In the second Commandment, it is said, "For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." Exodus 20: 5, 6.
The above statement is made after a warning from God to not worship and serve idols. Does this mean that if one were to do so, or commit any other sin, God will cause the curse of that sin to be passed down, attaching itself to each generation until the fourth one?
Some have suggested that to be the case. But why would God bring and lay on me a particular sin that my ancestor committed? He wouldn't. The fact of the matter is that God, through the commandment, is sending a message to parents.
The message is to be aware that children tend to emulate those raising them. Parental negative behaviors sins are reproduced in the child, and they are usually recycled for three or four generations. The sin is imposed, so to speak, by the parent; not God.
However, the sin committed by the child still has to be addressed. If there isn't repentance and belief in Jesus, the sin of the child is rightfully credited to the child. For it is said that the child will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear punishment for the son's iniquity (Ezekiel 18: 20a).
Before God's judgment seat, we will each be responsible and held accountable for our own actions. As God visits our individual cases, it will be determined that the righteousness of the righteous will be upon them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon them (Ezekiel 18: 20b).
The principle to be understood from the second commandment is that there is a strong probability that children will follow the example of their parents. So, God is saying to parents, "Worship Me, your true God, by not sinning. In doing so, you will help your children by being good examples for them."
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