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Father-to-Child Visitation and Recompense

It is true that God both visits and recompenses the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of the children, as it is clearly stated in Exodus 20:5-6, 34:6-8, Num. 14:17-19, & Jeremiah 32:18, and many historical instances of Biblical Church History do convey this reality.

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; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” – Exodus 20:5-6

“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. And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.” – Ex. 34:6-8

And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as Thou hast spoken, saying, The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” – Num. 14:17-19

Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great, the Mighty God, the LORD of hosts, is his name” – Jer. 32:18

Perhaps the most notable example of God punishing children for the iniquity of their fathers, in respect to the Tribulation Period wherein Ezekiel and Jeremiah addressed the manmade proverb (“The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” - Ezek. 18:2), is found in 2 Kings 23:26-27, 24:3-4, Jeremiah 15:4, & Lamentations 5:7.

“And like unto him was there no King before him [Josiah], that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him. Notwithstanding the LORD turned not from the fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal. And the LORD said, I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and will cast off this city Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the House of which I said, My name shall be there.” – 2 Kings 23:25-27

“Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon.” – 2 Kings 24:3-4

“And I will cause them to be removed into all Kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah King of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.” – Jer. 15:4

“Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.” – Lam. 5:7

The message is indisputably clear that, indeed, the children were punished for the iniquities of their fathers, their father Manasseh most of all. Albeit, in unison with the LORD’s denouncement of the people’s heretical proverb, it was written of old,

The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” – Deut. 24:16

“Now it came to pass, when the kingdom was established to him, that he slew his servants that had killed the king his father. But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the law in the book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, saying, The fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin.” – 2 Chron. 25:3-4

Therefore, what is the conclusion of the whole matter? Clearly, the Lord visits and recompenses the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children, as stated in Exodus 20:5-6, 34:6-8, Num. 14:7-9, & Jeremiah 32:18, as demonstrated in the Tribulation Period by 2 Kings 23:26-27, 24:3-4, Jeremiah 15:4, & Lamentations 5:7, but this visitation or recompense is limited in its penal intensity in that the children will not die for the iniquity of their parents (Deut. 24:16, 2 Chron. 25:3-4). This restriction of judgment is clearly stated in scripture and upheld by God, no doubt, even though things may appear differently in many cases of Biblical Church History.

Seeming Contradictions

In many instances, it appears that children were put to death for the iniquity of their fathers, for example: in the case of Korah and Dathan’s sins, their whole families (women and children) were swallowed alive into hell by the earth (Num. 16:26-32); in the case of Achan’s sins, his whole family (women and children) were stoned to death and then burnt in fire (Josh. 7:24-26); in the case of King Saul’s sins, seven of his sons were slain whose lives were far removed from Saul’s former crimes (2 Sam. 21:9, 14); in the case of Israelite Cities which were given over to idolatry, the children of their families were not permitted to survive (Deut. 13:1-18); in the case of non-Israelite peoples and nations, like the Amalekites, every generation (including women and children) was doomed to suffer a total annihilation (Ex. 17:13-16, 1 Sam. 15:2-3, 18); and, at last, in the case of the Canaanite nations, their children were not permitted to survive the judgment of total annihilation because of the sins of their fathers (Deut. 20:16-18, Gen. 15:16). With these instances of Biblical Church History duly considered, my reader, let us anticipate the reconciliation that truth will bring.

This much we know, just as it was formerly proven by scripture: God does not fatally punish a wicked people nationally or collectively in the sense that any righteous individual person in the midst thereof would suffer the death of the wicked. In other words, God will not destroy the righteous with the wicked (Gen. 18:23)! Speaking of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Abraham, it was affirmed that if only ten righteous persons were found in the City, the LORD said, “I will not destroy it for ten’s sake” (Gen. 18:32). Elaborating further, and this time speaking of the City of Jerusalem (which was deserving of the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah in all their wickedness - Isa. 1:9), the LORD said He would pardon the City if Jeremiah the Prophet could find one man who was executing judgment and seeking the truth (Jer. 5:1)! Shockingly, here we see the number reduced to “a man” – ONE MAN! – and, like God was conversing with Abraham concerning the righteousness of His judgments, God would spare the City of Jerusalem for just one righteous man’s sake! If we look carefully, though, we can see this principle exhibited in the events of Lot’s escape from Sodom and Gomorrah.

What I mean is, even though Abraham’s intercessory prayers never inquired concerning the circumstance where only one righteous man was in a City that was wholly given over to wickedness and doomed to destruction, we see the Holy Angels bidding Lot, saying, “for I cannot do any thing till thou be come tither” (Gen. 19:22). And, where did Lot need to go? Read the historical narrative carefully and you can see how the Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were temporarily spared for righteous Lot’s sake (while he lingered in the midst). Furthermore, also, we can see that the City of Zoar was permanently spared for righteous Lot’s sake (Gen. 19:23). We know that Lot’s sons in law and daughters were wicked, and so was his wife, and that all of this is a clear testimony of God’s willingness to spare a City and people on account of one righteous man (Gen. 19:29)! Fearfully, though, what happens when righteous men are taken away (Isa. 57:1)? As Matthew Henry noted, “It is a sign that God intends war when He calls home His ambassadors.” These instances of Biblical Church History and more convey God’s loyalty to every single individual righteous person, despite the wretched circumstances of their situation or surroundings.

To be a citizen of the City of Sodom and Gomorrah is a wretched circumstance indeed! But, imagine if you were the son or daughter of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. This is a wretched circumstance of like caliber, truly! And, in this case, God provides further confirmation to prove that He unchangeably cares for every individual person’s life no matter their City or Family. This means that when children were killed and the warrant for their death was verbally identified to be their father’s sin, the unspoken truth is that the children were dying for their own iniquities nevertheless. For example, consider the judgment of God upon Jeroboam the son of Nebat and his House, when the Lord said,

Therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the House of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the House of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone. Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it. Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own House: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.” – 1 Kings 14:10-13

As you can see, if the Lord found any good thing in any of the children of Jeroboam - as individuals before God they would have been spared. Even though their family had been collectively doomed to annihilation, as Sodom and Gomorrah or any other like Nation or City throughout Biblical Church History, the individuals therein who were found to be righteous would not and could not perish with the wicked according to God’s righteous judgment. Evidently, the Lord found no good thing at all in any of the other children of Jeroboam – besides one! – thus all the rest suffered under the pronouncement made against Jeroboam. Even so, the same principle exists everywhere it wasn’t immediately spoken for. Consider, then, two other examples of a Jeroboam-like pronouncement of annihilation, but this time without any clarification of individual responsibility held in the balance concerning the death of the children. The LORD said to the House of Baasha and the House of Ahab,

Forasmuch as I exalted thee out of the dust, and made thee prince over my people Israel; and thou hast walked in the way of Jeroboam, and hast made my people Israel to sin, to provoke me to anger with their sins; Behold, I will take away the posterity of Baasha, and the posterity of his house; and will make thy house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Him that dieth of Baasha in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth of his in the fields shall the fowls of the air eat.” – 1 Kings 16:2-4

Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat. But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.” – 1 Kings 21:21-29

All the children of these two wicked men, Baasha and Ahab, were killed by God for one primary and expressly stated purpose: the sins of their fathers. Nevertheless, we know what is unspoken for immediately is universally true according to God’s righteousness, and the emphasis of the father’s responsibility holds a sincere meaning as well. Apparently, this is the case (in one sense), that the children were dying for the sins of their fathers just like God said of the sins of Manasseh in Jeremiah 15:4 and Lamentations 5:7, when it was written,

“And I will cause them to be removed into all Kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah King of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.” – Jer. 15:4

“Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.” – Lam. 5:7

Despite the emphasis that inspired scripture gives (namely, in reference to the sins of the fathers), we know that the children could not die for the sins of their fathers while they themselves were innocent of those sins (according to Scriptural Precedent). Therefore, we must conclude that these children walked in the sins of their fathers and thus, justly so, they died in the sins of their fathers. In this very specific sense, they died because of the sins of their fathers – for they followed them into the same sin and THEY ALL DIED TOGETHER. If this were not the case and, haply, God found a righteous person among the lineage (like as was demonstrated in the House of Jeroboam), not all would have died! The unspoken truth (exemplified by precedent in the House of Jeroboam) is relevant and universally applied to all Families and Houses and all Cities and Nations who come under God’s judgment of annihilation. Because the operation of judgment is clarified, namely that the LORD would not kill the children for the iniquities of their fathers, we know that the children did indeed die for their own iniquities in that they followed in this sins of their fathers; hence the scriptural emphasis upon the father’s sins.

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When God speaks in a later century concerning a judgment of annihilation and this judgment provides the clarification of every individual’s responsibility before God, this judgment is uniform with all the former unclarified judgments of annihilation that took place in earlier centuries. Despite the lack of verbal clarification, I say, the rules of the judgment remain the same. That which was unspoken and unclarified in the past, but spoken for in the future, is the reality and actuality of the past, present, and future. This is because God’s judgments are consistent with all righteousness and, notably, the revelation process of all righteousness has been progressive from century to century; even so, according to the unsearchable wisdom of God, we know that this progressively revealed righteousness in God depicted in Inspired Scripture is one unanimous and uniform testimony.

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According to this infallible uniformity of God’s honesty and truthfulness in righteousness, we see the transcending clarification of God’s judgment: that it was according to each individual child’s sin that each one died. The children did not suffer death for the sins of their fathers unless, verily, they walked in the sins of their fathers; for then, and only then, would they die in and for the sins of their fathers. Just as this is true for Jeroboam’s House, we reckon it to be true for Baasha and Ahab’s House (notably, even though no righteous child was found). Likewise, just as this was true for Jeroboam’s House, we reckon it to be true in the formerly mentioned “problematic cases”, namely, the Families of Korah, Dathan, Achan, and Saul, the idolatrous Cities of Israel, and the non-Israelite Peoples and Nations including the Canaanite Nations. Do you remember the formerly mentioned list of seeming contradictions to God’s affirmation when He responded to the Tribulation Generation through the Prophet Ezekiel, saying, “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” (Ezek. 18:20). The list was, as follows:

“in the case of Korah and Dathan’s sins, their whole families (women and children) were swallowed alive into hell by the earth (Num. 16:26-32); in the case of Achan’s sins, his whole family (women and children) were stoned to death and then burnt in fire (Josh. 7:24-26); in the case of King Saul’s sins, seven of his sons were slain whose lives were far removed from Saul’s former crimes (2 Sam. 21:9, 14); in the case of Israelite Cities which were given over to idolatry, the children of their families were not permitted to survive (Deut. 13:1-18); in the case of non-Israelite peoples and nations, like the Amalekites, every generation (including women and children) was doomed to suffer a total annihilation (Ex. 17:13-16, 1 Sam. 15:2-3, 18); and, at last, in the case of the Canaanite nations, their children were not permitted to survive the judgment of total annihilation because of the sins of their fathers (Deut. 20:16-18, Gen. 15:16).”

You see, this list must be interpreted within the rules of God’s righteous judgment depicted since Abraham, who said, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25). Indeed. Therefore, at sundry times and diverse situations, over and over, and most notably in the House of Jeroboam, this point of God’s righteousness was proven true and faithful. The children of these Families, Cities, Nations, and Peoples did not die for the sins of their fathers, this we know, nevertheless these testimonies do beg the question… Why does scripture emphasize the sins of the fathers insomuch that the stroke of annihilation almost invariably included every single individual child, and, also, the doctrinal explanation provided rarely clarified a standing chance for any child to escape the annihilation by means of being righteous before God?