Generational Punishment ? ? ?

How do we reconcile Deut 5:9 with Eze18?  Deut 5 :9 says that the sins of the fathers will be visited upon the children to the third and fourth generation.  Ezekiel 18 repeatedly says this is not so.

So the question is this:  does God visit the sins of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation?  

Verses that say He does:

Exodus 34:6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,  Keeping mercy for thousands,forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

Deuteronomy 5:Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:  Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,  10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

Leviticus 26: 39 And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.

Verses that say He doesn’t:

Deuteronomy 24: 16 The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

2 Kings 14:But the children of the murderers he slew not: according unto that which is written in the book of the law of Moses, wherein the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children be put to death for the fathers; but every man shall be put to death for his own sin.

The WHOLE chapter of Ezekiel 18

Note:  Ezekiel 18: 20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father,neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

Jeremiah 31: 30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.

How do we reconcile the differences here?

Note that Deut 5:9 says, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” 

God is saying that the children who follow in the footsteps of their father and hate him will receive the same punishment for sin that their father received.  When punishment for the sins of the father is visited upon their children it is because their children are ALSO sinful and deserved the punishment they received.

Exodus 34:6 says, “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”

This simply is saying that God will have mercy and forgive those who repent but the opposite is true for those who He finds guilty because they have remained in their sins.  The guilt of those who continue in sin “will by no means [be] clear[ed].”

Leviticus 26: 39  says, And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands;and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them.

But we must always read scripture in context.  Continue reading . . .

Leviticus 26: 40 If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; 41 And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:42 Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.

This is saying that if they confess their sins and accept the consequences of the punishment of the sins of their fathers as a just (right) punishment, they will be restored to a relationship with God.  At times,succeeding generations must bear the brunt of the reproach and bad reputation of their forefathers.  The inclination toward certain types of sin can be passed on from generation to generation like any other human trait.  Alcoholism is one example.  The good news is, that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins. 

The skeletons in you closet weren’t just put there by your mom or dad.  Your family tree stretches back to the Garden of Eden.  Romans 5:19 says, 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.  But because of the mercy, goodness and grace of God – that favor that we don’t deserve, we can be forgiven for our sins and pardoned from the judgment that we do deserve.

The difference in the passages of scriptures mentioned above is that in some of them the emphasis is upon the children who continue to follow in the footsteps of their sinful parents, while in the other passages the emphasis is on those who do not follow in the footsteps of their sinful parents but instead repent of their sins and turn to God.

by Dr. Gayle Woods

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