” (one presents themselves as an abomination/God judges one with love) to proverbs of the punishment. Our focus is on the “wicked.” However, wicked is redefined as one who forsakes the way (of God’s wisdom/the fear of the Lord) and hates correction. Thus, the wicked is the scoffer and the active fool.
This proverb leads from bad to worse. We start with harsh discipline – the word for harsh may also be translated as bad or evil. Thus, it may be “evil” discipline to the one who forsakes the way. The Hebrew use of evil in this way is normal. It means severe and “not good.” However, the type of discipline is not spelled out. It could be the corporal punishment of the teacher to the student, although I don’t think that would be deemed as harsh or evil. It may be the social discipline of shunning or hating the fool, which we have seen before. Or it may be the harsh discipline of actual judgment when the fool has gone too far and broken the laws of society.
However, in the light of the proverbs before, I believe that the harsh punishment is from the hand of God. If we hold Pharaoh as the archetype of the fool, then it may be the plagues and illness of Egypt (Exodus 15). But even this type of destruction is only physical and only temporary.
However, there is the final punishment of death. The fool who hates discipline and reproof will die. I love the Hebrew word for “die” – moot. In English, we use it to say that something is useless, or doesn’t mean anything. But what we are really saying is that something is dead. The movement of the proverb places the fool on a continuum: discipline <– fool –> death.
Nowhere does the proverb actually claim that it is God passing the judgment on the fool, but it does follow two proverbs on God’s reception and perception of people. Thus, one is already before the throne of God when this proverb is spoken.
This proverb tends to evoke the “Sheep and goats” parable of Jesus. However, it is only addressing the goats. The sheep are standing on the other side with wide eyes, looking back and forth at each other, mouthing “is he talking to us?” The sheep understand that they are also goats. The wise understand that they are actually fools. They are just fluffier fools. And they are smart enough to know their own foolishness. Whereas the goats, the fools, are blind to their own place.