Yesterday morning, I was at Bible study. We started the sixteen verses that contain the ten commandments. Most of our discussion centered on Exodus 20:5-6, which follows the commandment against idolotry:
I, the Lord, your God, am a zealous God, Who visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the sons, upon the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, and [I] perform loving kindness to thousands [of generations], to those who love Me and to those who keep My commandments.The idea that innocent children should be punished for the sins of their parents, aside from being repugnant, directly contradicts other text in the Bible (e.g. Deuteronomy 24:16.)
One commentary put an interesting spin on the passage: perhaps it is not a statement of intent to punish. Rather, it could be an observation of the moral interdependence of parents and children. Children who are abused, for example, are at significantly elevated risk of becoming abusers themselves.
We also talked about the ratio of bad effects—three to four generations—to the "thousands of generations" for good effects. Does time really increase the amount of good in the world?
I remembered part of a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr, and looked it up when I got home:
The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.It's a hopeful statement - bending toward justice. I find it kind of inspiring to think of the arc reaching back to Moses and the commandments. May we continue to guide the morals of our society toward justice.