One of the most intriguing passages in the Old Testament is Num 14:18.
The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but he by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation.The first half of this verse describes amazing love. God is abundant in mercy, and forgives iniquity and transgression. However, the second half of the verse seems to contradict what went before. It seems it be saying that God forgives iniquity, but then judges grandchildren and great grandchildren for it. That is illogical. If God has forgiven the person who sins, he is not going to punish their descendants.
I believe that there is something wrong with the standard translation. First of all the word “guilty” does not exist in the Hebrew, but is added by the translators. That is why it is in italics. Secondly, the expression “he by no means clears” is a very expansive translation of a couple of Hebrew words. Literally, the Hebrew says something like “to acquit not he will acquit”. I am not sure what this strange expression means, but I doubt that it means what the English translators say it means.
I presume the second half of the verse is talking about what the spiritual powers of evil want to do, in contrast to God. God is full lovingkindness, so he forgives transgressions. The powers of evil want to punish transgression to the fourth generation.
Maybe the verse should read like this.
The Lord is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression and making pure, not visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation (like the spiritual power of evil).