Deuteronomy 5

Deuteronomy 5

The Ten Commandments

And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. The LORD spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said:

“‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“‘You shall have no other gods before me.

“‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

“‘Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.

“‘Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

“‘You shall not murder.

“‘And you shall not commit adultery.

“‘And you shall not steal.

“‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“‘And you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.’

“These words the LORD spoke to all your assembly at the mountain out of the midst of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, with a loud voice; and he added no more. And he wrote them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. And you said, ‘Behold, the LORD our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the LORD our God any more, we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of fire as we have, and has still lived? Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say, and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’

“And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken. Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever! Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.’ You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess.


Deuteronomy 5 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

False teachers love to cherry-pick verses and twist the context to their liking. A perfect example of this is found in Deuteronomy 5:9.

‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  [9]  ‘You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,  [10]  but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Deuteronomy 5:8-10 NASB

I have heard some ridiculous interpretations of this verse. People often use it to incite fear and support their false teachings while recklessly abandoning the full context of the Word and the sweep of Scripture. When we are unsure about what a passage means, the worst thing to do is to isolate it and formulate an application based on human thinking. This is certainly the case with Deuteronomy 5:9.

Over the last 30 years, many books have been written on the theory of generational curses utilizing this verse (and Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18) as a backdrop for the interpretation. The initial problem is the misleading terminology. The authors who interpret this passage as affirming “curses” often will prescribe their own “special knowledge” to break the curse. This usually involves renouncing every individual sin of your past as well as the sins of your ancestors paying careful attention not to miss any because the curse might return! Yes, I am rolling my eyes too. I have even heard of parents of making their children confess the individual sins of the abuse they suffered as a victim of their abuser! It’s sickening!

Contemporary Old Testament scholar Walter Kaiser writes

“Children who repeat the sins of their fathers evidence it in personally hating God.”

Walter Kaiser

This is the most obvious point that proponents of generational curses fail to acknowledge. Verse 9 reads, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me.” Naturally speaking, children who hate God, like their parents did, will continue the learned behavior or genetic predisposition to those same sins. Outside of repentance and faith in Christ, a God-hating alcoholic father will many times produce a God-hating alcoholic son.

“A Jewish Targum specifies that this passage refers to ‘ungodly fathers’ and ‘rebellious children.’ So, it is not unjust for God to punish sin to the third or fourth generation – those generations are committing the same sins their ancestors did.”

Many trusted commentators agree with this interpretation.

“This necessarily implies – IF the children walk in the steps of their fathers; for no man can be condemned by Divine justice for a crime of which he was never guilty.”

Adam Clarke

“What we are told is that when father’s sins are visited on the children it is because the children have become sinners like the fathers. The father’s sins are the children’s sins. So no innocent child has ever been punished for a father’s sins; only guilty children are punished and are guilty of the very sins that their fathers sinned.”

John Piper

Another hole in the generational curse theory is the inclusion of demons. False teachers often peddle the same motto that goes something like this: “Demons are passed from generation to generation and these demons have ground in the lives of Christians because of generational sins.

The problem is that this passage in Deuteronomy says nothing about Satan or demons. In fact, the verse itself states that God will be the one to bring the consequences upon the sinful generation, not demons. In Colossians 2, Paul outlines how we are complete in Christ. The power of sin has been disarmed by the cross. If we have come to know Christ and profess by faith in His payment for all sin, why would God leave us in demonic bondage only to have to do additional work to be truly free? We don’t need Jesus + incantations to experience freedom and holiness. We only need Jesus.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”—  [14]  in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 3:13-14 NASB

Furthermore, the direct context here is speaking to idolatry on a national scale. God’s warning to the future generations is part of the Old Testament law here in the 10 Commandments. The consequences God inflicted on Israel were specific to their covenant and directed at a specific sin. That sin (idolatry) was proven to be broken through repentance in the context of Israel’s history. When they turned from sin, God showed mercy and forgiveness.

Let me give you an example. Why did God let these children into the Promised Land when their fathers worshiped idols? Shouldn’t He have kept them out due to their fathers’ sins? This commandment serves as a warning to the children. In other words, repent and don’t be like your fathers or you will naturally suffer the same consequences that they did!

Additionally, the false theology of having to confess the sins of an ancestor to receive healing is not a consistent teaching throughout the rest of Scripture. In fact, we see the opposite. The Bible encourages each individual to take responsibility for his or her own sins.

“In those days they will not say again, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, And the children’s teeth are set on edge.’  [30]  “But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.

Jeremiah 31:29-30 NASB

“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.  [21]  “But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

Ezekiel 18:20-21 NASB

Any teaching that requires human works in order to truly be free is stealing God’s glory and diminishing the power of what Jesus accomplished at the cross.  By faith, we receive healing, freedom, and forgiveness in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-10). When we stumble, we must repent and turn back to Him, not to man-made rituals or mystic incantations that will certainly deceive us in the end.

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