"Visit The Sins Of The Fathers Upon The Children"

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Last Updated on May 24, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 233

Context: Although parts of the book of Exodus go back to the twelfth century B.C., the recording of the Mosaic law comes at about the same time as Euripides wrote a similar theme into one of his plays, Phrixus, of which only a few fragments are extant: "The gods visit the sins of the fathers upon the children." Some two millennia later Shakespeare comments in The Merchant of Venice, appropriate to the Judaic background of the play, "The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children." The most famous occurrence, however, is that of Jehovah calling upon Moses to transcribe the Commandments:

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And God spoke all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

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