Visiting The Sins Of The Fathers On The Children – Reading Note – 1 Kings 14 – 17

In this post, I will defend two unconventional contentions:

1. That Justice is good if defined as giving someone what they have earned. This means, if a person does something right or wrong, they should be given what they have earned. Be it wages, reward or punishment.

2. That failing to give someone something that they earned is injustice and wrong. This means that if someone isn’t given their due reward, wage or punishment, that is wrong.

3. That giving someone something they have not earned (whether it is a gift or a punishment) is not innately wrong.

Now, hold your horses. Don’t stop here and start posting angry comments.

The Back-story

Jeroboam (1 Kings 14) and Baasha (1 Kings 16) were two kings of Israel who were so bad that God punished them severely. His punishment was the same for both of them. He would kill every descendant:

“‘I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone.  Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.'” – 1 Kings 14: 10, 11

This is nothing new. God made his position clear when he made his contract with Israel:

“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for 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.” -Exodus 20: 3 – 6

I understand hurt, anger and justice. I can imagine the kind of rage that would consume someone if he gave everything for a group of people and they spit in his face; if he had to beg for something he deserved and they insulted him anyway. But destroying an entire group of people for what one person did is wrong, isn’t it?

The Sun Shines on the Just and Unjust

We get a lot of things we don’t deserve. We didn’t work for the sunlight or air but we get them anyway. When you give someone something good that they have not worked for – deserved – it is called a gift. Some people might be pleasing to God. Some might be rebellious. But his sun shines on all of them just the same. We also don’t get things we do deserve. Some people might vote for good economic policies and some might be fiscally irresponsible, but if the economy is good, it affects them all. It does not discriminate between the fiscally responsible and irresponsible. In the same way, when Elijah said there would be no rain in Israel because of the sins committed, there was no rain for saint and sinner alike. Thinking about this, I’ve come to classify issues of justice into several categories. I’ll only look at some of them.

1. Giving something good to only those who worked for it.

This is called justice. Some might not like it, but it cannot be reproached.

2. Giving something to both those who worked for it and those who didn’t

This happens in the parable of the landowner. It is not just in the sense that it gives people something they do not deserve. But, as Jesus said, you can give what belongs to you in any way you choose. For those who earned it, it is deserved. For those who didn’t earn it, it is a gift. To begrudge them that gift is jealousy. A person who gives a gift has done nothing wrong

Things change drastically when the item being given is bad

1. Giving something bad to only those who earned it.

This is called justice. Some might not like it, but it is not wrong.

2. Giving something bad to those who earned it and those who didn’t

This is regarded as unjust, but its wrongness stems from the fact that it is unkind. If it were a good thing being given, it would still be unjust, but it would not be wrong. There is a patter there. Giving someone something good is fine whether they deserved it or not.  Giving someone something bad is wrong if they did not deserve it. Not giving someone something good is wrong if they deserved it. Not giving someone something bad they deserved is called mercy. And mercy is right or wrong depending on the situation.

Merited Unmerited
Good  Right Not wrong (Kindness/gift)
Bad Right wrong

If there seems to be something wrong with the above table, it’s because there is. It’s not symmetric. If giving someone something they do not deserve is wrong, giving gifts would be wrong. Since giving gifts isn’t wrong, giving someone something they do not deserve isn’t necessarily wrong. For that reason, we cannot say that when God cursed Jeroboam’s entire family because of Jeroboam’s sins, he was wrong because it was unjust (i.e. he gave them something they did not deserve). If it was wrong, it was wrong for some other reason.

One could argue that giving someone something bad is wrong if they do not deserve it, but they would need to support that. We can’t draw arbitrary lines in that sand if we are to avoid special pleading.

Why would God’s actions be wrong?

Kindness

Since ‘the children didn’t deserve it’ doesn’t count, we need some other reason. (And ‘but it feels wrong’ doesn’t count). One option is that it was unkind and God should be kind.This brings us back to the whole issue of God’s rights.

1. God can kill whoever he wants at any time in the same way he can take away the sun he gave us. Our lives belong to him.

2. Kindness isn’t good in and of itself either. Pardoning a murder would be kind to him, but not to everyone else and certainly not to the victims. Bombing the farmlands of a country isn’t kind, but if that country is on a mission to destroy yours, kindness won’t help. Kindness needs to be weighed against its repercussions.

3. Given (2), God’s actions achieved more than destruction. It was a warning for everyone who valued their lives.  Was that justification enough? Maybe. Maybe not. But like I already said, God doesn’t need justification to kill someone and the mere fact that his action was unkind means nothing in this case .

The Soul That Sins Will Die

A second option is that God’s policy is not to punish the innocent for the guilty.  So, breaking his own word makes him a liar.  This would be a powerful objection if you can show that God has actually broken his word. Comprehension is paramount. When God says the the soul that sins is the one who will die, he does it in a specific context. Here is the passage from Ezekiel 18: 5 – 18.

The Righteous man will live

“If a man is righteous and does what is just and right— 6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach ca woman in her time of menstrual impurity, 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8 does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, 9 walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully—he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord God.

The Sinner will die

10 “If he fathers a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things 11 (though he himself did none of these things), who even eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife, 12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination, 13 lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.

14 “Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise: 15 he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife, 16 does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live. 18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.

The righteous man, as you can see, keeps God’s laws. I don’t know that any of Jeroboam’s sons were better than their father so I can’t say that they were the righteous man portrayed here. But I can say this: God did not say he will not punish the children for their parents. He said he would not punish a righteous person for an evil one. Jeroboam’s sons were probably innocent of their father’s actions. But that does not make them righteous.

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Exodus 33 & 34 – Reading Note

 

  • God promised to drive out (not kill) the people in the land of Canaan so the Israelites could occupy it (33:2; 34:11; 34:24).
  • God said he would not go to Canaan with the Israelites because they were stubborn and he might destroy them on the way. Did God not know for certain whether he would or would not destroy the people? (33:3, 5)
  • God tells Moses that no one will see him and live, but had they not seen him already? (24:9 – 11; 33:11; 33:20)
  • In all the previously named verses, God is clearly described in human terms.
  • God’s description of himself:

“The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet, he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punished the children and their children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6, 7

Tough Passages: God Hardens Pharaoh’s Heart (Exodus 3 – 14)

After my short detour to Ephesians 2, I’m currently trying to understand the issue of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart (using my notes on dealing with tough passages) and this is the first of my notes on the issue. I’ve simply read the chapters in question and taken notes. Next, I will make a table of notes and list of hypothesis at this point, then get a bunch of commentaries and enlist the help of friends. Bible Study is so much fun.

I don’t expect anyone to read this by the way, seeing as it took me two days to produce it. It’s more than 1000 words. And I thought 500-word essays were horrible in high school.

Question are in blockquotes and al Bible passages are from Exodus chapters 3 to 14.

• The people were suffering in Egypt. They were miserable. They cried to the LORD. (3:7). They were being oppressed (3:9).

• God wanted to rescue them from their oppressors (3:8). • God knew that Pharaoh would would not free the Israelites unless he was forced to (3:19)

• God says that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not free the people (4:21). • Yet, he tells Moses to perform the miracles before Pharaoh, anyway (4:21).

• Then, God blames pharaoh for refusing to let the Israelites go and passes judgment on him. He says that he will kill Pharaoh’s firstborn (4: 22 -23).

• Question: At this point, is God saying that because Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go this first time, he will punish him by killing his son, regardless? This would mean that God could theoretically harden Pharaoh’s heart during the plagues so that he could get to the last plague and kill his firstborn.

• In verse 21, is God saying that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart now, or when he is performing the first signs, or in the future?

• Pharaoh was very dismissive of Moses and Aaron’s God when he was told the LORD wanted him to free the Israelites (5:2).

• Pharaoh didn’t care about what Moses and Aaron were trying to tell him. He was just angry that they were stopping the people from working and decided to punish them for laziness. (5:5 – 9).

• Pharaoh also suggested that Moses and Aaron were lying and did not believe them (5:8, 9).

• The result was that Pharaoh worsened the Israelite’s situation (5:10 – 21) • God knew that his power would be shown (6:1).

• God’s actions in Egypt were also acts of judgment (6:6; 7:4; 12:12).

• God wanted the Israelites to learn to trust him as a result of his actions in Egypt (6:6 – 8)

• God says he will harden Pharaoh’s heart (7:3)

• He would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh would not listen to the signs, no matter how many (7:3, 4).

• God believed that his actions in Egypt would make the Egyptians know that he was “the LORD” (7:5).

• Pharaoh’s heart becomes hard. It is not said who made it hard (7:13, 14).

• Pharaoh’s heart was hard after the first plague, but there is still no mention of whose action it was (7:23).

• He did not even take the plague to heart. He simply ignored it (7:23).

• Seven days passed (7:25)

• God asks Pharaoh to let the Israelites go again. He does not seem to be dissuaded by the fact that he knew Pharaoh would not listen.

• Question: Does this mean that Pharaoh could have changed his mind, even though he would? Or was God simply doing all he could so that it would not be said that he had not tried enough?

• God even tells Pharaoh what he would do. He had ample warning (8:3, 4).

• Pharaoh promises to let the Israelites go if God would make the frogs leave. It was a lie (or he later changed his mind once the frogs were gone (8:8-15)

• Pharaoh hardened his heart after the second plague (8:15).

• God got rid of the frogs even though he knew and had previously declared, that Pharaoh would not listen (8:13).

• After the plague of gnats (third plague), Pharaoh’s heart was hard. It is, once again, not said whose action it was (8:19).

• The narrator says that Pharaoh would not listen to God, rather than could not (8:19).

• God warns Pharaoh of the coming plague again in the case of the fourth plague (flies) (8:20, 21).

• Pharaoh begins to make concessions. He asks the people to perform their sacrifice in Egypt (8:25).

• Once again Pharaoh promises to let the people go but does not keep his promise (8:28 – 32)

• The narrator says that Pharaoh would not let the people go, not could not (8:32).

• Pharaoh hardened his heart after the fourth plague (8:32).

• God warns Pharaoh, he sends the plague. Pharaoh’s heart is hard. Plague 5 (9:1 – 7).

• God hardens Pharaoh’s heart after plague 6 (9:12).

• Pharaoh would not listen to Moses and Aaron (9:12).

• God says he raised up (or spared Pharaoh) so that he could show his power to everyone on earth.

• God seems to hold Pharaoh responsible for his refusal to let the Israelites go (9:17, 18)

• God shows mercy. He warns Pharaoh and his people to get their animals out of the field before plague 7 (the hail) hit. In fact, he has being doing this (giving warnings) all along (9:19 – 21).

• Pharaoh promised to let the Israelites go after the hail. He did not keep his promise, again (9:27, 28).

• Pharaoh still did not fear God during the hail, according to Moses (9:30).

• Pharaoh hardened his heart after the plague of hail. His officials did the same (9:34, 35).

• He would not let the Israelites go (9:35).

• Yet, God says it was he who hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and his officials (10:1). He did it so he would show signs and the Israelites could tell their children and grandchildren about it and so that they would know that he was “the LORD” (10:1, 2).

• Perhaps God hardening Pharaoh’s heart equals Pharaoh hardening his own heart?

• God warns Pharaoh about the locusts (10 :3-6)

• Pharaoh seemed to believe that if all the people left, they would not return. This might have influenced his actions (10:8 – 11; 8:25; 10:24)

• God hardened Pharaoh’s heart after the eight plague (10:20).

• By the ninth plague, Pharaoh seemed angry.

• God hardened his heart again. He was unwilling to let the people go (10:27).

• The narrator says that it was God who had hardened Pharaoh’s heart (11:10).

• God intended to judge the gods of Egypt in the last plague (12:12)

• God said he would harden Pharaoh’s heart after he had let the Israelites go free (14:4).

• God actually hardened Pharaoh’s heart, says the narrator (14:8).

• God said he would harden the hearts of the army that was pursuing the people (14:17).

• Yet, the Egyptians eventually wanted to turn around and stop pursuing the Israelites (14:25).

Other helpful links:
Christian Think Tank (Glenn Miller) – God hardens Pharaoh’s heart

Christian Think Tank (Glenn Miller) – God hardens Pharaoh’s heart 2

But be warned, Glenn Miller’s articles, are extremely detailed. which means, they are very helpful and very long. They are not for those with short attention spans.

Exodus 26 & 27 – Reading Note

  • How did God expect Moses to remember all the building instructions? Did he write them down?
  • God keeps reminding Moses to build the things according to instructions but in a strange manner. He doesn’t say “follow the instructions I am giving you”, but “build these things the way you were shown you on the mountain”. He’s speaking in the past tense and saying that he ‘showed’ it to Moses. Also, is Moses not still on the mountain?
  • The Israelites are to be commanded to bring oil (27:20). This does not seem to be voluntary like in 25:1-7.

Exodus 24 & 25 – Reading Note

  • Moses wrote down the laws that God had given him for the people of Israel (24:4) or at least the part of it that he had at that point.
  • Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and seventy elders of Israel saw God (24: 9 – 11)
  • I don’t think Nadab and Abihu were introduced before this.
  • Joshua wasn’t introduced when he was first mentioned either (in 17:9), but he was described as Joshua’s aide in 24:13.
  • God didn’t miraculously provide materials for his sanctuary. He asked the people to bring the things, not by force, but if they wanted to give (25:1-7)
  • God was very specific in giving the instructions for the things he wanted built.
  • God told Moses (twice) to ensure that he followed the building instructions he was given, exactly (25:9, 40).

Exodus 22 & 23 – Reading Note

  • Theft was unacceptable. A thief had to pay back what he had stolen, regardless (22: 3b)
  • Foreigners were not to be oppressed or mistreated (22:21) (23:9).
  • God cares for the oppressed – foreigners, widows, orphans and the poor (22: 21 – 27)
  • God is compassionate (22:27)
  • The people were to help their enemies (23: 4, 5). It seems that Jesus’ teaching about loving your enemies was taught in the Old Testament.

Exodus 20 & 21 – Reading Note

  • God’s demand that even slaves be made to rest on the Sabbath was a mercy to them. (Exodus 20:10, Exodus 23: 12, Deut 5:12 – 15)
  • God’s name is very important. (20:7)
  • Even foreigners were required to keep the Sabbath.
  • Parents were very important. Anyone who so much as cursed his parent was to be killed (21: 15, 17)
  • Do verses 22 – 25 in chapter 21 prescribe the death penalty for an accidental miscarriage?
  • Maiming or killing of slaves was discouraged (21: 26, 17).
  • The penalty for owning a bull that killed someone was the same whether the victim was male or female, a child or an adult. Age was not an important factor. A fine or the death penalty, if the person is free, and a fine to the master if the person is a slave (male or female). So, the penalty was variable for free people and fixed for slaves. Why? In either case, the bull was still killed.