And forgive us our debts
Nothing is more frequent in the Jewish writings than to call sins (ybwx) , "debts"; and the phrase, of forgiving, is used both of God and men. Thus the prayer of Solomon is paraphrased F25 by the Targumist:
``and hear thou the petition of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, which they shall make before this place; and do thou receive it from the place of the house of thy Shekinah, from heaven; and do thou accept their prayer (Nwhybwxl qbvtw) , "and forgive their debts".''So Joseph's brethren signify to him, that it was their father's orders to say unto him, "forgive, I pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin"; which is rendered by the Chaldee paraphrasts F26 (ybwxl qwbv) , "forgive the debts" of thy brethren, and their sins. Accordingly, by "debts" are meant sins here, as appears from ( Luke 11:4 ) where it is read, "and forgive us our sin". These are called "debts"; not because they are so in themselves, for then it would be right to do them; debts should be paid; they are not debts we owe to God, but are so called, because on account of them we owe satisfaction to the law and justice of God: the proper debts we owe to God are love, obedience, and gratitude; and in default of these, we owe the debt of punishment. Now these debts are numerous, and we are incapable of paying, nor can any mere creature pay them for us; wherefore, we are directed to pray, that God would forgive them, or remit the obligation to punishment we lie under, on account of sin. This petition supposes a sense, acknowledgment, and confession of sin, and of inability to make satisfaction for it; and that God only can forgive it, who does, for Christ's sake, and on account of his blood, sacrifice, and satisfaction: what is here requested is a manifestation and application of pardon to the conscience of a sensible sinner; which, as it is daily needed, is daily to be asked for. The argument, or reason used, is,
as we forgive our debtors;
which is to be understood not so much of pecuniary debtors, though they are to be forgiven, when poor and unable to pay; but of such who have offended, or done real injuries to others, either by word or deed: the injuries of enemies, the unkindness of friends, all sorts of offences, are to be forgiven by us; and not only so, but we are to pray to God to forgive them also. Now this is mentioned, not as if our forgiving others is the cause of God's forgiving us, or the model of it, or as setting him an example, or as if his and our forgiving were to be compared together, since these will admit of no comparison; but this is an argument founded upon God's own promise and grace, to forgive such who have compassion on their fellow creatures.
F25 Targum in 2 Chron. vi. 21.
F26 Targum Onkelos & Jon. ben Uzziel in Gen. l. 17. Vid. Targum in 1 Chron. iv. 18. & in Cant. i. 1. & in Gen. iv. 13. & passim.