Introduction: This paper is not about original sin in any way. I am not advocating the despicable doctrine propagated by the likes of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin, which is still a major tenet of many denominations today. We are not conceived as sinful beings. We are born into a world ruled by sin and sinful people. We are fearfully and wonderfully made by YHVH. Yet, from the moment of conception we are governed by both the physical genetics of our parents and also their spiritual history.
Throughout the Word of Elohim, we are instructed to teach our children the ways of YHVH. We are also instructed about the consequences of not doing so. “I, YHVH your elohim am a jealous el, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the third and fourth generation.” (Ex 20:5; Ex 34:7; Deut 5:9; Num 14:18)
The word translated “visiting” in English is the Hebrew word poqad - from the root paqad (פָקָד) meaning to number, visit, muster, appoint. It is the same word used twice in Numbers 4:49 for appointing as well as numbering or counting. Perhaps if we use the term counting or numbering instead of visiting, we would see a different picture. Is it possible YHVH is saying that He will number or count the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation? If so how is this different than what we normally associate with this verse?
This accounting or numbering can be tied to the principle of sowing and reaping. The children are not punished for the sins of the fathers. This is made plain, however, scripture is clear that the fathers who do not walk in His ways, will pass those ways onto their children who will be held accountable. The law of sowing and reaping is not just agricultural in scope.
Consider the law of sowing and reaping of sin:
1) you will reap what you sow - apple seeds produce apples, barley seeds produce barley, the seeds of bitterness will produce bitterness, seeds of fear will produce fear
2) you will always reap more than you sow, 30, 60,100 fold (increase in sin)
3) you will reap in a different season than you sow (successive generations)
Pro 22:8 - He who sows iniquity will reap vanity, And the rod of his fury will perish.
Gal 6:8 - Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
If thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day ... Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body. Deut 28:15-18 Does this mean YHVH curses children? No, it means they will reap the consequences of the parents not hearkening to the voice of YHVH.
Wherefore hath the LORD pronounced all this great evil against us? or what is our iniquity? or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God? Then shalt thou say unto them, Because your fathers have forsaken me, saith the LORD, and have walked after other gods, and have served them, and have worshipped them, and have forsaken me, and have not kept my law. Jer 16:10-11
Obedience to the ways of YHVH brings life and blessing. The children not taught to walk in His ways will suffer the consequences.
Parents who sow indifference will reap a crop of insensitive, uncaring children. Parents who sow deception will reap liars and thieves. Don’t get me wrong. Each individual has a choice to continue or not continue in the ways of the fathers, but when those ways are all you have known, it becomes harder and harder with each generation to break out of the destructive pattern that has been set in motion by the disobedience of those who have gone on before.
But when we come to faith in Messiah, we are a new creation, you say. Absolutely!! But, here is the thing - When we exercise faith to believe that He died and suffered the penalty for our sins (instead of us having to do it), that faith justifies us and declares us righteous or free from the penalty of separation from YHVH (1 Peter 2:24; Ephesians 2:8, 9; Romans 6:23). It is a gift and cannot be earned. We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that when Yeshua became sin for us, He enabled us to become the righteousness of YHVH through Him. This righteousness is imparted to us because we choose to believe. At the moment we choose to believe, we become complete in Messiah, but we do not become mature in Him. A fertilized egg in the womb of a woman is a complete human being, but it is not mature. Justification is the beginning/birth and sanctification is the process of obeying His instruction to grow up or mature spiritually. Taking responsibility and dealing with what keeps us from becoming all we were created or intended to be is all about sanctification.
Look at what haSatan did in the garden. He planted a seed of doubt. That’s all. He did not force the woman to reason for herself. He did not take the fruit and force it into their mouths. They had a choice. Each one of us has a choice. The problems come when we “reason” for ourselves and dismiss the absolutes of YHVH’s Torah regarding the consequences of sin. If we do not learn from our mistakes, we are destined to repeat them.
Each of the following scriptures speak about rejecting YHVH and the consequences: Ex 20:5,6; Lev 26:39-42; Deut 4:40; Deut ch. 6&7; Deut 29:26-29; Neh 1:5-8; Neh 9; Jer 3:22-25; Jer 14:20; Psalm 78; Psalm 79:8. They each in turn, recount consequences of the sins of the fathers reaped by the descendants.
Idolatry seems to be the sin associated with these consequences. Does this apply only to golden calf scenarios? Ez 14:3 says, “these men have set up idols in their hearts.” Inner attitudes and choices of the heart are equated with idolatry in Col 3:5 and Eph 5:5. Covetousness and greed are said to be idolatry. Another form of idolatry is seen in 1 Sam 15:23 - rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and is as iniquity and idolatry. Another form is shown in Romans 1:23. When we exchange the glory of YHVH for the corruptible image of man, that is idolatry. Anytime YHVH or His ways are circumvented for an alternative, that is idolatry. I am only stating what Scripture says: that the consequences of idolatry or sin in any form will be visited (or kept track of, remember paqad) on the children to the third and forth generation.
In each of the scriptural examples above, if you read on, you will find people who are sick - physically and spiritually - of the consequences of sin and who do the hard thing and take a stand for righteousness, confessing their sin and the sins of their fathers. This is about acknowledging the problem, not placing blame. Each person is created with the ability to choose and these examples are warnings to all of us as parents, to choose righteousness so that our children can reap the benefits of righteousness.
When we take Scripture out of context and do not consider it in light of the whole of the Word, we can get confused and even stay locked into places of stunted spiritual growth because we won’t accept that who and what our ancestors were spiritually, is as much a part of us as who and what they were physically.
There are physical problems that are said to be genetic or inherited, like diabetes, heart disease, mental illness, etc. Certain cancers run in families. If your aunts and uncles all lived to be past 90, you can be pretty sure you will have a long life. This makes sense to us physically, but when it comes to dealing with spiritual junk that has been passed down, we balk. Why is that? The same way you inherit physical traits from your forefathers - you have dad’s nose and grandma’s chin - you also inherit spiritual traits. Doors that were opened in the past, through anger, immorality, witchcraft or sin in any form, give the enemy access to us and our children.
Some inherited physical issues may take years to manifest or they can be apparent from the beginning. Spiritual issues are the same. If they are there, they are working to destroy you, whether you believe it or not.
Faithful ancestors are a huge blessing. Abraham was faithful and so Isaac and Jacob benefitted. My parents were not and I had to deal with what was passed on to me from their involvement with unholy things. It would have been nice to focus only on the blessings, but in the case of those who are unwittingly tainted by the iniquity of the father(s), what we inherit must be acknowledged and dealt with so the blessing can become a reality.
Were the children of Israel any less His chosen ones after 400 years in Egypt? Obviously, no. But what had they learned in Egypt? Had they incorporated Egyptian practice and beliefs into their lives?
Let’s look at some examples of learned (inherited/passed-on) behavior recorded in the scriptures. Consider these examples and see if you can come up with more.
Abijam reigned three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah, the daughter of Abishalom. He walked in all the sins of his father which he had done before him... 1 Kings 15:3
“Ahaziah son of Ahav became king . . . and he reigned over Israel two years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, because he walked in the ways of his father and mother and in the ways of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. He served and worshiped Baal and provoked the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger, just as his father had done.” 1 Kings 22:51-53
Hezekiah realized that the faithlessness of the fathers had caused the sons and daughters and wives to go into captivity. 2 Chron 29:6-9
We are called to serve Him in strength of body, soul and spirit. New and abundant life, victory, and provision that is more than enough, are some of the promises of YHVH to His children. We are told we are to be overcomers and experience joy in our walk and fellowship with our God. Are you experiencing this kind of freedom and victory? Or do you feel oppressed, defeated, frustrated, weak and beat up? Ok, maybe not to this degree, but is there something that seems to hinder your ability to move forward, that gets you down and makes you feel inadequate? Do you feel stuck?
His promises and blessings are conditional. He says, “If you . . . then I.” This means there is something we must do. Too many assume that the blessing is automatically theirs and demand it without applying the “if you” part of the equation. If there is something in your life that you struggle with over and over, something that you just can’t seem to get past, you may have a not-so-nice inheritance issue. You truly believe, know the Truth, do spiritual warfare, and proclaim promises. They help, but are not enough. Unless the lies and possibly spirits you have inherited (maybe it is easier for you to hear: passed down to you) are uncovered and taken care of according to Scripture, you will find yourself in a never ending battle that leaves you exhausted and weak and frustrated.
Whether you are aware of the sin passed on to you in the form of physical or spiritual sickness or not, it is still sin. Sin is the enemy’s only access to you. Once that door is opened - by whomever - he has gained legal ground to mess with you. This principle is found in Ephesians 4:26,27. Sin gives the enemy the place, ground, opportunity to bring loss, destruction and death into our lives. He stands before the throne of YHVH accusing the brethren day and night. If sin is active because you have not closed the door(s) to what has been passed on to you through your ancestors, it will be used against you in the throne room of YHVH.
The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers (Nehemiah 9:2. See also Leviticus 26:40; Jeremiah 3:25, 14:20). Any sin, yours or your ancestors, has to be confessed, repented of and forgiven if you are to be free from it. In order to do this, you must ask the Father to show you what (if anything) is stopping you from becoming all you can be according to His plan for you. You must be willing to listen to His voice and accept HIS evaluation of what is wrong. You must trust Him. You must trust that He knows you better than you know yourself and that only He knows the thoughts and intents of your heart and the roots of the problems you are experiencing.
Psalm 78 helped clear this up for me when I was agonizing over my sons and the curse of freemasonry that had been passed on to me and to them by extension, through my ancestors. Abba led me to this passage, verses 5 7: For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in YHVH, and not forget the works of YHVH, but keep His commandments, [now here is the part that I love] and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to YHVH.
It is far from easy, but so worth it! I pray that this has helped you to understand this difficult subject and that freedom and healing are soon to be yours.