NIV - 7 Maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.
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This was so in the beginning, when the Lord had to preserve his people and let the Earth populate. So these warnings from God would cause someone to think twice before they decide to sin. However, later in scripture, we are told (Ezekiel 18:20) that a son will NOT be punished for the sins of His father. And again in Jeremiah 31:29-30 That each person will be punished for HIS OWN iniquity!
On Mount Sinai the Lord 'descended in the clouds' and spoke with Moses saying that he is most graceful and loving and forgiving sin, but not to those who are not believers and followers of Him (the Lord) and as such, to the non-believers and ones that are remain in sin, their children and grand children and great grand children will bear the consequences of the parents' sin. A generational curse. This is why we must try to break that cycle as believers and not pass that sin and judgement to our children and their children.
The Kennedy's are a good example of these verses. The father made his money though mostly ilicit activities. He had his daughter I believe it was, lobotomized and institutionalized. The list of very bad thing he did to secure his fortune and fame goes in and on. Being a practicing/believing and probably saved Catholic, that means he belongs to God. God will chastize his children to try to get them back in line, sadly Joseph Kennedy never did. The "curse" was then on his children too. As you can tell by the news, many of them were not much better than dear old dad. The only way to break this is to repent and turn to God. Sadly, most of the Kennedy's will not do that and so the "curse" continues, even to the 2nd and 3rd generation. That is my understanding of it anyway. Repent and God will have mercy on us.
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