Matthew 27:9 MEANING

Matthew 27:9
(9) Then was fulfilled.--Three questions present themselves, more or less difficult:--(1) The words cited are found in our present Old Testament, not in Jeremiah, but in Zechariah 11:13, and there is no trace of their ever having occupied any other place in the Hebrew Canon. How is this discrepancy to be explained? (a) Are we to assume an early error in transcription? Against this, there is the fact that MSS. and versions, with one or two exceptions, in which the correction is obviously of later date, give Jeremiah and not Zechariah. (b) May we fall back upon the Jewish notion that the spirit of Jeremiah had passed into Zechariah; or that Jeremiah, having, at one time, stood first in the Jewish order of the Prophets, was taken as representing the whole volume, as David was of the whole Book of Psalms? This is possible, but it hardly falls within the limits of Probability that the writer of the Gospel would deliberately have thus given his quotation in a form sure to cause perplexity. (c) May we believe that the writer quoted from memory, and that recollecting the two conspicuous chapters (18 and 19) in which Jeremiah had spoken of the potter and his work, he was led to think that this also belonged to the same group of prophecies? I am free to confess that the last hypothesis seems to me the most natural and free from difficulty, unless it be the difficulty which is created by an arbitrary hypothesis as to the necessity of literal accuracy in an inspired writing. (2) There is the fact that the words given by St. Matthew neither represent the Greek version of Zechariah 11:13, nor the original Hebrew, but have the look of being a free quotation from memory adapted to the facts; and this, so far as it goes, is in favour of the last hypothesis. (3) It is hardly necessary to dwell on the fact that the words as they stand in Zechariah have an adequate historical meaning entirely independent of St. Matthew's application of them. This, as we have seen again and again (Matthew 1:23; Matthew 2:15-18; Matthew 4:15; Matthew 8:17; Matthew 12:18), was entirely compatible with the Evangelist's manner of dealing with prophecy. It was enough for him that the old words fitted into the facts, without asking, as we ask, whether they were originally meant to point to them. The combination in one verse, as he remembered it, of the thirty pieces of silver and the potter's field, was a coincidence that he could not pass over.

Verse 9. - Spoken by Jeremy the prophet. The prophecy, which St. Matthew says was fulfilled by the use made of Judas's pieces of silver, is found, not in Jeremiah, as we now possess his text, but, with some variations, in Zechariah 11:12, 13. It must be noted, however, that, though the passage in Zechariah has many remarkable affinities to the quotation in our evangelist's history, it is not. identical with it. In the prophet's vision there is no mention of the field, and the money is to be "cast to the potter in the house of the Lord." The Septuagint Version gives a very different reading, "Lay them in the foundry [or, 'furnace'], and I will see if it is approved, as I was approved for their sakes." And the last part of our quotation is hardly a representation of the Hebrew, "Cast it unto the potter, the goodly price that I was prised at of them." In the face of these discrepancies, it is supposed by many that St. Matthew had in his mind some utterance of Jeremiah not now extant; but if, as most expositors affirm, he was citing, more or less accurately, the words of Zechariah, we have to account for their being attributed to a wrong author. Of this difficulty, as it is considered, many solutions are offered. For instance:

(1) The evangelist added no name to "the prophet;" and a scribe, hazily remembering the transaction in Jeremiah 32:6, etc., interpolated the word "Jeremiah." It is true that the Syriac omits "Jeremiah," but all other versions, and nearly all the Greek manuscripts, insert it; so there can be no reasonable doubt that it existed in the original text.

(2) The two words written abbreviated thus, Ζριου, Ιμιου, might be easily mistaken.

(3) The evangelist fell into error, by oversight or lapse of memory, as is supposed to be the ease in Mark 2:26 and Acts 7:4, 16.

(4) The last chapters of Zechariah were really the composition of Jeremiah.

(5) Jeremiah, being set at the head of the prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures, gave his name to all the writings following, which were cited indiscriminately as the utterances of Jeremiah.

(6) St. Matthew has made (as in Matthew 2:23, and so Mark 1:2, 3) a cento of passages derived from Jeremiah 18:2, etc.; Jeremiah 19:1, 2; 32:8-14, combined with the prediction in Zechariah, and attributed the passage thus formed to the most celebrated prophet. Plainly the evangelist has not confined himself to the actual words of his author or authors, but has written a Targum thereon, being divinely guided to see in the present transaction a fulfilment of an obscure announcement and prefiguration in olden days There are many other solutions proposed, with which we need not concern ourselves; the one last stated is reasonable, and may be adopted safely by those simple Christians who believe that the writers of the Bible were supernaturally preserved from errors, not only in doctrine and precept and fact, but also in chronology, grammar, geography, citation, etc. The whole difficulty is of little importance, and too much has been made of what, alter all, may be simply an erratum perpetuated from an ancient copy. They took (ἔλαβον, which might mean, "I took," as in Zechariah). In the prophecy it is the despised Shepherd who casts the money to the potter; but "gave" in the next clause is plural. The price of him that was valued (priced), whom they of the children of Israel did value (price) (ο{ν ἐτιμήσαντο ἀπὸ υἱῶν, Ἰσραήλ). The Authorized Version supplies οἱ before ἀπὸ υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ. The Revised Version supplies τινες, "whom certain of the children of Israel did price." The words are ironical, answering to the prophet's expression, "the goodly price that I was prised at of them"! The preposition ἀπὸ may be rendered "on the part of;" so the evangelist means that the priests offered this mean price for the Shepherd at the instigation of, at the instance of, the children of Israel, who thus shared in and authorized the iniquitous transaction.

27:1-10 Wicked men see little of the consequences of their crimes when they commit them, but they must answer for them all. In the fullest manner Judas acknowledged to the chief priests that he had sinned, and betrayed an innocent person. This was full testimony to the character of Christ; but the rulers were hardened. Casting down the money, Judas departed, and went and hanged himself, not being able to bear the terror of Divine wrath, and the anguish of despair. There is little doubt but that the death of Judas was before that of our blessed Lord. But was it nothing to them that they had thirsted after this blood, and hired Judas to betray it, and had condemned it to be shed unjustly? Thus do fools make a mock at sin. Thus many make light of Christ crucified. And it is a common instance of the deceitfulness of our hearts, to make light of our own sin by dwelling upon other people's sins. But the judgment of God is according to truth. Many apply this passage of the buying the piece of ground, with the money Judas brought back, to signify the favour intended by the blood of Christ to strangers, and sinners of the Gentiles. It fulfilled a prophecy, Zec 11:12. Judas went far toward repentance, yet it was not to salvation. He confessed, but not to God; he did not go to him, and say, I have sinned, Father, against heaven. Let none be satisfied with such partial convictions as a man may have, and yet remain full of pride, enmity, and rebellion.Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet,.... Through the purchasing of the potter's field with the thirty pieces of silver, the price that Christ was valued at, a prophecy in the writings of the Old Testament had its accomplishment: but about this there is some difficulty. The evangelist here says it was spoken by Jeremy the prophet; whereas in his prophecy there is no mention of any such thing. There is indeed an account of his buying his uncle Hanameel's son's field, in Jeremiah 32:7, but not a word of a potter, or a potter's field, or of the price of it, thirty pieces of silver; and that as a price at which he, or any other person was valued; but the passage which is manifestly referred to, stands in Zechariah 11:12, where are these words, "and I said unto them, if ye think good, give me my price, and if not, forbear; so they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver: and the Lord said unto me, cast it unto the potter, a goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord": the removing of this difficulty, it might be observed, that the Syriac and Persic versions make no mention of any prophet's name, only read, "which was spoken by the prophet"; and so may as well be ascribed to Zechariah, as to Jeremy, and better: but it must be owned, that Jeremy is in all the Greek copies, in the Vulgate Latin, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, and in Munster's Hebrew Gospel. Various things are said for the reconciling of this matter: some have thought that Zechariah had two names, and that besides Zechariah, he was called Jeremy; but of this there is no proof. Jerom (y) affirms, that in an Hebrew volume, being an apocryphal work of Jeremy, which was shown him by one of the Nazarene sect, he read these words verbatim: so that though they do not stand in the writings of Jeremy, which are canonical Scripture, yet in an apocryphal book of his, and which may as well be referred to, as the book of Maccabees, the traditions of the Jews, the prophecies of Enoch, and the writings of the Heathen poets. Moreover, Mr. Mede (z) has laboured, by various arguments, to prove, that the four last chapters of Zechariah were written by Jeremy, in which this passage stands; and if so, the reason is clear, for the citation in his name. But what seems best to solve this difficulty, is, that the order of the books of the Old Testament is not the same now, as it was formerly: the sacred writings were divided, by the Jews, into three parts: the first was called the law, which contains the five books of Moses; the second, the prophets, which contains the former and the latter prophets; the former prophets began at Joshua, and the latter at Jeremy; the third was called Cetubim, or the Hagiographa, the holy writings, which began with the book of Psalms: now, as this whole third and last part is called the Psalms, Luke 24:44, because it began with that book; so all that part which contained the latter prophets, for the same reason, beginning at Jeremy, might be called by his name; hence a passage, standing in the prophecy of Zechariah, who was one of the latter prophets, might be justly cited, under the name of Jeremy. That such was the order of the books of the Old Testament, is evident from the following passage (a).

"it is a tradition of our Rabbins, that the order of the prophets is, Joshua and Judges, Samuel and the Kings, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Isaiah, and the twelve.''

Moreover, it is usual with them to say (b), that the spirit of Jeremiah was in Zechariah; and it is very plain, that the latter prophets have many things from the former; and so might Zechariah have this originally from Jeremy, which now stands in his prophecy: all this would be satisfactory to a Jew: and it is to be observed, that the Jew (c), who objects to everything he could in the evangelist, with any appearance on his side, and even objects to the application of this prophecy; yet finds no fault with him for putting Jeremy for Zechariah. That the prophecy in Zechariah belongs to the Messiah, and was fulfilled in Jesus, manifestly appears from the context, for as well as the text itself. The person spoken of is in Zechariah 11:4, called to "feed the flock of slaughter", which being in a very poor condition, Zechariah 11:5, the state of the Jews, at the time of Christ's coming, is hereby very aptly represented: he agrees to do it, Zechariah 11:7, and accordingly furnishes himself for it; but he is despised, abhorred, and rejected by the shepherds, the principal men in church and state; because he severely inveighed against their doctrines and practices, Zechariah 11:8, upon which he rejects them, and dissolves both their civil and church state; which can suit with no other times than the times of Jesus, Zechariah 11:9, and lest it should be thought that he used them with too much severity, he gives one single instance of their ingratitude to him, which shows how little they esteemed him; and that is, their valuing him at no greater a price than "thirty pieces of silver", Zechariah 11:12, which were afterwards "cast unto the potter". The Jews (d) themselves own, that this prophecy belongs to the Messiah, though they interpret it of him in another manner.

"Says R. Chanun, the Israelites will have no need of the doctrine of the king Messiah in the time to come; as it is said, Isaiah 11:10, "to him shall the Gentiles seek", and not the Israelites: if so, for what does the king Messiah come? and what does he come to do? to gather the captives of Israel, and to give them the thirty precepts, as it is said, Zechariah 11:12, "and I said unto them, if ye think good", &c. Rab says, these are the thirty mighty men; and Jochanan says, these are the thirty commands.''

Should it be objected, that supposing the Messiah is intended, the money is said to be given into his hands, and not into the hands of him that was to betray him; "if ye think good, give me my price", Zechariah 11:12, it may be replied, that the words , should not be rendered, "give me my price", but "give my price"; i.e. give what you think fit to value me at, into the hands of the betrayer; and accordingly they did: "so they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver", Zechariah 11:12; which is the very sum the chief priests agreed with Judas for, and which he received; see Matthew 26:15, and if it should be objected to the citation of the evangelist, that it is considerably different from the word of the prophet, it being in the latter, "I took the thirty pieces of silver"; whereas in the former, the words are quoted thus,

saying, and they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value: it may be observed, that the word which Matthew uses may be rendered, "I took", as it is in the Syriac version; and that the thirty pieces of silver were the goodly price, at which the Messiah was valued by the children of Israel, is manifest enough; and is an instance of egregious ingratitude, that this should be the price of the "innocent one", as the Arabic Version renders the phrase, "of him that was valued"; of the "honoured one", as the Ethiopic; of the "most precious one", as the Syriac; he who in his person, and the perfections of his nature, is equal to his father, and his fellow; who has all the riches of grace and glory in him, as mediator; who is superior to angels, and fairer than the sons of men in human nature: is the chiefest among ten thousands, and more precious than rubies; and all the things that can be desired are not to be compared with him, and yet sold for a sum of money, the price of a slave, Exodus 21:32, and that by the children of Israel, to whom the Messiah was promised; who expected him, and desired his coming; and who sprung from among them, and was sent unto them, and yet they received him not, but undervalued him in this exceeding mean way. Wicked men have no value for Christ; they sell him and themselves for nought; but gracious souls cannot value him enough, nor sufficiently express their esteem of him.

(y) In loc. (z) Mede's Works, p. 963, 1022, 1023. (a) T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 14. 2. Vid. Praefat. R. David Kimchici in Jer. (b) Sepher Hagilgulim apud Surenhus. Biblos Katallages, p. 41. (c) R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 25. p. 412. (d) Bereshit Rabba, sect. 98. fol. 85. 3, 4.

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