“You shall not make for yourselves any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor worship them; for I, Yahweh your Father, Am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me. And showing mercy to thousands of those that love Me, and keep My commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6
An oft asked question is the meaning of the Second Commandment. We already discussed graven images (see What are graven images?)
But what does Almighty Yahweh mean by ‘punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me. And showing mercy to thousands of those that love Me, and keep My commandments’?
Yahweh is a merciful, loving, patient, compassionate God. He only punishes His children to set them on the right path or as an example to others, so that they may not follow in their wicked ways.
Let’s take a look at Ezekiel 18:2:
“What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: ‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?”
This was a proverb prevalent when the children of Israel were in exile in Babylon, as punishment for their monstrous idolatry and bloodshed.
Meaning: ‘The fathers have sinned, and the children are smitten’ or punished, referring to the sins of their ancestors, as if they themselves were innocent; and so charging Yahweh with injustice and cruelty. Whereas, though Yahweh threatened to visit the iniquity of the parents upon their children, and sometimes did so; yet He never did this, except when the children followed their fathers’ practices, and committed the same sins, or worse. So this was no act of unrighteousness in Yahweh, but rather an instance of His long-suffering (Jeremiah 31:29-30).
Yahweh’s response in Ezekiel 18:3-4:
“As surely as I live,’ declares Yahweh, ‘you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to Me, the parent as well as the child; both alike belong to Me. The one who sins is the one who will die.”
And Ezekiel 18:20-25:
“The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all My decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die.
None of the offences they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live.
Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ declares Yahweh. ‘Rather, Am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.
Yet you say, ‘The way of Yahweh is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is My way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust?”
“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways,’ declares Yahweh Almighty. ‘Repent! Turn away from all your offences; then sin will not be your downfall. Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone,’ declares Yahweh. ‘Repent and live!’”
So our Heavenly Father has stated that each shall be punished for their own sin, and be held accountable for their actions. And those who repent with a sincere heart and turn their faces back to Him shall be forgiven COMPLETELY.
(see The Great Deception and The Ten Commandments)