Matthew 18:22
Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22) Seventy times seven.—The use of the symbolic numbers that indicated completeness was obviously designed to lead the mind of the questioner altogether away from any specially numerical standard as such. As there was no such limit to the forgiveness of God, so there should be none to that of man. The very question as to the latter showed the inquirer had not rightly apprehended the nature and extent of the former.

18:21-35 Though we live wholly on mercy and forgiveness, we are backward to forgive the offences of our brethren. This parable shows how much provocation God has from his family on earth, and how untoward his servants are. There are three things in the parable: 1. The master's wonderful clemency. The debt of sin is so great, that we are not able to pay it. See here what every sin deserves; this is the wages of sin, to be sold as a slave. It is the folly of many who are under strong convictions of their sins, to fancy they can make God satisfaction for the wrong they have done him. 2. The servant's unreasonable severity toward his fellow-servant, notwithstanding his lord's clemency toward him. Not that we may make light of wronging our neighbour, for that is also a sin against God; but we should not aggravate our neighbour's wronging us, nor study revenge. Let our complaints, both of the wickedness of the wicked, and of the afflictions of the afflicted, be brought to God, and left with him. 3. The master reproved his servant's cruelty. The greatness of sin magnifies the riches of pardoning mercy; and the comfortable sense of pardoning mercy, does much to dispose our hearts to forgive our brethren. We are not to suppose that God actually forgives men, and afterwards reckons their guilt to them to condemn them; but this latter part of the parable shows the false conclusions many draw as to their sins being pardoned, though their after-conduct shows that they never entered into the spirit, or experienced the sanctifying grace of the gospel. We do not forgive our offending brother aright, if we do not forgive from the heart. Yet this is not enough; we must seek the welfare even of those who offend us. How justly will those be condemned, who, though they bear the Christian name, persist in unmerciful treatment of their brethren! The humbled sinner relies only on free, abounding mercy, through the ransom of the death of Christ. Let us seek more and more for the renewing grace of God, to teach us to forgive others as we hope for forgiveness from him.Till seven times? - The Jews caught that a man was to forgive another three times, but not the fourth. Peter more than doubled this, and asked whether forgiveness was to be exercised to so great an extent.

I say not unto thee, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven - The meaning is, that we are not to limit our forgiveness to any fixed number of times. See Genesis 4:24. As often as a brother injures us and asks forgiveness, we are to forgive him. It is, indeed, his duty to ask forgiveness, Luke 17:4. If he does this, it is our duty to declare that we forgive him, and to treat him accordingly. If he does not ask us to forgive him, yet we are not at liberty to follow him with revenge and malice, but are still to treat him kindly and to do him good, Luke 10:30-37.

22. Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven—that is, so long as it shall be needed and sought: you are never to come to the point of refusing forgiveness sincerely asked. (See on [1326]Lu 17:3, 4).Ver. 21,22. Luke hath something like this Luke 17:4, but it seemeth to have been spoken at another time, and upon some other occasion; yet the sense is much the same, and there are who think that Peter’s mention of seven times arose from our Saviour’s command there, that we should forgive our brother offending us seven times, when our Saviour by it intended not a certain and definite number, but a number uncertain and indefinite. But it is a greater question, what sinning and what forgiveness is there meant, I cannot think that our Saviour here speaketh concerning the church’s absolving scandalous sinners justly excommunicated, but of the private forgiveness of injuries done to us; it is not the church, but I forgive him; for although the doors of the church ought to be as open to a repenting sinner as the doors of heaven are, yet I think both the phrase of the text and the following parable (which seemeth to me a comment upon this text) seem to lead us to the interpretation of these verses as to private wrongs or injuries; they are properly sins against us, and such as it is in every single person’s power to forgive. But it seems hard that Christians should be obliged to forgive another his private wrongs so often as he doth them, if he will go on without end multiplying affronts and injuries to us; we must therefore know, that our Saviour by this precept doth not oblige any to take his enemy into his bosom, and make him his intimate or confidant again; but only to lay aside all malice, all thoughts and desires of revenge towards him, to put on a charitable frame of spirit towards him, so as to be ready to do him any common offices of friendship. Thus far we are obliged to forgive those that do us injuries, so often as they stand in need of forgiveness. The apostle, Colossians 3:8, speaks of wrath, malice, &c., as pieces of the old man, which every true Christian hath put off, and calls upon us in malice to be children. Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee,.... Which is as if he had said, observe what I am about to say, I do not agree to what thou sayest to fix the number, "until seven times only", but

until seventy times seven; a certain number for an uncertain, see Genesis 4:24. Christ's meaning is, that a man should be all the days, and every day of his life, forgiving those that sin against him, as often as they repent and acknowledge their fault; and that no time is to be set for the exercise of the grace of forgiveness; but as often as there are objects and occasions, though ever so many and frequent, it should be used; and which he illustrates by the following parable.

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 18:22. Οὐ λέγω σοι] are to be taken together (in answer to Fritzsche), and to be rendered thus: I do not say to thee, I do not give thee the prescription; comp. John 16:26.

ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά] not: till seventy times seven, i.e. till the four hundred and ninetieth time (Jerome, Theophylact, Erasmus, Luther, Grotius, de Wette, Bleek); but, seeing that we have ἑπτά, and not ἑπτάκις again, the rendering should simply be: till seventy-seven times. No doubt, according to the classical usage of adverbial numerals, this would have been expressed by ἑπτὰ καὶ ἑβδομηκοντάκις or ἑβδομήκοντα ἑπτάκις; but the expression in the text is according to the LXX. Genesis 4:24.[1] So, and that correctly, Origen, Augustine, Bengel, Ewald, Hilgenfeld, Keim; comp. “the Gospel of the Hebrews” in Hilgenfeld’s N. T. extra can. IV. p. 24.

For the sense, comp. Theophylact: οὐχ ἵνα ἀριθμῷ περικλείσῃ τὴν συγχώρησιν, ἀλλὰ τὸ ἄπειρον ἐνταῦθα σημαίνει· ὡς ἂν εἰ ἔλεγεν· ὁσάκις ἂν πταίσας μετανοῇ συγχώρει αὐτῷ.

[1] 1 Where, indeed, שִׁבְעִים וְשִׁבְעָה cannot possibly mean anything else than seventy-seven, as is clear from the וְ, not seventy times seven; comp. Jdg 8:14. This in answer to Kamphausen in the Stud. u. Krit. 1861, p. 121 f. The (substantive) feminine form שבעה cannot be considered strange (seventy and a seven). See Ewald, Lehrb. d. Hebr. Spr. § 267 c., and his Jahrb. XI. p. 198.Matthew 18:22. οὐ: emphatic “no” to be connected with ἕως ἑπτάκις. Its force may be brought out by translating: no, I tell you, not till, etc.—ἀλλὰ ἑ. . .: Christ’s reply lifts the subject out of the legal sphere, where even Peter’s suggestion left it (seven times and no more—a hard rule), into the evangelic, and means: times without number, infinite placability. This alone decides between the two renderings of ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά: seventy-seven times and seventy times seven, in favour of the latter as giving a number (490) practically equal to infinitude. Bengel leans to the former, taking the termination -κις as covering the whole number seventy-seven, and referring to Genesis 4:24 as the probable source of the expression. Similarly some of the Fathers (Orig., Aug.), De Wette and Meyer. The majority adopt the opposite view, among whom may be named Grotius and Fritzsche, who cite the Syriac version in support. On either view there is inexactness in the expression. Seventy times seven requires the termination -κις at both words. Seventy-seven times requires the -κις at the end of the second word rather than at end of first: either ἑπτὰ καὶ ἑβδοκις, or ἑβδομτα ἑπτάκις.22. Until seventy times seven] i. e. an infinite number of times. There is no limit to forgiveness.Matthew 18:22. Ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτὰ, seventy-seven[836]) The termination κις makes the whole number seventy-seven. Thus the LXX., in Genesis 4:24, use the same phrase regarding Lamech.[837]

[836] E. V. “Seventy times seven.” Vulg., “Septuagies septies.”—(I. B.)

[837] One could hardly believe that so great dissension could arise even among those entertaining the worst feelings towards others. Therefore there is required a willingness to forgive, which cannot be wearied out by any provocations, however numerous.—V. g.

“If Cain be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold;” not “seventy times seven;” LXX. ἑπτακοντάκις ἕπτα.—ED.Verse 22. - I say not unto thee. Jesus gives the full weight of his authority to his precept, in distinction from Peter's suggestion and rabbinical glosses. Seventy times seven. No specific number, but practically unlimited. There is no measure to forgiveness; it must be practised whenever occasion arises. Some translate, "seventy-seven times," making an allusion to the retribution exacted from Lamech: "If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold" (Genesis 4:24). Christian forgiveness must be extended as far as old-world vengeance. Mercy rejoices against judgment. But the genius of the language supports the rendering of the Authorized Version. St. Paul has caught the spirit of his Master when he writes, "Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32). In the Mosaic dispensation there was some foreshadowing of the doctrine of forgiveness in the enactments which enjoined tender treatment of debtors, and in the terms of the jubilee law; but there were no rules concerning the pardon of personal injuries; the tendency of many prominent injunctions was to encourage retaliation. Herein is seen an important distinction between the Law and the gospel, the institutions antecedent to the death and atonement of Christ, and those subsequent thereto. Seventy times seven (ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά).

It was a settled rule of Rabbinism that forgiveness should not be extended more than three times. Even so, the practice was terribly different. The Talmud relates, without blame, the conduct of a rabbi who would not forgive a very small slight of his dignity, though asked by the offender for thirteen successive years, and that on the day of atonement; the reason being that the offended rabbi had learned by a dream that his offending brother would attain the highest dignity; whereupon he feigned himself irreconcilable, to force the other to migrate from Palestine to Babylon, where, unenvied by him, he might occupy the chief place (Edersheim). It must, therefore, have seemed to Peter a stretch of charity to extend forgiveness from three to seven times. Christ is not specifying a number of times greater than the limit of seven. He means that there is to be no limit. "Forgiveness is qualitative, not quantitative."

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