The second commandment mentions the following generational curse: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image… 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 upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:4-6 also 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9).
This seeming threat has troubled some who see in it a display of an avenging spirit. However, a difference should be made between the natural results of a sinful action and judgement given because of it. God does not punish one individual for the wrong acts of another (Ezekiel 18:2–24). Each man is responsible to God for only his own deeds.
At the same time, God does not interfere with the laws of heredity as to guard one generation from the wrong acts of its fathers, for that would not be in harmony with His divine principles. It is only through these laws of heredity, which were given by God (Genesis 1:21, 24, 25), that divine justice is administered on the “iniquity” of one generation upon the next.
No person can run away from results of self-indulgence, sickness, evil, ignorance, and bad habits coming down from the previous generations. The offspring of corrupted wicked people generally start life with physical and moral sin and reap the fruit of seeds sown by their parents. Also, environment has a clear influence upon each generation.
But since God is merciful and just, we can have faith in Him to deal justly with each person, with full understanding for the disadvantages of birth, the inherited tendencies, and the influence of environment on the mind (Psalms 87:6; Luke 12:47, 48; John 15:22; Acts 17:30; 2 Corinthians 8:12). At the same time, our goal is to triumph over every sin. And when God “visits,” the sins of His children, He does that not vengefully, but to teach them that wrong deeds inevitably bring sad consequences.
Deliverance From a Generational Curse
The remedy for a generational curse is obedience. And this is seen clearly in God’s covenant with Israel. God promised, “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28:1,2).
And He added that disobedience leads to curses, “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you” (Deuteronomy 28:15).
The Word of God doesn’t leave us without hope for the sinners. For when people reap the curses of God because of their disobedience and then repent, He most surely delivers them. David affirmed that when he wrote, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:6 also Judges 3:9). By repentance, a person can escape a generational curse. Praise the Lord! Our God is the God of second chances.
In His service,