Are Generational Curses “Like Father, Like Son”?

Bible and candleI’m reading through the Bible again this year, and am in Genesis. Previously, I’ve seen Abraham, to protect himself, pretend his wife is his sister. (Clearly, “courting” back then could involve murdering your competition, the existing husband.) You can find those instances in Genesis 12:14-20 and Genesis 20.

This morning (and I was a day behind), Abraham’s son Isaac did the same:

When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

(That is Genesis 26:7 in the New International Version, but you should read Genesis 26:1-11 for a fuller picture.)

So, we seem to see the expression, “like father, like son,” in action (and not in a positive way).

It made me wonder, could that be an example of “generational curses” in Scripture? For instance:

And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “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 punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7, emphasis mine).

I would consider Exodus 34:7 a “hard verse.” I recommend you read all of Ezekiel 18, but a smaller selection from it shows I have good reason to have difficulty:

“Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live.  The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them (Exodus 18:19-20).

The whole idea my children would be punished for my sins goes against any normal sense of fairness.

Unless, generational curses are essentially statements of fact.

Arguments about nature versus nurture aside, there is no question we pick up behaviors from our parents (or others who bring us up). Sometimes they are good. Sometimes…not so good. That “inheritance” can go on for generations, even more than three or four.

Considering his laudable faith in God (and what our Lord did to prove it was deserved), I found Abraham’s cowardly lying disappointing. Sadly, it appears that he handed that horrible character flaw to Jacob, who seems to have turned it up a couple notches. (That’s probably a subject for another post.)

What do you think? Are generational curses, at some level, just statements of fact?

More importantly, what generational curses do you and I exhibit thanks to our ancestors? When are we going to break them?

(Cross-posted on my blog.)

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