Section 8B ... Controversial Issues/ Spiritual Warfare

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Generational Curses

Carol Brooks

See Related Article Identificational Repentance

    Part I ... Refuting False Teachings on Generational Curses

    "Proof" Texts
    "Thousands" of Generations?

    Contradictory Verses

    God, Not Satan, Visits The Iniquity Of The Fathers On The Children.
    The Context... Covenant Breakers Would Be Punished
    Deuteronomy 7:9-10

    Is Salvation Through Christ Insufficient?

    The Empirical Data

    Those Closest To Us Often Suffer For, or Are Affected by Our Sins
    Learned Behavior

    Sin, Iniquity and Transgression
    Judaism's Teachings
    Sin and Iniquity In The Old Testament

    Conclusion.... Iniquity, Not Sin, Can Be Passed Down

    Part II.. The Atonement for Sin, Iniquity and Transgression
    The Old Testament Emphasis on Sin

    The "Sin" Offering

    Yom Kippur... The Only Atonement For "Iniquity" and "Rebellion"

    Sin and Iniquity In The New Testament
    Jesus raised the bar by taking Judaism's strong, and often legalistic, definition of sin, to include the iniquity of the heart.



    Part I ... Refuting False Teachings on Generational Curses

    There are countless numbers of Christians who believe in "generational curses" or curses that run in families which are, all too often, blamed for every sin, transgression, and bad habit in people's lives. It is often believed that, since these curses are passed down from one generation to the next, whether we realize it or not, many of the problems we face, physical ailments we suffer from, and the sins we commit, are due to this inherited spiritual bondage. For example, it is often believed that various illnesses, including cancer, is a sign, not of an unhealthy lifestyle, or a possibly inherited susceptibility to the disease, but the result of a family curse. These generational curses can also be responsible for mental problems, depression, uncontrolled anger, patterns of financial difficulties, addiction to alcohol and/or drugs, spousal abuse, etc.

    However, what is particularly alarming is the fact that this doctrine suggests that receiving Jesus as Lord and Saviour, and being filled with the Holy Sprit is not sufficient to free us from these supposed curses, and even "born again" believers may need to be delivered from the sins of their ancestors. Derek Prince founder of Derek Prince Ministries International, is the author of Blessing or Curse You can Choose. The back cover of the third edition is addressing Christians when it asks the question...

      Do you know what forces are influencing your life from day to day? Are you or your family experiencing repeated sickness or accidents? Do you feel under mental, emotional or financial pressure much of the time? Are your closest relationships in turmoil? Do you wonder why success comes easily to others but seems to elude you?

      Bible teacher Derek Prince shows how the forces behind blessings and curses might be at work in your life. Drawing from God's Word and real-life experiences, Prince will help you understand the causes of curses--occult activity, hidden sin, abuses, abandonment, even sin from a previous generation--and teach you how to be set free from curses, so you can start enjoying the benefits of God's blessings. [1]

    In the same book, Prince also wrote

       "Before he can enjoy true liberty and the fullness of the new creation in Christ, this weed must be completely pulled out, with all its roots. The most important root, and the one hardest to deal with, is the tap root that links him to many generations who have worshipped false gods. Nothing but the supernatural grace and power of God can effectively remove all these roots. But thank God, there is hope in the promise of Jesus in Matthew 15:13: "every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted" [2]

    Sadly, this is a perfect example of wresting a verse from it's context, and applying it to whatever topic is at hand.

    With a little effort, Scriptural verses can be found that will "prove" any and all points of view, provided one removes all the text that surrounds that particular verse, which determines its meaning. [See Context is Crucial] Reading Matthew 15:13 in context, makes it clear that this was Jesus' response to the disciples who mentioned to Him that the Pharisees were offended by something He said. Jesus told the disciples to leave them alone... God would root them out.

      After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, "Hear and understand. "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man." Then the disciples *came and *said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?" But He answered and said, "Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. "Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit." [Matthew 15:10-14 NASB]

    "Proof Texts"
    This belief in "generational curses" is usually based on several passages in the Pentateuch (Exodus 20:5-6 and 34:7, Deuteronomy 5:9-10, Numbers 14:18 etc), that say God shows loving-kindness to thousands, but visits the iniquity of the fathers on subsequent generations. The first occurrence is found in Exodus 20 and is part of the second of the Ten Commandments. The second occurrence is found a little later on, in Exodus 34:7, when Moses went up to Sinai for the second time.

      "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the 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 NASB].

      who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." [Exodus 34:7 NASB]

    Some very extreme teachings have gained quite a following, since it is more than likely that many, if not most, Christians do not completely understand these passages. Innumerable ministries, dedicated to the cause of helping people break these "curses", have mushroomed in the modern church... the insinuation being that these ministries possess special knowledge and abilities that will help release people. For example, in his book The Bondage Breaker, Neil Anderson, founder of Freedom in Christ ministries, lists seven steps to "freedom". Just before quoting Exodus 20:4-6, he says the seventh step is

      "to renounce the sins of your ancestors as well as any curses which may have been placed on you by deceived and evil people or groups". [3].

    A site called demon buster (seriously?) says

      "You did not get saved until YOU did something. Curses are not broken until YOU do something" [4]

    However, these various ministries seem to have forgotten, or are simply ignoring, the fact that, in the Bible, these "proof texts" were ...

    Quoted In The Context Of Mercy
    Moses: In Numbers 14, Moses made a long intercession on behalf of the nation that, frightened at the size of the inhabitants of Canaan, were threatening to appoint a leader and return to Egypt. However, what is especially interesting is that Moses cited this part of the second commandment in his plea for mercy for the nation. In other words, Moses, although he mentioned God "visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations", emphasized the "greatness" of God's loving-kindness and begged forgiveness for the people.

      "But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as Thou hast declared, 'The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.' Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Thy loving-kindness, just as Thou also hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now." So the Lord said, "I have pardoned them according to your word." (Numbers 14:17-20)

    Jonah: The Assyrians, descendants of Noah's son Ham, were a cruel, bloodthirsty, nation who "spread terror in the land of the living" [Ezekiel 32:23]. They were cruel and ruthless warriors, burning and destroying, raping, and pillaging, sparing no one and had, for many years shaken their fists at God. They were Israel's greatest enemies for a good part of her history... even carting off the northern kingdom of Israel into exile. They had, for many years, shaken their fists at God and gotten away with it.

    The unwilling prophet, Jonah's mission to the capital city of Nineveh was simply to relay a message of warning from God to the warrior nation. However, sending him to preach to the Assyrians was like telling a Jew to go Nazi Germany and warn the Gestapo to repent. We can be quite certain that the hatred the Jews had for the Assyrians was very strong, and Jonah would not have been in the slightest bit inclined to see them forgiven. He knew that God would not curse the Assyrians to the third and fourth generation, but would show mercy if they repented, which is exactly what happened. After he finally preached his short message of warning to the Ninevites, they repented and were forgiven, which tremendously upset the prophet. As he later told the Lord, he fled to Tarshish in order to try and prevent this from happening since, in his words, he knew that the Lord was

      "a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.'' [Jonah 4:1-2]

    But, how far down the line do these "generational curses", or even "generational blessings" go? Apparently quite a ways...

    "Thousands" of Generations?
    It is often held, especially by those that use the NIV, that Exodus 20:6 says that the Lord visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation, and shows loving-kindness to thousands of generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. However, most other translations say that the Lord shows mercy "unto thousands of them" that love Him and keep His commandments. The NIV itself is not very consistent. In Exodus 34:7, when Moses quoted the Lord's words originally spoken in Exodus 20:6, he used exactly the same Hebrew words, yet the NIV translates these two related verses very differently.

      But showing love to a thousand generations (eleph) of those who love me and keep my commandments. [Exodus 20:6 NIV]

      maintaining love to thousands (eleph), and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation. [Exodus 34:7 NASB]

    There is a huge difference between thousands of people, and thousands of generations.

    The latter interpretation, implies that any person who has had even one ancestor that loved and feared God in the past thousand + generations, automatically fall into the "blessed" category. Statistically, most Jews, and people in predominantly Christian countries, would have had at least one such relative, therefore most of these people would be shown mercy by God. This is patently absurd.

    Conversely, Derek Prince, in speaking of the the four generations that precede every one of us, says

      Each of us has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and sixteen great-great-grandparents. This makes a total of thirty persons, any one of whom might be the cause of a curse over our lives. How many of us would be in a position to guarantee that none of our thirty ancestors was ever involved in any form of idolatry or the occult? [5]

    According to this reasoning, none of us can be sure that we are not under a curse. Especially when you consider that they teach that Christians are cursed for all manner of things For example, Marilyn Hickey refers to the "curse" of not tithing several times in her book Breaking Generational Curses [6]

    And what happens when, as most of us do, a person has both good and bad ancestors. Let us examine a hypothetical situation, in which person A's great, great grandfather was a God loving, God fearing man. The blessing incurred by this venerable ancestor are supposed to flow down through many generations, but what if this great great grandfather had a grandson that was quite the opposite.. a heartless evil man. Do his sins negate the blessings incurred by the earlier generation, or perhaps the blessings will only be 'interrupted' for three or four generations. Unless, of course, another evil doer comes along

    This teaching is so full of holes as to border on the ridiculous.

    However, the prophet Ezekiel did provide an answer to the hypothetical situation posed above, which I will get to in the next section.

    While it is true that although Deuteronomy 7:9-10 says nothing about visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children, it does say that God shows His "loving-kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him"...

      "Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving-kindness to a thousandth (eleph) generation (dr) with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face. [Deuteronomy 7:9-10 NASB]

    The only way to understand "to a thousandth generation " is as a figure of speech not intended to be taken literally... since those faithful to God can count on His faithfulness for all eternity, not just a thousand generations. These verses also eliminated any possibility of the Israelites misunderstanding the 2nd commandment to mean that children would be punished for the father's sins, making it very clear that those who "hate" God would suffer their own immediate punishment, something we often come across in the Old Testament.

    But, as always, the million dollar question is whether or not this whole "generational curse" thing is Biblical, especially when there are so many verses in the Bible, including at least one in the book of Deuteronomy itself, that flatly contradicts this very popular understanding of Exodus 20:5. Also, if these "curses" exist at all, are they broken when a person turns to Christ, or do they have to be broken by some other means?

    Contradictory Verses
    There are quite a few Biblical verses that very explicitly state that everyone is rewarded (one way or another) for their own conduct. For example (All Emphasis Added)

      "Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. [Deuteronomy 24:16 NASB]

      "In those days they will not say again, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge.' "But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge. [Jeremiah 31:29-30 NASB]

      [20] "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.  [21] "But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. [22] "All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live.  [23]  "Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked," declares the Lord GOD, "rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?  [24]  "But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity and does according to all the abominations that a wicked man does, will he live? All his righteous deeds which he has done will not be remembered for his treachery which he has committed and his sin which he has committed; for them he will die. [Ezekiel 18:20-24 NASB]

    Regarding the passages from the book of Ezekiel quoted immediately above... The people of Ezekiel's day were experiencing one of the bleakest times in the history of the nation. Jerusalem had been sacked, the temple plundered, and most of the inhabitants of Jerusalem deported to Babylon. Under these circumstances, it is understandable as to why they misinterpreted the second commandment to mean that the children are punished for the sins of their fathers.

    Ezekiel, who was among those taken captive, began his ministry in northern Mesopotamia, where many of the exiles were settled along the banks of the river Chebar. Responding to the people's lament that God was punishing them for the sins of their ancestors', Ezekiel flatly contradicted this popular interpretation of the second commandment. He emphasized that righteousness or unrighteousness are personal choices, and not inherited from a godly or ungodly ancestor. Every person has to take individual responsibility for his own actions.... and will either be rewarded or punished for his own actions, not those of his parents.

    In verses 4-9 the prophet gives the example of a righteous man who "will surely live" because of his actions. However, this man has a violent and unrighteous son who is an idolater, thief and murderer. As Ezekiel said, the son's "blood will be on his own head" and he will "surely be put to death" (Vs. 10-13). The grandson, on the other hand, who is not like his father but walks in the Lord's statutes, "will not die for his father's iniquity, he will surely live". (Vs. 14-17).

    It doesn't get more clear than that.

    Ezekiel's message was both a wake up call, and a message of hope to the exiles. A wake up call in the sense that many of the displaced were blaming their fathers for their predicament, but seemed not to realize that they themselves had many faults, and unless they made changes in their own lives, they would follow in their father's footsteps. The message of hope was that each of them had to take individual responsibility for their own actions, and should they remain faithful to their God, and walk in His ways, He would not count their previous sins against them (vs. 22). In effect, God would 'forget' their sins. (This verse alone contradicts any notion of God visiting the father's sins on several generations).

    Faced with these many inconsistencies, we can come to only one of three conclusions... 1) the Bible is contradicting itself, 2) Moses, Ezekiel and Jeremiah had no idea what they were talking about, or 3) our understanding of the 'generational curse' verses is not accurate.

    Since the third option is the only viable one, we need to re-visit Exodus 20:5-6, a thoughtful (and literal) reading of which, minus the influence of any preconceived ideas, raises a number of problems with the 'generational curses' interpretation.

    Perhaps the most significant is the fact that the verses clearly state that...

    God, Not Satan, Visits The Iniquity Of The Fathers On The Children.
    Exodus 20:5-6 says

      "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the 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 NASB].

    Yet, most people assume the curses are the work of Satan who wishes to hold us in a never ending cycle of repeating the same destructive patterns of sin. A spiritual bondage if you will. However, all four of the above verses very clearly say that the iniquity is visited on people by God Himself.

    Therefore the question is how in the world any individual, or team who runs around breaking "generational curses", can have the absolute audacity to think that they can free someone of a curse that God has put on that person? It is altogether absurd to entertain the idea that a human being can invoke God's help in breaking a curse that He Himself has put on a person. If God wants a person, or several generations of people, cursed, my guess is that they will stay cursed.

    The Context... Covenant Breakers Would Be Punished
    Additionally, the context of Exodus 20:5-6 makes it clear that the Lord was telling the nation that He was a jealous God, and should they go off and worship or serve other gods, He would visit the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.

      [1] Then God spoke all these words, saying,  [2] "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  [3] "You shall have no other gods before Me.  [4] "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  [5] "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, [6] but showing loving-kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. [Exodus 20:1-6 NASB].

    In other words, it is a serious warning about the grave consequences of breaking the covenant with Him by worshiping other gods.

    And the message and warning was always the same... covenant breakers would suffer the consequences.

    Deuteronomy 7:9-10
    Although a little different, Deuteronomy 7:9-10 is also quoted by the generational curse theorists. However, if a person were to read these verses in context, as they should be read... it becomes patently obvious that these words were also spoken in the context of faithfulness. Verses 1-6 specify that when Israel came into contact with pagan nations they were not to make any covenant with (7:2), nor form any matrimonial alliances with them (7:3), lest they be enticed into idolatry (7:4). In fact they were to be utterly destroyed (7:2) along with all their altars and images (7:5).

    Verse 6 tells us why... The nation of Israel was "a holy people" to the Lord chosen, out of all the people who were on the face of the earth, to be His own possession. The Lord went on to tell them that He did not set His love on them, or choose them, because they were a vast nation, but because He loved them and "kept the oath which He swore to their forefathers", which is why He redeemed them from slavery in Egypt. (7-8)

      [1] "When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, [2] and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.  [3] "Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons.  [4] "For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. [5] "But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. [6] "For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. [7] "The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, [8] but because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  [9] "Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving-kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;  [10] but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face. [Deuteronomy 7:1-10 NASB]

    In short, the theme of the chapter is faithfulness. God was faithful to His promise to Abraham, and expected the nation He had just rescued from slavery in Egypt, to be faithful to Him. If they did, there would be nothing to fear, either from the powerful nations that surrounded them, or from sickness and disease. Faithfulness brought abundant blessings.

    In this setting, God strongly emphasized the consequences of not being faithful to Him, and not keeping His commandments. Those that "hated" Him would be repaid to their faces, which means that they themselves would be destroyed. Whereas those that loved Him and kept
    His commandments could count on His faithfulness to a thousand generations. Similarly,

    Deuteronomy 28:2-14
    lists a number of blessings which would come upon the nation if they obeyed the Lord, did not turn aside from any of the words He commanded them, or go after other gods to serve them. The next few verses then list the curses that would come upon them if they did not obey the Lord's commandments and statutes, and did not serve the Lord with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things [Deuteronomy 28:47].

    Throughout the chapter it is again to be noted that it is the Lord that brings the blessings or the curses, not some demon. Here are a few examples...

      "The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways. [Deuteronomy 28:7 NASB]

      "The Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and in the produce of your ground, in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. [Deuteronomy 28:11 NASB]

      "The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. The Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I charge you today, to observe them carefully [Deuteronomy 28:12-13 NASB]

      "The Lord will send upon you curses, confusion, and rebuke, in all you undertake to do, until you are destroyed ..... because you have forsaken Me. The Lord will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land where you are entering to possess it. [Deuteronomy 28:20-21 NASB]

      "The Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed. The Lord shall cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them, and you will be an example of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth. [Deuteronomy 28:24-25 NASB]

      "The Lord will smite you with the boils of Egypt and with tumors and with the scab and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed. [Deuteronomy 28:27 NASB]

      "The Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand... Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known...The Lord will bring you back to Egypt in ships, by the way about which I spoke to you, 'You will never see it again!' And there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer." [Deuteronomy 28:49, 64, 68 NASB]

    Which brings us to another very important point...

    Is Salvation Through Christ Insufficient?
    The Bible says

      Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." [John 8:12 NASB]

      "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. [John 8:36 NASB]

      Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, [2 Corinthians 5:17-18 NASB]

      and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. ... So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, [Ephesians 2:16, 19 NASB]

    While there is little question that the freedom Jesus promised is freedom from sin, and that born again believers are new creations in a moral sense [See Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:24 and Colossians 3:9-11], these verses also say that every Christian is a new creature in Christ and reconciled to God through Christ. They also say we belong to God's household.

    Yet, we are supposed to believe that we may be, in some way, still under a curse that God Himself has laid upon us.

    Finally ....

    The Empirical Data

    contradicts the idea that children pay for their fathers' sins to the third and fourth generations, and that children are destined to repeat the sins of their fathers. In fact, throughout the Old Testament, there does not seem to be a single example of a one-to-one correlation between the spiritual condition of parents and the spiritual condition of their children. The spirituality of one generation never predetermined the spiritual condition of the next. Each generation fixed their own moral compass... Godly parents often had wicked children... Wicked parents often had godly children.

    Godly Parents Often Had Wicked Children

    Abraham, Isaac and Esau:
    Much to the contrary , Although the promise was made to the patriarch Abraham who is repeatedly held up as a model of faith in the Bible, he himself had several degenerate descendants. His grandson, Esau, son of the righteous Isaac, took his wives from the daughters of Canaan [Genesis 36:2], was father of the Edomites [Genesis 36:9], who, at one time, became servants to David [1 Chronicles 18:13].

    In spite of the magnitude of the blessing promised his grandfather, Esau was described as someone God hated and whose inheritance was appointed for the jackals [Malachi 1:3].

    Eli and Samuel's Sons
    Similarly, Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, although priests to the Lord, were "worthless" men (1 Samuel 2:12), however, Eli was only held accountable for the fact that although he was aware of their iniquity, he did not rebuke them [1 Samuel 3:12-14].

    All Israel knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord [1 Samuel 3:20], who judged Israel all the days of his life [1 Samuel 7:15]. He played a huge role in Israel,

    anointing first Saul, then David as kings of Israel. However, there was a huge difference between Samuel and his sons, whom he appointed as judges over Israel. They "...did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. [1 Samuel 8:1-3].

    In Other Cases, The Children Were The Ones Blessed
    when the Israelites were rescued out of Egypt by amazing miracles, they continued grumbling, turned to idols and were completely faithless. As a result God, losing all patience with them, refused to let them into the promised land, but sent them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. With a couple of exceptions, it was the children who inherited the land. Although He had every reason to, God did not destroy them but kept them alive so that the promise made to Abraham would be fulfilled through the next generation.

      'Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 'Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey--I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. 'But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. [Numbers 14:30-32 NASB]

    The children of the people who constructed, and worshipped a golden calf at Mt. Sinai, did have to go through the wilderness with their parents but, as soon as their parents died, they inherited the promise of the land.

    Doesn't sound like much of a generational curse to me.

    The Kings Of Israel and Judah
    A brief examination of the record of the kings of Judah makes it very clear that there was no relationship between the spirituality of the fathers and that of the sons.

    King David committed both murder and adultery, but his son Solomon was appointed to build the temple. When Solomon asked the Lord for the wisdom to rule God's people, God was so pleased with him that he not only granted his request but also gave him "riches and wealth and honor", such as none of the kings who were before him had possessed [2 Chronicles 1:10-12]. Solomon's eventual fall from grace was due, not to the sins of David, but to the fact that he himself went after other gods. [1 Kings 11:9-11]

      Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord had commanded. So the Lord said to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. NASB]

    Since, some may argue that Solomon was spared the generational curse because his father David repented for his sins, let us consider some of the other kings of Judah.

      During the reign of Solomon's son, Rehoboam, Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and provoking Him more than all that their fathers had done [1 Kings 14:22-24]

      Rehoboam's son, Abijam, who reigned for a mere ten years walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord [1 Kings 15:2-3]

      However, Asa, Abijam's son reigned 41 years and did what was right in the sight of the Lord. He put away the male cult prostitutes from the land and removed all the idols which his fathers had made. He even removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah [1 Kings 15:11-15]

      Asa's son, Jehoshaphat, walked righteously in the way of his father, and did not turn aside from doing right in the sight of the Lord [1 Kings 22:41-44].

    Skipping over a few years, takes us to the example of some of the best known of Judah's kings... Hezekiah and Manasseh

      Hezekiah was one of Judah's most righteous kings. In his own words to the Lord "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Your sight." [Isaiah 38:3 NASB].

    According to the generational curse theory, as good and as God-fearing a king Hezekiah was, his progeny should have been shown loving-kindness for generations. Yes his son and grandson were the worst of Judah's rulers.

      Manasseh: Hezekiah's son Manasseh "misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel" [2 Chronicles 33:9]. He "He made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking Him to anger. Then he put the carved image of the idol which he had made in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, "In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever; [2 Chronicles 33:6-7 NASB].

      It was only when Manasseh was captured by the Babylonians, that he "entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. [2 Chronicles 33:11-12]

      Amon: was Manasseh's son who was "twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned two years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the Lord as Manasseh his father had done, and Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and he served them. Moreover, he did not humble himself before the Lord as his father Manasseh had done, but Amon multiplied guilt". [2 Chronicles 33:20-23 NASB]

    The second question is why weren't Manasseh's descendants cursed to the 3rd and 4th generation? Instead the Bible speaks very highly of his son Josiah, who reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem, was a mere eight years old when he became king [2 Kings 22:1]. The Bible tells us that

      "there was none like him among all the kings of Judah". He... "removed all the houses of the high places which were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made provoking the Lord; and he did to them just as he had done in Bethel. All the priests of the high places who were there he slaughtered on the altars and burned human bones on them; then he returned to Jerusalem [2 Kings 23:19-20 NASB]

      King Josiah also re instituted the Passover, and as the book of Chronicles tells us "There had not been celebrated a Passover like it in Israel since the days of Samuel the prophet; nor had any of the kings of Israel celebrated such a Passover as Josiah did with the priests, the Levites, all Judah and Israel who were present, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem". [2 Chronicles 35:18 NASB]

    The idea that blessings and curses are passed down from father to son is not only completely contradicted by the Scriptures, but the record also soundly refutes the idea that sons are destined to commit the sins of their fathers. No once can assume covenant benefits based solely on the faith of his father or grandfather, and no one need worry about being cursed based on the misdeeds of his father, grandfather, or anyone else.

    However, it is often true that...

    Those Closest To Us Often Suffer For, or Are Affected by Our Sins
    Our Children
    That our children do suffer when we sin, is a fact. As previously noted, when the nation of Israel, rescued out of Egypt by amazing miracles, continued grumbling, turned to idols and were completely faithless, God, losing all patience with them, refused to let them into the promised land, but sent them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Which means that, until the older generation passed away, the children were also banished to what was certainly not the easiest of lives, through no fault of their own. It is in this same sense that the prophet Jeremiah said

      Our fathers sinned, and are no more; It is we who have borne their iniquities. [Lamentations 5:7 NASB]

    Note, however, that through their many years of exile in the wilderness, the people did have a great deal of protection. The Bible tells us that they were given manna for food and water for their thirst. Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell. (Nehemiah 9:20-21). However, it was the children who, eventually, inherited a land of milk and honey.

      'Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey--I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. 'But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. 'Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness. [Numbers 14:31-33 NASB]

    The Babylonian Captivity
    Daniel and Nehemiah both lived during the period of the Babylonian captivity. In the ninth chapter of each of their books, both of them acknowledged that the people of God had been barred from the promised land because their fathers were stubborn, disobedient and idolatrous. However, Nehemiah admitted that the sons who eventually entered and possessed the land also became disobedient and rebelled against God. They cast His law behind their backs, killed His prophets and committed great blasphemies. However, the innocent suffered along with the guilty. When Nehemiah said

      "However, You are just in all that has come upon us; For You have dealt faithfully, but we have acted wickedly. "For our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers have not kept Your law Or paid attention to Your commandments and Your admonitions with which You have admonished them. [Nehemiah 9:33-34 NASB]

    Note that he did not include the prophets, who continued to faithfully obey the voice of the Lord, and testify against the sins of the entire nation... often risking their lives to do so. Yet the prophets were included in the list of people in verse 32, who suffered hardship

      "Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who keeps covenant and loving-kindness, Do not let all the hardship seem insignificant before You, Which has come upon us, our kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers and on all Your people, From the days of the kings of Assyria to this day. [Nehemiah 9:32 NASB]

    Also to be particularly noted is that the Israelites who returned from the captivity did not a hold to fatalistic interpretation of the third and fourth generation part of the Second Commandment and complain of being unjustly punished because their parents were idolaters. Instead, under Nehemiah, they made an agreement in writing to return to the Lord, to walk in God's law, and to keep and to observe all His commandments, His ordinances and His statutes. This included not intermarrying with the nations around them, keeping the Sabbath, paying their tithes for "the service of the house of our God" and for the priests who were ministering in the temple [Nehemiah 10:32, 36]

    In Babylon, the prophet Daniel came under enormous pressure to commit idolatry, but refused to do so, even when faced with death. From this, and other recorded incidents , one can deduce that Daniel was certainly innocent of the sins that his fathers had committed. Yet, he was taken captive at a very early age and transported to Babylon, where he appears to have lived all his life...in exile. (There is no record of him ever returning to Israel).

    Although exiled to Babylon because of Israel's long history of idolatry and rebellion, Daniel saw God as compassionate and forgiving

      I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, "Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and loving-kindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. "Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land....Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him.... O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. "O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name [Daniel 9:4-6, 11, 18-19 NASB]

    Learned Behavior

    Many other Christians take Exodus 20:5-6 and 34:7 etc as referring to the cycle of negative behavior patterns, such as alcoholism, spousal abuse, infidelity and uncontrolled anger, that tend to be repeated from one generation to the next. There certainly seems to be some truth to the belief that sins tend to run in families.

    For example, an article in MailOnline, which is part of the Daily Mail, stated that spousal cheating really does run in the family, at least as far as men are concerned.

      A study carried out by a team of Czech scientists concluded that, " men were more likely to stray if their fathers had been unfaithful as they were growing up". At a conference of the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association, it was stated that while daughters were not affected in the same way by their mothers' infidelity, "boys grew up by observing the world around them what was appropriate and what they could get away with". In other words "Their father was an obvious example to follow for good or for bad" [7]

    An article on USA Today tells the story of how, in 1988, two brothers.... Frank and Sonny Caston were sentenced to life in prison In Louisiana's Angola prison for the murder of a local sheriff's deputy during an attempted jail break. Their younger brother, Jesse Caston, is also incarcerated for the murder of his wife, and a female friend of hers. As the article says...

      "People who become criminals in part because of the influence of family members" is seen as an increasingly complex and persistent problem by social scientists and law enforcement officials, who say say "the influence of family members may be one of the most important and largely unaddressed factors in determining whether people adopt lives of crime". [8]

    Both a possible vulnerability to alcoholism, and a possibility that a vulnerability to organ damage by alcohol, have been investigated by researchers. However, the question of whether "alcoholism run in families because a child learns to become an alcoholic from parents and the home environment, or because a child inherits genes that create an underlying predisposition for alcoholism... or both, has not been resolved by studies. NIAAA Director Enoch Gordis, M.D. says this

      Progress has been made in understanding genetic vulnerability to alcoholism. We know, for instance, that more than one gene is likely to be responsible for this vulnerability. We now must determine what these genes are and whether they are specific for alcohol or define something more general, such as differences in temperament or personality that increase an individual's vulnerability to alcoholism. We must also determine how genes and the environment interact to influence vulnerability to alcoholism. Based on our current understanding, it is probable that environmental influences will be at least as important, and possibly more important, than genetic influences.  [9]

    While, it may be true to a very great extent, that how we behave today establishes a pattern, or likely precedent, for our children and grand children, we cannot apply this interpretation to Exodus 20:5-6 and 34:7 etc. simply because a cycle of negative behavior patterns makes the circumstances of our upbringing, not God, responsible for the 'curse'. In other words, they are psychologically and socially, not God influenced.

    It is, for one reason or another, human tendency for children to repeat the sins of their parents and there are organizations galore, both secular and religious, that help people break free of these patterns, often with great success. The very fact that these patterns of behavior can be helped, and even overcome, is overwhelming evidence that God did not specifically curse people so that they have no option but to repeat the same sins.

    In any case, privileged people who had relatively easy, or comfortable child-hoods with loving parents often commit exactly the same crimes. As Frank Caston said... he could have made better decisions. [8]

    However, the problem is not completely solved.

    While both the empirical evidence and a number of verses clearly indicate that each and every person is responsible for their own behavior and actions, and will be rewarded or punished accordingly, there remains the niggling fact that Exodus 20:5-6 says that the iniquity of the fathers is visited on the children, to the third and the fourth generations.

    Additionally, the prophet Jeremiah seemed to be contradicting himself in two consecutive verses, when he wrote (Note the two underlined sections)

      [17] Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You, [18] who shows lovingkindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity of fathers into the bosom of their children after them, O great and mighty God. The Lord of hosts is His name; [19] great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving to everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds; [Jeremiah 32:17-19 NASB] 

    In verse 18 Jeremiah seems to support the idea of sons held accountable for the sins of their fathers yet, in the very next verse, he talks about individual accountability.

    So, what gives? Is the Bible is contradicting itself, or we are missing something? The answer is, obviously, that we are missing something.

    That "something" is an understanding of the specific Hebrew words used.

    Sin and Iniquity
    One would imagine that when a person comes across verses that seem to be completely inconsistent with each other, that they would scratch their heads, and realize that somewhere along the line they missed, or misunderstood, something. One would further imagine that they would then sit down and stir the grey cells in an effort to find out what it is they have incorrectly understood. Sadly, regardless of the topic, this is rarely done, which means that few get to the truth of the matter. Instead most people, guided by what they have already come to believe... biases that are already firmly entrenched in their minds, tend to either ignore those verses that flatly contradict their theory, or try and 'explain away' these verses.... usually putting their own spin on them in the process.

    Many of those teaching "generational curses" do precisely this, without, I might add, a smidgen of Biblical support for any of their ideas. For example, C. Peter Wagner once said

      Technically speaking, sin can be understood as the initial act while iniquity is the effect that the sin has exercised on subsequent generations. [10b] [See Related Article Identificational Repentance ]

     Marilyn Hickey, founder and president of Marilyn Hickey Ministries, has this to say in her book Breaking Generational Curses.

      The word iniquity means to bend or to distort (the heart). It also implies a certain weakness or predisposition toward a certain sin. Isaiah says Christ was "bruised for our iniquities" (53: 5).

      If you commit a certain sin once and repent of it and never do it again, and that's the end of it. However, your sin becomes an iniquity when you keep committing the same act; it goes from being a sin to an iniquity, something that is practiced over and over again until it becomes spontaneous. Given certain circumstances, or the "right" environment, you will "bend" in that direction.

      If a sin is repeatedly committed, it becomes an iniquity which can be passed down through the blood line. When a person continually transgresses the law, iniquity is created in him and that iniquity is passed to his children. The offspring will have a weakness to the same kind of sin. Each generation adds to the overall iniquity, further weakening the resistance of the next generation to sin.

      Exodus 20:5 speaks very specifically about the iniquities of the forefathers. If the family tree is not cleansed of this iniquity, then each generation becomes worse and will do what their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents did. The next generation will bend in the same way of the past generations, and it becomes a bond of iniquity or a generational curse in that family. [10]

    I have to admit to being very curious as to where they get this rubbish from, since it certainly wasnt from the Bible. The word translated "iniquity" in both Exodus 20:5 and Isaiah 53:5 is the Hebrew vn. While it is true that vn comes from the root word vh, which means to, literally or figuratively, make crooked, it is also defined as do amiss, commit iniquity, pervert, do wickedly, do wrong. [11] There is absolutely nothing in the word that suggests iniquity is a sin that is "repeatedly committed" as Hickey states.

    However, in the Hebrew Bible "sin" and "iniquity" are not the same thing, and understanding the difference leads to a far more accurate understanding of Exodus 20:5. In this case, we can start with...

    Judaism's Teachings

    Although most of Christianity has blurred the distinction between the two words, there is a large difference between "sin" and "iniquity", reflected in the beliefs of orthodox Judaism, which teaches that sin is an act, and not a state of being. As said by Rabbi Dr. Reuven Hammer, former president of the Rabbinical Assembly

      Judaism teaches that human beings are not basically sinful. We come into the world neither carrying the burden of sin committed by our ancestors, nor tainted by it. Rather, sin, het, is the result of our human inclinations, the yetzer, which must be properly channeled. [12]

    Judaism 101 says

      Every single person born on this earth is inclined to do both good and bad. Good inclinations are yetzer ha'tov, while evil inclinations are yetzer ha'ra [13].

    The latter term, yetzer ha'ra, occurs twice in the Hebrew Bible...

      Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent (ytser) of the thoughts of his heart was only evil (r'h) continually. [Genesis 6:5 NASB]

      The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent (ytser) of man's heart is evil (r'h) from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. [Genesis 8:21 NASB]

    .... and is implied in this verse from Deuteronomy, in which the Lord predicts the general defection of the nation, and instructs Moses to write a song and teach it to the sons of Israel, which would serve as a witness for Him, against the people.

      "For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. "Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent (ytser) which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore." [Deuteronomy 31:20-21 NASB]

    Sin and Iniquity In The Old Testament
    But, in order to figure out for ourselves what that difference between sin and iniquity is, we have to look at the original Hebrew words used, what they meant, and how they were used. The importance of doing so is underscored by two facts...

      a) only the original Hebrew and Greek of the two Testaments are to be considered infallible. All subsequent translations are the work of man and, therefore, far from perfect.

      b) the ancient authors did not go through a thesaurus, picking words that sounded good. Instead, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, every single word in the Bible was carefully chosen. We, therefore, need to pay attention to the words they chose.

    The English sin, iniquity, and transgression, were translated from different Hebrew words, which did not mean anywhere near the same thing. It is not at all uncommon to run across passages in the Old Testament in which more than one of the words has been used in the same sentence. In fact, all three words occur in the following example, for which there could be no reason other than the fact that all three of them have different meanings.

      I acknowledged my sin (chatta'ah) to You, And my iniquity (vn) I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions (pesha) to the LORD"; And You forgave the guilt (vn) of my sin (chatta'ah). Selah. [Psalms 32:5 NASB]

    In our English Old Testament the word "sin" has overwhelmingly been translated from the Hebrew word Chatta'ah (from cht) , while the English word "iniquity" has been largely translated from the Hebrew Avn.

      Chatta'ah literally means "to miss" or "to go astray". A very clear example of this is found in Judges 20:16, which used hyperbole to describe how precisely the men could wield their slings, one of the earliest weapons of war.

      "Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men left handed; every one could sling stones at a hair-breadth, and not miss" (Hebrew cht) [Judges 20:16]

      However, it is important to realize that in the Hebrew Bible chatt'h was used in a legalistic way, inasmuch as it almost always refers to an action. Regardless of badly intentioned a person was, or how much evil they contemplated, he (or she) had to do something wrong before it was counted as a sin. 

      Additionally, it is not possible, as I have heard it said, that chatt'h refers to an unintentional sin, or a "mistake", because the Lord Himself described the sins (chatt'h) of Sodom and Gomorrah as being very great and exceedingly grievous. [Genesis 18:20]. The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah can hardly be classified as 'mistakes'. Besides which, there is another Hebrew word (sheggh) which meant a error or inadvertent transgression. (In Leviticus 4:2-3 and Numbers 15:28-29, the word "unwittingly" is translated from sheggh). However, even in these cases of unintentional sins, as soon as the transgression or omission came to the person's attention, he/she was to offer certain sacrifices...

      Avn, on the other hand, is often described as an "evil inclination" (yetzer ha'ra). Strong's defines it as a "perversity", which means wrong-headedness or contrariness. It was internal and had nothing to do with a person's actions. Instead, it "refers to how our heart (temperament, disposition, inclination etc.) falls short of God's standards. [14]

      Pesha Strong's (H6588) defines pesha as a revolt or rebellion.

    In short...

    Iniquity, Not Sin, Can Be Passed Down
    In Exodus 20:5, the Lord used the Hebrew word vn, or iniquity. It is, however, in Exodus 34:7 that the distinction becomes even more obvious. God "forgives iniquity (vn), transgression (pesha) and sin (chatta'ah)", but it is only the iniquity (vn), or 'evil inclinations' of the fathers that can be visited on subsequent generations.

      "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity (vn) of the fathers on the children, on the third and the 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 NASB]

      who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity (-vn), transgression (pesha) and sin (chatta'ah); yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity (vn) of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." [Exodus 34:7 NASB]

    Unlike some popular, but completely outrageous, beliefs in the church today sin, which involves some wrong action, itself cannot be passed down from father to son. On the other hand, the evil hearts and leanings of parents can be, but not necessarily are, transmitted to the children. Any passing down that happens may be due, in part, to learned behavior, epigenetics, or some combination of the two.

    People are, however, always free to make their own decisions, and not simply succumb to any negative influence they may have been exposed to. Is this always easy to do? Perhaps not, especially in the case of epigenetics. However, this is where being "born again" comes into play... a person who has the Father's spirit is so much more likely to be able overcome what literally amounts to the world, the flesh, and the devil.

    In the final analysis, those who trust God, turn to Him, and endeavor to walk in His paths, will be blessed regardless of what their ancestors did or did not do.


    Part II.. The Atonement for Sin, Iniquity and Transgression
    The Old Testament Emphasis on Sin
    What is especially telling is the vast discrepancy in the number of times the words sin, iniquity and transgression were used in the Old Testament, especially in the Torah, or the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Note the approximate number of occurrences. The Hebrew words

      cht and it's derivatives, chatt'h and cht'h (usually translated "sin"), are found about 218 times in the Torah and about 538 times in the entire Old Testament). 

      vh, and it's derivative vn (usually translated "iniquity") are found a mere 42 times in the Torah and about 250 times in the entire Old Testament.

      Pesha is used only 9 times in the Torah, and over 100 times in the Old Testament, and.

    In other words, in the Torah or 'Law of Moses', the word "sin" found almost six times more often than the word "iniquity". This is simply because the laws of the Old Testament largely related to cht, or the actual act of sinning, and not iniquity or people's evil inclinations. (Also note that only the last of the Ten Commandments is about intent rather than action).

    The "Sin" Offering
    The daily animal sacrifices only covered sins (chatt'h), not the evil inclinations of the heart (vn), nor wilful and knowing rebellion (pesha). There were "sin offerings" but never an offering to remove "iniquity". Additionally, the Torah speaks of "bearing iniquity" but never "bearing sin".

    All of which bring up an interesting point.

    Since, in the Old Testament, sin was considered an action which could be atoned for, meant that it was entirely possible for the ancient Israelite to be in a state of sinlessness. As Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:11-14  

      "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. "It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' "Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. [Deuteronomy 30:11-14 NASB]

    However, just because an person was in a state of sinlessness, did not mean his heart was godly.

    For this there was only one answer...

    Yom Kippur... The Only Atonement For "Iniquity" and "Rebellion"
    Man's rebellion against God (pesha) and his evil inclinations (vn) were only borne away once a year, on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), by the scapegoat. Leviticus 16 tells us that, on Yom Kippur, the high priest, Aaron, took two goats and presented them before the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting. He then "cast lots for the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for the scapegoat" [Leviticus 16:7-8]. One goat was sacrificed as a sin (chatt'h) offering, but the other was sent alive into the wilderness, after Aaron confessed all the nations iniquities (vn) and transgressions (pesha) over it.

    In other words, the deliberate transgressions and evil intents of the people were symbolically placed on the head of the goat and sent away.

      "Then Aaron shall offer the goat on which the lot for the Lord fell, and make it a sin (chatt'h) offering. "But the goat on which the lot for the scapegoat fell shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, to send it into the wilderness as the scapegoat. [Leviticus 16:9-10 NASB]

      "Then Aaron shall lay both of his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities (vn) of the sons of Israel and all their transgressions (pesha) in regard to all their sins; and he shall lay them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who stands in readiness. "The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities (vn) to a solitary land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness. [Leviticus 16:21-22 NASB]

    However, it is important to note that the iniquities of the people could not have been symbolically transferred to the goat and banished into the wilderness, if there were no repentance involved. No physical act, in itself, can ever rectify the wrongs in the human heart, mind, soul, or imagination.

    Unlike the other Jewish holidays, the Day of Atonement was not a joyous and festive event, but the only one of the Feasts of Israel characterized by mourning, introspection and repentance. It was a high holy day that was preceded by the ten days of Rosh Hashanah, commonly known as the Days of Awe, or the Days of Repentance. These ten days were a period of serious introspection, a time to reflect on, and repent for, the sins of the previous year. Yom Kippur itself was a Sabbath, on which no work could be done. The laws surrounding Yom Kippur were extremely stringent... anyone who did not observe this Sabbath was to be destroyed, and anyone who did not humble himself on this day, would be cut off from his people.

       [27] "On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the LORD. [28] "You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the LORD your God.  [29] "If there is any person who will not humble himself on this same day, he shall be cut off from his people.  [30] "As for any person who does any work on this same day, that person I will destroy from among his people. [Leviticus 23:27-30 NASB]

    The reason that Yom Kippur was so important was because it was a "type" of the main event to come... That Jesus once and for all became both the sacrifice for sin, and the scapegoat who bears away all our iniquities and transgressions, was vividly described by Isaiah, many centuries before Jesus' birth. Note the words the prophet used.

      [5] But He was pierced through for our transgressions (pesha), He was crushed for our iniquities (vn); The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.  [6] All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity (vn) of us all To fall on Him.  [7] He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth. [8] By oppression and judgment He was taken away; And as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? [Isaiah 53:5-8 NASB]

      But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering (shm), He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. [Isaiah 53:10 NASB]

    The word shm was used for the sin offering, as in Leviticus 5:6.... 'He shall also bring his guilt offering (shm) to the LORD for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin.

    (Note however, the Lord did once pardon the iniquities of the people on Moses' request. See Footnote 1)

    Sin and Iniquity In The New Testament

    The Greek
    When it comes to the New Testament, three different Greek words are again used. Again, it seems readily apparent that if different terms are used together in one sentence, they have different meanings, regardless of how subtle, or apparent. For example, both hamartia and paraptoma appear together in Ephesians 2:1, where Paul said we "were dead in trespasses and sins". So what is the difference between the words. According to Strong's Hebrew and Greek lexicon...

      Hamartano (G266) means to miss the mark (and so not share in the prize), that is, (figuratively) to err, especially (morally) to sin. It is used about 174 times in the NT and is usually translated sin.

      Paraptoma (G3900) means a side slip (lapse or deviation), that is, (unintentional) error or (wilful) transgression.

      The word comes from parapipto.. para (near or on the side of) and pipto which is literally fall. Example ... "And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall (pipto), for it had been founded on the rock. [Matthew 7:25 NASB]. It occurs about 23 times in the New Testament and was used by Jesus in the Lord's prayer. Paraptoma is always translated transgressions or trespasses in the NASB, but the KJV translated it into a number of English words..... transgressions, trespasses, fault, offence, fall. On two occasions (Ephesians 1:7 and 2:5) the KJV renders paraptoma as sins.

    In short, it seems that, Biblically speaking, the end result of the two Greek words is the same. Paraptoma or transgression means that a person has fallen off the right path, while hamartano means that the person has missed the mark of the perfection of God's standard. However, the New Testament uses one more Greek word...

      Anomia (G458) means wickedness, iniquity, unrighteousness. It is used a mere 15 times in the NT and is usually translated iniquity in the KJV and lawlessness in the NASB.

    Certainly the belief in, and adherence to, the temple sacrifices for sin (chatt'h) itself were alive and well in Jesus' day. It is without doubt that the Pharisees scrupulously observed all the rituals, but this did not mean their hearts were clean. In Old Testament language, their actual sins (chatt'h) were covered, but the iniquity of their hearts (vn) was not. Unfortunately for them, Jesus's coming changed everything. Judaism had a strong, and often legalistic, focus on sin, but Jesus expanded the focus to include the iniquity of the heart. Beginning in the second half of Matthew 5, He considerably raised the bar by zeroing in on the spirit of the Law. Jesus quoted several of God's commandments showing how the scribes and Pharisees interpreted and outwardly obeyed each law, and then revealed what was God's true intent in each case. Two examples will suffice...

      Murder: Jesus expanded the meaning of the sixth commandment "thou shall not kill" (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17), telling us that even whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Prior to this, unjustified negative feeling towards another human being was acceptable as long as one did not actually commit murder. However since murder, like all sin, begins in the human mind, Jesus was addressing the adverse emotion behind the deed and calling it wrong (Vs. 21-26).

      Adultery: Since the Old Testament laws only forbade the actual act of adultery, the spirit of the law was ignored and lusting would not have been considered as a violation of the law. However, Jesus, once again getting to the heart of the matter, said that even looking at a woman with desire constituted adultery (Vs. 27-30). It is one thing never to commit adultery, but quite another to control lust in the heart and mind.

    Jesus, using the word anomia, pointed out that a mere adherence to the letter of the law, did not constitute righteousness.

      Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity (anomia) . [Matthew 23:27-28 KJV]

    In Christianity the blurring of sin and iniquity is less important because, as the prophets foretold, and the New Testament testifies to, the Suffering Servant came to cover our sins and forgive our iniquities.

      But He was pierced through for our transgressions (pesha), He was crushed for our iniquities (vn); The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity (vn ) of us all To fall on Him. [Isaiah 53:5-6 NASB]

      "They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity (vn) , and their sin (chatt'h) I will remember no more." [Jeremiah 31:34 NASB]

      Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities (anomia) are forgiven, and whose sins (hamartia) are covered. [Romans 4:7 KJV]

      Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity (anomia), and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. [Titus 2:14 KJV]

      For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins (hamartia) and their iniquities (anomia) will I remember no more. [Hebrews 8:12 KJV]

      And their sins (hamartia) and iniquities (anomia) will I remember no more. [Hebrews 10:17 KJV]

    However, it is wise to remember that as much as things change... they remain the same. Just as, on Yom Kippur, iniquities could not be carried away on the head of the scapegoat without repentance, Jesus does not carry our iniquities without repentance and a turning (or returning) to the Lord. The principle has not changed since the beginning

    Old Testament

      "Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn (shb) to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul. [Deuteronomy 30:9-10 NASB]

      And the ransomed of the LORD will return (shb) and come with joyful shouting to Zion, With everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away. [Isaiah 35:10 NASB]

      Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return (shb) to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. [Isaiah 55:7 NASB]

      "Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn (shb) from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin." [Jeremiah 36:3 NASB]

      "Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn (shb) from his way and live. Turn (shb) back, turn (shb) back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?' [Ezekiel 33:11 NASB]

      "Again, when a wicked man turns (shb) away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. "Because he considered and turned (shb) away from all his transgressions which he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. [Ezekiel 18:27-28 NASB]

    New Testament

      "For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother's womb. "And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. [Luke 1:15-16 NASB]

      And saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. [Acts 14:15 NASB]

      to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.' [Acts 26:18 NASB]

      but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. [Acts 26:20 NASB]

      See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. [Hebrews 12:25 NASB]

    Let us always remember the words of the prophet Jeremiah

      Thus says the Lord, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the Lord. "For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant. "Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. "For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. [Jeremiah 17:5-8 NASB]

    The blurring of sin and iniquity began with the Greek language, which has only one word, hamartia, to mean both sin and iniquity. Hamartia is always translated "sin" in the New Testament, even though its context shows it can mean either sin or iniquity.


    Footnote I
    Moses' Prayer For Forgiveness of the "Iniquities" of The People.

    What is especially interesting is that when Moses cited part of the second commandment in his plea for mercy for the nation, he used the word vn (iniquity), rather than chatta'ah (sin). What's more, the Lord responded favorably to Moses' plea and said He had done so.

      "But now, I pray, let the power of the Lord be great, just as Thou hast declared, 'The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity (vn) and transgression (pesha) ; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity (vn) of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.' Pardon, I pray, the iniquity (vn) of this people according to the greatness of Thy loving-kindness, just as Thou also hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now. So the Lord said, "I have pardoned them according to your word." (Numbers 14:17-20)

    The Lord may have forgiven their evil and faithless hearts but, all the same, He did not allow them into the promised land, as the very next verses show.

      but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD. "Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it. "But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it. [Numbers 14:21-24 NASB]

    End Notes

    [1] Derek Prince.  Blessing or Curse You can Choose. Chosen Books; 3 edition (September 1, 2006)

    [2] ibid Pg 74

    [3] Neil T. Anderson. The Bondage Breaker. Harvest House Publishers, Dec 15, 2006. Pg. 239-240

    [4] http://www.demonbuster.com/curses.html

    [5] Derek Prince. Blessing or Curse: You Can Choose. Chosen Books; 3 edition (September 1, 2006) Pg.83

    [6] Marilyn Hickey Breaking Generational Curses [Paperback] Harrison House (March 1, 2001). See pages 100, 141-142, 271, 301 etc.

    [7] Like father, like son: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2008368/Cheating-runs-family--future-father-law-unfaithful-likely-husband-too.html

    [8] USATODAY.com For many of USA's inmates, crime runs in the family.

    [9] NIAAA Director Enoch Gordis, M.D. The Genetics of Alcoholism. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism No. 18 PH 357 July 1992 http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa18.htm

    [10] Marilyn Hickey, Breaking Generational Curses [Paperback] Harrison House (March 1, 2001). Pgs, 21-22

    [10b] C. Peter Wagner. The Power to Heal the Past. http://www.pastornet.net.au/renewal/journal8/8d-wagnr.html [Site no longer exists]

    [11] http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H5753&t=KJV

    [12] Rabbi Dr. Reuven Hammer. The Jewish View of Sin. http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Yom_Kippur/Themes_and_Theology/Jewish_View_of_Sin.shtml

    [13] Judaism 101. A Glossary of Basic Jewish Terms and Concepts. http://www.ou.org/about/judaism/yz.htm

    [14] http://penei.org/concepts-iniquity.shtm


    Spiritual Warfare