Verse 7 jumps out of this passage – “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the third and fourth generation.” This verse along with the first rendition of the ten commandments in ch 20 have been used by Derek Prince and others since to teach generational curses. That is the idea that God curses, punishes or judges the next generation for the sin of the previous generation. Some blame the devil for that cursing!
In chapter 20 the phrase “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the third and fourth generation” has the key modifier “of those that hate me”. God judges those that hate him, who happen to be repeating the same sins of the previous generations. The chapter 34 quote today comes after the people of Israel had been breaking the 1st and 2nd commandments while Moses was up Mount Sinai – committing idolatry.
If you have subscribed to the teaching about generational curses, that will lead to a really fragile faith, causing you to step off the solid rock of Jesus Christ and onto the shifting sands of circumstances and things you have no control over because they happened before you were born!
Five things about applying this passage
- The Christian is not under the law (Romans 6:14) To put yourself under the law for sanctification puts you under the only curse mentioned in the New Testament (Gal 3:10-14) – going back to the law means you have to obey the whole law, including its curses for disobedience. Not great! Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming cursed for us – “cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”.
- You are unlikely to be making idols and practising idol worship
- If you are a Christian, you don’t hate God.
- The passage talks of his loving kindness to the thousands who love Him – forgiving your sin!
- The passage doesn’t mention generational curses.
It looks like many Old Testament Jews had also slipped into the misunderstanding that they were cursed because of parental or ancestral sin, even though they loved God themselves. God used the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah to correct the misunderstanding.
Ezekiel 18 is titled “The soul who sins dies.” Ezekiel uses some examples to show that we are responsible before for God for our own sin, not those of our ancestors or descendants. Jeremiah likewise in chapter 31:29-30 makes a similar point “In those days they shall no longer say: the Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But everyone shall dies for his own iniquity…”
The generational repetition of sin which is what those Exodus passages allude to is not a curse, but the fallen nature. Original sin is the doctrine that the sinful nature is passed from generation to generation.
God did not curse Adam and Eve or their descendants . He specifically cursed only the ground and the serpent. (Genesis 3:14, 17). God told the Eve that He would multiply her pain in childbirth but the word curse is not used. God told Adam that the ground would be cursed because of his actions and that it would require toil to produce food. The capacity to reproduce the sins of our parents is actually found in the fallen nature of all humanity.
We all inherit a sinful nature from our parents who inherited it from their parents . This sinful nature, the Adamic nature, is not a curse that can broken by prayer. Every individual and every family experiences it. When we turn to Jesus and become born again, we receive a new nature- 2 Cor 5:17 assures of that. The answer for original sin, the Adamic nature, is found in Romans Chapter 6. We are to reckon ourselves dead to sin by identification with the cross. The New Covenant gives us a gift of a new nature. We are not to try to fix the old fallen Adamic nature but living in an entirely new nature made in the image of Christ by the power of the Spirit.
We can see original sin at work in people when “they are just like their father” and that of course can be inflamed by the demonic.
Exodus 20 and 34 are not teaching generational curses for the sins of previous generations – you don’t hate God, so you won’t be punished or cursed for your parents sin. You’ll be judged on your own sin unless you have placed your trust in Jesus to be forgiven and have therefore received a new nature!
Praise God for grace and freedom in Christ! Stand firm on the solid rock of Jesus.