Exodus 20:5

Hebrew Bible

4 “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 below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me, 6 and showing covenant faithfulness to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Onkelos Exodus 20:5


4 Thou shalt not make to thee image nor likeness of any thing that is in the heavens above, nor in the earth beneath, nor in the waters under the earth: 5 thou shalt not worship them nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God; visiting the sins of the fathers upon the rebellious children, unto the third generation and to the fourth generation of those who hate Me; while the children continue (or complete) to sin after their fathers; 6 but doing good to thousands of generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

 Notes and References

"... In addition to wisdom statements directly related to collective accountability, the role of wisdom instruction in the rearing of children is also relevant. The interpreter who produced the Targum Onkelos to Exodus 20:4-6 avoided the theological problem of innocent children suffering for the sins of their fathers by describing the children as “rebellious” and continuing “to sin after their fathers.” This solution to the theological problem of collective punishment may have an analogy in wisdom literature. Several texts from non-wisdom books of the Hebrew Bible with wisdom affinities, as well as from the New Testament, suggest a widespread notion that like begets like. Is this concept also present in the Hebrew biblical wisdom tradition and does it play any role in Israel’s wisdom literature’s understanding of the origins of good and wicked children? If so, this would suggest that wicked parents who deserve punishment produce wicked children who also deserve punishment; righteous parents who deserve reward produce righteous children who also deserve reward. Collective accountability does not create a theological problem in this scenario ..."

Kapfer, Hilary Claire Collective Accountability among the Sages of Ancient Israel (p. 19) Harvard University, 2013

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