Mashal #24. The Unmerciful Servant:
- Today is Day #24
- The Twenty-fourth Mashal of Messiah
- Eight Observations
- The debt of the Unmerciful Servant was impossible to repay
- The Forgiving King possessed greater material wealth than Solomon
- Our great debt obligates us to give forgiveness to whoever has need of it
- The forgiveness of all debts on the Day of Jubilee
- The forgiveness of all debts is connected with the Coming of Messiah
- We love because He first loved us…
- The King’s practice of mercy and forgiveness was precedent-setting
- Messiah’s Ten Sayings on Forgiveness are found in the Four Faces of Ezekiel
- The Unforgiving Servant exchanged his privileged life for a jail cell
Today is Day #24:
1. Today is “Day #24” in the forty-nine day Countdown to Shavuot.
2. Today is twenty-four days which are three weeks and three days of the Omer.
.היום ארבעה ועשרים יום, שהם שלושה שבועות ושלושה ימים בעומר
Haiyom arba’ah v’esrim yom, shehaym shloshah shavuot ushloshah yamim ba’omer.
“You shall count for yourselves — from the day after the Shabbat, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving — seven Shabbats, they shall be complete. Until the day after the seventh sabbath you shall count, fifty days.” (Leviticus). “You shall count for yourselves seven weeks, from when the sickle is first put to the standing crop shall you begin counting seven weeks. Then you will observe the Festival of Shavu’ot for Adonai Eloheinu.” (Deuteronomy).
“Blessed are You, Adonai Eloheinu, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us concerning the counting of the Omer.”
ברוך אתה, אדוני אלוהינו, מלך העולם, אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וצוונו על ספירת העומר.פ
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, melech ha’olam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al sefirat ha’omer.
The Twenty-fourth Mashal of Messiah:
The Mashal (משל) of the Unmerciful Servant
עַל־כֵּן דּוֹמָה מַלְכוּת הַשָׁמַיִם לְמֶלֶךְ בָּשָׂר וָדָם שֶׁהָיָה יוֹרֵד לְחֶשְׁבּוֹן עִם־עֲבָדָיו׃ וְכַאֲשֶׁר הֵחֵל לְחַשֵׁב הוּבָא לְפָנָיו אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הָיָה חַיָּב לוֹ עֲשֶׂרֶת אֲלָפִים כִּכְּרֵי זָהָֽב׃ וְלֹא הָיָה־לוֹ לְשָׁלֵּם וַיְצַו אֲדֹנָיו לִמְכֹּר אוֹתוֹ וְאֶת־אִשְׁתּוֹ וְאֶת־בָּנָיו וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ וִישַׁלֵּם׃ וַיִּפֹּל הָעֶבֶד עַל־פָּנָיו וְיִּשְׁתַּחוּ לוֹ לֵאמֹר אֲדֹנִי הַאֲרֶךְ־לִי אַפֶּךָ וַאֲשַׁלֵּם לְךָ הַכֹּל׃ וַיֶּהֱמוּ מְעֵי אֲדֹנֵי הָעֶבֶד הַהוּא וַיִּפְטְרֵהוּ וַיִּמְחֹל לוֹ אֶת חוֹבוֹ׃ וַיֵּצֵא הָעֶבֶד הַהוּא מִלְּפָנָיו וַיִּמְצָא אֶחָד מֵחֲבֵרָיו וְהוּא חַיָּב־לוֹ מֵאָה דִינָרִים וַיַּחֲזֶק־בּוֹ וַיַּחְנְקֵהוּ לֵאמֹר שַׁלֵּם אֵת אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה חַיָּב לִי׃ וַיִּפֹּל חֲבֵרוֹ לִפְנֵי רַגְלָיו וַיְבַקֵּשׁ מִמֶּנּוּ לֵאמֹר הַאֲרֶךְ־לִי אַפֶּךָ וַאֲשַׁלְּמָה לְּךָ הַכֹּל׃ וְהוּא מֵאֵן וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיַּנִּיחֵהוּ בַּמִּשְׁמָר עַד שֶׁיְּשַׁלֶּם־לוֹ אֶת־חוֹבוֹ׃ וְהָעֲבָדִים חֲבֵרָיו רָאוּ אֶת־אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה וַיֵּעָצְבוּ מְאֹד וַיָּבֹאוּ וַיַּגִּידוּ לַאֲדֹנֵיהֶם אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשָׂה׃ וַיִּקְרָא אֵלָיו אֲדֹנָיו וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אַתָּה עֶבֶד בְּלִיַּעַל אֶת־כָּל־הַחוֹב הַהוּא מָחַלְתִּי לְךָ יַעַן אֲשֶׁר־בִּקַּשְׁתָּ מִמֶּנִּי׃ הֲלֹא הָיָה גַם־עָלֶיךָ לְרַחֵם עַל חֲבֵרֶךָ כַּאֲשֶׁר רִחַמְתִּי־אֲנִי עָלֶיךָ׃ וַיִּקְצֹף אֲדֹנָיו וַיִּתְּנֵהוּ בְּיַד הַנֹּגְשִׂים עַד כִּי־יְשַׁלֵּם אֶת־כָּל־חוֹבוֹ׃
Therefore, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king of flesh and blood who was going down to settle accounts with his servants. When he had began to settle a man was brought before him who was indebted to him for ten thousand kikkarim (talents) of *gold. But since he did not have any way to repay, his master commanded to sell him, along with his wife and children and all that was his, for repayment to be made. The servant fell down on his face (prostrated himself before him), saying, “Master, be slow to anger with me, and I will repay everything to you.” The master of that servant was moved with compassion, so he released him and pardoned him of his debt. That servant went out from before him and found one of his fellows who owed him a hundred denarim. He grabbed him and (began to) choke him, saying, “Pay me what you owe me!” His fellow (servant) fell down at his feet and entreated him, saying, “Be slow to anger with me, that I may repay everything to you!” But he refused (was unwilling), and he went and left him in prison until he should pay back his debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were very upset, so they came and told their master all that had been done. The master called to him and said to him, “You worthless servant! I pardoned your whole debt in response to your request to me. Was it not incumbent upon you to show mercy to your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?” His master became angry and gave him over to the torturers until he should repay his whole debt.
The Nimshal (נמשל) of the Unmerciful Servant
כָּכָה יַעֲשֶׂה לָכֶם גַּם־אָבִי שֶׁבַּשָׁמָיִם אִם־לֹא תִמְחֲלוּ אִישׁ לְאָחִיו בְּכָל־לְבַבְכֶם׃
“My Father who is in heaven will do the same to you, if you do not completely pardon (forgive) others from your heart.”
*The assertion that the talents are in gold is our interpretation; others have asserted that the talents are in silver. The fact is the talents are deliberately not specified in the original text. Why? Because the talents are in actuality meant to be seen as being both silver and gold. This subtle “double meaning” is directly related to the spiritual meanings of gold and silver. Gold is the metal of Divinity; and silver is the metal of redemption. Therefore, the intended purpose of this creative reference to both gold and silver talents is to skillfully testify to the “Divine Redemption” that has already been accomplished on our behalf by the Mashiach.
Observation #1. The parable of the unforgiving servant follows immediately upon Messiah answering the question “How many times must I forgive my brother?” In other words:
“What is the limit to forgiveness?”
The Master’s answer: “There is no limit to forgiveness!” He expected His followers to exercise unlimited forgiveness. Messiah said that if someone sinned against one of His followers 490 times and repented, then that disciple would be obligated to forgive the offender 490 times (literally 7×70 times).
Observation #2. The mashal of the “Unmerciful Servant” is an illustration of Messiah’s teaching of unlimited forgiveness. The setting of the parable is the future messianic kingdom. For there has never been a time in Israel where a king has been as generous or as spiritually demanding as is the noble king in this parable; nor has there ever been a time or circumstance where a king of Israel was so wealthy that he forgave one of his servants a debt of several billion dollars.
Observation #3. Therefore, the king in view is a king who agrees to rule in a manner that is compatible with the Messiah’s teaching of unlimited forgiveness; with the only provision being one must sincerely repent of one’s offenses before receiving the mandatory forgiveness.
Observation #4. In this illustration on forgiveness in the messianic kingdom an incredibly wealthy and powerful king seeks to settle an astronomical debt with one of his servants. When the servant with the astronomical debt begs for mercy the benevolent king forgives the entire debt and even allows the servant to continue to enjoy his very lucrative employment in the king’s service.
Observation #5. However, when the forgiven servant goes out and seeks to settle a very miniscule debt owed to him by another servant, he deals very harshly and ruthlessly with the man. Even though the man was genuinely repentant and had repeatedly begged for mercy, the mandatory forgiveness ordered by the king was not extended to the servant.
Observation #6. Therefore, since the servant who was forgiven the astronomical amount would not forgive his servant who owed a minuscule amount, the king summoned the unmerciful servant before him. And so the king declared: “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you appeared to have genuinely repented of your offense against me. Should you not have acted in the same manner toward your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?”
Observation #7. Since the unmerciful servant was not sincere in his repentance toward the king, as evidenced by his behavior toward his fellow servant, the king nullified his previous order of forgiveness. This was due to the fact that:
The unmerciful servant’s prior claim of genuine repentance was a lie.
The benevolent king then became the wrathful king. For he then ordered the unmerciful servant to be tortured and locked in a jail cell until all of his immense debt was paid.
Observation #8. Messiah then warns us that Adonai will do the very same to every one of you, “if” you do not:
“Forgive your brother from your heart (לְבַבְכֶם).”
As to the meaning of the very important phrase, “forgiveness from the heart,” I refer you to chapter 17 of our writing on “Messiah in Yom Kippur.” Especially pay close attention to the priceless spiritual meanings that are associated with the testimony of Moses’ wife Zipporah (cf. paragraphs 21-26 of the same document).
The debt of the Unmerciful Servant was impossible to repay:
The amount owed in the parable by the unmerciful servant is an extremely large sum. Ten thousand talents was an amount equal to sixty million denarii and one denarii was a normal daily wage. Contrast this amount with Herod’s annual income, which was nine hundred talents. King Solomon’s temple, world renown for the massive amount of gold it contained, possessed an amount of just over eight thousand talents (1 Chronicles 29:4-7). Incredibly, this man owed ten thousand talents. An ancient talent normally weighed between seventy-five to one hundred and ten pounds:
So the forgiven amount was at least over twelve million ounces of gold!
The Forgiving King possessed greater material wealth than Solomon:
The story setting is placed at the court of an oriental potentate, where gold flows like water and the courtiers are called ‘servants.’ The debtor to the king was likely a man of extremely high rank. Ancient kings assigned provincial governors to collect their taxes and administer their affairs throughout their kingdoms. For this wealthy king to have forgiven the vast sum of ten thousand talents he would have had to be a person who possessed greater material wealth than King Solomon. This extreme degree of material affluence existing on a such a grand scale would not have escaped the notice of the Jewish populace of Messiah’s day. Most inspiring was the King’s extreme generosity, compassion, and forgiveness. In a very real sense the debt forgiven was a debt owed to the treasury of the kingdom. Thus, it could be said that the King was willing to pay the incomprehensibly large debt owed by the servant out of his own personal funds. Hence, the Forgiving King paid all of the foolish servant’s debt to the treasury of the kingdom from his own private funds.
Our great debt obligates us to give forgiveness to whoever has need of it:
The story of the Unforgiving Servant (Unmerciful Servant) is a deconstructing one. It addresses our taken-for-granted assumption that forgiveness is a preferential option and not a compulsory act. The story opens us up to the possibility that our own experience of personal forgiveness has been so great that we are morally obligated to forgive all others. The redemptive story of Messiah revises our thinking and re-authors our lives. We have been forgiven a debt which is beyond all paying. For the sacrificial death of the Messiah has brought about forgiveness for the sins of us all.
The Messiah’s payment of our inestimable debt of sin to Adonai has re-storied our lives.
It has inverted our sense of entitlement. Nothing that others could possibly do to us can in any way compare with what we have done to Adonai. And nothing that others could possibly do to us could ever cancel out the great obligation we have to give forgiveness to others as the Holy One has generously given His forgiveness to us.
The forgiveness of all debts on the day of Jubilee:
The Mashiach Yeshua masterfully uses the image of debt in the mashal as a way to describe guilt from sin. This linkage of debt with sin is represented in rabbinic tradition where the Hebrew word chayav (חַיָב) means “debtor” and is used to describe a person who is guilty of sin; and in the Tanakh where the word chov (חוֹב-which is derived from the same root as chayav: chuv חוּב-to make guilty, to be guilty) means “debt” (cf. debt of pledge, Ezekiel 18:7).
The outrageously large amount of 10,000 talents of gold is legally symbolic of the amount of Divine debt that the first servant owes the Kingdom of Avinu Shebashamayim (our heavenly Father). The incredibly smaller debt of *100 denarri is indicative of the debt the second servant owes the first servant. In Judaism, just before our observance of Yom Kippur, we are wise to seek forgiveness from all others and forgive all others of their own debts toward us; otherwise, we should not expect to be forgiven by Adonai on Yom Kippur when we ask Him to forgive us for the sins we have committed against Him.
*Note: The international debt of the first servant is symbolic of the Gentiles. The Gentiles came into being before Israel came into being. The debt of the first servant (the Gentiles) to the Kingdom of heaven is astronomical. In comparison, the debt of the second servant (the Yehudim, Jews) is extremely small.
As the Servant-leader (royal) nation of the world what is Israel’s obligation to the Gentiles? Israel is “obligated” to serve the Gentiles.
We have been ordered by Adonai to be the Servant-leader (priestly and shepherding nation) to all of the gentile nations and peoples of the world. We have thus far failed miserably at our elect assignment. We hope and pray to do better in the future. However, our failures in the past do not excuse you gentiles from forgiving us of any and all of our debts to you.
If the Messiah-King has forgiven you all of your debts to Him, are you not obligated to do the same for us?
Those of us who profess faith in the Messiah-King do we not owe the Father of Mercies (Avi HaRachamim) a debt that we can never repay? Therefore, you must completely forgive our nation and people of Israel for any failures or offenses we may have committed against you. Do you understand? The Messiah has forgiven you of all your debt to Him. Therefore, you must forgive and love us (Israel) as the Messiah has forgiven and loved you!
The Messiah associates the forgiveness of the debt of sin with the number one hundred denarri. A denarius is a small silver coin (as stated previously in the Tanakh the metal of gold is indicative of the Divine Presence and the metal of silver indicates redemption). Therefore, the Messiah is also speaking of the nation and people of Israel by His previous and present reference to the number 100:
The number one hundred has always been indicative of the nation and people of Israel.
Since the time of Jacob’s redemption of the City of Shalem, located next to the ancient city of Shechem (modern Nablus), the entire family and nation of Israel has been depicted as a single flock of one hundred sheep. In an act of prophetic role-play the plot of land that was purchased by Jacob was purchased for one hundred pieces of silver called a “kesitah.” The kesitah is an ancient form of silver coinage that was stamped with the likeness of a Lamb:
The ancient kesitah silver coin represents the value of a flock of a hundred sheep.
Messiah in a very subtle way also associates the forgiveness of the debt of sin with the Day of Jubilee (יום היובל-Yom HaYovel, Yobel). The amount of one hundred denarri is equal to the amount of temple tax silver coinage that is required to redeem 50 souls. The amount of silver coinage necessary to redeem fifty souls is connected with the requirement that the Jubilee must be observed every 50 years. It is written in the Torah (Leviticus 25:10-13):
“You shall sanctify the 50th year and proclaim freedom throughout the land for all its inhabitants; it shall be the Jubilee year for you, you shall return each person to his ancestral heritage and you shall return each to his family. It shall be a Jubilee Year for you – the 50th year – you shall not sow, you shall not harvest its after-growth and you shall not pick what was set aside of it for yourself. For it is a Jubilee Year (שנת היובל), it shall be holy to you; from the field you eat its crop.”
“You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years.”
When Hayovel (the Jubilee) of the people of Israel shall be, then their inheritance will be added to the inheritance of the tribe to which they belong; so their inheritance will be withdrawn from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers. Jubilee requires all debts between Jews [and Gentile servants in the land] to be annulled: Any Jew that sold his or herself into slavery is released, whether they worked the amount of time they promised, or not. When the Shofar blows at the end of Yom Kippur, it is as if to announce:
“All those of you who are enslaved to debt (the debt of sin), you are now free!”
The forgiveness of all debts is connected with the Coming of Messiah:
In the Year of Jubilee in Israel [and the entire future Commonwealth of Israel, which will include all of the Gentile nations and peoples of the world], all debts were to be forgiven [and will be forgiven], and any land that a family had been forced to sell in a time of famine could be reclaimed by them.
It is interesting that the prophets and rabbis connected this thought of the year of Jubilee with the coming of the Messiah. One of Messiah Yeshua’s earliest statements that He defined His ministry by included a quote from Isaiah 61, which says that He (Ha-Mashiach) was anointed to proclaim “the year of Adonai’s favor.” This phrase, ‘the year of Adonai’s favor’ is a direct reference to the Jubilee year.
The Spirit of Adonai Elohim is upon me,
Because Adonai has anointed me
To bring good news to the afflicted;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to captives
And freedom to prisoners;
To proclaim the favorable year of Adonai (likro shnat-ratzon la Adonai)
And the day of vengeance of Eloheinu;
To comfort all who mourn,
To grant those who mourn in Zion,
Giving them a garland instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness instead of mourning,
The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting.
So they will be called oaks of righteousness (Eyley HaTzedek),
The planting of Adonai, that He may be glorified.
We love because He first loved us…
Through the imagery of the Jubilee, we [both Jew and Gentile] can see something of Adonai’s immeasurable graciousness to forgive all our debts to Him. The irony is in the general result of His forgiveness:
Those who have been forgiven much, love much;
Those who have been forgiven little, love little.
But how could this be? Surely anyone who truly is perceptive of truth knows we “all” (other than Messiah alone) carry a debt of sin so large that it is beyond the ability of any of us to pay. Therefore, since we [Jew and Gentile] have all been forgiven such an incredible amount of debt, should not we all greatly love Him who forgave us so very much?
The King’s practice of mercy and forgiveness was precedent-setting:
The unmerciful servant who owed ten thousand talents or twenty million ounces of gold (and silver; remember there is a double meaning to the Hebrew term הגאולה אלוהית, the Divine Redemption), could not bring himself to forgive his fellow servant who owed one hundred denarii (roughly three months’ pay for an average laborer). This decision greatly and cruelly harmed the humble slave, his wife, and children. It harmed the observers, who also were employed in the service of the Forgiving King (מלך הסליחה-the King of Forgiveness; cf. The Forgiving One).
The King’s loyal subjects (all the nations and the peoples of the world) grievously watched as their ruler’s (inspiring) precedent-setting act of compassion and generosity was publicly discounted and ignored by a high ranking governor in the kingdom of the Forgiving KIng.
The King’s practice of mercy and forgiveness was precedent-setting because the Forgiving King’s generous and compassionate act of mercy toward his subordinate governor obligated the governor to do likewise with all of his servants. The besorah (בסורה) of forgiveness (סליחה) here being that by accepting the Divine Redemption (הגאולה אלוהית) of our heavenly Father (אבינו שבשמים):
We are contractually obligated to forgive all others.
Messiah’s Ten Sayings on Forgiveness are found in the Four Faces of Ezekiel:
In the Proceedings of the Heavenly Court and in the Testimony of the Four Faces of Messiah (1, 2) that is revealed in the first four books of the Brit HaChadashah, the Messiah clearly demonstrates the use of deconstruction, opening up, preference, story development, and meaning questions. Additionally, Rabbi Yeshua’s masterful use of story-telling and other literary devices to communicate His life-transforming message of forgiveness can be observed in the following Ten narratives (the number Ten is a symbol of Adonai’s sanctification of our people (קידוש עם ישראל-Kiddush with Israel) and therefore, it is the number that best represents the most holy day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur). Messiah’s Ten Forgiveness Sayings are:
Forgiveness Saying #1: Healing of the paralytic (ריפוי איש משותק)
Forgiveness Saying #2: The woman who loved much (ישוע בביתו של שמעון הפרוש)
Forgiveness Saying #3: Unmerciful servant (משל על עבד שלֹא רצה למחול)
Forgiveness Saying #4: Reason for speaking in meshalim (פשר משל הזורע)
Forgiveness Saying #5: Limitless forgiveness (מכשולים, אמונה וציות)
Forgiveness Saying #6: Forgive and you will be forgiven (אהבה לאויבים)
Forgiveness Saying #7: How to pray (תפילה)
Forgiveness Saying #8: Blasphemy of the Spirit of Holiness (גדוף כלפי רוח הקודש לא יסלח)
Forgiveness Saying #9: Forgiveness at the accursed tree (כאשר המשיח עשה את נשמתו קרבן על חטאינו)
Forgiveness Saying #10: Post-resurrection authority to pardon sins (סמכות לכבול ומשוחרר)
The Unforgiving Servant exchanged his privileged life for a jail cell:
The high ranking servant’s blatant public insensitivity to the preferences of the Forgiving King was insulting and disgraceful. The Ungrateful Servant in his impudence, self-importance, and lack of compassion and mercy had harmed the Good King’s name, reputation, and word.
The reputation of a king is enhanced by the loyal behavior of his subjects. A subordinate, especially one of the high rank and privilege enjoyed by this man, should have known that he more than others was expected to live his life and administer his affairs in perfect accord with his king’s noble words and deeds.
By injuring The King’s good name (יֵשׁוּעַ-Yeshua, the “Salvation of Adonai”) the Unforgiving Servant had harmed all of the subjects of His domain. Most of all the ungrateful servant (משרת כפוי טובה) had harmed himself. For out of his own hardness of heart he had constructed the means for his own permanent and tortuous imprisonment. Permanent because:
His debt was too high to ever be repaid.
Tortuous, for after his sentencing he no doubt perpetually rehearsed in his mind the privileged life he once enjoyed but had so foolishly lost. And for what did he give up so privileged an existence?
The foolish one () gave up his life in the golden era of the messianic kingdom for the self-satisfaction of punishing another lesser servant. In his foolishness the Unmerciful Servant permanently lost his former privileged place in a heavenly kingdom characterized by unlimited compassion, mercy, forgiveness, kindness, generosity, and affluence. This he foolishly exchanged for the deprivation, hardship, and depressing reality of living the rest of his life in a jail cell of his own making.
This mashal is a somber warning to all of us that if we fail to embrace forgiveness in our hearts for all others we will inevitably subsist in a prison of our own making. This is because in the Kingdom of heaven (and the soon coming Kingdom of Adona) the practice of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness is not optional. It is universally mandated.
In the Kingdom of Adonai forgiveness will be a compulsory act!
Therefore, those subjects of the King of Forgiveness who persist in practicing vengeance, anger, wrath, malice, bitterness and unforgiveness will incur His wrath. In the exact measure that the Ungrateful Servant had ruthlessly punished others so will ‘his’ punishment be. Therefore, the question must be asked, what shall it be? Shall it be unlimited Divine Forgiveness or no forgiveness at all? The decision is entirely up to us!