ABC:Jeremiah 16

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Verse 11, Punishment for Ancestor's Sins?[edit]

Patheos' Bob Seidensticker claims there is a contradiction here and makes the following comments (italicized):[1]

Do people deserve punishment for their ancestors' sins?

The Bible demands intergenerational punishment so that children must be punished for their parents’ sins.

Exodus 20:5 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;

Jeremiah 16:11 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;

But the opposite claim is recorded in the Bible as well.

Deuteronomy 24:16 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.

Jeremiah 31:30 But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.

Ezekiel 18:4 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.

Where does this leave Original Sin? This is the idea that we’re born fallen and deserve hell because of Adam’s sin, which infects us all. What foundation remains for Original Sin if it is undercut by the Bible itself?

The same teachings both appear in the book of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 24:16 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.

Deuteronomy 5:9-10 thou shalt not bow down thyself unto 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.

These commandments were both given to Moses at the same time. While God only commands capital punishment for those who sin, not their children, there are genetic consequences not involving death which occur from sin which affect one's descendants. For example, incest can cause birth defects. In some cases, God even curses the descendants of the wicked. (Psalms 109:13) Thus, children are not put to death for what their parents have done (Deuteronomy 24:16; Ezekiel 18:20), but can to a degree still "bear the iniquity" of their parents' actions in the form of negative circumstances. (Deuteronomy 5:9-10; Exodus 20:5)

Nonetheless, God shows mercy to those who do good, judging them based on their own actions. (Ezekiel 18) God can turn away wrath and consequences as He did from Nineveh. In the case of King Josiah for example his individual righteousness resulted in God delaying a punishment that would have otherwise come upon him. (2 Kings 22:19-20)

As for the doctrine of Original Sin, while sin entered the human race because of Adam and Eve's disobedience, we still are accountable to God based on our free will decisions. (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22) While we have a sin nature that causes temptation to sin, and become even more enslaved to the sins we engage in (Romans 6:16-21), we are still accountable to God for our sins. Although the Bible calls those righteous who seek after God, doing justice and mercy, nonetheless all our good deeds are like filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6), and apart from the salvation in Jesus, our good deeds are all outweighed by our bad ones, so that we would be futilely seeking to outweigh the debts for our sin with good works. (Romans 4:4-8) By works will none be justified. (Galatians 2:16) Only by faith in Jesus can we be justified. (Galatians 3:11)

Sources[edit]

  1. Seidensticker, P. (2018, October 20). "Top 20 Most Damning Bible Contradictions." Patheos.