Is ‘Generational Curses’ Real? By Babatunde Olugboji
This phrase or the idea of ‘generational curse’ is used in several places in the Bible, including Exodus 20:5: ‘You shall not bow down to [idols] or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” Similar texts can be found in Exodus 34:7 Number 14:18; and Deuteronomy 5:9.
God warns that He is “a jealous God, but keeping Exodus 20:5 in context, did you notice that the Bible is referring to the sin of idolatry (the worship of someone or something other than God as though it were God)? God considered idolatry to be an extremely treacherous betrayal of a sacred trust. Idolaters were traitors to God’s theocracy. Besides the repugnant practices which accompanied idol worship in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 12:31), idolatry had a way of embedding itself in a culture.
Unfortunately, today, many fathers are idolaters, worshipping material possessions, exalting property over God, and worshiping money. Children raised in an environment of idolatry will keep the tradition going and similarly practice idolatry, thus falling into the established pattern of disobedience. The effect of one disobedient generation is that wickedness would take root so deeply that it may take several generations to reverse.
The implication of Exodus 20:5 is that children are more likely to take after their dads. A new generation will tend to repeat the sins of their ancestors. Therefore, God “punishing the children” is simply another way of saying that the children are repeating their fathers’ sins. The tendency to repeat the mistakes of history is especially strong in an idolatrous culture. For example, if a man is a bank robber, will God punish that man’s son, even if the son has nothing to do with the robbery? Definitely not. However, it is quite possible that the father who robbed the bank is making life more difficult for his son, through the natural consequences of his crime.
So, if the son is learning from his dad the techniques of robbing a bank (with or without his father’s instruction), there is a very good chance the son will follow the same path of duplicity. In that case, the sin is replicated by the son, and the punishment for the sin follows. The effects of sin are naturally passed down from one generation to the next. That son becomes a robber and will in turn pass down the skill of robbery.
When a father leads a sinful lifestyle, his children are likely to practice the same sinful lifestyle. Implied in the warning of Exodus 20:5 is the fact that the children will likely choose to repeat the sins of their fathers. The example of David is instructive. David and Bathsheba’s 1st son, who did nothing wrong, died soon after birth due to David’s sin. When God punished the nation of Israel for their sin, that punishment sometimes also affected the children.
My prayer this week is that as a father, you will not pass any curse to your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, advertently or inadvertently.
Have a great week.
Kingdom Dynamics, a weekly column is written by Dr. Babatunde Olugboji, the President, Kingdom House, a non-profit organization in New Jersey, USA.