The more I read about the subject of “Generational Curses”, the more I realise just what a wide ranging subject it is, and how different groups have a different definition for the words.However,I hope that this article will deal with the basic concepts as I see them. If there are other issues not covered, please contact us with your questions and queries.
One of the first things we need to do, is to ask in Biblical terms, what does ‘curse’ mean. In the Old Testament there are three words translated as curse and in the New Testament just one. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia gives us some helpful information in its article on curse.
This word as noun and verb renders different Heb words, some of them being more or less synonymous, differing only in degree or strength… When a curse is pronounced… A curse was considered to possess an inherent power of carrying itself into effect… In the dramatic situation depicted in Dt 11 29; 27 12f)… the curse was the penalty for disobedience, as the blessing was the reward for obedience… The violator of the law is under a curse. His doom has been pronounced. Escape is impossible. But on the cross Jesus Christ endured the curse – for “cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal 3 10.13)… Jesus commands His disciples, “Bless them that curse you”. – Vol.1, p.767.
Biblically a curse from another person needs to be pronounced but the receiver has the chance to reject it, and return a blessing on the person, thus having no effect on the person originally cursed. Just as a curse can be brought on yourself by disobedience, you have a chance to bring a blessing on yourself with obedience. It seems to me that the way many use the word ‘curse’ does not fall into these categories and maybe curse is the wrong word to use. We will use it in the rest of the article, as that is the way it is often described, but we will see other instances that show that this is not correct terminology.
I do believe that it is possible for there to be a negative effect on our lives from past generations, however the form this takes, the extent that we are being told it happens, and the almost total assumption that everyone must have a curse, are problems that I hope to address. There is nothing worse than mistreating or even ‘abusing’ Christians by telling them they are cursed, when they are not. We are then simply doing the Devil’s work for him and creating a situation that for some has been unbearable.
We have a friend who God has led through cancer and brought her out the other side with a great testimony of Him. At a recent meeting, she was told categorically that the reason she had cancer was because her late husband was a freemason and the disease was the result of that curse. Devastated she phoned for advice. No account was taken of the fact that the Lord had healed or that He had used her in this situation – the husband was a freemason and therefore there must be a curse – cancer was it. Such advice is more like divination than Christian counselling.
Martin Yarde who has in the passed been involved in this type of ministry commented in a letter to Reachout Trust,
This teaching can easily put people into bondage to those who claim to have the gifting or ‘anointing’ in this area. Like many similar teachings, it does in effect deny the sufficiency of the cross and can undermine a believer’s personal relationship with Jesus by making him more dependent on ‘professional’ deliverance ministers. In all this, there is a distinct lack of emphasis on the sovereignty of God. The implication is that unless the problem of generational curses is dealt with, you may miss out on God’s blessing in your life. This can lead to paranoia and endless seeking after ministry.
I begin by making some general observations. First, that the vast majority of the teaching concerning ‘Generational Curses’ comes from the Old Testament. We do not want to ignore the Old Testament and especially the Law on which so much of the teaching is based but we are to understand its place. Matthew 5:17 clearly tells us that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but rather to fulfil them. However, we must read the context to see that Jesus was talking to the disciples with Jewish backgrounds, that did seek to keep the Law. Notice verse 20 especially where He tells them that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven their righteousness must surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees.
Jesus was not telling them to fulfil the Law themselves; He was saying that it was impossible for men. He then in the next verses shows that He has made the task even harder, if we are trying to do it ourselves (see verses 21, 27, 38 etc.) The teaching as you look at the context is that today the Law is not outward but inward. We are not to reject the Law but to see that the only way to fulfil it is to know Christ within.
Paul takes up this teaching, and especially in 2 Corinthians chapter 3, shows the clear difference between the Old Testament believer and the New Testament believer (see verses 7 and 8). Any verses that are quoted with regard to ‘Generational Curses’ must take into account these words of Jesus; and the teaching of Paul in the New Testament must also be noted.
Another significant general observation I want to make is concerning Jesus’ ministry. More than anyone else Jesus dealt with demonic cases and yet in all the records there is not one hint of ‘Generational Curses.’ Indeed the one time that Jesus could have easily taught about the matter in John 9:1-3, He made clear that the ‘curse’ had nothing to do with the past.
This leads me to ask the question, as to whether the emphasis that has developed on ‘Generational Curses’ in the last few years, is a real or an imagined one? Is it the latest fad of which we have had so many in the past years or is there clear Biblical teaching that shows we are experiencing today an unprecedented revival in these areas? Ten years ago you hardly heard about them, today just about everyone has a curse according to some Bible teachers.
Martin Yarde also adds the following observation,
Furthermore you can find no mention of it in the history of great revivals, when far higher numbers of people were saved and Christians seemed to end up living much more victorious lives than we do today. Those who minister… are involved in an activity of which the New Testament knows nothing.
With this in mind, I want to investigate two presentations of this doctrine. First by Ron G Campbell in his book Free from Freemasonry. Ron is founder of the American Jeremiah Project and teaches on spiritual warfare. The fact that this presentation of curses comes within a book on Freemasonry is not unusual, as many today are claiming that almost everyone who has an ancestor who was a Freemason is cursed.
Secondly, I want to use some notes sent to me by one of our supporters after John Lyndon-Cook spoke on Premier Christian Radio. The person concerned not only listened carefully to the programme but also spoke personally on the telephone to John Lyndon-Cook.
Ron G. Campbell
So let’s begin with the teaching of Ron G Campbell, which starts on p.155 of his book under the chapter title ‘Understanding Generation Curses’. On p.157 we read, when explaining what a curse is, this seemingly balanced statement,
The word “curse” evokes a variety of responses in different individuals. To many people, curses are the use of foul language or profanity. Others think of curses as nothing more than the stuff of fairy tales, with witches casting spells and hexes and turning handsome princes into ugly toads. Then there are some who see a demon behind every bush. They blame curses for every negative incident or problem they have ever encountered. At the other end of the spectrum are those who are so afraid of becoming curse conscious (putting overemphasis on them) that they become curse unconscious. And finally, there are those who won’t even consider the possibility. You can almost hear this person say, “Curses are from the dark ages; we’re so much smarter today.” Positioned somewhere on the continuum between these two extremes-those who blame curses for anything negative and those who refuse to believe curses exist-are those who are at least open to the possibilities of demons and curses, yet they remain guarded.
However, a darker scene had already been set without any qualification whatsoever by the opening paragraph on p.155.
It is time to consider Masonry’s lingering effects on friends and family members. Have the secret oaths and esoteric rituals acted out by Masons behind the closed doors of the Lodge opened other doors that may not be as easily recognized? That is, have they opened entry points for curses that now oppress their loved ones? Yes!
On p.158 Campbell begins to explain that curses were real in the Old Testament and then that they were real in the New Testament and quotes Galatians 3:13 saying that because Christ took the curse there is no need for any of us to remain under a curse. Let us therefore look at these verses in Galatians.
We need to read the context again and see exactly what Paul is talking about; are we just talking about any curse or a generational curse or what? Interestingly these verses are very specific and as verse 10 tells us have to do with those who are seeking to live by the works of the Law. We can even go further than this because Paul was using it to show the Galatians that having begun their life in the liberty of the Spirit, they were no longer living that way. By going back to the Old Testament Law and trying to keep it, they were calling down a curse on their lives.
In other words because of what the individual was doing; not because of what their ancestors had done, they were calling down a curse. No one could be justified by the Law, no one could keep it and so all would be under a curse, but Christ redeemed (past tense) them from that curse in that He became the curse and fulfilled the Law, thus they could walk in the Spirit and be free to know the blessing of Abraham. However, if they chose not to live that way they would be calling a curse on themselves. Very different from a generational curse.
Am I saying then that there are no instances in the New Testament where someone from a previous generation caused a curse to come on a living person? Yes that is it exactly.
As there are not too many Scriptures in the New Testament where the word curse or cursing appears I have categorised them below.
Give blessing when cursed by another living being.
Matthew 5:44 Luke 6:28 Romans 12:14
Matthew 26:74 Mark 14:71
Curse put upon you, another living being or an object
Matthew 15:4 Mark 7:10 Mark 11:21 Acts 23:12,14 James 3:9,10
Curse of works of Law
John 7:49 Galatians 3:10
Christ redeems us from curse of works of Law
Galatians 3:13 Revelation 22:3
Concerning judgement for deeds or lack of them
Matthew 25:41 Romans 3:14 Hebrews 6:8 2 Peter 2:14
Cursed because we do not believe or preach the only true gospel
1 Corinthians 12:3 1 Corinthians 16:22 Galatians 1:8,9
Separated from Christ
Every one of those Scriptures is to do with a living person either being effected by their own actions, in their lifetime, or another living person. Not one is seen to be cursed from a former member of their family.
If there is nothing in the New Testament what are the verses used in the Old Testament and how should we react to them today? On p.159, Campbell begins to quote scriptural references that allude to the reality of curses.
Exodus 20:3-6. These are the key verses quoted, especially verse 5, and so I would like to make a few comments about them.
The context here is that people worship and serve other gods. The result very importantly is not an automatic curse – in fact, the word ‘curse’ does not appear in these verses at all – but that the Lord is “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the third and the fourth generations of those that hate Me.” (NASB)
Does this say that there is an automatic curse on future generations because one member of the family was a Freemason? No!
What does it say then? Several very important things for us to notice.
1. There are two qualifications in order for a person to come under this punishment. First, to worship or serve other gods but also to be in a generation that hates God. Unless you qualify on both counts this does not apply to you.
2. Indeed the next verse underlines this, where the Lord will show lovingkindness to thousands who love Him and keep His commandments.
3. It is the Lord who does the visiting – it is not an automatic punishment. It is what He does, not what membership to an organisation or even what the Devil does, but what God does.
4. He is not saying how or what He will do, but simply that He will visit or punish them for their sins. You can therefore never claim that a particular act is always the way God punishes because it does not tell us that; God is sovereign to punish but also to forgive.
Exodus 34:6,7. This verse is nearly always quoted in the same breath as the one above but again there is nothing here to say that there is an automatic curse or judgement because someone has joined a particular group or committed a particular sin. Indeed, this is the Lord speaking about Himself and before He comes to the judgmental side, He talks of forgiveness and lovingkindness and only then visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the third and fourth generations. Again in the context of the love of God it means that it is neither certain nor automatic. It will happen because God is a righteous and a jealous God, but even in judgement, He remembers mercy and His judgements are not automatic retribution.
Ezekiel 18:19-32. These verses are obviously referring to the people of Israel under the Old Covenant and how they acted and reacted (see verse 2). They seem to give positive acceptance to the fact that with true repentance and turning away from the sins of the father, the fear of punishment is removed. We also see in the last few verses that even the danger of there being a stumbling block is removed and there is a possibility of a new heart and spirit. These verses must clearly be looked at when dealing with this subject.
Having thus shown his understanding of the Biblical concepts of curses, Campbell develops this to show how so many are affected today. He uses the following illustration,
The authority structure we want to focus on here as it relates to curses is the family, particularly the role of the father. Take the example of a father trying to be the priest of the home. He is the “spiritual covering” and provides an umbrella of spiritual protection over his family and loved ones. When the father is disobedient and sins, the umbrella of protection is ripped. Through that rip, the adversary is then able to saturate with oppressive storms in the form of demonic curses those under this father’s authority and protection. According to Ephesians 4:27, when we sin, we open the door, or provide an entry point, for Satan. Essentially, we give him permission to oppress our loved ones. Through the unrighteousness of one in spiritual authority over others, curses can now visit to the third and fourth generation.
Is this really true? Every time the father sins Satan can do what he likes to the family – does God abdicate? Where is this taught? When he confesses that sin, does that mean the protection is put back? Does Ephesians 4:27 teach this? In a word, no, because it is not dealing with the family but rather the individual and it certainly does not say that Satan can do whatever he likes but rather that he has an opportunity but it is no more specific than that.
Campbell now applies this teaching of what he calls “authority-engendered curses” to generation curses and shows the possible extent
Exodus 34 tells us that curses pass to the third and fourth generations. Suppose a man commits the sin of idolatry. Further suppose that he and each of his descendants for four generations have three children each. This adds up to 40 descendants who will come under the curse of that one man’s iniquity. Each person, by going backward on this generational chart, again has 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents and 16 great-great grandparents. This provides a total of 30 ancestors from whom curses could possibly have filtered down upon us. These are the curses that I call generational curses, and it’s not unlikely that many of us are experiencing them rather than blessings because one or more of these ancestors have unwisely opened the door to our adversary. (pp.164/165)
Despite this we still read the clear statement that Christ has redeemed us from these curses.
No one’s spiritual fate is sealed by another’s decision-all of us are individually responsible for our own lives and are accountable to God. If any of the children of those who turn away from God repent from their wickedness and turn back to God, God will have mercy on them, forgiving them their sins, removing the curses upon them through the blood of Christ, filling them with the same Holy Spirit and making the same promises of “love to a thousand generations of those who love me” (Exod. 20:6). In other words, Christ enables all of us who have failed to love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves-that means all of us (see Matt. 22:37-39; Rom. 3:23; 6:23)-to acknowledge individually the responsibility for our sin, to repent and to be transformed by Christ. But we are still part of the human race and part of our own generational line. (p.166)
This would appear to be the end of the matter but when we reach p.184, we read,
The Hammonds remind us of a very important concept about deliverance from curses. They suggest that salvation does not automatically free us from curses, for many of God’s children remain under curses even after they are born again. Why? They have not appropriated Christ’s redemption from the curses. Jesus died for all, but all are not saved. To come to salvation, a person must repent of his or her sin and appropriate-or claim-the blood of Jesus. Although Christ is the remedy for generational curses, we must personally repent for the sin that brought the curses and then renounce the curses and appropriate His blood over these curses
Once again one must ask why the contradiction? If the root of the curse is sin, as is clearly shown above, then once sin – the root – has been dealt with, the curse – the consequence – must also be dealt with. If Christ became the curse then when I accept that and believe it, the curse must be broken. Why do we make things more complicated than the Scripture ever did? Why do we want to make doctrines fit our thinking instead of allowing our thinking to be moulded by His doctrine?
There are other aspects we need to deal with and these come out quite clearly in the second explanation of this doctrine that I want to check out – those of John Linden-Cook. However, he is but an example of many others at this time.
The quotes here are from an email I received on 28 July 2000 from one of our supporters who both listened to Linden-Cook on Premier Christian radio and then spoke to him on the phone after the broadcast.
The heart of this aspect of the teaching about ‘Generational Curses’ goes to a distinction made concerning the words ‘iniquity’ and ‘sin’. Iniquity is thus defined in this teaching as occult worship, astrology and such like practices, whereas sin is breaking the commandments.
This already leads to confusion because the ‘iniquity of the fathers’ that is visited on the third and fourth generations is as a result of breaking the commandment to have no other gods. Thus, if we follow this thinking through, iniquity would be as a result of sin and if we dealt with the root sin then iniquity would also be dealt with. Interestingly this is the same conclusion as we arrived at above.
However, leaving aside this discrepancy, is there anything in the Biblical use of these words that could lead us to such a clear definition and distinction of ‘sin’ and ‘iniquity’?
We will turn to the definitions of Strong in his concordance for help in this matter. The main word for sin in Hebrew is chatta’ah which has the primary root of meaning ‘to miss the mark.’ Interestingly the primary word for sin in the Greek, harmarta, also comes from a root word meaning ‘to fail to hit’ or ‘miss the mark.’ Hence we have no problem of the Biblical meaning of sin throughout the Old and New Testaments.
The primary word for iniquity in Hebrew is avown meaning ,perversity or evil. In Greek the word is anomia meaning a violation of the law, from a root word meaning lawless. Clearly this is a stronger word than the word for sin but in its original context it would be better translated “breaking the commandments” and not sin, as we have above, which is aiming for something but missing the mark.
Nowhere in the Old or New Testaments is there any teaching that restricts the word iniquity to “occult worship, astrology and such like practices.”
With the basis for the teaching already suspect it develops into what I believe is heresy. The next step is that only sin is dealt with by conversion – not iniquity. This can be seen as the ‘spiritual’ thinking behind the forgiveness of sin and not the removal of a curse shown above.
Again, what does Scripture teach us on this matter? Please read just the few scriptures below with comments and see what you think. In the original language, each verse uses the words mentioned above.
Hebrews 10:17 – God makes no distinctions between the two.
Titus 2:14 – Christ gave Himself to redeem us from all iniquities.
Isaiah 53:6 – Our iniquities were placed on the Lamb of God.
Martin Yarde concludes,
It is not important to discover whether the causes of problems in our lives have their origin in previous generations. Such a quest can all too easily become a cop out from dealing with the real reasons for these problems or a way of trying to manipulate God into blessing us in certain ways. Or we might be unwilling to face the fact that God is sovereign and may have a reason for allowing some types of suffering in our lives. Instead we can rest peacefully and secure in the knowledge that God’s plans for our lives and the blessings he has for us are dependent on Him, not ourselves and cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2).
To this I would want to add that, as I started by saying, there maybe, and most certainly are, other issues concerning this teaching and I would be glad to hear from any that want to raise them. However, I have tried to deal with the basic issues as I see them and measure them against Scripture.
The conclusion has to be that man is making far more of this doctrine than Scripture does and as such it could be dangerous. Whereas it would be foolish to say it never happens it certainly does not happen with the frequency we are being led to believe by so many Bible teachers.
Please therefore be cautious over what you believe and what you say to other Christians. Please be clear that whatever you believe and teach, must be built on the firm foundation of Scripture and not individual Scriptures taken out of context, or Greek and Hebrew words given meanings that they did not have in the original.
Reachout Supporter DPHepworth made the following comments and I add them for you to consider:
Biblically a curse from another person needs to be pronounced but the receiver has the chance to reject it
This is not technically correct. A curse in biblical terms is usually conditional. If you follow the course of action where the condition of the curse comes into play you may not have the opportunity to reject it. For instance the curse pronounced by God on the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:26) only came into action when the condition was met (generations later). (1 Kings 16:34). There was no getting out of this curse once the action was taken. The only way to avoid it was to obey the Lord in the first place and not build the walls.
husband was a freemason and therefore there must be a curse
The objection behind this illustration seems out of context as the article is talking about generational curses, rather than curses a Freemason has pronounced over himself and his wife. As he is the husband he can not be an ancestor and therefore not part of her past generations but can still open up the family to the affect of blessings or curses.
Such advice is more like divination than Christian counselling
To call into doubt what may have been a word of knowledge and call it divination is a dangerous thing to do. Divination is the act of using occult powers to foresee events or interpreting signs or omens. Satan seeks to counterfeit the works of God (Matthew 24:24) but the actual works of God are OK because they come through his spirit and by his power and he is the only one who knows all things. Even if we disagree with the word from God it does not make it any less than the word of God; although we must test all such things to see if they are from God. If this is the case then it may be useful to reference what or how this word was specifically tested rather than brushing it aside with a sweeping statement because the woman was upset.
Maybe there was a lack of wisdom in how the word of knowledge was applied or maybe there was another issue which was?t addressed properly. We are all human and can only speak out in faith. Maybe the person who gave this word made an error or maybe the cancer was part of a curse (we have to consider this if we believe that curses are real), it is certainly true that disease in general is part of the curse of man and that even as the redeemed we are not immune to it; maybe this was just more of a specific curse.
We do not want to ignore the Old Testament and especially the Law on which so much of the teaching is based but we are to understand its place.
This is a very quick and casual dismissal of all of the Old Testament. It?s place in our lives is still as relevant as it ever was. Which testament did Jesus, Paul or Philip use to explain Gods plan of is salvation other than the old one (2 Timothy 3:16)
Indeed the one time that Jesus could have easily taught about the matter in John 9:1-3, He made clear that the ‘curse’ had nothing to do with the past
He also made it clear in this instance it was not the mans sin that caused the blindness; yet we know individual sin itself can bring about curse and disease but Jesus made no mention to address this issue either.
In Luke 11:50 this ‘curse’ or judgment is a result of their own sinfulness combined with the previous generations.
Also we are all under the curse of Adam even when we are redeemed and we are still prone to the curse of death (although it is only physical death) .
Is this really true? Every time the father sins Satan can do what he likes to the family
I agree with your thoughts here. Whilst I agree that the husband does indeed provide spiritual covering, the wife can provide her own covering when the husband?s is not present or damaged. 1 Corinthians 7:14. It may be a different matter if both of their covering is not present however.