Deuteronomy 24:16—How can this passage state that children will not be killed for the sins of their parents when there are examples of this in other passages?
Problem: Deuteronomy 24:16 clearly states that the children shall not be put to death for the sins of their fathers. However, in 2 Samuel 12:15–18, the child of David and Bathsheba died as a result of David’s sins. How can this passage say that the children will not be put to death for the sins of their fathers if this is what happened to David’s child?
Solution: First, the passage in Deuteronomy is a precept laid down by which the legal system of Israel would function once they were established in the land. It was not the right of the human courts to exact capital punishment from the children of guilty parents if the children were not personally guilty of the crime. However, that which restricts the power of human courts does not restrict the right or authority of God.
Second, the Scripture does not indicate that David’s child was being punished for David’s sin. Rather, the Bible indicates that the death of the child was David’s punishment (2 Sam. 12:14). If it is thought that allowing the child to die was an unjust way to punish David, it must be remembered that David trusted in the righteousness of God when he said in faith, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:23). David trusted that God had taken his child to heaven and that he would be with the child when he died. God always acts according to His righteousness, and the restrictions of such precepts as this are designed to prevent men from perverting justice.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.