"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. (KJV)"
The CEV says: "Teach your children right from wrong, and when they are grown they will still do right." The CJB: "Train a child in the way he [should] go; and, even when old, he will not swerve from it. "
Gill has noted that "...there are exceptions to this observation; but generally, where there is a good education, the impressions of it do not easily wear off, nor do men ordinarily forsake a good way they have been brought up in..."
This proverb seems more like wishful thinking than the wisdom of sages. Can such an often-excepted proverb have developed among the Hebrews, who measured reality by experience? A closer look says, it probably did not.
In Hebrew, the verse says:
"HanoC' lana,ar ,al ´ piy dar'cO gaM ciy ´ yaz'kiyN lo` ´ yasur mimenah"The first word, hanoc, means “to throttle, make narrow, restrict, or place limits on.” In Arabic, a sister language, this word was used of a rope in a horse’s mouth, like a bit in a bridal to make the animal submissive and bring it under control. This certainly illustrates how training includes the use of discipline, the application of external controls, in order to bring a child under control, which ultimately means God’s control. Good English words to substitute for this idea are "steer," "direct," or "usher."
Ezekiel 33:9 indicates that the Hebrew phrase "lo Shab midar'co" means "he will not turn from his way." Whereas this proverb uses "lo yasur mimenah," "he will not be turned aside." The one uses the root shub (to turn) while the other uses sur (to be turned aside).
Also, the words "al piy dar'cO" (literally: at the mouth of the way) form a common idiomatic phrase which means "according to the command of the way."
A better translation:
"Steer a child according to the command of 'the way'; yea even when he grows older, he shall not be turned aside from it."The thought is that if you train a child properly, though he may stray from the path, no one may remove him from it.