By UZOR EMMANUEL UZOR
Over the years, the after math of any evil did in the past have been under review by the successors or any forbearers especially in the modern day African Christianity.
In a bid to finding a lasting solution to these mind-bugling jigsaw that has haunted us as well as thrown many families between the fold of Christendom into quagmire and also in a situation that has incapacitated their both spiritual, economical, political cum physical soundness, I traversed through the scripture to actually know whether this particular thesis still remains “The fathers have eaten the sour grapes and their children’s teeth are being set in edge”.
Ezekiel 18 belongs to the literary unit constituting of chapters 17 and 19 and within this unit; it functions as an oracle of salvation that transforms the negative messages of Ezekiel 17 and 19. The oracle is the message of hope to the people who are overwhelmed by catastrophe.
Some authors describe the text “a prophetic disputation” that culminate in a appeal for repentance while some authors prefer to read it as a Divine lecture on sacred law, in which God alters a traditional idea of application of sanctions attached in the infringement of that law.
These two ways of reading the text are acceptable for the present interpretations since the text contains all the features of a disputing speech (thesis, counter thesis and dispute moreover, except for verse 1 God speaks in the first person through the entire text. The text concludes with a general appeal for repentance (Vr 30 – 32).
After the messengers formula in (v 1), the text opens with a proverbial slogan in 18.2. “The fathers have eaten sour grapes and there children’s teeth are set on edge.
The slogan drew my attention on certain troubling personal or collective experiences of the modern person in modern day Christianity in Africa soil most of which defy any satisfactory explanations.
In fact, the very experience that it describes underscores the measure of strangers implied in some one’s teeth feeling rough when another person had eaten sour grapes. It is clear that this would not happen under normal circumstances. Even today, this proverbs still forms part of popular parlance people recall it whenever they feel they suffer unjustly for the offences they did not commit in the face of obvious injustice that could imply in above saying,, some objections could be raised, and certainly been raised in biblical literature (of Rom. 3:3 – 8) against the justice of God.
In the text under discussion, the objection is more clearly stated in Ezk. 18:25 – 29 yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair” Hear now oh house of Israel, is my law unfair?
Within the context of our text, this objection refers not only to the case of children suffering the penalties for their parents’ deeds but it is also a general criticism of God’s way of dealing with human beings.
Through Ezekiel, God contests these accusations of foul play claiming rather that the human beings are the inconsistent in the relationship. I consider it necessary to write this text as a theological response to certain experiences of our people, which often lead to moral and social degeneration of individuals and groups.
Doing this will be inline with the basic purpose of the oracle; to announce to the people; freedom from trans-generational retribution and to draw the attention to conventional responsibility.
The present discussion rightly begins with a presentation of the meaning of the proverbial slogan. The proverb slogan represents the thesis of the disputation (v2). In principle, it describes the principle of trans-generational responsibility that is a situation in which a person suffers an adverse effect of the bad moral actions of his or her forbearer.
The sense of its use in Ezk 18 is that when a father or one generation sins by breaking God’s law, the Son of the following generation shares the guilt of their ancestors and may have to pay the penalty attached to that guilt. Like all proverb which develop out of experience, Ezekiel contemporaries who were in exile thought the proverb givers prefer explanation to their situation, with so many things so terribly off beam.
This situation seems falastic about human possibilities. It follows that the setting of the oracle’s exile.
Apart from epithet Israel, the term Beth Israel (house of Israel ) in v 25, 2 – 3 is used else where to address the exile representatives of the covenant nation (cf Ezk 24:21, 17 – 22). By using these proverbs, it is evident that they found the cause of their many troubles in the sins of their ancestors rather than in their own sins.
Many reasons add up to develop this global picture. In Israel, the covenant is the context that gives meaning to all relationships. The major cause of affliction and suffering of individual and people is the breaking of God’s law. Biblical law is covenant law and covenant forms a people into a corporate entity or grouping solidarity in which the individual exists because of the group.
The individual identity of families, clan, people or nation as a group has a personality of its own within this covenant context, the group identity and solidarity extends and includes all members of the group in all generations. It is a trans-generational solidarity.
On the basis of this principles the text is of genesis Gen. 2:43 -44, for instance, presents Adam as a first human being and his actions and penalty of his action as extending to the entire human race (cf Gen 5:12 -21). The principle also may be illustrated by the cry of the crowd who stood before Pilate with the cry; “his blood be on us and on our children” (mtt 27:25). Another backdrop to the proverb of Ezk. 18:2 is the sacred law Exodus 20:5 and Deut. 5:9. This law states that the Lord punishes children for the iniquities of parents (idolatry), to the third and the forth generals.
Generally, this law is made within the covenantal relationship where it presents what we could call “titled pattern of cause and effect which is at the centre of this theological discussion. Within this covenant context, the breach of law that governs this most vital of all relationships by an individual could result to suffering and affect the entire people.
Most often, a similar logic runs behind the moral traditions of different religions any breach of order in the universe introduces suffering and disharmony which persist through generations until harmony is restored.
Corporative religions delineate conceptions of morality, which have implications for both human life and practical order of things in the universe. This tradition therefore indicates what people must do to live ethically to uphold order in existence.
In African traditional religion(s), the more traditional is best understood within a worldview an intricate relationship that involves the supreme Being, the ancestor, and the spirits, all who impinge on human life in one way or the other.
The biblical tradition also accords a position of prominence to the moral dimension. This is in accord to the Israel’s monotheistic conception of God as being primarily concerned with the ethics and morality in fact, the bible opens by postulating the existence of divine given law governing the world for the infraction which God, the Supreme Judge brings human beings to account (Gen 13.
The observance or non-observance of God’s law is a powerful factor in the identity of any religious group. This explains being found over wild stretches of Africa regarding kinship with all it implies some people have had experiences or even heard stories of families who believe they are held in bondage by the sins of wicked ancestors.
A story is told of a family suffering deaths of several male children born into the family, each time as the child is turning 18 years of age. According to the story, an investigation was carried out in the area of traditional divination and they found out that their great grandfather buried an18 year old son of his opponent alive. A similar story is also told of another family with a history of madness which they believed was caused by the wicked deeds of their ancestors.
Such stories sound mythological and fallacious, but they affect the lives of their descendants. It leaves to investigate the explanations given to these families’ problems are justifiable, since other pathological reasons could be adduced to the cases in question. Yet one cannot deny the reality of beliefs in the interconnectedness of all realities in good and evil experience teaches us that one person’s breach of law (social or religious) could bring untold suffering to the lives of other individuals.
To cite more banal examples, a person who breaks a traffic law can cause the death of another individual. The death of this innocent victim could mean poverty to the family that was dependent on the dead victim for food. Ends
UZOR EMMANUEL UZOR is a philosopher, journalist and Public Affairs Analyst resides in Onitsha, Anambra state contact email@example.com or 07030988583