Prophesying the restoration of Israel, Jeremiah makes the following statement:

In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ (Jer 31:29 - also see Ezek 18:2)

which is explained in the next verse:

But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. (Jer 31:30)

However, in the next chapter the following statement is made:

You show steadfast love to thousands, but you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them... (Jer 32:18)

This reminds of a statement made in the Ten Commandments:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Ex 20:5,6)

In one sense therefore every person will die for his/her own sin, yet there is a possibility of carrying sin/guilt over to the next generation. Is Israel (and/or God's children) exempt from transmitting the guilt, or how should we solve this seeming paradox?

1 Answer 1


I actually don't read that as a paradox. The sin of the parents have consequences that carry over further than just their own generation. Additionally, Jeremiah 32:18 ("you repay the guilt of fathers to their children after them") doesn't mean that the guilt is being transferred, but rather repaid.

I don't see in the passages that you quote where every person will die for his own sin -- in fact, that goes against my understanding of the Old Testament, where they were required to make sacrifices instead (at least the people of Israel). The potential paradox that I see stems from the last passage (Ex 20:5-6), where God "punishes children for the sin of the parents [...] but show[s] love to a thousand generations of those who love [Him]." However, it really isn't a paradox, because it's quite possible to punish (read consequences), while still showing love (and indeed blessings as well).

I find family analogies to be particularly applicable in situations regarding God (He's our Father in Heaven, after all...). An example of this situation would be the loving father (earthly) that had to punish his children for their disobedience. He might use the rod, or take away privileges, but still loves his children. In fact, even while taking away certain privileges for the disobedience in this example, he could still reward current good deeds with other rewards.

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