The complete question:

I have recently finished a Christian evidences class in my congregation.
In that class we learned several proofs of the validity of the Bible,
including prophecies that eventually came true. One of these prophecies
was Ezekiel 26. We learned that God became angry at the people of Tyre in
that time and after that they were continually defeated at war. King
Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the mainland of Tyre occurred around 573
BC. The island portion of the city still existed until about 332 BC. This
is when Alexander the Great came and created a land bridge that connected
the island to the mainland. The island portion of the city was ransacked
by Alexander and dumped into the sea so that ‘Tyre [was] scraped free of
rubble and become bare rock’. When an attempt was made to rebuild the
city, an earthquake occurred which sunk the southwestern portion of the
island, fulfilling ‘I will I bring the ocean depths over you and its vast
waters cover you.’ I’m puzzled because just a few chapters ahead in
chapter 18 is where he finishes talking about the soul who sins is the
soul who dies. ‘The son shall not share the guilt of his father.’ Since
Tyre was punished for several generations, Ezekiel seems to be
contradicting himself with this prophecy, and I’m wondering if you can
help me understand it.”

The doom oracle on Tyre was definitely fulfilled, I and am familiar with
the aquatic fulfillment. Yet I would be cautious when it comes to
interpreting such prophecies literally. (Literally does not mean
“seriously.”) Very, very often the details of a prophecy picture the
destruction that will come-yet these details should not be pressed. There
is often a poetic aspect to prophecies. (Have you ever noticed what a
large portion of prophecy is poetry?) For example, Isaiah 14, Isaiah 34,
and other passages contain doom oracles that were fulfilled, but not
literally! Babylon fell peaceably; Edom is not still smoking. (Peruse the
passage and you will see what I mean.)

As for the deeper theological matter, the O.T. repeatedly says that
punishment because of sin passes through the generations. Since Ezekiel 18
insists that the son does not share the guilt of the father, we are forced
to reconcile what on the surface appears to be conflicting evidence.

We must distinguish between the effects or consequences of sin and the
actual guilt. Sin causes suffering, and often it affects other people than
the sinner himself. Not infrequently it exhibits generational effects.
Exodus 20 speaks of “three or four generations.” The word “punish(ment)”
is often used to describe what is happening, not always discriminating
whether the recipients of the misfortune are guilty (like a drunk driver
who crashes) or innocent (like his victims on the road). I hope this
distinction helps.

Douglas Jacoby, Ph.D. (

Comments are closed.