How does Judas Fulfill Prophecy? Matthew 27:9-10

After Judas hangs himself, The priests use the money to purchase a potter’s field (Matthew 27:6-8). The priests realize the money is unclean and must not be included in the temple treasury. It is “blood money.” They decide to use the money for charity: they buy a plot of land to use as a graveyard for the poor. If someone who made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem died in the city, they likely could not transport the body home for burial. There was a constant need for graves for visitors in Jerusalem. Matthew adds the comment that the place was called the “field of blood” to this day. The Greek ἀγρὸς αἵματος translates Akeldama (Acts 1:18-19), a Greek transliteration (Ἁκελδαμάχ) of the Aramaic phrase חֲקֵל דְּמָא)), “field of blood.”

Tombs in Valley of Himmon

Tombs in Valley of Himmon

The traditional location for this site is in the valley of Hinnom, an area that was the source of potter’s clay for Jerusalem. This explains the use of the prophecy of Jeremiah since the field is used by potters.

For Matthew, all this fulfilled the prophecy of Jeremiah (27:9-10). But did Jeremiah prophesy this? The problem is Matthew quotes Zechariah 11:13, not Jeremiah.

Zechariah 11:12–13 (ESV) Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. 13 Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.

One way to solve the problem is to take “Jeremiah” as the title for the Prophets in general, the second section of the Hebrew Bible. In Luke 24:44 Jesus refers to the third section of the Hebrew Bible as the Psalms, the first book of the section. This is not satisfactory since Jeremiah is not the first book of the section and there is no other place I know where a writer used Jeremiah as shorthand for the “book of the prophets.”

It is better to see how Matthew has blended the Potter’s house prophecy from Jeremiah with the potter in Zechariah 11:13.  Matthew points out several passages in Zechariah fulfilled in events of Jesus’s final week. At triumphal entry Jesus went out of his way to ride a donkey into the city (Zech 9:9); the thirty pieces of silver (Zech 11:12); “strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter” (Zech 11:17) and throwing the money in the house of the Lord (Zech 11:30) and the “potter” (Zech 11:30).

In Jeremiah 19:2 the Lord sends Jeremiah to a potter’s house to preach a sermon predicting the fall of Jerusalem and the scattering of Judah among the nations. He smashes a flask at the potter’s workshop as an illustration of what is about to happen to Jerusalem: it will be shattered, unable to be repaired. Although the word (יוֹצֵר) can refer to melting metal and recasting it, it is the same word used for the potter’s workshop in Jeremiah 19:11, strengthening the connection between these two passages.

In Jeremiah 32:9, Jeremiah weighs out 17 shekels of silver and buys a field from his cousin in the village of Anathoth. He makes sure the deed is legally written and witnessed by all, then he places an open and a sealed deed in an earthenware vessel and buried it “so that it would last a long time” (39:14). The point of these prophetic actions is that the exile will come to an end, “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.” Both Jeremiah 32 and Zechariah 11 refer to the weighing out of silver and the purchase of land.

There is one other possible connection between Jeremiah 19 and Zechariah 11. The location of the potter’s house in the Valley of Himmom, the traditional location of Judas’s suicide, and the “field of blood.” Jeremiah 19:6 states the place will no longer be called “Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter.” Slaughter (הֲרֵגָה) is rare in the Hebrew Bible, found in Jeremiah 7:32 (a parallel passage to 19:6) and Zechariah 11:4, 7.

For Matthew, even Judas’s betrayal and arrest are therefore part of the plan of God. Both Peter and Judas betrayed the Lord, and both show some sort of remorse. Although he does not experience restoration in the Gospel of Matthew, we know Peter goes on to lead the disciples in the book of Acts, Judas dies a humiliating death at his own hand.

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