Sins of the father passed on to the 3rd and 4th generation

How is this best addressed. The answer i have been told is that this is the consequences of our ancestors sins which are passed on. Therefore we can repent and overcome these sins through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Is there anything else that we can know about addressing both this question and this problem?


@sstaple Hey Sandy - great question :slight_smile: Below are some thoughts that have helped me process this text. Hope they help you as well!

  1. God shows love to thousands of generations, but is only said to punish or 3 or 4 generations
  2. Ezekiel makes it clear that God does not punish children for their parent’s sin
  3. God always forgives anyone who comes to Him in true repentance or with a desire to know Him even in the Old Testament - Rahab the Canaanite prostitute, Ruth the Moabite, Namaan the Aramean - no matter their ancestry or what they had done in the past
  4. God waited 4 generations to allow Israel to bring judgment on the land of the Amorites / Canaanites for its sin - in other words, 3 or 4 generations may be referring to God’s judgment on nations - not His judgment on individuals. This explanation makes sense when we consider that God is addressing Israel as a nation in Exodus 20 and 34.

Based upon these observations, I think possible explanations are as follows:

  • 3 or 4 generations refers to national judgment - when a nation continues in wickedness for a number of generations, God visits judgment upon them - it is not referring to individuals
  • when a father sins, his children are more likely to be caught up in that same sin - whether it is idolatry or drunkenness - and sin has its own consequences. As the article I linked below says - consequences, not curses, are passed down to future generations
  • God always forgives anyone who comes - no matter their background

Great answer @SeanO. So wisely put.

I remember struggling with this question long ago, but has somehow forgotten I had this question. hehehe… reading your answer puts it to rest once and for all.

Appreciate it so much. Blessings

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Deut 5:9 is part of the restatement of the 10 commandments with some explanation attached, specifically addressing those that choose to worship idols knowing that God is real (His visible glory would accompany Israel through the wilderness and then reside on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies for hundreds of years). God describes this as hating/detesting Him. Rebellion against God among those that know He is real is also dealt with severely, and can include multiple generations in the judgement of the fathers. Numbers 16 refers to the sons of Levi looking to replace Aaron and his sons as priests before God. God initially is going to destroy all the people of Israel besides Moses and Aaron until Moses intercedes and asks that He only judge the ones who led the people to sin against God. Korah, Dathan and Abiram and their families are segregated from the rest of the people, including children and infants, and they were all swallowed whole and “taken down to Sheol alive with all their possessions”. This is an example of the sins of the fathers being visited on the children. Even after this stark example of what happens to those that rebel against God’s will, the surviving congregation came against Moses and Aaron the very next day for killing those that stood with Korah (they were acting as if it was Moses that killed them instead of God). And God sent an immediate plague among the people that dropped almost 15,000 of them like flies before Aaron could intercede and stop its progression (think of doing the wave in a stadium). Most likely, men, women and children were again killed - likely another example of kids being killed/judged for sins of their parents.

So, it seems there are certain sins that can justify God wiping out a bloodline of people.

Other passages do address how PEOPLE are not to hold other people accountable for other people’s sins - they are solely responsible for their own sins. And, it seems that not all types of sins are “visited” on generations to come. But, some types of sins do seem to be accountable to God, even to progeny. It interests me that in the Numbers passage, Moses warned the general congregation to not stand near Korah and his crew or touch their possessions lest they be dragged to Sheol with them - an application more extensive than bloodline (albeit God had already said He would wipe them all out for their sin against Him before He limited it upon Moses and Aaron’s intercession).

In the New Testament, we also have a separation of a particular sin, blaspheming against the HS, which has its own special judgement. So, delineation of certain sins in God’s eyes seems to fit with scripture.

Not a complete address of this issue but hopefully helpful to your thoughts!