Can the sins of parents be passed down from generation to generation according to Exodus 20?

Hello K,

Thank you for contacting BibleAsk.

Many wonder whether the sins of parents can be passed down through generations. Let’s look at Exodus 20:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy 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 shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6).

What the Lord is saying here is that there’s a principle in life that parents reproduce their behavior in their children. The lifestyle of parents is often copied by their children.

God does not arbitrarily impose the sins of the parents into their children for “The soul that sinneth, 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” (Ezekiel 18:20).

Nor do the rewards of the parents pass to the children “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 14:14).

So, it’s very clear in the Bible that the Lord does not reward or punish offspring because of what the parents do.  Exodus 20 is simply saying that there’s a strong tendency for the children to follow the example of their parents.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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