Bible Question:

How do you explain generation curses? If Christians have been set free, and Jesus became the curse, how/why do the sins of our forefathers or the generation curses affect us?

Bible Answer:

There are several Old Testament passages that talk about the children suffering for the father’s sins or inheriting what some call a generation curse. There are also passages that warn against punishing the child for the father’s sin. A careful reading will show that one is talking about the sin of worshipping other gods and the other deals with civil matters.

The “Curse”

Exodus 20:5 is the first time the “curse” appears in the Old Testament. It also occurs in Exodus 34:7 and Deuteronomy 5:9.

You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me . . . (NASB) Exodus 20:5

It occurs in the context of the second commandment where God warns them not to worship other gods. Notice the “curse” is for those “who hate Me.” The Hebrew word for “hate” can also mean “disdain, dislike, and refuse.” God is talking about the rejection of Himself in favor of another god or something else. Idolatry is permitting anything or anyone to stand between you and Him. This includes money, sex, or pleasure – anything!

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. (NASB) Col. 3:5

The sin of the fathers that God is talking about is idolatry – worshipping other gods. It is the children of fathers who worship other gods who will be punished.

Civil Matter

Deuteronomy 24:16 appears to contradict the above passages.

Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin. (NASB) Deut. 24:16

But 2 Kings 14:5-6, 2 Chron. 25:4 and Ezekiel 18:20 and the context of Deut. 24:16 illustrate the meaning of this statement. Here is 2 Kings 14.

Now it came about, as soon as the kingdom was firmly in his hand, that he killed his servants who had slain the king his father. But the sons of the slayers he did not put to death, according to what is written in the book of the law of Moses, as the LORD commanded, saying, “The fathers shall not be put to death for the sons, nor the sons be put to death for the fathers; but each shall be put to death for his own sin.” (NASB) 2 Kings 14:5-6

This prohibition is about civil matters. Family members were not to be punished for the sins of their parents.


Parents who do not worship God pass on a “I-do-not-need-god” pattern of life to their children. God warns that He will punish the children of these fathers if they continue in this type of sin.

Suggested Links:

Can a father cause his family to be cursed?