More Laws for a Holy People

Deuteronomy 24:14-25:16

It is forbidden to take advantage of the weakest segments of society. Likewise, a worker’s wages must be paid on time.


Fathers and sons may not be held accountable for each other’s actions.


You may not pervert the justice of the convert or the orphan, nor may you take the garment of a widow as security, because you were once a slave in Egypt and God has redeemed you.


During the harvest, you must leave behind any forgotten bundles of grain for the underprivileged and, likewise, must leave them some of your olive and grape crops. Again, this is because you were once a slave in Egypt.


The Israel Bible notes that in describing the process of removing the fruit from the olive tree, the verse says “when you beat your olive tree,” as olive trees were harvested by beating the branches with a stick, causing the olives to fall to the ground. According to the Sages, this hints to the blessing of abundance in the Land of Israel. There will be so much produce that the farmers will only need to harvest what falls off with the beating of the tree branches; they will not need to bother to climb a ladder in order to reach what was left at the top.  What remains on the tree is left for the poor and needy.


In the event of a court case where the judgment is lashes, the maximum punishment is forty stripes.


When threshing with an ox, the animal may not be muzzled.


If a married man dies childless, his brother who dwells with him must marry his widow and produce an heir on his behalf. If he refuses, the widow must bring him before the court to perform the ceremony of release: the widow takes his shoe and spits before him, proclaiming, “So is done to the man who will not build the house of his brother.”


If two men are fighting, and the wife of one grabs the other’s manhood during the altercation, her hand must be cut off.


One must keep honest weights and measures.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Here the Torah tells us that fathers and sons may not be punished for each other’s actions. Yet in Exodus 34:7, God says He “will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and unto the fourth generation.” How do you think these statements can be reconciled?

Comments ( 11 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • It seems here that Tora is contradicting itself. Ex 34:6/7 the children are being punished till the 3rd and 4th generation. Meant here is that children suffer through and for the sins of the parents. (collective responsability)
    But Deut. 24:16 says that each shall die for their own sin. (personal responsability) So someone is guilty when he commits a crime, but those who contributed to this criminal behaviour are legally not seen as guilty . Jeremiah and Ezekiel take the principle of personal responsability (Jer.31:29/30 and Ez.18:1-4) In spite of what seems to be wrong G-d will judge righteously. The diaspora in Babylon was a consequence of the mistakes of the forefathers. There these prophets gave hope and a future. Ez. says, that he who sins is the one that will die. The Sages reject the idea that children will be punished for the sins of their parents.They had a different explanation of this sentence. They say this concerns the children that go into the footsteps of their parents. (litt. “children who take the deeds of their parents in their hands.”).So only those will suffer who DO the same sins as the parents. Maimonides says, “ who so ever has the power to prevent someone from sinning, but doesn’t, shall also be punished fort that sin.” In this sense you can speak of collective responsability. The principle of personal responsability is one of the pillars of Judaism.(Pfff…. it took me quite a time to study)

    • Samuel granita

      "7 Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation. "(Exo 34:7)

      "5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;"(Exo 20:5)

      The word "visiting the iniquity" does not mean punishing.

      It is inevitable that children should suffer from the consequences of parental wrongdoing, but they are not punished for the parents' guilt, except as they participate in their sins. It is usually the case, however, that children walk in the steps of their parents. By inheritance and example the sons become partakers of the father's sin. Wrong tendencies, perverted appetites, and debased morals, as well as physical disease and degeneracy, are transmitted as a legacy from father to son, to the third and fourth generation. This fearful truth should have a solemn power to restrain men from following a course of sin

  • Diana Brown

    I believe that unrepentant parents pass on their ways to their children and grandchildren and the iniquity that goes with it in Exodus. They were to teach their children the ways of the Lord. By this point, Moses is reminding them they know the ways of the Lord and so every man, woman and child goes before the Lord on their own. Would that be correct?

  • Jesse

    More often than not, the sins of the father are a continuous action, not a one time thing. The child witnesses this and emulates his father’s mistake and continues in it. A good example is Abraham who lied about his wife, saying that she was his sister. Isaac did the same thing when he got older. Jacob was the biggest liar and deceiver of them all and then look at Jacob’s children and the deceit that they committed regarding Joseph. Is that not 3-4 generations?

      • To add to this, Jesse, our actions influence or become a part of our DNA (genetic composition) in that if one has lied in their lifetime, it inevitably passes on through their genetic composition to their children, if one has been eating non-kosher, they get diseases like cancer that eventually become part of their genetic composition. If a murderer, the same happens. So it takes a teshuva by their children and ancestors to walk away from this and as a result the children make up a different genetic composition when they repent and choose to walk in the way of the Torah on wards.

  • Magda

    It seems as if the apparent difference stems from the difference between Divine Judgement and human judgement according to Divine guidelines (Torah). In the first case, human judgement according to Divine guidelines is at issue – a human judge cannot according to this reference in the Torah judge and punish a father for his son’s actions and vice versa. Ex. 34:7 seems to be linked with the blessings and curses given in Torah. These seem to refer to generational curses where the children suffer the consequences of the fathers’ actions. This can be physically, emotionally and spiritually – if a father/parent (?) chooses to go against HaShem, or rebels against Him, it more often than not becomes visible in his children’s lives. If the father rejects the Holy One and it is clear in his actions, his children have a bad example and has difficulty seeing HaShem as a Loving Father which can often lead to them also rejecting HaShem / having rebellion in their lives. This negative roller-ball effect continues to the next generation. I believe we serve a Loving Father who is full of Mercy and true repentance and t’shuva can break the cycle in an individual’s life. This Divine ‘visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children’ is often visible, but difficult to understand from my/ our human idea of what is ‘fair’. Please comment.

    • Good catch! In our verse, we are being commanded on how we, as humans, are meant to approach a legal case. We cannot extract from the son the punishment the father deserved or vice versa. However, human judgment is not God’s judgment, and He has insights we cannot share. The Sages understand that God will punish future generations for the sins of their ancestors only when they themselves also deserve punishment. In other words, if the descendants continue in their fathers’ corrupt ways, they will be given a compound punishment, both for what they earned and what their forefathers deserved.

      • I agree perfectly with you Ahuva and Magda — human judgment and Yahweh's judgment are different, but when you take a closer look at this, you find that through perpetual right-living (walking in the Torah) the future generations (children) can slowly divert Yahweh's punishment on them as a result of their parent's sins in Exodus 34:7; when this happens, the children do not get to fully pay for their ancestors sins. So somehow, there is a resemblance between Exodus 34:7 and Deut 24:16.

  • Jayne

    It may be that the descendants, while not responsible for the sins of the fathers, will suffer the fallout from it for many years.

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