Archive for the ‘Federal Headship’ Category

Repenting for Our Fathers’ Sins – Part 6/6

August 16, 2011

Ezra also provides an example of the same thing in terms of prayers of repentance for the sins of our fathers.

Ezra 9:1-15

Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, “The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.”

And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied. Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice. And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the LORD my God, and said,

O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day.

And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.

And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments, which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying,

The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness. Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever.

And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?

O LORD God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this.

This one is less explicit than some of the previous examples, but it shows a general repentance for the ways of our fathers. It should be obvious that Ezra’s concern is that the people are doing exactly what their fathers did. He’s so shocked he sits like someone who has had a stroke for hours upon hearing the news. He can’t believe that they just got out of captivity for their sins and their turning right back to the same thing — and not just a few rascals, but the very princes of the people.

This in particular we should be careful about. If God sends us chastisement, and we repent, we ought not to immediately turn back to the old sin. The very idea of doing such a thing ought not to be tempting to us, but ought to shock us like the report of Israel’s sin shocked Ezra.

May God give us the gift of repentance so that we may depart from our sins and the sins of our fathers before us.

– TurretinFan

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Repenting for Our Fathers’ Sins – Part 5/6

August 15, 2011

Nehemiah also provides us with two examples of repentance for the sins of our fathers. In a first example, the prayer is simply indicated, without the details being provided:

Nehemiah 9:1-3

Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.

Hopefully, a theme is catching on in the mind of my readers who may have been skeptical that perhaps the previous examples were isolated cases.

As for the prayer that was used, we do not know exactly what was prayed in the prayer mentioned in Nehemiah 9. Nevertheless, we can see an example of the sort of prayer that may have been used in Nehemiah’s own prayer.

Nehemiah 1:1-11

The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it came to pass in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace, that Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem.

And they said unto me, “The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.”

And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven,

And said,

I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee, and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the judgments, which thou commandedst thy servant Moses.

Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, “If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: but if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.” Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.

O Lord, I beseech thee, let now thine ear be attentive to the prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name: and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.

For I was the king’s cupbearer.

In this example, it is not explicit that Nehemiah is confessing his fathers’ sins, since he could simply mean those of his siblings with the expression “Father’s house.” Nevertheless, given the other example above, it seems reasonable to suppose that Nehemiah is also including his ancestors.

Perhaps it is useful at this point to observe that Nehemiah is praying about his ancestor’s sins, but for himself – not for them. It is too late for them. They have already passed on – either unto glory or dishonor. These prayers are prayers for the living, even if they are sometimes about the dead.

(to be continued)

Repenting for Our Fathers’ Sins – Part 4/6

August 14, 2011

The same theme of repenting from the sins of our fathers can also be found in Psalm 106.

Psalm 106:1-48 (the whole of the psalm)

Praise ye the LORD. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD? who can shew forth all his praise? Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times.

Remember me, O LORD, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.

We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.

Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea. Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known. He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left.

Then believed they his words; they sang his praise.

They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel: but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.

They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD. The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked.

They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.

They forgat God their saviour, which had done great things in Egypt; wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea. Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.

Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word: but murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD. Therefore he lifted up his hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness: to overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands.

They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead. Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions: and the plague brake in upon them. Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.

They angered him also at the waters of strife, so that it went ill with Moses for their sakes: because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.

They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the LORD commanded them: but were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.

Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions. Therefore was the wrath of the LORD kindled against his people, insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance. And he gave them into the hand of the heathen; and they that hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand.

Many times did he deliver them; but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity. Nevertheless he regarded their affliction, when he heard their cry: and he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his mercies. He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives.

Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.

This one is quite explicit and detailed in terms of identifying the sins of the fathers. Considering that the identified fathers go all the way back to the Exodus, and the events referenced extend all the way to the captivity, we can see that the fathers whose iniquity is being confessed are long dead. Nevertheless, this Psalm express repentance from the unbelief of the fathers who did not trust in God with all their heart.

So ought those of us who cannot trace back our lineage through believers only to repent of the sins of our fathers, and to strive not to imitate their sins. We ought especially to do so when it seems the hand of God’s judgment is upon us and our families.

(to be continued)

Repenting for Our Fathers’ Sins – Part 3/6

August 13, 2011

We can also see repentance for the sins of the fathers in two prayers of Jeremiah. Here is a first example:

Jeremiah 14:19-22

Hast thou utterly rejected Judah? hath thy soul lothed Zion? why hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? we looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of healing, and behold trouble!

We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee.

Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us.

Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God?

Therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.

This one is not explicit that the fathers have passed on, but the same theme is present. And there is yet another of the same in Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 3:21-25

A voice was heard upon the high places, weeping and supplications of the children of Israel: for they have perverted their way, and they have forgotten the LORD their God.

Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.

Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the LORD our God. Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the LORD our God is the salvation of Israel. For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.

Notice that repenting of the fathers’ sins is not done in isolation from our own sins. We should not repent of our fathers sins with a self-righteous attitude, like the Pharisees.

Matthew 23:29-32

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, “If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.” Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.

Notice that Christ does not condemn them for repenting from the sins of their fathers, but exactly the opposite! For not repenting, He condemned them.

(to be continued)

Repenting for Our Fathers’ Sins – Part 2/6

August 12, 2011

There is also an example of repenting of the sins of our fathers to be found in the final chapter of Lamentations. There, Jeremiah offers a prayer to God in which he expresses contrition for the sins of the fathers. In this case, it is explicit that the fathers have died.

Lamentations 5:1-22 (the whole chapter)

Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.

  • Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.
  • We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.
  • We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us.
  • Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest.
  • We have given the hand to the Egyptians, and to the Assyrians, to be satisfied with bread.
  • Our fathers have sinned, and are not; and we have borne their iniquities.
  • Servants have ruled over us: there is none that doth deliver us out of their hand.
  • We gat our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness.
  • Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.
  • They ravished the women in Zion, and the maids in the cities of Judah.
  • Princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honoured.
  • They took the young men to grind, and the children fell under the wood.
  • The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their musick.
  • The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.
  • The crown is fallen from our head:

Woe unto us, that we have sinned!

For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim. Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it. Thou, O LORD, remainest for ever; thy throne from generation to generation. Wherefore dost thou forget us for ever, and forsake us so long time? Turn thou us unto thee, O LORD, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old. But thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us.

Notice that here Jeremiah indicates as well that the children have borne the iniquities of the fathers. There is no conflict between this bearing of the sins of the fathers and either Deuteronomy 24:16 (that is a civil law – a limitation on human justice) or Ezekiel 18 (that provides relief from punishment for the fathers’ sins for those who repent). Nevertheless, until we repent and do not follow the sinful deeds of our fathers, we need to repent from them, as illustrated in these examples.

(to be continued)

Repenting for Our Fathers’ Sins – Part 1/6

August 11, 2011

Daniel prayed a prayer of confession to the Lord. His prayer is interesting in that it involves confession and repentance not only for individual sins, but also for collective sins of Israel, and the sins of their fathers as well.

Daniel 9:4-19

And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said,

O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.

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. To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem. 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. Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.

And now, O Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.

O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.

Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake.

O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.

O Lord, hear;

O Lord, forgive;

O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.

There many good elements of this prayer for us to model, particularly our absence of reliance on mere human merit and instead a reliance on the mercy of God (“for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies”). What I particularly want to highlight, though, is Daniel’s explicit repentance for the sins of the fathers of Israel – those who went before this generation. This is significant in that it reinforces the federal relation that exists within families. In the absence of God’s mercy, we would be held responsible for the sins of our fathers and their fathers and so on back to Adam’s original sin.

But by God’s mercy, we are adopted into a new family, and have the rights and privileges of the sons of God. Thus, we are under the federal headship of Christ, rather than Adam.

(to be continued)

Sins of the Fathers Upon the Children – The Case of Abijah

May 30, 2011

1 Kings 14 provides a very sad story of Jeroboam and his family:

1 Kings 14:1-18

At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick. And Jeroboam said to his wife, “Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam; and get thee to Shiloh: behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king over this people. And take with thee ten loaves, and cracknels, and a cruse of honey, and go to him: he shall tell thee what shall become of the child.”
And Jeroboam’s wife did so, and arose, and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. But Ahijah could not see; for his eyes were set by reason of his age.
And the LORD said unto Ahijah, “Behold, the wife of Jeroboam cometh to ask a thing of thee for her son; for he is sick: thus and thus shalt thou say unto her: for it shall be, when she cometh in, that she shall feign herself to be another woman.”
And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said,

Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. Go, tell Jeroboam, “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, and rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; but hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone.

Him that dieth of Jeroboam in the city shall the dogs eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat: for the LORD hath spoken it.

Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.

Moreover the LORD shall raise him up a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam that day: but what? even now. For the LORD shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the LORD to anger. And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin.

And Jeroboam’s wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah: and when she came to the threshold of the door, the child died; and they buried him; and all Israel mourned for him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by the hand of his servant Ahijah the prophet.

In this sad story we see Jeroboam trying to get some good news about his son. Jeroboam seems to have a mistaken or confused notion about the power of prophets. Jeroboam seems to think of prophets as magicians, people with their own power or at least with some control over God’s power.

Thus, Jeroboam thinks about the only prophet he’s ever run into that was nice to him, gets his wife to bring what would presumably be a pretty generous gift for an average person, and instructs her to go and ask the prophet for good news regarding the son. Of course, Jeroboam know that he’s out of favor with the Lord, so he tells his wife to disguise herself so that the prophet won’t know whose wife she is.

It’s all carefully calculated, and somewhat silly. Ahijah the prophet is, by this time, blind from old age. He can’t see and so the disguise is a waste of time. At the same time, he’s a seer. He gets revelation from God, and God isn’t fooled by Jeroboam or his wife. God knows that the wife is coming before she gets there.

Moreover, the prophet is a true prophet of the Lord. What the Lord tells him, he tells to Jeroboam’s wife. He doesn’t make up good news to cheer a grieving mother. He tells “heavy tidings” to her. He informs her that when she gets back her son will die.

Moreover, he informs her that her whole family is going to be destroyed. The colorful metaphor that the Lord uses is that Jeroboam’s family is going to be removed “like dung.” How much dung do you leave around the house if your child or pet has an accident? None, of course. You scrub until the site and smell of it are gone. The same went for Jeroboam’s family.

The son who died was the lucky one. He got mourned by all Israel and buried in the family grave. His brethren died more miserably – killed and left to be eaten by wild animals. They received an undignified and humiliating death.

Why was Jeroboam’s family to be utterly wiped out? God’s answer is clear:

for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam

This is a fulfillment of God’s threat for violations of the second commandment:

(Exodus 20:4-6)
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 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; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

(Deuteronomy 5:8-10)
Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: 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.

This is not the only instance of this sort of thing in the Bible, but it is one example. Because of Jeroboam’s sins, his family was wiped out.

Because of Solomon’s sins, the kingdom was rent from Rehoboam and ten tribes were given to Jeroboam, yet God showed mercy to the line of David. Recall that it is written regarding Abijam (not Jeroboam’s son who died, but one of David’s great-grandchildren):

1 Kings 15:1-5
Now in the eighteenth year of king Jeroboam the son of Nebat reigned Abijam over Judah. Three years reigned he in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Maachah, the daughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless for David’s sake did the LORD his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem: because David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.

This example of God’s favor to David’s children on account of David’s righteousness is something that leads believers to have a hope that God will show favor to their children. It is not that we have a righteousness that deserves or merits favor, but that God is still pleased to bless even the very imperfect righteousness of those who, like David, trust in the Lord.

Moreover, the federal principle even applied to the nation. Notice that Israel’s future destruction is prophesied by the prophet. Whereas Judah was chastised by God, but then restored to the land.

The federal principle, you see, is not only for judgment but also for blessing. That is why Abraham was called to circumcise his sons and why we baptize our children. It is why all those in Adam died, but all those in Christ will be made alive.

-TurretinFan

Children Punished for a Parent’s Sins

August 24, 2008

Introduction

Some folks who hold to a nearly dogmatic form of rugged individualism do not like the idea of federal headship, especially when it comes to punishments. I much more rarely hear people complain that they will be judged righteous for the deeds of their federal head. It is when guilt and punishment are concerned that the objections seem to come in. There are several rebuttals.

1. General Revelation – Nature Itself

a. Nourishment

The general revelation of nature should make it apparent that the children receive what comes from their parents, as a general rule. An unborn child (fetus, if you will, though that sounds so dehumanizing) obtains nourishment from its mother via the marvelously designed placenta. The infant obtains nourishment from the mother’s breast. The children generally eat the grown/hunted/gathered or purchased by their parents even once they could hypothetically fend for themselves.

b. Class

Children of poor parents are usually also poor, and children of rich parents are usually well off. To describe it in statistical terms, there is a high correlation between the state of a child and the state of a child’s parents – not only socioeconomically, but genetically. A child of two short parents is unlikely to be tall, and a child of two tall parents is unlikely to be short.

c. Human Justice

The laws of men too bare testimony to the fact that children are punished for their parents’ sins. Most societies have laws whereby evildoers are punished in their persons or property. If a father is imprisoned or fined for a crime, his children generally suffer financially: even more so if justice is rendered against the father in a capital case. It is not that the law sets out to punish the children of law-breakers: it just happens that way.

d. Fornication / Adultery

When men and women engage in extramarital sexual relationships, it often results in procreation. The children of such unions are often stigmatized, but even more significantly they often come into the world without a father to provide for them, or without a mother that wants them. In ancient Rome, such children were sometimes murdered through exposure to the elements after birth. In modern societies, such children are often murdered by their mothers in ways that sicken at least this author. Even if a child survives birth, its a statistical observation that such children tend to have a more difficult time in life.

2. Special Revelation – Scripture

a. Examples of Children being punished for the sins of their parents.

(i) The Great Deluge

We are not specifically told that there were any infants in Noah’s day, but God brought the Flood on account of the sinfulness of the world 120 years prior to the Flood. Men lived longer in those days, but they did have children, and they did not give up their usual marital relations in view of Noah’s preaching.

Luke 17:27 They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all.

Genesis 6:1-7
1And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, 2That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 3And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. 4There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. 5And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

(ii) Sodom and Gomorrah

Especially considering the form of sexual immorality for which Sodom is famous, we cannot be absolutely sure that there were young infants in the city, nevertheless, there is no particular reason to suppose that they had been so exclusively consumed by illicit lust that there were none. The fire God sent against the city, however, did not discriminate according to age.

Genesis 19:24
24Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

(iii) Firstborn of Egypt – 10th Plague

You may recall that the tenth plague, the plague that permitted the Israelites not only to leave but to plunder the Egyptians, was the death of the firstborn of all the Egyptians. This plague is couched in such universal terms that we may safely assume that it included infants and not only the firstborn that had grown somewhat.

Exodus 11:4-6
4And Moses said, Thus saith the LORD, About midnight will I go out into the midst of Egypt: 5And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts. 6And there shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there was none like it, nor shall be like it any more.

(iv) Ham’s Mockery

As you may recall, our grandfather Noah got drunk and lay naked in his tent. His son Ham found him in this inebriated condition and mocked him, calling his brothers Shem and Japheth. They, however, did not join his mockery but took a sheet with them and walked backwards into the tent covering Noah in the process. When Noah discovered what had happened, he cursed Ham, but especially Ham’s son, Canaan.

Genesis 9:24-27
24And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. 27God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

(v) The Unborn Child of the Middianitish Woman

You may recall that the women of Moab were a temptation to the men of Israel. So much so that they began to go after the false gods of Moab. God was angry against Israel for this unfaithfulness to Him, and smote them with a plague. But what stopped the plague was the action of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, who killed one of the most open philanderers with a javelin. He skewered the man and the woman – in her case, the Bible specifies that it was through her belly, from which may infer that she had a belly – i.e. was pregnant.

Numbers 25:1-9
1And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. 2And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. 3And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel. 4And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. 5And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor. 6And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 7And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; 8And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel. 9And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.

(vi) Achan’s Theft

You may recall Achan. He was passing through the wreckage and rubble of Jericho, a city that was cursed by God. He decided that despite God’s specific prohibition, he would take several items of value that he found in Jericho. He took the items and hid them in his tent. God then defeated Israel at the hands of the tiny forces of Ai.

The fact that others were punished for Achan’s sin became a sort of by-word among Israel, at least for a time:

Joshua 22:20 Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.

More to the point, however, when Joshua had discovered that Achan the son of Zerah had disobeyed God, the punishment was his death, but not only his death. Also executed were his family, and even his cattle.

Joshua 7:24-26
24And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. 25And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

His children were killed with him, though we are not explicitly told that any of them were infants.

(vii) Solomon’s Older Brother

Solomon’s older brother is not named in Scripture. He is the child of the adultery of David with Bathsheba. As you may recall, David’s seduction of Bathsheba and murder of her husband greatly displeased God, and God punished David for this. God spared David’s own life, but he cursed David’s line, such the sword would not depart from it, and more relevant to the point of this article, he slew David’s infant son.

2 Samuel 12:7-23
7And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; 8And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. 14Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. 15And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. 16David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. 17And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. 18And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? 19But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead. 20Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. 21Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. 22And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? 23But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

This list of examples is not exhaustive. For example, we could also add Korah (Numbers 16), Saul’s sons (2 Samuel 21), or Jericho both a first (Joshua 6) and a second time (1 Kings 16), but perhaps the seven examples above suffice to prove the point.

b. God’s Own Self-Description

God does not hesitate to describe himself as a God who punishes the fathers by also punishing their children. We may subsume within that description of course the specific instances where God killed or had killed the children of those who sinned, for the sins of their fathers.

On top of those, we may list the four times God specifically states that he visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children:

(i) 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;

(ii) Exodus 34:7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.

(iii) Numbers 14:18 The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.

(iv) Deuteronomy 5:9 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,

3. General Revelation 2 – Conscience, Culture, and Reason

Perhaps this is a bit redundant, but children generally feel responsible for their parent’s failures. Some children respond to this by working twice as hard to avoid doing what their parents did, and other children respond to this by fatalistically resigning themselves to follow in their parents’ footsteps. While the latter approach is wrong, both approaches implicitly recognize a principle of the children being in some way held responsible for what their parents have done.

Culture to a degree reinforces this. The sometimes popular “reparations” movement among descendants of former slaves in America has it its roots a view that the descendants of slave owners should be responsible for what their ancestors did. Slavery itself (in many cultures the result of some personal failure) was passed on to children in many places. Likewise, a degree of cultural opposition to Jews (especially religious Jews) is based on (in some places and at some times in history) on the fact that their ancestors killed Christ (who, in fact, did call down God’s wrath on themselves and their children, Matthew 27:25).

Furthermore, Reason applying itself to culture commends the same. For culture generally permits inheritances of goods to children (as Scripture confirms to be proper). Reason, favoring symmetry, suggests that not only positive things but negative things should be transmitted from parents to children, thus favoring the idea that guilt too may be inherited.

Conclusion

For all these reasons, it should be clear that it is just for children to be punished for their parents’ sins. It may violate the principles on which modern pluralistic society is built – specifically the value of rugged individualism – but it is Scriptural, it is in accordance with the light of nature, and it is in accordance with the light of conscience and reason. Thus, we properly affirm it.

-TurretinFan


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