Section 8B ... Controversial Issues/ Spiritual Warfare

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Generational Curses - Part I

Carol Brooks

    Part I ... Generational Curses
    Alleged Scriptural Support In The Pentateuch,
    Verses That Say Exactly The Opposite
    Deuteronomy 7:9-10 - Good and Bad Ancestors
    The Factual Data - Godly Parents Often Had Wicked Children
    Does The Bible Contradict Itself Or Are We Missing Something?

    Part II - An Old Testament Word Study
     Part III The Atonement for Sin, Iniquity and Transgression


    The teaching on '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.

    Thus, as the teaching goes - whether we realize it or not, many of the the sins we commit, the physical ailments we suffer from, and the problems we face (including mental problems, depression, anger issues, patterns of financial difficulties, addiction to alcohol and/or drugs, etc.) are due to this inherited spiritual bondage.

    In other words, people can be cursed because of the sins of their parents, grandparents or even more remote ancestors. Sadly, it is often true that those closest to us pay a price for our sins, but this is completely different from a 'generational curse'. See Footnote I

    Deliverance 'Ministries'
    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. Thus even "born again" believers may need to be delivered from the sins of their ancestors. As a result, the modern church has seen a mushrooming of dedicated ministries that supposedly possess special knowledge and abilities that can help people break these 'curses'. 

    I am at a loss as to how they get around the fact that the Bible tells us that every Christian is a new creature in Christ, reconciled to God through Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-18), and that we belong to God's household (Ephesians 2:16, 19 )

    Additionally, 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, if you pay attention to the 'proof texts' offered by the pro-generational curse camp you will notice that in one way or another they all very clearly say that the iniquity is visited on people by God Himself.

    The idea that any human or ministry can free someone of a curse that God personally has put on them is altogether absurd.  I'm pretty sure if God wants a person or several generations of people cursed - they will stay cursed. All the institutions, support groups, psychological counseling, etc. would have no effect.

    Demonic Influence
    On the other hand, there is always the possibility that demonic influence can be passed down through the generations. However this is  an entirely separate issue. This article deals solely with the idea that the Father Himself curses people because of the sins their ancestors may have committed. 

    Alleged Scriptural Support In The Pentateuch
    Exodus 20:5-6 - Showing Love To Thousands of "Generations"?
    Several passages in the Pentateuch do seem to indicate that God visits the iniquity of the fathers on subsequent generations.

      1. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity (Hebrew vn) of the fathers on the children, on the third (Heb. shillsh) and the fourth (Heb. ribba) 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)

      2. who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity (Hebrew vn), transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity (Hebrew vn) of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third (Heb. shillsh) and fourth (Heb. ribba) generations (Heb. ribb귑m) ." (Exodus 34:7 NASB)

      3. 'The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, forgiving iniquity (Hebrew vn) and transgression (Heb. pesha') ; but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity (Hebrew vn) of the fathers on the children to the third (Heb. shillsh) and the fourth (Heb. ribba) generations (Numbers 14:18 NASB)

      4. '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, and on the third (Heb. shillsh) and the fourth (Heb. ribba) generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Deuteronomy 5:9-10 NASB)

    Note: The word generations does not occur in the original Hebrew of the above passages. The KJV indicates this by putting the word into but unfortunately, the NASB does not - the italics are mine. However, the insertion is warranted in these four verses because (according to Strong's Hebrew and Greek lexicon) shillsh means a descendant of the third degree (great grandchild) and ribba means a descendant of the fourth generation (great great grandchild)  

    However, in quotes 1 and 4 (Exodus 20:6 and Deuteronomy 5:10) the NIV also added the word generation after the word "thousands" without the benefit of italics. So in both cases the NIV version says God shows loving kindness to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.

    This insertion is absolutely NOT warranted. There is a huge difference between 'thousands of people' (which is what the verse says) and 'thousands of generations'.

    In any case there also exist...

    Verses That Say Exactly The Opposite
    On the other hand, 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)

    In Jeremiah 16:11-12 God actually attributes more blame to the 'sons' than to their forefathers...

      "Then you are to say to them, 'It is because your forefathers have forsaken Me,' declares the Lord, 'and have followed other gods and served them and bowed down to them; but Me they have forsaken and have not kept My law. 'You too have done evil, even more than your forefathers; for behold, you are each one walking according to the stubbornness of his own evil heart, without listening to Me. (Jeremiah 16:11-12 NASB)

    But then Jeremiah seems to be contradicting himself in two consecutive verses. In verse 18 he seems to support the idea of sons held accountable for the sins of their fathers yet, he talks about individual accountability in the very next verse. (Note the words in bold)

      [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 loving kindness to thousands, but repays the iniquity (Hebrew vn) 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)

    Ezekiel: 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 that they believed God was punishing them for the sins of their ancestors however, Ezekiel flatly contradicted this popular interpretation of the second commandment. He emphasized that 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.

      [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)

    In fact, in the 19 verses that precede the ones quoted above, Ezekiel gave the example of a righteous man who would "surely live" because of his actions. However, this man has a violent and unrighteous son who was 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 any more clear than that. Read the entire chapter.

    One factor that seems not to have been taken into consideration is what happens when a person has both good and bad ancestors which is probably the case with every single one of us.

    Deuteronomy 7:9-10 - Good and Bad Ancestors
    Deuteronomy 7:9-10 actually uses the word 'generation' (dr)

      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 problem is the words "thousand generations" implies that any person who has had even one ancestor that loved and feared God in the past thousand generations, automatically falls into the "blessed" category. Statistically, most Jews and people in predominantly Christian countries, would have had at least one such relative therefore would be shown mercy by God. This is as absurd as it gets. For example, consider the following situation that is hypothetical but very likely to occur.

      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 he had a son that was quite the opposite.. a heartless evil man. Do the sins of the son negate the blessings we would have received from our great, great grandfather? or perhaps the blessings will only be 'interrupted' for three or four generations. Unless, of course, another evil doer comes along.

    Because as we know, those faithful to God can count on His faithfulness for all eternity, not just a thousand generations the only way to understand "to a thousandth generation" is as a figure of speech, not intended to be taken literally.

    The Factual Data - Godly Parents Often Had Wicked Children
    There isn't even the slightest hint of any correlation between the spiritual condition of parents and the spiritual condition of their children in the Old Testament . Godly parents often had wicked children - wicked parents often had godly children. Each generation fixed their own moral compass.

      Abraham and Esau:
      The patriarch Abraham is repeatedly held up as a model of faith in the Bible, yet his grandson Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan (Genesis 36:2), was father of the Edomites (Genesis 36:9) who became aggressive foes of the Israelites until David defeated them (1 Chronicles 18:13). In spite of the many blessing promised his grandfather, Esau was described as someone God hated and whose inheritance was appointed for the jackals (Malachi 1:3).

      Eli's Sons
      Similarly, although priests to the Lord Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were "worthless" men (1 Samuel 2:12) 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).

      Samuel's Sons
      Samuel a confirmed prophet of the Lord (1 Samuel 3:20) played a huge role in Israel, anointing first Saul then David as kings of Israel. However, Samuel's sone whom he appointed as judges over Israel "...did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. (1 Samuel 8:1-3).

    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. The record soundly refutes the idea that sons are destined to commit the sins of their fathers.

      King David and Solomon: David committed both murder and adultery, but his son Solomon was appointed to build the temple. His eventual fall from grace was due to the fact that he himself went after other gods and not because of the sins of his father.  1 Kings 11:9-11 NASB)

      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.

      Rehoboam and Abijam: During the reign of Solomon's son Rehoboam, Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord 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)

      There is no record of these two ever repenting, yet...

      Abijam's son Asa 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, also 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 brings us to two 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).  Yet his son Manasseh and grandson Amon 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.

      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. During his two year reign He did evil in the sight of the Lord as his father had done. Amon sacrificed to all the carved images which his father Manasseh had made, and he did not humble himself before the Lord as Manasseh had done. Instead he multiplied guilt. (2 Chronicles 33:20-23 NASB)

      Josiah: Manasseh's descendants weren't cursed to the 3rd and 4th generation. Much to the contrary, the Bible speaks very highly of his son Josiah who reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem (2 Kings 22:1).

      "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). He also re-instituted the Passover (2 Chronicles 35:18-19

    Does The Bible Contradict Itself Or Are We Missing Something?
    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 several verses in the Pentateuch say that the iniquity of the fathers is visited on the children... to the third and the fourth generations.

    Faced with these inconsistencies, we can come to only one of two conclusions... 1) the Bible contradicts itself or 2) our understanding of the 'generational curse' verses is not accurate and we are missing something.

    If we believe that the Bible is God's word, the second option is the only viable one.

    The 'something' we are missing is an understanding of the specific Hebrew words used.

    Continue On To Part II - An Old Testament Word Study HERE


    Footnote I - Those Closest To Us Often Pay A Price For Our Sins
    But this is very different from the popular concept of generational curses.

    Caleb was one of the spies sent by Moses to spy out the land of Canaan. Although the inhabitants of the land were very frightening, only he and Joshua advised the Hebrews to proceed immediately to take the land and that God would deliver salvation as He had in the past. However the rest of the congregation unwilling to take on giants, wanted to stone them. As we all know the Lord's anger burned against the people and he sentenced them to 40 years wandering in the wilderness until all that generation had died. Although the two faithful ones. Caleb and Joshua, were the only ones to enter the promised land, they too had to endure 40 years of wandering in the wilderness  - through no fault of theirs.

    Similarly, the book of Lamentations depicts the condition of Jerusalem that had been burnt to the ground by the Babylonians. In it the prophet Jeremiah spoke of how the innocent suffered along with the guilty,

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

    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, in verse 32, the prophets were included in the list of people 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, the Israelites who returned from captivity did not 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 His commandments including keeping the Sabbath, paying their tithes and not intermarrying with the nations around them. (Nehemiah 10:29-39)

    In other words, the captives also broke God's laws

    In Ezra 9 the leaders reporting to him the very bad spiritual condition of the post-exile community. They had failed to separate from the pagan people around them taking some of their daughters as wives for themselves and for their sons. Ezra's reaction was to tear his garments, pull hair from his head and beard, and sit down absolutely appalled. Here is a small part of what he said to the Father "Since the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt, and on account of our iniquities ... for no one can stand before You because of this." Read the entire chapter. {PLACE IN TEXT}


    Controversial Issues