Breaking generational curses
Every family is defined by its biological and spiritual roots. Nowadays, we don’t make much effort to examine our family tree or try to understand our spiritual heritage. If we did, we may notice the passing of blessings or curses from one generation to another. How do we break generational curses?
There are several books in the Bible which trace genealogies back many generations, because people valued understanding their spiritual heritage. People with histories of adultery, idol worship, witchcraft and sibling hatred will find similar patterns scattered throughout the branches in their family trees down the generations. You can often tell the type of family a person comes from by the fruit in his or her life.
Luke 6:43-44 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.
As children, we learn a lot through observing the adults around us. For better or for worse, they form the foundation of our worldviews as adults. Such beliefs are so deeply ingrained that they propel our subconscious behaviours. We may not want to, but we can end up thinking, talking and reacting like our parents.
Besides what we pick up from our families by observation, there is also a lot that we pick up through our biological DNA.
3. Spiritual heritage
Last but not least is our spiritual heritage. The Bible leaves no doubt that our forefathers’ sins important implications for us, just as we continue to endure the curses that Adam and Eve’s sin brought about on this earth. We have not escaped the consequences of their sin from the beginning of our creation.
Genesis 3:17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
Neither will we escape the consequences of our ancestors’ sins, as shown in the example of King Josiah in 2 Chronicle 34, who lamented all the curses the kingdom suffered as a result of the evil committed by all their forefathers.
2 Chronicles 34:19-20 And when the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes…saying, “…For great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do according to all that is written in this book.”
On four occasions in the Bible, God warns that our sins have consequences on future generations, specifically down to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:4-6, Exodus 34:6-7, Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9). Clearly, this warning should not be taken lightly. And it is not just our parents’ sins that will have a lingering effect on us, but our great-grandparents’ sins too.
Real life examples
To illustrate how generational curses can play out, here are a couple of examples based on real-life occurrences.
A person whose grandparents were devoted feng shui masters finds that he became fascinated with magic and “played” with different forms of the dark arts from an early age. When he became a Christian however, he seemed to face more than the usual “invisible” obstacles whenever he made an effort to study God’s Word. His efforts were usually met with unexplainable stomach cramps, unforeseen events or mental blocks.
Another person is unable to hold a normal conversation with her sister for long before there is some severe misunderstanding. When she started to examine her family tree, she noticed her parents had ongoing fights or disagreements with her uncles and aunties, as did her grandparents with her grand aunts and uncles. Unforgiveness was rife in her generational chart.
Some people’s lives seem to be blessed: things go smoothly, there are no major diseases, and families are closely knit and loving. Generally, whatever they do seems to go well and prosper. It would appear that events and circumstances around them set them off in the right direction. Take a closer look and it is likely that such families are descendants of a line of faithful believers. Such is the promised legacy of those whose forefathers obeyed all the commandments of the Lord. They enjoy generational blessings.
Deuteronomy 28:11-14 And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
Then there are those who have a family history of relatives who die early, suffer sicknesses or mental disorders, fight each other or slip into bankruptcy. It is not surprising to find that their forefathers had turned to idol worship or defied God’s commandments.
Exodus 34:6-7 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
From the beginning, God laid out clear warnings about the consequences of our choices that would fall on both our offspring and us. Blessings and curses get passed on through the generations.
Genesis 22:18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
Take Abraham for example. He was a man who revered God but he also had his weaknesses. God had promised Abraham that he would have a son, but after nearly 10 years of waiting, Abraham listened to the advice of his wife, Sarah, and slept with his slave to bring about a child on his own. Eventually, he was made to disown this first son, when Sarah eventually give birth to the boy that God had promised them.
Genesis 21:8-10 And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”
Curiously, we see this type of ungodly pattern for the first-born son down to the fourth generation after Abraham. Abraham’s son, Isaac, is tricked into giving the firstborn blessings to his second son, Jacob, instead of Esau (Genesis 27:34-35). Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, does not bless his firstborn Reuben because he slept with his father’s concubine (Genesis 49:3-4,8). Abraham’s great-grandson, Joseph, does not properly pass on blessings to his children, Ephraim and Manasseh, because his own father, Isaac, intentionally blessed them in the wrong order (Genesis 48:18-19). At first glance, Esau, Reuben, and Joseph seem to have been victims of their fathers’ ineptitude, when in reality, they were suffering the consequences of generational curses.
Exodus 34:6-7 ESV The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”
When our families sin against God’s Law, we too will continue to suffer the consequences until we confess our forefathers’ sins and repent of our own sins in Jesus’ name. God promises wonderful blessings to those who follow Him joyfully and wholeheartedly – and warns us that He will not bless those who turn against Him. How can a just God bless the sinful things we do that eventually will bring suffering to others?
Possible signs of generational curses
When one or more of these patterns below are evident in our extended families, we may need to consider the possibility of generational curses.
1. Broken family relationships and constant conflict
Uncles and aunties don’t get along. Grandparents are distrusted or abandoned. Siblings don’t speak with each other. Figuratively speaking, family members will tend to set themselves up on opposite sides of the fence and see each other as enemies. Hatred and unforgiveness run throughout family relationships.
2. Early deaths, recurring sicknesses
In each generation will be at least one relative who died early because of sickness, suicide or murder.
Deuteronomy 28:59 the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting.
3. Mental illnesses
A pattern of mental confusion and illnesses flows through the family tree.
Deuteronomy 28:20 “The Lord will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in all that you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and perish quickly on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken me.
4. Difficulty in childbearing and multiplying in number
Miscarriages, barrenness and difficulty in having children appear in one or more families in each generation.
Deuteronomy 28:62 Whereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, you shall be left few in number, because you did not obey the voice of the Lord your God.
5. Difficulty in prospering financially or materially
Wealth that is accumulated is not prolonged. Business failures, bad loans, betrayal by business partners, bad investments and bankruptcy dry up the bank account.
Deuteronomy 28:18 Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock.
Practical steps in breaking generational curses
Generational curses are not an excuse to continue sinning. Jesus came to die a cursed death on the cross so that He could remove our curses, and we would dishonour His sacrifice for us if we continue to sin.
Galatians 3:13 ESV Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—
1. Draw our family tree
First, we can start by drawing up a family tree as far back as we can, preferably to our great-grandparents. The more we can describe, the better, particularly anything that may be described as immoral.
2. Look for patterns
Next, we should try to identify any patterns of sin and curses.
3. Confess our forefathers’ sins and revoke the cures in Jesus’ name
Here, we should pray and confess our forefathers’ sins to God and ask for generational curses to be revoked in Jesus’ name.
4. Celebrate that Jesus came to set us free
Once we have confessed and prayed, we can thank God for sending Jesus to take on our curses on the cross. Finally, we can ask God to turn all curses into blessings over ourselves and our children. We can invite Him to make us into a new creation, regardless of the condition of our DNA and our spiritual heritage.
Nehemiah 13:2 for they did not meet the people of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them—yet our God turned the curse into a blessing.
Thankfully, God is faithful and will answer our prayers for new life through Jesus Christ. The old will become new.
Over time, we will notice that the direction of our lives will start to change for the better, as we are remade into the image of God, rather than our human parents.
Psalm 119:88,90 ESV In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth. Your faithfulness endures to all generations…
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