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Bible Lexicons

Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament


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Passing from the subject of atonement to that of forgiveness, we meet with the word Salach (סלח , Ass. Sulû), a term of great importance, because it is reserved especially to mark the pardon extended to the sinner by God, and is never used to denote that inferior kind and measure of forgiveness which is exercised by one man towards another. this word is used about forty-five times. The LXX sometimes renders it by ἀφίημι, to remit, but the usual rendering ἵλεως εἰμὶ or ἱλάσκομαι, to be propitious, the word used by the publican when he said, 'God be merciful to me a sinner' (Luke 18:13).

Salach is to be found in the following amongst other passages: - Exodus 34:9, 'If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord, let my Lord go among us; for it is a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance.' Leviticus 4:20, 'The priest shall make an atonement for them (i.e. for the congregation when they had sinned through ignorance), and it shall be forgiven them;' see also verses 26, 31, 35, and chap.5:10, 16, 18. Numbers 14:19-20, 'Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt until now. and the Lord said, I have pardoned according to thy word.' Deuteronomy 29:20, With respect to the apostate and licentious man, it is said, 'The Lord will not spare him, but the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie up on him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.' 1 Kings 8:30; 1 Kings 8:39, 'When thou hearest, forgive.' 2 Kings 5:18, 'The Lord pardon thy servant, (that) when my master goeth into the house of Rimm on to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimm on . the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.' 2 Kings 24:3-4, 'Surely at the commandment of the Lord came (This punishment) up on Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; and also for the innocent blood that he shed: which the Lord would not pardon.' Nehemiah 9:17, 'Thou art a God ready to pardon' (lit. a God of pardons) Psalms 25:11, ' for thy name sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity; for it is great.' Psalms 86:5, 'Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive.' Psalms 103:3, 'Who forgiveth all thine iniquities, and healeth all thy diseases.' Psalms 130:4, 'There is forgiveness (ὁ ἱλασμός, the propitiation) with thee, that thou mayest be feared.' Isaiah 55:7, 'Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy up on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.' Jeremiah 5:1, 'Seek in the broad places (of Jerusalem) if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it.' Jeremiah 5:7, 'How shall I pardon thee for this?' Jeremiah 31:34, 'I will forgive their iniquity, and will remember their sin no more.' Jeremiah 33:8, 'I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me.' Jeremiah 36:3, 'It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil that I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way, that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.' Jeremiah 50:20, 'The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.' Lamentations 3:42, 'We have transgressed and rebelled: thou hast not pardoned.' Daniel 9:9, 'To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him.' Amos 7:2-3, 'When the grasshoppers had made an end of eating the grass of the land, then I said, O Lord God, forgive, I beseech thee: by whom shall Jacob arise?, for he is small. The Lord repented for this: It shall not be, saith the Lord.'

It appears, on the whole, that the process represented by this word Salach is the Divine restoration of an offender into favour, whether through his own repentance or the intercession of another. Though not identical with atonement, the two are nearly related in fact, the covering of the sin and the forgiveness of the sinner can only be understood as two aspects of one truth; for both found their fulness in God's provision of mercy through Christ. The Apostle brings atonement and pardon closely together when he says, in summing up the symbolic value of the Levitical system, 'Without shedding of blood (the preliminary to atonement) there is no forgiveness (ἄφεσις),' Hebrews 9:22.

The words ὑφίημι and ἄφεσις are constantly used in the N.T. to denote the forgiveness of sins, whether by God or by man. One of the chief objects of the mission of Christ was that forgiveness of sins might be proclaimed through his name; and his death up on the cross has been the means of obtaining it. See Matthew 26:28; Mark 1:4; Luke 1:77; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; Acts 5:31; Acts 13:38; Acts 26:18; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14.

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Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Forgiveness'. Synonyms of the Old Testament.
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