Exodus 20:5 -Answering Maharishi Dayananda Saraswati

Is it just for God to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon children?

Those sentences which are colored in orange are from Maharishi Dayananda Saraswati book Satyarth Prakash (The Light of Truth) and those which are colored in black are Jerry Thomas’s response.

."….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 …” (20:5.)

C. Now what kind of justice is this to consider it good to visit the sins of fathers upon children unto the fourth generation. Does not a good father even have wicked children or vice versa? If this be true how could (the Christian) God be justified in inflicting punishment on children onto the fourth generation for the sins of their fathers? It is unjust to inflict punishment on the innocent.

Answer: Vedic Maharishi again demonstrates his blatant bias even in quoting this verse and shallowness in understanding this verse.

(a) Punishment for a Life Time- Blessings Beyond Imagination

First and foremost this verse in its entirety indicates that while punishments of God will last as long as a person can see in his lifetime, the blessings of God will last beyond what we can imagine and even dream of – thousands of generations. A person with an average life expectancy will see three generations but with one exceptionally long life may see fourth generation. In other words, the curse will last as long as that person lives in this world.

Exodus 20:6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

(b) Nature of the Punishment

Secondly, we can ask why it is not possible to restrict the punishment for the person who sins and not his three or four generations.

It is here that we must understand the nature of the punishment. It is not a legal punishment executed by the nation state. This is evident from the fact that LORD God has explicitly prohibited nation state from punishing parents for children’s sins or children for the parents’ sins.

Deuteronomy 24:16 "Fathers shall not be put to death for [their] children, nor shall children be put to death for [their] fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin.”

Then what is the nature of the punishment? Those are specific natural disasters and calamites that affect an individual/nation.

In fact in the following description of the punishment, the time period is also specified which reiterates the fact it is until the sinner perishes.

For example:

Deuteronomy 28:15-24- "But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:  Cursed [shall] you [be] in the city, and cursed [shall] you [be] in the country. Cursed [shall be] your basket and your kneading bowl. Cursed [shall be] the fruit of your body and the produce of your land, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. Cursed [shall] you [be] when you come in, and cursed [shall] you [be] when you go out.  The LORD will send on you cursing, confusion, and rebuke in all that you set your hand to do, until you are destroyed and until you perish quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings in which you have forsaken Me. The LORD will make the plague cling to you until He has consumed you from the land which you are going to possess. The LORD will strike you with consumption, with fever, with inflammation, with severe burning fever, with the sword, with scorching, and with mildew; they shall pursue you until you perish.  And your heavens which [are] over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you [shall be] iron. The LORD will change the rain of your land to powder and dust; from the heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed. 

Now, no one will argue that children should not have the natural fruits of the parents work. They will have both the blessings and the curses. To argue for the limiting of curses to the person and not to the children is to argue for the break in the natural and intrinsic relationship between the parents and their children.  

It is the eternal mercy of God that He restricted curses to the generations where the sinner is alive but extended the blessings beyond any imagination.

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