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unto the third and fourth generation…

22-11-2011 - Posted by Andre Piet

In a few church denominations, a discussion has arisen about a modern Dutch translation of the Second Commandment. The proper translation of Exodus 20:5 is presented to us in the Concordant Literal Version, as follows:

…visiting the depravity of the fathers on the sons, on the third and on the fourth generation, to those hating Me… Ex.20:5 

A few notes: 1. The Hebrew word ‘avon’ does not mean no ‘guilt’ (as suggested), but ‘depravity’. 2. The Hebrew word ‘paqad’ does not mean ‘pay’ (as also suggested), but ‘visiting’ or ‘seek for’. 3. The idea that God makes children suffer for the guilt of their ancestors, has deep theological roots (inherited guilt), but contradicts the truth that “children are NOT to be put to death for their fathers” (Deut.24:16; cp 2Chron.25:4). The text of Ex.20:5 stands in a concrete, historical context. The people of Israel were on their way to the “promised land” and would be driving out the inhabitants of that land. But why not until now? Had God not already, four centuries ago, promised this land to the descendants of Abraham? Why was it necessary that first so many years the people of Israel had to suffer oppression? Why was the land not directly given as a possession? The answer to these questions was, centuries earlier, given to the then childless Abram:

15 …you shall come to your forefathers in peace, and be entombed at a good grey-haired age. 16 And in THE FOURTH GENERATION they shall return hither, FOR THE DEPRAVITY OF THE AMORITES HAS NOT BEEN REPAID HITHERTO.” Genesis 15 (CLV)

In other words, when the Israelites entered the promised land, God executed judgment on the inhabitants of the land. This was not because of the depravity of their ancestors, but because they had persisted in the depravity of their ancestors. Only at the fourth generation was Israel to clear the land. Not any earlier. This demonstrates how slow God is in the execution of His judgment. Carrying out judgement is strange work for Him and never an end in itself.

Indeed though He afflicts, yet He has compassion according to the abundance of His benignities; For He does not humiliate from His heart or so afflict the sons of humanity. Lamentations 3:32,33

Exodus 20:5 is not evidence of God’s vindictiveness, but of His patience! ——————————— translation: Peter Feddema