Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Exegetical Theology

First Advisor

Paul Raabe

Scripture References in this Resource

Isaiah 59:21; Exodus 20:2-6; Exodus 34:6-7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9; Exodus 1:1; Exodus 40:38; Exodus 3:14–15; Exodus 6:2–8; Exodus 15:1–18; Exodus 20:2–6; Exodus 29:45–46; Deuteronomy 4:32–33; Deuteronomy 5:4; Deuteronomy 5:22; Genesis 41:19; Exodus 9:18; 24; Deuteronomy 10:14; Exodus 11:6; Joel 2:2; Ezekiel 5:9; Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:19; Revelation 16:18; Exodus 32:15; Matthew 9:33; Mark 2:12; John 9:32; Exodus 20:2–17; Exodus 31:18; Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13; Deuteronomy 10:4; Exodus 40:20-21; Exodus 25:21–22; Exodus 34:28; Numbers 10:33


Egger, Thomas J. “‘Visiting Iniquity of Fathers against Sons’ in Exodus.” Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2018. 665 pp.

In two of the most important passages in Exodus (20:5 and 34:7), Yahweh describes himself as “visiting iniquity of fathers against sons, even against members of the third and fourth generations.” Missing in nearly every treatment of this phrase has been any sustained consideration of the phrase within the context of the Exodus narrative itself. Apart from such interpretive grounding, “visiting iniquity of fathers against sons” has shown itself susceptible to widely varied and contradictory readings and, especially, maximally problematizing readings which invest it with a harshness and blindness to individual justice befitting its supposed place far to one end of a developmental scheme, a place purportedly surpassed by other texts of Scripture and by contemporary ethical sensibilities.

This dissertation does not offer an apologia, theodicy, or simplistic harmonization of these challenging passages. Rather, it reads Exod 20:5 and 34:7 with full attention to narrative and rhetorical context. Part One surveys the history of research. Part Two offers a lexical-syntactical exegesis of Exod 20:5–6 and 34:6–7, with a chapter dedicated to the collocation פקד על in contexts of iniquity, arguing for the meaning “visit-in-punishment against.” Part Three examines the phrase in relation to major narrative themes, to the Exodus plot trajectory of the revelation of Yahweh’s name and character, and to the persuasive aims of Yahweh within two distinct rhetorical situations within the narrative.

“Visiting iniquity of fathers against sons” does not refer to natural consequences of fathers’ misdeeds upon their children; rather, it threatens Yahweh’s personal advent and active punishment of iniquity, sometimes after a long period of perceived absence or inactivity. The phrase reveals several aspects of Yahweh’s character and persuades the people not to be stubborn and idolatrous like Pharaoh/Egypt (who experienced Yahweh’s visitation of fathers’ iniquity against sons); to teach true worship to their children; not to misinterpret Yahweh’s patience; to repent with urgency before Yahweh; to worship Yahweh and cling to his mercy; and to treasure their enduring inheritance within this still-multiplying covenant community.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.