161. THE PURCHASE OF "THE POTTER'S FIELD"
(Matt. 27:6-8 and Acts 1:18, 19)
THE FULFILLMENT OF THE PROPHECY
(Matt. 27:9, 10).
There are two difficulties connected with these scriptures:
- The two purchases recorded
in Matt. 27:6-8, and Acts 1:18, 19, respectively; and
- The fulfillment of the prophecy
connected with the former purchase (Matt. 27:9, 10).
I. THE TWO PURCHASES.
For there were two. One by "the chief priests", recorded in Matt.
27:6; and the other by Judas Iscariot recorded in Acts 1:18. The
proofs are as follows: -
- The purchase of Judas was made some time before that
of the chief priests; for there would have been no time to arrange
and carry this out between the betrayal and the condemnation.
The purchase of the chief priests was made after Judas had returned
- What the chief priests bought was "a field" (Gr.
What Judas had acquired (see 3, below) was what in English we call a
"Place" (Gr. chorion = a farm, or small property.)
The two are quite distinct, and the difference is preserved both in
the Greek text and in the Syriac version (See note 3, p. 136).
- The verbs also are different. In Matt. 27:7 the verb
is agorazo = to buy in the open market (from agora
= a market
place); while in Acts 1:18, the verb is ktaomai = to acquire possession
of (See Luke 18:12; 21:19; Acts 22:28), and is rendered "provide"
in Matt. 10:9. Its noun, ktema = a possession (Occ. Matt.
19:22. Mark 10:22. Acts 2:45; 5:1).
- How and when Judas had become possessed of this "place" we
are not told in so many words; but we are left in no doubt, from the plain
statement in John 12:6 that "he was a thief, and had the bag". The
"place" was bought with this stolen money, "the reward (or wages) of iniquity".
This is a Hebrew idiom (like our Eng. "money ill-got"), used for money
obtained by unrighteousness (Ap. 128. VII. 1; cp. Num. 22:7. 2Pet.
2:15). This stolen money is wrongly assumed to be the same as the
"thirty pieces of silver".
- The two places had different names. The "field" purchased
by the chief priests was originally known as "the potter's field", but
was afterward called "agros haimatos" = the field of blood; i.e.
a field bought with the price of blood ("blood" being put by the Fig. Metonymy
(of the Subject), Ap. 6, for murder or blood-guiltiness).
The "possession" which Judas had acquired bore an Aramaic name, "Hakal
dema" (see Ap. 94. (III.) 3,
p. 135), which is transliterated Akeldama, or according to some
Akeldamach, or Hacheldamach = "place" (Gr.
of blood" : a similar meaning but from a different reason :
viz. Judas' suicide. It is thus shown that there is no discrepancy
between Matt. 27:6-8 and Acts 1:18, 19.
II. THE FULFILLMENT OF THE PROPHECY.
Many solutions have been proposed to meet the two difficulties connected
with Matt 27:9, 10.
- As to the first difficulty, the words quoted from Jeremiah
are not found in his written prophecy : and it has been suggested
- That "Matthew quoted from memory" (Augustine
- That the passage was originally in Jeremiah,
but the Jews cut it out (Eusebius and others); though no evidence for this
- That it was contained in another writing
by Jeremiah, which is now lost (Origen and others).
- That Jeremiah is put for the whole body
of the prophets (Bishop Lightfoot and others), though no such words can
be found in the other prophets.
- That it was "a slip of the pen" on the part
of Matthew (Dean Alford).
- That the mistake was allowed by the Holy
Spirit on purpose that we may not trouble ourselves as to who the writers
were, but receive all prophecy as direct from God, Who spake by them (Bishop
- That some annotator wrote "Jeremiah" in
the margin and it "crept" into the text (Smith's Bible Dictionary).
These suggestions only create difficulties much more grave than
the one which they attempt to remove. But all of them are met and
answered by the simple fact that Matthew does not say it was written
by Jeremiah, but that it was "spoken" by him.
This makes all the difference : for some prophecies were spoken
(and not written), some were written (and not spoken), while others were
both spoken and written.
Of course, by the Fig. Metonymy (of cause, Ap. 6), one may be
said to "say" what he has written; but we need not go out of our way to
use this figure, if by so doing we create the very difficulty we
are seeking to solve. There is all the difference in the world between
to rhethen ( = that which was spoken), and ho gegraptai (
= that which stands written).
- As to the second difficulty : that the prophecy attributed
to Jeremiah is really written in Zechariah 11:10-13, it is created by the
suggestion contained in the margin of the Authorized Version.
That this cannot be the solution may be shown from the following reasons
- Zech. 11:10-13 contains no reference either
to a "field" or to its purchase. Indeed, the word "field"
(shadah) does not occur in the whole of Zechariah except in 10:1,
which has nothing to do with the subject at all.
- As to the "thirty pieces of silver", Zechariah
speaks of them with approval, while in Matthew they are not so spoken of.
"A goodly price" ('eder hayekar) denotes
while the Verb yakar means to be
priced, prized, precious
and there is not the slightest evidence that Zechariah spoke of the amount
as being paltry, or that the offer of it was, in any sense and insult.
But this latter is the sense in Matt. 27:9, 10.
- The givers were "the poor of the
flock". This enhanced the value. "The worth of the price" was
accepted as "goodly" on that account, as in Mark 12:43, 44. 2Cor.
- The waiting of "the poor of
the flock" was not hostile, but friendly, as in Prov. 27:18. Out
of above 450 occurrences of the Heb. shamar, less than fourteen
are in a hostile sense.
- In the disposal of the silver, the sense
of the Verb "cast" is to be determined by the context (not by the Verb
itself). In Zech. 11, the context shows it to be in a good sense,
as in Ex. 15:25. 1Kings 19:19. 2Kings 2:21; 4:41; 6:6. 2Chron.
- The "potter" is the fashioner and his work
was not necessarily confined to fashioning "clay", but it extended to metals.
Cp. Gen. 2:7, 8. Ps. 33:15; 94:9. Isa. 43:1, 6, 10, 21; 44:2,
9-12, 21, 24; 45:6, 7; 54:16, 17. Out of the sixty-two occurrences
of the Verb (yazar), more than three-fouths have nothing whatever
to do with the work of a "potter"
- A "potter" in connection with the Temple,
or its service, is unknown to fact, or to Scriptures.
- The material, "silver", would be
useless to a "potter" but necessary to a fashioner of metallic vessels,
or for the payment of artizans who wrought them (2Kings 12:11-16; 22:4-7.
2Chron. 24:11-13). One might as well cast clay to a silversmith
as silver to a potter.
- The prophecy of Zechariah is rich in reference
to metals; and only the books of Numbers (31:22) and Ezekiel name as many.
In Zechariah we find six named: Gold, six times (4:2, 12; 6:11;
13:9; 14:14). Fine gold, once (9:3). Silver, six times, (6:11;
9:3; 11:12, 13; 13:9; 14:14). Brass, once (6:1, marg.). Lead,
twice (5:7, 8). Tin, once (4:10, marg.). Seventeen references
- Zechariah is full of refs to what the prophet
saw and said but there are only two refs. to what
he did; and both of these have references to "silver" (6:11; 11:13).
- The Septuagint, and its revision by Symmachus,
read "cast them (i.e. the thirty pieces of silver)
into the furnace
(Gr. eis to choneuterion), showing that, before Matthew was written,
yotzer was interpreted as referring not to a "potter" but to a fashioner
- The persons are also different.
In Matthew we have "they took", "they gave", "the price of him"; in Zechariah
we read "I took", "I cast", "I was valued".
- In Matthew the money was given "for the
field", and in Zechariah it was cast "unto the fashioner"
- Matthew names three parties as being
concerned in the transaction; Zechariah names only one.
- Matthew not only quotes Jeremiah's spoken
words, but names him as the speaker. This is in keeping with Matt.
2:17, 18. Jeremiah is likewise named in Matt. 16:14; but nowhere
else in all the New Test.
- The conclusion. From all this we gather that the passage
in Matthew (27:9, 10) cannot have any reference to Zech. 11:10-13.
- If Jeremiah's spoken words
have anything to do with what is recorded in Jer. 32:6-9, 43, 44, then
in the reference to them other words are interjected by way of parenthetical
explanation. These are not to be confused with the quoted words.
They may be combined thus: --
"Then was fulfilled that which was SPOKEN by Jeremiah the prophet saying;
'And they took the thirty pieces of silver [the price of him who was
priced, whom they of the sons of Israel did price], and they gave them
for the potter's field, as the LORD appointed me.'"
Thus Matthew quotes that which was "SPOKEN" by Jeremiah the prophet
and combines with the actual quotation a parenthetical reference
to the price at which the prophet Zechariah had been priced.
- Had the sum of money been twenty pieces
of silver instead of thirty, a similar remark might well have been interjected
"Then was fulfilled that which was SPOKEN by Jeremiah the prophet saying;
'And they took the twenty pieces of silver [the price of him whom his
brethren sold into Egypt], and they gave them for the potter's field'",
- Or, had the reference been to the compensation
for an injury done to another man's servant, as in Ex. 21:32, a similar
parenthetical remark might have been introduced thus: --
"Then was fulfilled that which was SPOKEN by Jeremiah the prophet, saying
: 'And they took the thirty pieces of silver [the price given
in Israel to the master whose servant had been injured by an ox], and
they gave them for the potter's field'" , &c.
A designed parenthetical insertion by the inspired Evangelist of a reference
to Zechariah, in a direct quotation from the prophet Jeremiah, is
very different from a "mistake" or "a slip of the pen", "a lapse of memory"
or a "corruption of the text", which need an apology.
The quotation itself, as well as the parenthetical reference are both
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