Faithlife
Faithlife

Fathers, sin of the

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Children may suffer on account of the sins committed by their forebears, just as they may also be blessed for their sake. Nevertheless, Scripture teaches that each individual must take responsibility for his or her own sin.

Notes & Transcripts

Introduction:

God planned a new kingdom that would rise out of the decadence, ashes, and life-and-death struggle of the fall of Judah and Jerusalem. This struggle is portrayed on a personal level by the message of individual responsibility in 18:1–32. The invitation of the message is to choose life rather than judgment and death. Portions of this chapter are often mistakenly used to present a case for impermanent salvation. Verses like 18:26 sometimes are taken out of context to claim that salvation once attained can be lost. For this reason it is very important to understand that neither spiritual salvation nor permanent versus perishable salvation were issues under discussion in chap. 18. The theme of the chapter is judgment deserved, and the central issue is who will receive judgment from God. Ezekiel presented the basis for deliverance from certain judgment versus visitation of certain judgment.
Judgment is a theme sometimes mistakenly applied only to those not saved. Ezekiel rightly declared that the prospect of divine punishment is a reality for everyone. The Bible clearly teaches that those lost are judged because of sin and a lack of a Savior-Redeemer (e.g., ; ). But the Bible also teaches that the saved will be judged according to their stewardship of life (see ; ; ).
Ezekiel eloquently made the case that everyone was equally accountable before God for the stewardship of life and the opportunity to avoid God’s anger. Judgment was coming, and the people were accountable directly to God. The unrepentant were responsible for hearing the word of God and turning from sin by repentance. The repentant were responsible for warning others and doing the work God assigned. Even the prophet was responsible to warn and exhort both the unrepentant and repentant (see 3:18–21). This message on individual responsibility, then, was part of Ezekiel’s assignment as “watchman” for the house of Israel (3:16–21). As a watchman the prophet was to warn, exhort, and thus protect the people by heralding God’s word (). If those warned refused to listen, the prophet had fulfilled his responsibility to God, and those who had sinned would be liable.
Chapter 18 develops the same theme with the same conclusion and results. There are two main emphases and thus two divisions in 18:1–32. First, individuals were not guilty for sins committed by others or by their families (18:1–20). The thesis is stated in vv. 1–4, then illustrated with three examples. Verse 20 summarizes the first division and previews the second. The point of the second division (18:21–32) is that individuals were not bound by former sins, their own or others, but could alter the situation through repentance and faith. The proposition is stated in vv. 21–24. Then there is a response to charges of divine injustice in vv. 25–29. The chapter concludes with a call to repentance in vv. 30–32.
Cooper, L. E. (1994). Ezekiel (Vol. 17, pp. 186–188). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Children suffer the ill-effects of their fathers’ sins

Exodus 34:6–7 KJV 1900
And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
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The exilic prophets emphasised individual responsibility for sin

Ezekiel 18:20 KJV 1900
20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
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Ezekiel 18:1–20 KJV 1900
1 The word of the Lord came unto me again, saying, 2 What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? 3 As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. 4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. 5 But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, 6 And hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, neither hath defiled his neighbour’s wife, neither hath come near to a menstruous woman, 7 And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; 8 He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, 9 Hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God. 10 If he beget a son that is a robber, a shedder of blood, and that doeth the like to any one of these things, 11 And that doeth not any of those duties, but even hath eaten upon the mountains, and defiled his neighbour’s wife, 12 Hath oppressed the poor and needy, hath spoiled by violence, hath not restored the pledge, and hath lifted up his eyes to the idols, hath committed abomination, 13 Hath given forth upon usury, and hath taken increase: shall he then live? he shall not live: he hath done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. 14 Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like, 15 That hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, hath not defiled his neighbour’s wife, 16 Neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment, 17 That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, spoiled his brother by violence, and did that which is not good among his people, lo, even he shall die in his iniquity. 19 Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. 20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
Jeremiah 31:29–30 KJV 1900
In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, And the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: Every man that eateth the sour grape, His teeth shall be set on edge.

Children share in the blessing of their fathers

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Genesis 17:4–7 KJV 1900
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
Deuteronomy 7:9 KJV 1900
Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
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