Rizpah’s Torment: When God Punishes The Children For The Sin Of The Father -- By: Robert B. Chisholm Jr.
BSac 175:697 (January-March 2018) p. 50
Rizpah’s Torment: When God Punishes The Children For The Sin Of The Father
Robert B. Chisholm Jr. is Chair and Senior Professor of Old Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas.
In the Old Testament, God warned his enemies that their sin would have negative consequences for their families, and punishment for sin at times included the sinner’s children. However, the law of God says that a child must not be punished for a parent’s sin. Close readings of narratives where sinners’ children are punished reveal that the sins in question constitute blatant rebellion against God’s authority. Since children are a blessing from the Lord, he may withdraw this blessing as he exacts retribution. However, God does not allow human judges to follow this principle, since they do not share God’s rights as Creator. Ezekiel 18 describes God’s merciful response to a specific situation, not a universal principle.
According to the Old Testament, God sometimes punishes children because of their father’s sin(s). The Lord warned his enemies that their sin would have negative consequences in their families throughout their lifetimes (Exod 20:5; 34:7; Num 14:18). In several incidents, God’s punishment included the sinner’s children. For example, the earth swallowed up the children of Dathan and Abiram when God judged their rebellious parents (Num 16:27, 32). Achan’s children were executed along with their disobedient father (Josh 7:24). In accordance with David’s self-
BSac 175:697 (January-March 2018) p. 51
imposed punishment, the Lord took the lives of four of his children because of his sin against Uriah (2 Sam 12:5–6, 10; see 12:14–15; 13:28–29; 18:15; 1 Kgs 2:25). With the Lord’s approval, David turned seven of Saul’s descendants over to the Gibeonites for execution because of Saul’s sins against that city (2 Sam 21:1–9).
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