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21 Τότε προσελθὼν αὐτῷ ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν· Κύριε, ποσάκις ἁμαρτήσει εἰς ἐμὲ ὁ ἀδελφός μου καὶ ἀφήσω αὐτῷ; ἕως ἑπτάκις;
Then Peter was coming to him he said: Lord, how many times can my brother sin againe me and I must forgive him? Until seven times?
21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

- The follow up question to seeking the lost sheep.

We looked at 18:12-14 that focused on the illustration of the shepherd/owner going after the lost sheep. The sheep is one of Jesus’ disciples and picture of going astray is to be in sin. The reality is that we represent Jesus as we interact with other believers, so His will (the Father’s will) is to seek after the lost sheep.
We looked at 18:15-20 that about how seeking the lost sheep is often applied individually. It starts with sin by a fellow believer that affects you. (whether a sin directly against you or the consequences of that sin that involve you) The procedure in how to bring back the believer to the flock by seeking repentance is described.
What wasn’t talked about in this discussion but is assumed by Jesus is the place of forgiveness.

- Peter wants to be pragmatic about the limitations of this seeking out a brother.

Specifically, Peter comes up after this discussion wondering about how often you should forgive the same brother.
He wants to know how often this same brother should continue to sin before it becomes ridiculous. He puts out the number seven thinking he is being generous than the expected norm.
In the Babylonian Talmud (Yomah tract) it reads “We have learned in a Boraitha: Rabbi Jose ben Jehudah said: When a man sins the first time he is pardoned; the second time, he is pardoned; the third time, he is pardoned; the fourth time, he is not pardoned, as it is written []: "Thus hath said the Lord, For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, will I not turn away their punishment."
22 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς· Οὐ λέγω σοι ἕως ἑπτάκις ἀλλὰ ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά.
Jesus said to him, I do not say to you until seven but until seventy times seven.
22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
23 Διὰ τοῦτο ὡμοιώθη ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν ἀνθρώπῳ βασιλεῖ ὃς ἠθέλησεν συνᾶραι λόγον μετὰ τῶν δούλων αὐτοῦ·

- Jesus responds by using an incredible number

There are differences in how this number is translated: either seventy seven times or seventy times seven. There is some argument that the phrase was meant seventy times seven on the basis of a numerical system that would use word it differently.
Others take it to be a reference to the number of seventy times seven on the basis of the Old Testament translation called the Septuagint.
One this is for certain, when Jesus uses the number it is intended to not have a limit. Something that would be understood by Peter because there was no further discussion about the number.

- The number that Jesus uses is something that would be akin to what was found in Genesis.

If we assume that Jesus didn’t just pull out a number for its own sake, then we would feel pretty strongly that is the mention. The Greek phrase here and in of the Septuagint is ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά
In the context of the use in , God put out the word to protect Cain and in a sense punish him by promising to punish seven fold anyone that would kill Cain. Cain’s relative (6 generations removed) Lamech, whom was ungodly, stated this: “Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice, You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech, For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me; If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” Lamech is claiming to have avenged himself more by killing a man than God had promised to do.
“Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice, You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech, For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me;If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
In a unique twist the limitless anger and vengeance applied by Lamech is changed to a limitless mercy and forgiveness of a brother/sister in Christ.

- How important is forgiveness in the process of seeking the lost sheep?

(23) The parable
On account of this the kingdom of heaven is like to the man whom the king desired to settle word with his slaves.
23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.

- This is the typical parable format that is found in the Gospels.

A big hint when you have a parable is this: “the kingdom of heaven is like” followed by something that characterizes God’s kingdom.
As you would expect the teaching on the parable follows from the discussion on forgiveness, connecting forgiveness to the kingdom of heaven.

- The parable is about a king who is settling accounts.

Some people have tried to explain that this couldn’t be slaves but that somehow the word δοῦλος doesn’t mean slave. I think that is due to the picture of slaves being able to settle an account that doesn’t fit the concept of slavery that occured in America.
Consider this about slavery in the first century: that slaves actually outnumbered free people in the Roman Empire during the 1st century. On the average one-third to one-half of the population of many cities were slaves. Most trade and industry was carried out by slaves. Many slaves — such as doctors, teachers, accountants — were more educated and skilled than their masters.
Given the context, it would appear that these slaves were over operations that collect revenue from taxes in the Palestinian region. The king has expectations on the type of money that should be on hand and was looking for an accounting of all the monies.
(24-25) One slave is in trouble
24 ἀρξαμένου δὲ αὐτοῦ συναίρειν προσηνέχθη αὐτῷ εἷς ὀφειλέτης μυρίων ταλάντων.
And as he was beginning to settle one debtor of ten thousand talents was brought to him
24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.
24 When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.
25 μὴ ἔχοντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ἀποδοῦναι ἐκέλευσεν αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος πραθῆναι καὶ τὴν γυναῖκα καὶ τὰ τέκνα καὶ πάντα ὅσα ἔχει καὶ ἀποδοθῆναι.
He did not having to pay him pack the Lord ordered to sell the wife and the children and all which he had and to repay.
25 But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.

- The only slave mentioned is the one who has a considerable debt.

For all intents and purposes, Jesus only mentions the one of many slaves because of the problem of owing 10,000 talents.
10,000 talents is a very large sum of money. A talent was a measure that seems to be between 58 and 63 pounds which would be either gold or silver (probably silver). Some commentators speculate that it would pay for 200,000 man years of labor.
If I were to pretend to figure out the amount at a measly wage of 10.50 an hour. That would be 4.4 billion dollars.

- What kind of job would create this scenario?

Leon Morris suggests a thing referred to as “tax farming” as desribed by J.D Derrett in his book Law in the New Testament. “It is possible, as Derrett holds, that the practice of tax farming is in mind (Law, pp. 32–47), in which case the man had bid a large sum for taxing rights and had not been able to produce the money.”
One would gain a portion of money from taxes as he collected it. In order to get the job, it was bid out to those whom felt they could collect more money. If you didn’t follow through on your amount, it was your obligation.
- The slave doesn’t have the means to pay so the King ordered punishment

- The slave doesn’t have the means to pay so

Worth noting here is that the “king” is now referred to as “Lord” most likely in a manner that makes clear the meaning of this parable.
The call for the man to be sold to someone else for money is indicative of being a slave and recouping losses by selling the man. While it seems harsh, the property of the man was his wife and children so they would also be part of the “assets” to liquidate to make up for the loss.
This wouldn’t have made a dent in the debt but would be seen as a punishment for his offense for not fully recompensing what was owed.
26 πεσὼν οὖν ὁ δοῦλος προσεκύνει αὐτῷ λέγων· Μακροθύμησον ἐπʼ ἐμοί, καὶ πάντα ἀποδώσω σοι.
Therefore the slave fell down he knelled down to him saying: be patient with me and I will repay everything to you.
26 So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’
27 σπλαγχνισθεὶς δὲ ὁ κύριος τοῦ δούλου ἐκείνου ἀπέλυσεν αὐτόν, καὶ τὸ δάνειον ἀφῆκεν αὐτῷ.
After having compassion, the Lord of the slave set him free, and the loan was forgiven to him.
27 And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.

(26-27) The granting of forgiveness

- The slave pleads for patience

The slave falls to the ground out of devastation. Actually there are two verbs stated for emphasis, “fell down” and “prostrated” which some translations put together as “fell down on his knees”. In reality, falling prostrate is the more accurate picture because the slave had no power and he was in a position of pleading.
He asks for the King to have patience for more time to payback the king.
While he is asking for more time to payback the debt, it amounts to postponement of the future punishment. In reality there is no way that he can ever come up with that amount of money.

- The Lord of the slave responds with forgiveness.

This action comes out of the man’s compassion. We have encountered this word before in Matthew where we said that it speaks of emotions that affect our inner being. It is significant that whereas when the emotions are strongly involved the Greeks thought of anger, the Christians thought of compassion.
The Lord releases him from being imprisoned and he forgives him the debt.
* This action comes out of the man’s compassion. We have encountered this word before in Matthew where we said that it speaks of emotions that affect our inner being. It is significant that whereas when the emotions are strongly involved the Greeks thought of anger, the Christians thought of compassion.
The word for forgiveness here is speaking of cancelling the debt. However, this word has the underlying meaning of “leave” in the different meanings it carries.
The compassion of the Lord leads to him acting in the interest of the slave rather than his own interest. You can’t measure compassion by one’s actions but in terms of the debt forgiven, the huge figure of the debt tells us how costly was the forgiveness.

(28-30) The reaction to forgiveness

28 ἐξελθὼν δὲ ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος εὗρεν ἕνα τῶν συνδούλων αὐτοῦ ὃς ὤφειλεν αὐτῷ ἑκατὸν δηνάρια, καὶ κρατήσας αὐτὸν ἔπνιγεν λέγων· Ἀπόδος εἴ τι ὀφείλεις.
28 ἐξελθὼν δὲ ὁ δοῦλος ἐκεῖνος εὗρεν ἕνα τῶν συνδούλων αὐτοῦ ὃς ὤφειλεν αὐτῷ ἑκατὸν δηνάρια, καὶ κρατήσας αὐτὸν ἔπνιγεν λέγων· Ἀπόδος εἴ τι ὀφείλεις.
After going out that slave found on of his fellow slaves whom owed to him one hundred denarai and he grasped him to choke saying pay back if you owe anything.
28 But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’

- The freed slave goes looking

The language said that he “found” a fellow slave that had a debt. You don’t find someone unless you are looking for them.
The response to him is to immediately grab a hold of him and began to choke him saying to pay back what is owed. This is a form of aggression that we would expect from a debt collector from the mafia. Ironically, some of the early Jewish writings describe this kind of action in debt collection.
The slave demands that the fellow slave to pay back what is owed.
I can’t help but wonder the contrast between what the man should have been thinking to what he was thinking: He should have been thankful and at peace for having the tremendous debt wiped out by his debtor. However, it appears that he was thinking that there were several who owed him money and he is looking to blame others for his predicament rather than rejoicing in forgiveness.
29 πεσὼν οὖν ὁ σύνδουλος αὐτοῦ παρεκάλει αὐτὸν λέγων· Μακροθύμησον ἐπʼ ἐμοί, καὶ ἀποδώσω σοι.
Therefore, his fellow slave pleads to him saying: be patient with me and I will repay to you.
29 So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’

- A similar reaction occurs with this fellow slave.

Notice the similarities: there is a pleading that is from the ground; he is begging/pleading; he doesn’t try to get out of the debt but just asks for patience and time; he promises to use that time to repay in the future.
At this point, you would think that the slave would look at the situation and be reminded of his own. This was the point that Jesus is driving home in talking about forgiveness.
30 ὁ δὲ οὐκ ἤθελεν, ἀλλὰ ἀπελθὼν ἔβαλεν αὐτὸν εἰς φυλακὴν ἕως οὗ ἀποδῷ τὸ ὀφειλόμενον.
And he didn’t desire to do that but leaving he threw him into prison until when he might repay the obligation.
30 But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.

- All similarities between the slave and his fellow slave are gone.

There is no compassion but an unmerciful attitude. What is missing in most translations is the internal wickedness of the slave. It literally reads “he didn’t desire to do that”, when we talk about desires we talk about internal motivations.
The comparison of treatment between the Lord and slave and the slave and fellow slave is unbelievable.
The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2 How to Forgive (Matthew 18:21–35)

The biblical scholar A. R. S. Kennedy drew this vivid picture to contrast the debts. Suppose they were paid in small coins (he suggested sixpences; we might think in terms of 5-pence pieces or dimes). The 100-denarii debt could be carried in one pocket. The 10,000-talent debt would take an army of about 8,600 carriers to carry it, each carrying a sack of coins 60 lb in weight; and they would form, at a distance of a yard apart, a line five miles long! The contrast between the debts is staggering.

(31) Treatment of others cascades like a waterfall

31 ἰδόντες οὖν οἱ σύνδουλοι αὐτοῦ τὰ γενόμενα ἐλυπήθησαν σφόδρα, καὶ ἐλθόντες διεσάφησαν τῷ κυρίῳ ἑαυτῶν πάντα τὰ γενόμενα.
Therefore seeing the fellow slaves of him became greatly distressed and coming to the Lord himself they reported everything that took place.
31 So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.

- This happens out in the open.

The fellow slaves of the man imprisoned see what has taken place and it affects them greatly.
The fact that they are described as being deeply grieved isn’t hyperbole but is a natural reaction to such unjust actions. Whether they cared for the man or not, sinful attitudes and actions carry themselves ashore to the sands of one’s own conscience.

- They report what happened to the king.

Clearly, they were aware of the incredible debt that had been forgiven of the slave.
They explain in detail how this slave responded to the man with a debt.
Something so offensive makes a person unsettled with injustice, thus it would only be natural to report to the one who can respond properly.

(32-34) The slave is called to account

32 τότε προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ λέγει αὐτῷ· Δοῦλε πονηρέ, πᾶσαν τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἐκείνην ἀφῆκά σοι, ἐπεὶ παρεκάλεσάς με·
When summoning him, his lord said to him: evil slave, every obligation that was forgiven to you, since you implored me.
32 Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.

- Since this is a lord-slave relationship, the man is summoned.

The judgment is immediately expressed by using the term “wicked”. (can also be translated ‘evil’)
The level of forgiveness for the debt is called upon as a reminder of what occured because of the slave’s pleading for mercy.
The Lord talking about the slave’s pleading is really talking about begging for help, something that one cannot boast upon.
33 οὐκ ἔδει καὶ σὲ ἐλεῆσαι τὸν σύνδουλόν σου, ὡς κἀγὼ σὲ ἠλέησα;
Is it not necessary also that you show mercy to your fellow slave, as I have mercy on you?
33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’

- The necessary thing was mercy

A little word ἔδει that packs a punch is unfortunately massaged into every translation. This little Greek word is defined as “it is necessary”.
There is no doubt in the King’s mind that the expectation was to show the same mercy on his fellow slave that was shown by the king to the slave. If the greater thing was forgiven then how could the fellow receive anything but forgiveness?
34 καὶ ὀργισθεὶς ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν τοῖς βασανισταῖς ἕως οὗ ἀποδῷ πᾶν τὸ ὀφειλόμενον.
And after his Lord became angry, he gave him to the jailer until he could give everything that was owed.

- The response of the King comes out anger

Earlier the King was moved by compassion and now he is moved by anger.
Earlier the King was moved by compassion and now he is moved by anger.
Earlier the King was moved by compassion and now he is moved by anger.
This isn’t what was first suggested but was much worse. It is a type of imprisonment that would also have a punishment connected to the obligation.
34 And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
35 Οὕτως καὶ ὁ πατήρ μου ὁ οὐράνιος ποιήσει ὑμῖν ἐὰν μὴ ἀφῆτε ἕκαστος τῷ ἀδελφῷ αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ τῶν καρδιῶν ὑμῶν. [1]
Thus also my heavenly Father will do to you if you don’t forgive each of his brother from their hearts.

(35) Jesus pulls out the application

- On the one hand, the lesson is easy to see how it relates to us.

The level of sin debt that a human being has accrued in his life, even if it is short is much greater against God than it can be against any one man.
If God forgives us of all those sins through Jesus’ payment on the cross for them and His resurrection from the death, then we must forgive others that sin against us.
It must be a true forgiveness from the heart and not uttering the words: “I forgive you” but aren’t based in our own reality.

- On the other hand, the implication is a bit confusing.

Let me share some of the possible views as articulated by Dr. Tom Constable “Some have concluded that Jesus meant a disciple can lose his salvation "if" he "does not forgive."... Perhaps He meant that a disciple who does not genuinely forgive, gives evidence that he or she has never really received God's forgiveness. Perhaps the punishment takes place in this life, not after death, and amounts to divine discipline (v. 14). Another possibility is that Jesus had in mind a loss of eternal reward. Or perhaps this is simply another case of hyperbole to drive home a point.”
Are there certain interpretations that can be ruled out? Since salvation is by grace through faith alone in Jesus, then it isn’t speaking about losing one’s salvation. If Jesus speaks of a “brother” it is speaking of a fellow disciple. I don’t believe Jesus would consider a pseudo believer a brother/sister in the family of God, if he/she isn’t one.
Perhaps He meant that a disciple who does not genuinely forgive, gives evidence that he or she has never really received God's forgiveness.[1109] That person may be a disciple, but he or she is not a believer (cf. Judas Iscariot). However, many genuine believers do not forgive their brethren as they should. Perhaps the punishment takes place in this life, not after death, and amounts to divine discipline (v. 14).[1110] Another possibility is that Jesus had in mind a loss of eternal reward. Or perhaps this is simply another case of hyperbole to drive home a point.
When I consider some of the other possibilities, it is helpful to make a few observations: 1st the word loan in verse 27 τὸ δάνειον isn’t used in verse 34. 2nd When the King talks with the wicked slave he said that he forgave all that he owed. So either the king is going back on his word or the punishment is for some other obligation. Considering that the analogy is to the Father, it wouldn’t make sense to forgive and then saddle with the same debt. 3rd The emphasis is on punishment this time around which is different than the original plan to sell the slave and his family to pay towards the loan.
In light of that the unwillingness to forgive a disciple is tied into the punishment that the Father has the believer endure. In this case, I think the punishment is the personal torture that comes from not forgiving. The bitterness of being unforgiving will create bitterness and lack of joy in your soul. What is the obligation to be paid? It is none other than to forgive someone of their sins!!
35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”[1] Holmes, M. W. (2011–2013). The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (). Lexham Press; Society of Biblical Literature.
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