Are there generational curses in the Bible? Do they affect believers and even nonbelievers today?
A Generational Curse
Many quote one or two Bible verses to affirm there were generational curses during ancient times. Some believe they still exist today. One verse they often quote is Exodus 34:6-7, which says, “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’” They also quote Lamentations 5:7, which says, “Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities.” But we must ask these questions: Do these verses mean a family is cursed for generations? Are these families helpless victims of their fathers’ and grandfathers’ sins?
Context Is King
It is easy to take one or two Bible verses and use them to build a doctrinal belief, including that there are generational curses in families even today. But we should first look at the context of those verses. Even better, we should look at the entire chapter, if not the book itself. If we take any text out of context, it might create a pretext and a false one at that. We must be careful when we or someone else quotes a Bible verse. Anyone could pull a verse out of the Bible like “and Judas went and hanged himself.” That’s no way to build a belief system. Otherwise, the next verse could be, “You go and do likewise!” Do you see my point? In Exodus 34 where God speaks to Moses, God is angry at the stiff-necked, rebellious nation of Israel. He isn’t speaking to anyone else in referring to this curse. The Bible never calls it a generational curse, and this is never mentioned in the New Testament. The context of these verses is that God wanted to start over with Moses and destroy the entire nation of Israel. But Moses interceded for Israel, foreshadowing the type of Jesus’ heavenly ministry today as our Intercessor or Mediator. Here is the point: God was speaking to a nation that was continually disobeying Him and grumbling about everything. So God told Moses that He would visit the sins of the fathers until the fourth generation. But what exactly was this? Was it a curse? The Bible never calls it that. However, if any family disobeys God and grumbles about everything that God’s doing or not doing, then that family truly is cursed, at least until they repent of this discontentment and disobedience. God never promises to bless such a family. If that family continues to live in the same sinful, dysfunctional manner, then that family will feel like they’re cursed.
Jesus Took the Curse
Is this a generational curse, or is it more the idea that dysfunctional families produce dysfunctional children who will do just as much sinning as their fathers did (if not worse) because it was a learned pattern of behavior for them? Children often do what they see. They will do what you do more than what you tell them because your actions are drowning out your words. Children can see through hypocrisy fairly easy. If they hear their parents say “Don’t do this” but see their parents do it, they’ll see it as their parents approval of it and also that lying and being a hypocrite are part of “normal” family. That will bring curses in and of itself. It’s more of a byproduct than a curse but is a curse nonetheless. Even if there is a so-called generational curse, Jesus is the cure for that curse. The Apostle Paul wrote that “all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them’” (Galatians 3:10). This means we’re all cursed because none of us can ever keep the Law perfectly or do enough good works to save ourselves. Thankfully, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Galatians 3:13). It is true that “the LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Numbers 14:18). In that sense we’re all a bit cursed because of our sinful nature. It’s good to acknowledge that, but then we must acknowledge we have trusted in Christ and profess Him to others so that they might have the curse of death lifted, too. Then they might receive eternal life by believing in Jesus Christ.
Let’s be clear about this. The Bible says, “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20). Yes, there is something like a generational curse, but it’s an effect of a family that is not walking with God and walking in their own flesh. Fleshly living produces carnal results, which eventually leads to eternal death. I hope you’re not worried that you’re locked into a generational curse and can’t get out of it. That’s not true because Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,” (John 8:36). This means the condemnation has been lifted (Romans 8:1) and you now have peace with God (Romans 5:1) through Jesus Christ, Who became a curse for us so that we might have our curse lifted.
May God richly bless you,
Pastor Jack Wellman
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