Justice in the Old Testament

edited December 1969 in Faith Issues
In the Old Testament there are many references to the sons being punished for the sins of the fathers. How is this just?
I understand that the sons may be of a harder heart than the fathers, but because they would be punished for their fathers' sins, they're being punished for sins they didn't commit. How is this fair? is there something I'm missing?


  • Can you put the verse where you got that from because i can not recall where that is, and you possibly might be taking it out of context
  • Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them; for I, the LORD thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me. (Exodus 20:5)

    I'd be interested in hearing some answers to this as well. I know there's an explanation for it, I'm just not exactly sure what it is. Maybe this verse is talking about how if the fathers would sin, their children would be punished because God will take the promised land from them and give it to neighboring countries...which did happen. This indirectly would be punishing children for the sins of their parents.
  • this relationship is also seen with Solomon, as God treated him favorably even after he sinned, because of his father David.
    Another case is Ahab, who when he heard how displeased the Lord was at his taking of Naboth's vineyard, repented. The Lord, seeing Naboth's sincere repentance, said that the punishment will come at the time of his sons. Again, his sons had nothing to do with Naboth, so why punish them for that particular sin?

    here are the verses from the NKJV, 1 Kings 21:27-28
    27 So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning.
    28 And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house.”
  • I think that this was done in order to teach them that all sins have consequences that may affect others not just one's self. Visiting the iniquity of the father on the sons does not mean that the son is charged with the same sin, but rather inherits the consequences of that sin as we have with Adam, among which was the consequence of death.

    This is most clearly expressed in Jeremiah 31
    29 In those days they shall say no more: `The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children's teeth are set on edge.'
    30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity; every man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.
  • This site has alot of books


    In the book below

    Many years with people’s questions. Part I - biblical questions


    On page 34 A question is asked

    Could the iniquity of the fathers visit the children as the
    Bible says in (Ex. 20:5) and as we say "The fathers ate
    sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge"?
  • i read the linked book and i found a few more questions.
    Ezekiel chapter 18 clearly states that everyone will be punished for his own sins, and is responsible for himself.
    Since this is the case, how can we explain the many examples of the sons being punished for the sins of the fathers?

    there is also in this explanation a part that states that the Old Testament was under the "curse of the law." the Curse of the law, it explains, is why the children were visited, even to the fourth generation, with punishment for the sins of the fathers. We know this to be true from the Bible, yet Ezekiel 18 is also true. How do they not contradict??
  • Also, as to the inheritance of the consequences of sin, the only answers i found in the book mikeforjesus posted, were very scientific answers, not related to the Bible. For example, there was mention of the sons inheriting a disease or illness due to the father contracting it from sin, and the sons inheriting a bad nature due to their fathers raising them incorrectly, and the sons inheriting debt from their fathers. These answers are very obvious and do not seem to relate to theology. Of course, you can say that God works through things like this and manifests his will through them but it seems to me that there should be a more Biblical, theological answer to this. It also appears that this section of the answer was only one developed fully. The other points were not elaborated at all.
  • Just wanted to add something

    Perhaps the answer to this question lies in the question: why do we still carry the orginal sin fo adam and eve today. 
  • that is a very interesting point. but perhaps that is an exceptional case, as it was the first sin. However, you raise an interesting question.
  • Just to add another point: We don't believe that we actually carry the sin of adam and eve but the corrupt nature they recieved by disobeying God. So we inherit their corrupt nature and not the actual sin.
  • Hey, can't anyone help us??
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