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 Exodus 20:5You 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 on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
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. 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 20:5-6 5 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 on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
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; Exodus 34:7-8 Exodus 34:7-8 7 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 on the children, and on the children’s children, to the third and to the fourth generation. 8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.
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; Numbers 14:18 Numbers 14:18The LORD is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.
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; and Deuteronomy 5:9 Deuteronomy 5:9You 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 on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
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.

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 2 Chronicles 15:3Now for a long season Israel has been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law.
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; Jeremiah 10:10 Jeremiah 10:10But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.
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; John 17:3 John 17:3And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
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; 1Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:20 1 John 5:20And we know that the Son of God is come, and has given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.
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).

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 Exodus 20:5-6 5 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 on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
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). 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 Exodus 20:6And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
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, 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 Exodus 34:4-8 4 And he hewed two tables of stone like to the first; and Moses rose up early in the morning, and went up to mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tables of stone. 5 And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 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 on the children, and on the children’s children, to the third and to the fourth generation. 8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.
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).

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 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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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 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
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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 1 John 5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
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We see a wonderful example of Moses repenting of breaking God’s laws on  behalf of his fellow Israelites in Numbers 14:17-20 Numbers 14:17-20 17 And now, I beseech you, let the power of my LORD be great, according as you have spoken, saying, 18 The LORD is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation. 19 Pardon, I beseech you, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your mercy, and as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. 20 And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to your word:
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and how quickly God mercifully forgave them.

Moses reminded God of what He had said in Exodus 20:5-6 Exodus 20:5-6 5 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 on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
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and Exodus 34:6-8 Exodus 34:6-8 6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, 7 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 on the children, and on the children’s children, to the third and to the fourth generation. 8 And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.
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.

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 Numbers 14:17-20 17 And now, I beseech you, let the power of my LORD be great, according as you have spoken, saying, 18 The LORD is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation. 19 Pardon, I beseech you, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of your mercy, and as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. 20 And the LORD said, I have pardoned according to your word:
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).

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 Judges 2:10-17 10 And also all that generation were gathered to their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. 11 And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: 12 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 to them, and provoked the LORD to anger. 13 And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. 14 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. 15 Wherever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn to them: and they were greatly distressed. 16 Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them. 17 And yet they would not listen to their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves to them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so.
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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 Hebrews 10:31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
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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 1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
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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” (Psalms 78:5-8 Psalms 78:5-8 5 For he 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: 6 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: 7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: 8 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.
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).

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 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23 Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
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All have sinned before God (Romans 3:23 Romans 3:23For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
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So we need to repent of breaking God’s laws and be baptised and receive God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39 Acts 2:38-39 38 Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.
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We need to become converted and love God by keeping God’s commandments (1 John 5:3 1 John 5:3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.
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; 1 John 2:4 1 John 2:4He that said, I know him, and keeps not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
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).

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.