Week in Review - Questions on Judgment and Generations

Here's a question I was asked about the above, and a blurb in reply.
Questions: I've been really enjoying Daily Truthbase. I did, however, have one question. The readings have, recently, talked about how God/God's actors strike down not only wicked kings, but also their children (Ps 109:9-10). How do you reconcile that with the western idea of individual, rather than corporate, responsibility (as in, you're not responsible for what your parents did wrong as long as you did good)?

Also, somewhat related, how do you reconcile limited government with the Old Testament? As in, the kings tended to be frowned upon if they didn't remove pagan places of worship (I think it was Asa who did everything right, except for removing the high places). 

Answers: Good questions. They show you're thinking (haven't you been warned about that?).

The first is the trickier one to answer, because you have the command in Dt 24:16 "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin."
Which was actually obeyed in 2 Kings 14:6 "But the children of the murderers he did not execute, according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, in which the LORD commanded, saying, "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers; but a person shall be put to death for his own sin.""

Then you have situations like Jehu, where he is anointed to wipe out the entire house of Ahab. As well as God's self revelation in Ex 34:7 "keeping hesed for thousands (of generations), forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation." And the passage you cited in Ps 109:9-10. 

First let's distinguish between death and punishment. Death is total removal of a sinner from the community so the sin doesn't infect others. Wiping out the house of Ahab was to prevent any of the sons (who were already willing participants in Baal worship and thus worthy of death) for following in their father's footsteps. Anyone not walking according to the covenant and serving other gods was to be stoned. So in many, if not all, cases, the kids are following the parents' example and are worthy of death due to their own guilt.
It in the Ancient Near East it was a big thing to have a heritage, and descendants to carry on your name. So an incentive to obey, was that your descendants would be cut off, either physically via death, or from blessing. Now the question becomes, is the kid punished for the sins of the parent? Yes and no. One could argue that the parents are responsible for training their kids, and failure to do so makes them the cause of the kids sin. On the other hand, all kids sin, and God would be just in punishing them for their own sin. Take the example in Ps 109. A wicked demonic parent is not going to have godly kids, hence the punishment  the psalmist asks for would be justly earned by the kid (there's no guarantee that they will get punished, the psalmist is just asking for it). Each of us commits enough sin on our own to merit punishment. God does extend grace in not letting the lightening strike every time we step over the line.
God extends even more grace in forgiving and pardoning, and not having people reap the full consequences of their actions when they repent. The kids of the evil guy in Ps 109 could repent and reap blessing instead of cursing if they follow God. The likelihood of that happening is slim, but in Judah in Chronicles, you do have good kings following bad kings, and getting blessed, and bad kings repenting and having the announced punishment postponed (until the next time they step out of line). 
The conclusion is that each person does indeed get judged/punished for their own sin. The deck is stacked a little against the kid of great sinners, but there are accounts of great sinners being followed by good people like Hezekiah. There is no account of a good kid getting punishment because of the parent that I know of. If there were, God would be unjust.

The second question is resolved in understanding a theocracy. God is the supreme ruler. (See the Border Sacrifice in China and the Divine Righteousness of Kings in Genesis.) It was the role of a king to rule as the vice-regent of a god, and execute the god's rule in a territory. The kings of Judah were not autonomous agents, nor elected by the people, but were put in place by God to execute His rule and judgments, and evaluated on the basis of having done that or not. Yahweh was their king, and the earthly king, as His agent, was supposed to do God's will, which included shepherding God's people. God has specified the Israelite "constitution" and the even had the "consent of the governed", although in a different sense than Locke.  If the governed consented to God's rule they got blessed. If they rebelled, they got cursed, punished or destroyed. Removing pagan worship centers was a major task of Israel and her kings, which demonstrated loyalty to Yahweh. Failure to do so was disloyalty, and set up the nation for punishment, famine, invasion, etc. So in order to protect life, liberty and property (pursuit of happiness), the pagan worship needed to be eliminated. That was the Law of the land. If you've been following DailyTruthbase from the beginning, God's purpose in creating the nation of Israel as a holy, separate, distinct people, was not just to judge the pagans, but to make it clear that He was doing it, and to provide a point of contact between the world and Himself in a comprehensible way, ie, the Law. 
Limited government isn't necessarily a Biblical principle, although considering what form a government should take is beyond the scope of this response. I'll touch on it when we get to the NT.  The NT recognizes individual liberty and conscience, and the responsibility of submission to a local Body of believers (submission is in the grey areas), but also the role of government for rewarding good and punishing evil (if a government fails to carry out this function, per Rm 13, one can wonder if it is a government ordained by God). The NT allows for governmental structures that are not a theocracy. Even in the OT, it is clear that God used Syria, Assyria, and Babylon as His agents in carrying out His purposes, but without the covenantal/constitutional arrangement He had with Israel, the only legitimate theocracy in history, in my opinion.

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