Why does the Bible say 7 Times 70?
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times’. Matthew 18:21-22
This passage emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and highlights the potential consequences for failing to embody this virtue.
Peter thought he was being really spiritual by his willingness to forgive up to seven times. Jesus’ response to forgive someone up to 490 times must have been quite a shock! Jesus never wasted a word. So the number of times he instructs us to forgive must have some deeper significance. But what is it?
Hebrew is alphanumeric which means that every word has a numerical value. Words that share the same numeric value are often connected in some way and these connections frequently communicate deeper spiritual insights. And is this certainly the case here.
490 is the numerical value of the biblical Hebrew word “tamim” which means to “complete,” “perfect,” or “finished.” A person who can’t forgive will always live an imperfect, and incomplete life that lacks a true understanding of the “finished” gracious work of the cross. 490 is also the value of the Hebrew phrase “Let your heart be perfect” (1 Kings 8:61). Forgiving helps to make us complete and is key to perfecting our hearts.
But there are some even deeper connections. The word nativity and Bethlehem, the city where Messiah was born, both individually add up to 490. This makes perfect sense since Jesus was born so that we might be forgiven. And forgiveness is associated with bread in the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespass as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt). We celebrate this forgiveness by partaking of the broken bread of Communion concerning which Jesus said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). Just like a person can’t live without their daily bread, an individual can’t survive spiritually and relationally without forgiveness. All of us need to learn to forgive and to be forgiven.
In the parable, the master of the servant shows a profound demonstration of forgiveness. He takes notice of the servant’s dire situation and feels deep compassion towards him. As an act of benevolence, the master completely erases the servant’s debt, relieving him of the burden and consequences of his actions. Not only does the master release the servant from his obligations, but he also grants him freedom, allowing him to move forward without any lingering consequences. This act of forgiveness is a powerful display of mercy and kindness. Forgiveness is about freedom.
Forgiveness is not an elective it’s a requirement. We must forgive because we have been forgiven by the Lord. Biblically, extending forgiveness should not be dependent on receiving an apology, “even as Messiah forgave you, so you also must do” (Col 3:13). Unforgiveness keeps you imprisoned and chained to your past but forgiveness sets you free.
Don’t delay! Ask the Lord, “Who do I need to forgive today? May the Lord give you the grace right now to forgive in Jesus’ name.”
Fusion with Rabbi Jason Sobel is developing a number of innovative resources to help individuals, small groups, and churches to grow in their faith through teaching that creates “aha moments” by connecting Old and New.
Would you prayerfully consider partnering with us to reach and teach the World? This is a unique time in history and we have been given a unique opportunity to touch the lives of millions throughout the U.S. and the Middle East.