Question:

I found the passages that relate to the sins of the father, maybe you can give me a view on what they mean. I see how people can make their case, but let me know what it all means, or if needed, put it into context.

"You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me" (Exodus 20:5).

"Who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations" (Exodus 34:7).

"You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me" (Deuteronomy 5:9).

"Who shows lovingkindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O (great and mighty God The) LORD of hosts is His name" (Jeremiah 32:18).

OK, so now I have a little more understanding, but I'm still a little confused. I was reading the grape thing rejecting the parable about sin inherited from the the father, but was it true until God said it wasn't to be used anymore or did God mean something else by it, or did He just eventually reject it? I am confused.


Answer:

"The word of the LORD came to me again, saying, "What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge'? As I live," says the Lord GOD, "you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:1-4).

God tells us that a proverb was circulating among the Israelites, which was to no longer be used. You are right that it is similar to statements found in a number of places in the Old Testament. It is likely that this is were the proverb originated.

Ezekiel isn't the only recording of condemnation of the proverb. "And it shall come to pass, that as I have watched over them to pluck up, to break down, to throw down, to destroy, and to afflict, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, says the LORD. In those days they shall say no more: 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge.' But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge" (Jeremiah 31:28-30).

Why was this proverb being quoted? "Our fathers sinned and are no more, but we bear their iniquities" (Lamentations 5:7). The people were using it to excuse themselves from blame. The reason we are being destroyed, they would say, is because our ancestors had sinned and now we must bear the burden of their sins. The problem is that the proverb and they are ignoring the fact that the children were continuing the sins of their fathers. ""Behold, it is written before Me: I will not keep silence, but will repay - even repay into their bosom- your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together," says the LORD, "who have burned incense on the mountains and blasphemed Me on the hills; therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom"" (Isaiah 65:6-7).

God was very clear, even before the prophets explained further, that individuals bear the responsibility of their own sins. "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin" (Deuteronomy 24:16).

So what about all those verses? Take a look at them more closely and see what was left out in the proverb because it was not an exact quote.

"You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me" (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 5:9).

"Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation" (Exodus 34:7).

"You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them - the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts. You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings" (Jeremiah 32:18-19).

These are statements that God will not grow weary punishing the people, even if they continue in the same sins generation after generation. Unlike some parents who give up after little Johnny lied to them five times in a row, despite being punished, and then decide it isn't worth the effort. The Israelites were wrong in saying that they were being sent into captivity because their ancestors sinned. They were going because they were continuing the sins of their fathers.