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Answering The Atheist
May 27, 2001 / Volume 1, Issue 12

Who is punished for the sins of the father? Isaiah 14:21 declares, "Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities." Yet, Deuteronomy 24:16 states, "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin."

Is there a contradiction?

In the context of Deuteronomy 24:16, God establishes a number of laws by which the people would be judged and kept. In verse 16, He acknowledges that an individual is personally responsible for what they do. If a man commits murder, his son is not to be put to death for the deed. Neither, if the son has committed adultery should the father be put to death. As is written, "...every man shall be put to death for his own sin."

In Isaiah 14, we are not reading of a son being put to death for the sins of his father. Rather, as we look at the context, we understand this to be a prophecy concerning the coming destruction upon a nation. On account of the wicked leadership of their king, God pronounced destruction upon the Babylonian people. A look into history tells us that in approximately 540 B.C., Babylon was overthrown by the Medes. The city was eventually left in ruins.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible