The Evil Figs Didn’t Believe They Were Evil!
A Parable Debating the Spiritual Status & Eternal Fate of Those Who Did, Do, and Would Die
For this reason, the following proverb was noised abroad, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2). This meant, in other words, “The fathers have sinned, and the children are punished for it.” As formerly noted, the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem accused the Captives of Babylon (the Good Figs) to be sinners and hailed themselves as the righteous, and as if this wasn’t depraved enough, the demented people devised further heresies. Namely, while undergoing fierce judgments of famine, pestilence, wild beasts, and the sword (in various measures theretofore) the Jews were put to the perplexing exercise of enumerating the dead bodies of supposedly “eternally secure” and “righteous” Jews on every side; thus, the baffled people needed a justification for it all! According to God’s Book, the righteous don’t perish in this manner… hence, the heresy-devout people claimed that they were being punished for the sins of their fathers and not their own sins, and this erroneously meant that the enumerating dead bodies were nevertheless “eternally secure” and “righteous” before God.
You see, my reader? This proverb proved to be a real problem (“The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” - Ezek. 18:2). Testifying to this, both Ezekiel and Jeremiah addressed it. This mouthful of rebellion was so popular that God combatted its influence in Babylon and in Judah through the Prophets on location, Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Remember, the proverb was popular because the Jews of Judah and Jerusalem claimed the security of the righteous, God’s favor and blessing, and the LORD sternly answered them by calling them sinners, by affirming, “the soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4). In other words, the LORD was saying, “The fathers and the sons have eaten and are eating sour grapes, and therefore they are suffering death”. In the direct language of Jeremiah 31:29-30 (which was likely inspired at the same time as Ezekiel 18), the LORD said,
“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.” – Jer. 31:29-30
To prove that these deaths suffered in Jerusalem and Judah were because the men and women were evil, the LORD specified the conduct of the just and the unjust, the righteous and the wicked, and in so doing He testified to the consciences of the people who knew they fit the description of the wicked. Directly contesting the scenario promoted by the manmade proverb, the LORD described the conduct of each individual Jew who would not die (Ezek. 18:5-9, 14-17) and the conduct of those who would die (Ezek. 18:10-13, 18), regardless of the conduct of their fathers or their sons. The people answered God, saying, “Why? Doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?” (Ezek. 18:19). And to this, the LORD plainly responded, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son” (Ezek. 18:20). With further clarifications and pleas, the LORD reaffirmed His point in Ezekiel 18:19-32. Considering the increasing onslaught of death and destruction which had been and would be suffered by the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, the LORD reaffirmed the heart issue, saying, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? Saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” (Ezek. 18:23, 32). Therefore, those who had died already or would die in the future suffered thus on the grounds of their own sin.
For the first time, and as an extension to Ezekiel 3:17-21, LORD detailed a true caricature of righteous men to dissolve all doubts (Ezek. 18:5-9). The matter was highly contested! The people were in no condition to “discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth Him not” (Mal. 3:18). Graciously, though, the God of Israel explained with detail what a man would do “if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right…” (Ezek. 18:5-9). This widely accepted heretical proverb would have been unacceptable to all Israelites, had they eyes to see the flagrant, continuous, a popularized disobedience to God’s word on every side. Nevertheless, heresy finding an inroad, the sin-demented people fell-a-prey to various doctrinal arguments which appeared to vindicate their perception of God’s judgment. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate” (Titus 1:16). What doctrinal arguments, you wonder? My reader, the popularity of this heretical proverb can be partway understood by the various instances of Biblical Church History and Scriptural Testimony which appear to prove that children, at sundry times, did indeed perish because of the iniquities of their fathers. However, before venturing into a thorough examination of this matter, let me say this: whether or not any children suffered death on account of the sins of their fathers proves to be a complex matter (by “a complex matter”, I mean that this matter contains unsolvable complexities to backslidden generations to whom belongs confusion of face [Dan. 9:7-8, 13], the 21st century included!), but, nevertheless, all complexities and seeming contradictions are simplified and resolved when all scripture is held in high regard and taken with infallibility, as it is in truth. I repeat, when this ethic of faith is upheld… the controversy dissolves.
My reader, if scripture seems confusing to us we have need to humble ourselves before God. We should behave as Daniel stated (Dan. 9:7-8, 13), we should be humbled by what Paul warned (1 Cor. 1:26-29, 3:18-21), and we should be astonished at what Jesus praised (Matt. 11:25-26) because wisdom is a precious gift from God most commonly withheld from the noble intellectuals of every generation (James 1:5-6)! Therefore, my reader, before moving forward let us introspectively consider the humility of Daniel the Prophet, let us be convinced of the dogmatic affirmations of the Apostle Paul, let us stand in wonder at the praise and adoration of Jesus Christ, and, at last, let us behold the alien origin of all wisdom: HEAVEN.
“O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee…As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.” – Dan. 9:7-8, 13
“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” – 1 Cor. 1:26-29
“Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. Therefore let no man glory in men…” – 1 Cor. 3:18-21
“At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” – Matt. 11:25-26
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” – James 1:5-6
With knees that do not merely kiss the floor with momentary prayers and useless religious nuances, let us move forward. The hard-to-be-answered proverb speaks on, questioning: Do children suffer death on account of the sins of their fathers?