Does the Word contradict itself?


Could there be a contradiction in this week’s Scripture portion? In this week’s parasha we read:

Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for theirfathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.

Deuteronomy 24:16

In Deuteronomy 5:8–9 (as in Exodus 20:4–5), we read two verses that seem to possibly contradict this:

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. 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.

These seem to say two different things! The first verse says that each person will pay for his own sins, whereas the second example says that God will visit the sins of the fathers on their children, even to the fourth generation. Is this a contradiction?

As I shared this mystery with my staff here in Jerusalem, my amazing team had some interesting thoughts about it. One staff member suggested that the example from Deuteronomy 5 speaks of sins against God, while the example from Deuteronomy 24 speaks of sins against men. Another staff member suggested that these verses refer to the slight distinction between judgment (death) versus consequences of sin; for the believer, this means that while God shields us from judgment under Yeshua’s blood, He does not shield us from the consequences of our sin. Another staff member brought up the story of what happened when Yeshua faced Pilate and as recorded in Matthew 27:24–25, directly connects to Deuteronomy 5:8–9:

And when Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children!

Matthew 27:24–25

My own personal conclusion is that, just like so many other stories in the Word, it all points to the redeeming work of our Messiah! In Jeremiah 31, we find that part of this Torah portion is repeated, only that here, it is directly connected to something great which God will do in the future:

In those days they will not say again, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge. “Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the LORD, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”

Jeremiah 31:29–34

In Jeremiah, we do find the concept that each person will be required to give an account of himself to God, but what is different here is that God Himself will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, where He will put His Word (Torah, Law) within us and write it on our hearts. That New Covenant is mediated by Yeshua Himself and began the moment He took the curse that is meant for us upon Himself.

In Ezekiel, the entire 18th chapter is devoted to this issue and gives us yet another hint of God’s amazing plan of redemption:

“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. 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. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of his righteousness which he has practiced, he will live. Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?”

Ezekiel 18:20–23

In conclusion, the two sets of scriptures from Deuteronomy do not contradict each other; they both point to the ultimate and final redemption that Yeshua has given us. Yeshua took upon Himself the curse that the Jews told Pilate they would have put on their children. Instead, He took that curse upon Himself, which in turn, offered redemption instead of a curse to generations of Jews and Gentiles that followed.

What can we take away from this? If nothing else, please know that each person — including you — will have to give an account to God! We have only one way to escape the judgment that each of us rightfully deserves: return to God through Yeshua, who is the High Priest mediating the covenant between the Father and us, and accept His righteousness for your sin. There is no other way to escape God’s righteous judgment!

Are you covered by His righteousness?

This article originally appeared on Hope for Israel and is reposted with permission.