Examples of Forgiveness in the Bible

Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we see many examples of forgiveness in the Bible.

The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness. Of course, the main thing that comes to mind is how God forgives all our sins when we confess and repent. Without repentance, we cannot have forgiveness. Without forgiveness, we cannot be made right with God.

Examples of Forgiveness in the Bible

In the Old Testament sacrifices had to be made for God’s people to receive forgiveness of their sins. The high priest was the only one who could go into the tabernacle’s inner room once a year to make sacrifices for the people’s sin.

Time and again we read of God’s people sacrificing animals because the shedding of blood was required for atonement to be made.

The New Testament also teaches us that a sacrifice must be made. But now it is no longer once a year. Jesus is the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus is now the High Priest. He made a new covenant with everyone who believes in Him, shedding his own blood as the perfect sacrifice for our sins for all time.

Old Testament Examples of Forgiveness

 In the Old Testament, we find examples of forgiveness from the very beginning.

Esau Forgives Jacob

In Genesis, we find the story of two brothers, Esau, and Jacob. A birthright was a special blessing given to the oldest son by the father. However, Jacob tricked his dying father and stole the birthright from Esau. Yet, Esau forgives Jacob for stealing his birthright. 

Joseph Forgives His Brothers

Another amazing story of forgiveness in the Bible is found when a young teenage boy, Joseph, is thrown into a pit by his own brothers. As most younger brothers do, he probably drove his older brothers crazy. They probably thought he was spoiled. In their jealousy, they threw him into a pit, intending to come back and kill him later. Thankfully, one of his brothers convinced the others to sell him as a slave. 

Joseph’s story is one like a roller coaster. One day he is the spoiled baby of the family, the next day, he is thrown into a pit. One day he has favor in the eyes of the king and the next day he is in prison. Amazingly, through everything that happened to Joseph, he continues to trust God. When he sees his brothers years later, he not only offers forgiveness, but takes care of his entire family.

Joseph forgave his brothers for what they did because of his faith in God. In Genesis 50:20 he tells his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” When we trust in God it makes forgiving other easier.

Story of David

David is known as a man after God’s own heart. He wrote most of the book of Psalms. Like Joseph, David’s life reads like an action-packed movie. He went from a lowly shepherd boy to a national hero. He was an outcast, and then a king. Unfortunately for David, he allowed sin to creep in. 

It happens like that with most of us. We think we are doing well and then the next thing we know we are in the middle of a mess we don’t know how to get out of. David found himself in this situation with Bathsheba. David committed a great sin. But God’s grace was greater, and David was forgiven. 

The Old Testament is full of stories of sin and forgiveness. God forgives his people over and over. 

The New Testament, as well, comforts us with Bible characters whose lives resemble ours. People who sin and then are forgiven. God is a good Father who loves us and wants to forgive our sins, but we must recognize our sinful nature and repent to receive that forgiveness.

examples of forgiveness in the bible - Ephesians 4:32

Example of Unforgiveness in the Bible

The story of the unforgiving servant is probably the most famous example of unforgiveness in the Bible.

This story is found in Matthew 18:21-35. In this sad story, we find a servant who owed the king so much money he would never be able to pay it back. The king commanded the servant, his wife, children, and all that he owned to be sold to pay back the debt.

The servant fell on his knees before the king begging for mercy and promised to pay it all back. The king had compassion on him and instead of carrying out his original command, he offered grace and forgave the servant for the entire debt.

The servant who had just been forgiven for such a great debt he could never repay, then went out and found another servant who owed him a few dollars. He choked the man and demanded he repay him. His fellow servant begged for mercy, promising to repay the debt just as he had done only a short time before with the king. 

This ungrateful servant showed no mercy and no compassion. Instead, he had his fellow servant thrown into prison. Other servants saw this and reported it to the king. When the king heard what had happened, he was furious. 

Now, the consequences for this servant were worse than before. Because of the servant’s unforgiveness toward another, he was sent to be tortured until he could repay the debt.

How sad. The same is true for us. God has forgiven us for a debt we could never repay (our sins). Because of this great debt, we have been forgiven shouldn’t we also forgive others?

When we do not forgive others, we are tormented with bitterness and resentment.

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Example of Forgiveness in Everyday Life

The stories in the Bible of forgiveness are great, but how do we practice forgiveness in our everyday lives? What are some examples we would need to forgive others for?

I’m sure if you think about it, you will be able to come up with a nice list of things you have had to forgive someone for. 

Here are a few examples of times when forgiveness becomes necessary. 

  • When someone lies to us.
  • Our spouse cheats on us.
  • Someone steals from us.
  • We are fired wrongfully.
  • Our parent or spouse abuses us.
  • People judge us unfairly.

Forgiveness can be hard. It can be a one-time event or a process. That really depends on the situation and the depth of pain caused. Someone bumps into you accidentally; you forgive them and move on. However, if you have been physically or emotionally abused that may be more of a process. 

Regardless of why forgiveness has become necessary, as Christians, God tells us to forgive others. Jesus teaches us the famous “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6: 8-13. But don’t forget about verse 14. There are consequences for harboring unforgiveness in our hearts. 

In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus tells us “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Scriptures on Forgiveness

For example, Ephesians 4:31-32 not only tells us what to do, forgive others; it also tells us what not to do. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” This leads to better relationships.

When we refuse to forgive others it causes bitterness, anger, resentment, and harsh words. All of these will eventually create a hard heart. No matter how many seeds are thrown onto it a hard heart will produce no fruit.

Forgiveness has many benefits. Not only will we receive the blessing of peace when we forgive but it also improves our physical and mental health. Without forgiveness, we cannot have healing from past and present hurts.

Jesus said in Luke 11:28, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” God tells us to forgive others. 

Studies have shown the act of forgiveness can reap huge benefits for your physical and mental health. Some of these benefits include lowering the risk of heart attack; improving sleep; reducing pain; lowering blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and stress.

When we are walking with God and following His directions for our lives we will be forgiving of others. Forgiving others allows us to walk in freedom. John 8:36 teaches us that “If the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” When Jesus gave His life for us on the cross, it set us free from the debt we owed.

The same is true when we forgive others. By forgiving them we are not letting them off the hook and it in no way condones what they have done to us. But it sets us free of the burden of being judge, jury, and executioner. We are free to walk in peace and trust God will take care of us and those who have hurt us.

Finally, forgiveness allows us the freedom to live in the present. We are no longer held down by the chains of past hurts. In Isaiah 43 God talks about what all he has done for Israel. Then in verses 18 and 19 God says, “But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

God will make a pathway for your healing through forgiveness. When your heart feels like a dry wasteland of pain and heartache. God will create rivers of peace and joy when we give our pain to him and allow him to help us forgive others. 

We love, because He first loved us and we forgive, because we have been forgiven of so much. Thank God for his forgiveness of your sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

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Meet the Author:

Karen Ellis

Karen is a wife, mom, Gigi and lover of Jesus. She lives in Tennessee with her husband and loves reading her Bible, camping, and spending time with family. Find more from her at her blog, Warrior Women Blog.