Does God Curse Children for Their Parent's Sins?

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Does God Curse Children for Their Parent's Sins?

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Recently, travelling to India to visit brethren and speaking to groups of people wanting to learn more biblical truth, I was asked by a man, “Is there a curse on generations of children for their parents sins?”

He said to me, “I have one doubt in the Bible; that is that God has said that the sins done by the parents are carried on to their children according to Exodus 20:5. Why must the children suffer for their parents' sins?  Why is the curse or penalty of the sins done by the parents carried on to their children? I am very eager to know about this verse.”

Well let's look at the scriptures that he was referring to and see if they really say the penalties of the sins done by the parents are carried on to their children, regardless of what their children do.

I believe we will see from the scriptures that God does not punish children for their parents' sins, except when the children perpetuate them and when the sins committed involve certain social and physical consequences.

Cause and effect. Bad cause, bad effect. Good cause, good effect.

There are four verses in the Bible that touch on what my friend, Madhu, was asking me.

These verses are Exodus 20:5-6; Exodus 34:7-8; Numbers 14:18; and Deuteronomy 5:9.

All of these verses are speaking about the Second Commandment of the Ten Commandments.

The Second Commandment warns us not to bow down to idols or follow after false gods of our own making.

God says that people who bow down to idols do not love the true God, but follow false gods. As this verse shows, they actually hate the true God.

That is why God warns us not to bow down to idols, but to love the true God (2 Chronicles 15:3; Jeremiah 10:10; John 17:3; 1Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:20).

Here are the verses in Exodus that my Indian friend was asking about:

"You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your 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; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments" (Exodus 20:5-6). Notice how this verse does not say that because one generation sins that "the curse or penalty of the sins done by the parents are carried on to their children," regardless of what the children do. The verse simply says that God will be "visiting the iniquity" upon the fathers and the following generations "of them that hate me."

So, we see from this verse that people who hate the true God and who follow false gods and bow down to idols and teach their children also in those evil ways will bring curses upon themselves and their children, even to the third and fourth generations, if they persist in hating God by following idolatry.

Also notice the very important verse that follows in Exodus 20:6, that God "shows mercy unto thousands of them who love Me and keep My commandments."

These verse gives us the insightful answer to my friend’s question.

If people hate the true God and bow down to idols, they will bring a curse upon themselves and their children who also continue follow them in hating God.

If people love God and show their love for the true God by keeping God's commandments and not bowing down to false gods and idols, then God will show mercy to them and their children who follow in like manner.

Do you see the important contrast between these two verses?

If people hate God by their idolatrous conduct and their children follow them, they will bring curses on themselves and their children.

Alternatively, if we love God and keep His Commandments, God's laws and way of life, God will have mercy upon us and our children.

Let's see how this aspect of God's love, kindness and mercy for us will be given to us if we keep God's laws:

"And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, patient, 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.

And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped" (Exodus 34:4-8).

From these scriptures, we see that God is always ready to forgive us if we repent of our sins (which is the breaking of God's laws - 1 John 3:4).

God will extend mercy and forgiveness for us if we repent of our sins and seek to love God by keeping God's commandments (1 John 1:9).

He will not hold a curse on future generations if we repent and turn to God and love God by keeping God's commandments (1 John 5:3).

We see a wonderful example of Moses repenting of breaking God's laws on  behalf of his fellow Israelites in Numbers 14:17-20 and how quickly God mercifully forgave them.

Moses reminded God of what He had said in Exodus 20:5-6 and Exodus 34:6-8.

Notice how God listens to Moses' repentance on behalf of the Israelites and forgives them:

"'And now, I beseech You, let the power of my Lord be great, according as You have spoken, saying,

"The LORD is patient, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation."

Pardon, I beseech You, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of Your mercy, and as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.'

And the LORD said, 'I have pardoned according to your word'" (Numbers 14:17-20).

Israel was forgiven then, at that time, and the generation that went into the promised land of Canaan obeyed and loved God and God's commandments. But sadly, only for a short time.

Then over a period of time we read in the Scriptures that the people and their generations of children began to forget God and not love God anymore, by worshipping false gods and by not keeping God's Commandments.

What happened then?

The book of Judges tells us what happened to them and the curses succeeding generations brought upon themselves, even though God pleaded with them to turn to God and love God and each other by keeping His Commandments.

"And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.

And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim:

And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.

And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.

And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.

Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.

Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.

And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so" (Judges 2:10-17).

Here in these sobering verses in Judges, we see how God "visits the generations" that bow down to idols and who continue to hate God.

It is a very important lesson for us to learn.

"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).

Yet, we see also in the Scriptures that God is very kind and merciful and will forgive anyone who turns away from false gods and who turns to loving God and keeping God's commandments (1 John 1:9).

King David summed up this lesson for us in Psalms:

"For God established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God" (Psalm 78:5-8).

The lesson for us is NOT to bow down to false idols, false philosophies and false gods, but to love our true God, God our Father and God His Son, Jesus Christ, and to keep all of God's laws and commandments.

We are to teach our children to love God and keep God's commandments so that they don't bring a curse upon themselves.

Breaking God's law is sin (1 John 3:4) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

All have sinned before God (Romans 3:23). 

So we need to repent of breaking God's laws and be baptised and receive God's Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39).

We need to become converted and love God by keeping God's commandments (1 John 5:3; 1 John 2:4).

Madhu felt this short explanation helped him to understand God's wonderful love and mercy for us all. God wants to bless us and does not like to see us or our children bring curses upon ourselves for not loving God and keeping His commandments, laws and Way of life.

It’s a lesson of God’s enduring love, mercy, patience, forgiveness and goodness for all of us.


  • pjr7519

    Hello....I understand what the Bible says about Children suffering for the sins of the parents...I must say that in my case I feel I was seriously punished throughout my life since childhood due to the sins of both of my parents.......It seems every aspect of my life was affected in a negative way no matter how much I tried and fought to make things different. Things I had no control over seriously affected my entire life- my social life, physical aspects, psychological, economic....I learned some disturbing things about my parents when I got older . Which made me feel even worse and only reinforced what I already believed. My parents had a horrific marriage which affected the children in a horrible way. My Mother being so miserable in her marriage actually made deliberate attempts to make her own children unhappy. She acted as if she was jealous of her own kids and that at times she despised their existence. My father was extremely selfish and a heavy drinker. I know for a fact my mother had children in an attempt to make my father feel obligated so that he would not walk out on her. He eventually left for good but it was when we were older. It was HELL growing up.

  • oypoon

    Hi, why did God allow David's first born out of his fling with Bathsheba to die? Is this not a curse on the child?

  • Skip Miller

    Hello Francis,
    Of course, death is a curse, but we do not know (as God does)
    what may have occurred in that child's later life. I imagine that at least one of David's children may have wished his life had ended sooner.
    But notice what Mr.Murray wrote:
    "I believe we will see from the scriptures that God does not punish children for their parents’ sins, except when the children perpetuate them and when the sins committed involve certain social and physical consequences."

    Unfortunately Venereal disease can be passed on a newborn who has obviously done nothing wrong yet. That situation is real and occurs too often.
    WE do not know what the child of David and Bathsheba would have become but God does.
    And we know that that child WILL have an opportunity to live a full life at and during the time of the White Throne Judgement period. Ask us (me) about that wonderful time!

  • Skip Miller

    Hello Tricia,

    I was happy to read your last comment,
    "I guess I knew the answer to this question all along..."

    I just wanted to add something I remember hearing in a sermon once:
    "Who would be the very best being to teach, train & raise that little child? Would it not be the person who at one time was the physical mom to the child?"

    These questions were asked rhetorically by the speaker who was explaining all about the 2nd resurrection. Of course, those training beings would be spirit beings but those little children would need to live physical lives just like all other humans do. The speaker used his speculation to encourage us all to remain faithful, especially moms who had tragically lost children before, during, or shortly after birth. There will be many humans who would appreciate help & advice from someone they know but a tiny baby? It will need a mom!

    That answer made sense to me then and it still does!

    Sincerely, Skip Miller

  • triciabrown

    Yes I do know that God will give all a chance in the second ressurection, I guess I knew the answer to this questions all along just wasnt seeing what was so clearly put in front of me. Im still piecing it all together tho. Thanks for the responses and the articles and scriptures they are all appreciated!

  • Ken Murray
    Tricia, it is so true what you say about there being so many ideas that are “so confusing” about what happens after death, and especially for little babies that have died, through no fault of their own. Will these babies be resurrected to life again? They surely will. Rather than following the false teachings about going to heaven or hell, when we die, it is refreshing to let the Bible simply interpret itself, to tell us what happens after death. In Revelation 20:4-6 it speaks of there being a 1st Resurrection to eternal life, when Jesus returns back to this earth. The fact that the Bible states that there is a 1st Resurrection, clearly implies that there are other Resurrections to follow. Notice, encouragingly in Revelation 20:5 that “the rest of the dead lived not until the 1,000 years were finished”. Let’s think about that slowly for a minute. Since there is a 1st Resurrection to life, for faithful followers of God, as we just read …there is also a 2nd Resurrection to life for the “rest of the dead”. It is in that 2nd Resurrection to life, when all of the little babies and children will be given life again, as human beings, by our loving, merciful God. If you would like to learn more about this, why not read our free booklet “What Happens After Death” at: Also, the article that Aaron has referred you to, above is very moving, and so encouraging, when we come to realize that all children who have lost their lives, have not died in vain. They will be given life again, at the 2nd Resurrection, and will be given their opportunity to grow up and live happy lives as adults, in a restored Earth which will be better than this mixed up polluted Earth we currently live on.
  • ivancal123

    Ken is wrong when he says that "....people who bow down to idols do not love the true God, but follow false gods. As this verse shows, they actually hate the true God."

    To love Maria does not mean to hate Jennifer. Those who worshiped/loved one god, did not "hate" the other gods, they simply did not believe in them. If they did, they would either start believing in the new god and shun the other or at least add the new to their list of deities in case of polytheist societies.

    To be able to "hate" a god, person or item, you need to acknowledge their existence first. This position, of hating a god, at the theological level is untenable.

    To hate God, you need to really believe that he exists, and by acknowledging this, you actually are validating the first premise of its divinity, hence, there is not possible to do what Ken states.
    I am sure Ken does not "hate" Allah or Krishna. You get my point.

    Therefore, Ken's argument crumbles under the weight of its own ontological contradictions.

  • Aaron Booth

    Hi Tricia,
    It is exciting to have that desire to read the Bible looking for answers to so many questions. Always ask God to help you understand what you are reading and how you can apply it in your daily life. There are many helpful resources on this website that will assist you in your Bible study. This particular article "The Resurrection: The Astounding Biblical Truth" ( might be helpful with your question about babies that have died.
    All the best in your study of the Bible!

  • triciabrown

    I have been in debates about this topic alot over the past years. One question I would love to have an answer to is what will happen to the babies? Not the older children who will have a chance to follow God or not but babies? I often believe that Jesus wont save ALL the babies at first, but I really dont have anything to prove this either way. What I think is this: If you dont know God and he doesnt know you then how can God know your baby? It says in the bible that people he does not know have strange children. There are other examples of God saying he does not know you when they come knocking. I have grown up with religion my whole life but never gave it much regard cause it was all so confusing and there were to many beliefs out there and I always had a feeling that all were mostly wrong cause it just didnt make sense. I spent alot of my life as an agnostic I just couldnt make heads or tails of religion or non religion. But I have always believed there was a God. I didnt go to church cause I had a feeling they werent preching right. About 6 months ago I got what I believe is a calling. My thirst for knowledge has in that time grown to almost an obsession Im on the internet constantly searching for answers and reading the bible front to cover Im currently in Samuel, so dont have scripures down to repeat them yet or even know where to find most of them lol. I would love if someone could help me out in finding my answer to the babies that would be most appreciated thanks!

  • Ken Graham

    Hi Tricia:

    Jesus was very concerned about the little children when here on the earth. He picked them up and held them and blessed them. And it would be silly to assume He doesn't have plans for them. The bible speaks of resurrections...more than one. It speaks of the resurrection at Jesus' return to the earth and one later. The first is described as flesh to spirit, but the second is shown to be flesh to flesh. That second resurrection is described to be for anyone who during the course of their physical life never had the calling or opportunity to follow God, receive His Holy Spirit or to understand what God is doing. That includes the babies who died, or never had a chance to grow up. The book of Isaiah speaks of that time coming yet in the future in Isaiah 65. There is a general discussion, without giving too much away in terms of the exact timeframe in which it occurs. Read Isa. 65: 17-25. It speaks of things, none of which have occurred yet, and especially in verse 20 of infants. They'll have a chance to live a full life - 100 years, walking in God's way of life. Ezekiel 37 speaks of this time as well, and shows the people being resurrected in physical bodies to live again.

    UCG has a booklet entitled, "What Is Your Destiny?" and one entitled, "The Road To Eternal Life" that discusses things things in greater detail.

    I hope this answers your question.

    Best Regards,
    Ken Graham

    Everyone who was not called, was not able to be baptized and receive the holy spirit, will be resurrected in this second resurrection period and will have their first opportunity to be called, experience conversion of their mind by God's Holy Spirit and lead a physical life following Him.

  • Ken Murray

    Yes Linda, i agree with you. What an excellent comment. Thank you.

    You have summed up the principle of the verses regarding the 2nd commandment, very succinctly.

    I like your quotation from Ezekiel 18:19-20.
    As you have shown, each of us bear responsibility for our own sins.
    We individually are responsible for our "own salvation", as Paul enlightened us in Philippians 2:12.

    As you have said, we have an exciting positive challenge and important responsibility with our children to raise them faithfully, in understanding about the "true God" (1 John 5:20) and teaching them God's right way of life, especially by our example as parents.

    That whole chapter of Ezekiel 18, is fascinating and so motivating Linda, isn't it? Ezekiel 18:21-32 are very encouraging verses showing how, if we repent and turn to God, and live God's Way of life, he will not let us die for eternity:

    Ezekiel 18:21 But if the wicked will turn from all his sins that he has committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
    Ezekiel 18:22 All his transgressions that he has committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him: in his righteousness that he has done he shall live.

    God is always willing and merciful in extending forgiveness and love to us, to encourage us in His Way of life that is good for us and our children and our grandchildren for many generations.

    I really appreciate your comment Linda. Thank you again.

    There is so much hope for us all, isn't there.

  • Linda Finley Martens

    Ezekiel 18:19,20 "Yet you say, Why? Does not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son has done that which is lawful and right, and has kept all my statues, and has done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sins, 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."

    WE ARE JUDGED BY OUR OWN INDIVIDUAL SINS. But fathers pass down their poor or good teaching and examples to their sons and subsequent generations. As Ken distinguished, God visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of THEM THAT HATE ME. A bad example of a parent can have lasting consequences for the children who follow it.

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