The Bible is one long story of how God reaches out to show His love and forgiveness to mankind. In Genesis 3:15 God gives His first promise of a Redeemer who would forgive the world of their sin . God gives various stories in His Word demonstrating forgiveness.
Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25, 27, 32, 33)- Forgiveness Bible Story
The twins Jacob and Esau were very different from one another. One was a man’s man. Esau loved outdoor activities like tending the sheep and hunting. Jacob preferred to stay at home and learn from his mother.
One day Esau came in from the field famished. He begged Jacob to give him something to eat. In return Jacob sold a bowl of soup to his older twin in exchange for the birthright. Esau traded the larger portion of their inheritance for a bowl of beans. (Genesis 25:29-34)
The deception continued. When their father Isaac knew he was near death he requested that his manly son Esau kill a deer to prepare a fine meal before dividing the estate. Rebbecca, the mother of the twins, heard the request and helped Jacob pull off a grand scheme to fool Isaac into giving Jacob the larger portion of the inheritance.
In the end, Jacob had to run for his life. He fled to another country to find his mother’s relatives who would care for him. It was many years before he returned to his own family. When he did, he heard that his brother Esau was looking for him. The deceiver Jacob was scared. He devised a plan so that his brother could only destroy half of Jacob’s wealth if he was caught. (Genesis 32)
When they finally met, Esau ran to Jacob and hugged him and kissed him and showed forgiveness and mercy. He had so forgiven Jacob that he was surprised Jacob would even think that there might be hard feelings between them. (Genesis 33)
Joseph (Genesis 37-50)- Forgiveness Among Brothers
The 11th son born to Jacob was Joseph. God revealed His plan for the life of Joseph when he was still a young boy. Joseph excitedly talked with his brothers about God’s plans. His brothers became jealous and eventually sold him into slavery while telling their father Jacob that his favorite son had been killed by a wild animal.
Joseph was bought by a man who eventually recognized Joseph’s honesty. The man gave Joseph great freedom even though he was still a slave. Eventually Joseph was wrongly accused of a crime and ended up in prison. Joseph’s integrity won him favor with the jail keepers and he became a guard over other prisoners. Through time God elevated Joseph to great power within the kingdom.
The brothers thought Joseph was dead. They did not suspect that the man they stood before was their own brother Joseph. When Joseph revealed himself, they were shocked to know he was alive. They even feared for years that he would seek retribution. After the family was reunited they lived together in Egypt. When their father passed away, the brothers began to fear even more that Joseph would finally show his hatred towards them (Genesis 50:15). Joseph was heartbroken when he learned they still did not trust him and that they feared what he would do to them (Genesis 50:17).
This amazing story of forgiveness culminates with these words from Joseph to his brothers:
“And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.” (Genesis 50:19-21)
David and Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9)- Another Great Bible Story About Forgiveness
Though King Saul tried to destroy David throughout the book of 1 Samuel, David responded with kindness and forgiveness to the household of Saul. After he became king, David looked for anyone who was still living from the household of Saul so that he could demonstrate his love and friendship for Jonathan, Saul’s son.
David showed kindness to Mephibosheth by restoring to him and his family the land owned by the former king. David paid to have the land farmed and cared for. As for Mephibosheth himself, David made a place for him at his own table so that he was accepted as part of the kings family.
Prodigal Son (Luke 15)- Forgiving Bible Story Between A Father and a Son
Jesus taught a story that illustrates redemption, love and forgiveness in Luke 15:11-32. It is commonly called the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
There was a man who had two sons. The oldest was obedient and content to live with his father. The younger couldn’t wait to get away from the family to live life on his own terms. When he was able, he went to his father to ask for his portion of the inheritance. When he got his money he ran off to a far away land. Jesus says that the young man wasted his money in wild living. A short time later the economy bottomed out and the man had no money, no job and no friends. He was willing to take whatever job he could get and ended up taking care of pigs for a farmer. He was so destitute that he was willing to eat the pig feed to stay alive.
The young man wised up and realized that he had a loving father who treated his servants better than the boy was currently living. He decided to return home as a servant to the father. At least he would have food to eat. Little did he know, his father was expecting the boy’s return. As soon as the father saw the young man on the horizon, he ran to him with open arms of forgiveness.
Though the boy returned with hopes of just being a servant, the father accepted him as the son he always was. The boy was forgiven and restored to his former position in the family.
Woman Taken in Adultery (John 8)- A Bible Story Where Jesus Examples Forgiveness
In a show of His own divinity, Jesus forgave a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. She was brought to the Lord by the spiritual leaders in town. They wanted to see if Jesus, claiming to be the Son of God, would obey the Law of God and have the woman stoned. Instead, Jesus said that they were welcome to start the stoning as soon as they felt like they were without sin and did not deserve a stoning of their own. They dropped their rocks and walked away.
Jesus feigned surprise when he looked up from playing in the dirt and the woman was standing there alone with no accusers. Asking her if there was anyone left to accuse her of her sin, she answered “No.” Jesus responded, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”
Forgiveness is an attribute of God that we are consistently taught in the Bible that we too can demonstrate to others.