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In Matt. 18:21,22 we read:

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

I have heard it told that Peter's 'seven times' was an order of magnitude more than that which some of the religious leaders of his day taught.

So, if I was reading it as a contemporary of Peter I would be stunned by his proposed measure of forgiveness. But, Jesus' words are what stun me as a modern reader.

It is clear to me that He was not talking about a literal count of 70 x 7, so that is not the stunning part. What completely blows my mind is the fact that the only other reference to such a mathematical equation is in Dan. 9:24 where it says:

Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Yes, I understand the one is part of a prophecy and the other a statement but this part in the prophecy in Daniel deals primarily with God's forgiveness of sin as revealed by His Son.

It is clear to me that Dan. 9:24-27 refers to the Messiah's coming but what I find more than coincidental is the seventy weeks (70 x 7) used to indicate when this all will happen.

Since seeing this interesting feature about seven odd years ago, I have started seeing Jesus' words to Peter in Matt. 18:22 as simply saying this - forgive as I (God) forgive.

This fits in exactly with the bottom line of the parable Jesus goes on to teach after answering Peter.

The depth of this possible reference of Jesus gets even deeper when you then go look at the 7 x 7 of Leviticus 25. Forgive me for waxing homiletical for a moment but, when properly analysed and then viewed from afar it almost looks like God's requirements of man in Lev. 25 is one tenth of all that He promised in Dan. 9:24.

So what does Matt. 18:21, 22 say? How do we interpret this otherwise 'nonsensical' literal reference to 490 times if it is so clear to us that He was not speaking literally?

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  • I think Jesus was referring to Genesis 4:24 in Matthew 18:22, not Daniel.
    – Rajesh
    Apr 9 at 14:31
  • Wow, I completely missed that one. Thanks! It just adds to the picture for me.
    – user49416
    Apr 9 at 14:44
  • Yep. Jesus is calling us to do the opposite of what the men of old did. Their mindset was, "if you hurt me, you'll be hurt 77 times". Jesus wants our mindset to be, "if you hurt me, I'll forgive you 77 times". :)
    – Rajesh
    Apr 9 at 14:47

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Your conjuncture that the Lord refers to Dan.9:24 is so exact and illuminating! Before I thought that it was about infinite, limitless openness to forgiving, which is the new sort of modus vivendi of a Christian, for nobody sins against anybody 490-times a day and sincerely asks for forgiveness for each of those sins.

Thus, yes, He commands divine disposition of limitless openness to a repenting sinner. But your finding makes it textually verified and established: thus God commands Peter to accept an authority to forgive in a divine way, that is to say, not only quantitatively, but qualitatively, for it is not only about how many times man forgives and how many times God forgives, but also one how human being forgives, and how God forgives, namely, what is the semantics of those two forgivenesses?

When human being forgives in a limited amount of times, even those acts of forgiveness he has conducted are done in a human, limited way; to wit: I forgive you with an eye on a limitation of my duty to forgive, thus, I envisage myself in a position of no more forgiving, even if one asks me to forgive, for there is a limit in my eyes. But this means that I do not hold an eternal perspective, but a temporal perspective, for I justify myself with an idea of my neighbor's unreliability by a logic: "if I forgive eighth time, then he will again abuse my forgiveness to my damage, so it is better to shut myself from him and not forgive, this will make my [temporal] life safer/better". But God does not have temporal life, but only eternal life, so He cannot be better in any sense if He does not forgive infinitely, without any escape, a sinner who asks for repentance. And exactly this is the meaning: the Lord commands Peter to take a new responsibility of holding heart and mind in eternity with God (cf. Colossians 3:1), embrace the divine disposition of infinite, limitless forgiving, so that the quality of the forgiveness would be no more humanly stingy and temporal, but divinely generous, in a perspective of eternity, with no escape left for allowing oneself a comfortable non-forgiving, for such a comfort is a temporal comfort and as such cannot contain the Holy Spirit, the eternal Comforter.

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  • Amen! Glory to God! He gives insight and deserves the credit. I am glad it made so much sense to you. Thanks for your answer. Noted and upvoted. ;)
    – user49416
    Apr 9 at 16:25
  • Good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Apr 9 at 21:29
  • @AndriesStander Thanks! Apr 10 at 7:29
  • @Dottard thanks! I could be clearer, but had not enough of concentration; the chiming of the bell was not perfect Apr 10 at 7:30

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