According to the King James Version:
Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
— Exodus 34:7
Many other translations also indicate that God has an active role in punishing the sinner's descendants:
- NLT: I lay the sins of the parents upon their children
- NIV: he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents
- CSB: bringing the fathers’ iniquity on the children
- NASB20: inflicting the punishment of fathers on the children
- YLT: charging iniquity of fathers on children
- GNB: I will not fail to punish children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation for the sins of their parents
Yet, according to an answer to Does Exodus 34:7 necessarily mean that God directly punishes the grandchildren?
[…] the verb behind 'visiting/punishing' is paqad Strong 6485 and is used in Exodus 34:7 in its Qal form whose primary meaning is given by BDB […] as 'observe' but also with secondary meanings of 'attend to' and 'look about for'.
And Ezekiel 18:17 quite explicitly says:
The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
Ezekiel would certainly have been familiar with Exodus 34:7, so he obviously understood that "paqad" meant that God observes the effects of sin on the sinner's family, not that God directly inflicts punishment on the children.
So, what were the reasons that so many of the translators choose to interpret Exodus 34:7 as meaning exactly that?
This question is not asking about the correct meaning of this verse.
It is asking why the translators made the choice they did.