God’s Hypocrisy: Punishing Children for the Sins of Their Parents (Deut. 24:16 and Deut. 28)

The Bible is often held up by the faithful as the authoritative book on morality and justice. Hopefully by now you realize that this is easy to disagree with (and be clearly in the right). What I think is the most aggravating about this claim is that the faithful can settle, or more likely ignore, the fact that God is not held to the same moral standard that he imposes on humanity. Some notable examples we’ve already encountered include God commanding that “thou shalt not kill’ after killing the first-born in Egypt, God killing thousands of Israelites with poison quail for complaining about the menu after commanding “thou shalt not kill”, and God sending his people into the occupied promised land after commanding “thou shalt not steal” and “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house”. Deuteronomy provides us with another example where God makes it clear he will violate, in my opinion, a more basic concept of fairness and justice. And if the prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea are to be believed, God does eventually make good on his promise.

God instructs:

“Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.” (Deut 24:16)

This, I think most will agree, is a pretty basic part of what we consider justice. If I do something wrong, I should be the one who is held accountable for my actions. Or put another way, I shouldn’t be punished for the crimes of others if I had nothing to do with their crimes. Pretty basic stuff. So basic that we extend this logic beyond capital punishment. But later in Deuteronomy 28, God threatens Israel with a justice that clearly violates this principle in order to dissuade them from disobeying him and his law (ironically, like the one above):

15 However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:” (Deut: 28:15)

30 You will be pledged to be married to a woman, but another will take her and rape her. …” (Deut. 28:30)

32 Your sons and daughters will be given to another nation, and you will wear out your eyes watching for them day after day, powerless to lift a hand.” (Deut. 28:32)

41 You will have sons and daughters but you will not keep them, because they will go into captivity.” (Deut. 28:41)

Why is God above his own law? Or, if you prefer to be technical and insist that the verse is only intended for cases of enforcing capital punishment: why is God’s law so obviously inferior–at the most fundamental level–to our own? Why should we let others get away with telling us they’re morally superior because they believe in the moral authority of the Bible? Well, we shouldn’t.

Bonus: this isn’t the first time God has threatened punishment through the generations. It’s built right into the ten commandments.

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One Response to God’s Hypocrisy: Punishing Children for the Sins of Their Parents (Deut. 24:16 and Deut. 28)

  1. Pingback: The Top 5 Most Ridiculous Things in Deuteronomy » HoleyBooks.com

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