Dear Father Angelo,
What do the phrases in the Bible “with his angels He can find fault” and “punishing children for their fathers’ wickedness” mean?
Have a nice day.
1. The first writing which talks about Angels’ defects can be found in Job: “Lo, he puts no trust in his servants, and with his angels he can find fault” (Jb 4,18).
The comments of The Jerusalem Bible state: ”Servants of God and Angels are the same thing. If these beings, which are so close to God, can have such a radical imperfection in them, then all the more reason for man, that is sensual and perishable, to be even more imperfect”.
The radical imperfection refers to the fact that some Angels have fallen.
However, those Angels that are in Heaven have been confirmed in Goodness and as such are impeccable.
2. The second phrase can be found in various places of the Old Testament, for example in Exodus when God is about to dictate the Ten Commandments to Moses: “For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation, but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Ex 20, 5-6).
3. The language concerning reward and punishment is obviously allegorical and anthropomorphic. The punishment that is bestowed to the children up to the third and fourth generation reminds us that in the same way parents would suffer themselves rather than letting their children suffer for their sins, in the same manner a sinner who breaks the ten commandments separates himself from that which is most important to him, which is the possession of God within him during the time of sinning and throughout eternity.
4. Alongside the quoted text which must be understood as how it was previously explained, we can find another interpretation which is particularly precious, when God clearly states ”Only the one who sins shall die. The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son. The virtuous man’s virtue shall be his own, as the wicked man’s wickedness shall be his own” (Ez 18,20).
In fact, the text continues as such: “But if the wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed, if he keeps all my statutes and does what is right and just, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
None of the crimes he committed shall be remembered against him; he shall live because of the virtue he has practiced” (Ez 18,21-22).
The Jerusalem Bible comments “Not only is man not oppressed by the sins of his ancestors, but he can be purged from the weight of his own past.
It highlights the notions of conversion (or perversion) of the single individual and not of the collectivity.
Only the present status of the person determines God’s judgement”.
5. This is the desire of God concerning the sinner: “Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked? says the Lord GOD. Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?” (Ez 18,23) and: “Why should you die, O house of Israel?
For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies, says the Lord GOD. Return and live!” (Ez 18,31-32).
6. On the other significance of the text in Ex 20, 5-6 you can find the answer in the question that has already been published on our site The meaning of the words in which it is said that God punishes the sins of the fathers through their children until the third and fourth generation (Apr 3, 2015).
I wish you all the best, remind you to our Lord, and bless you.