Why No Person in the Bible Ever Forgives Another https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/religion-holidays/2021/09/why-no-person-in-the-bible-ever-forgives-another/

September 13, 2021 | Joshua Berman
About the author: Joshua Berman is professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University and the author most recently of Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith (Maggid).

In the days leading up to Yom Kippur, tradition urges Jews to ask one another for forgiveness for wrongs and slights committed in the past, and likewise to forgive those who approach them with contrition. Yet, notes Joshua Berman, nowhere does the Tanakh state explicitly that one person has forgiven another. The Hebrew word meaning to forgive is in fact only used when God is doing the forgiving. Berman explains:

To understand how the Bible thinks about rupture and repair in human relations, we must begin by noting the stories where something akin to forgiveness is, in fact, expressed, but only nonverbally: through a kiss.

The best example of this is in the book of Samuel. David’s son, Absalom, murders his half-brother, Amnon, and the king declares him persona non grata. Desperate for an audience with the king, Absalom employs various advisors to appeal to the king, who finally acquiesces. Absalom enters the throne room and prostrates himself, at which point Scripture says, “and the king kissed Absalom” (2Samuel 14:33). Nowhere else does David kiss any of his other sons. This is the kiss of clemency and reconciliation. But has David forgiven Absalom for the murder of Amnon?

The world of the Bible places a premium on reconciliation. . . . Introspection begets remorse. Remorse begets apology. Apology begets forgiveness. When the full cycle is closed, there is deep cleansing. There is redemption.

But so often, for so many, those early stages of introspection, remorse, and verbalization are too difficult to navigate. The biblical narrative gives a more clear-eyed view of imperfect people in an imperfect world. And here the takeaway is that the bonds that connect us are of paramount importance. Sometimes we need to forget about forgiveness and do things the biblical way—to kiss and make up.

Read more on Times of Israel: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/no-apologies-just-a-kiss/

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