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Judas Iscariot

Ju’das Iscar’iot (Judas of Kerioth). He is sometimes called “the son of Simon,” John 6:71; 13:2, 26, but more commonly Iscariotes. Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:19; Luke 6:16, etc. The name Iscariot has received many interpretations more or less conjectural. The most probable is from Ish Kerioth, i.e., “man of Kerioth,” a town in the tribe of Judah. Josh. 15:25. Of the life of Judas before the appearance of his name in the lists of the apostles we know absolutely nothing. What that appearance implies, however, is that he had previously declared himself a disciple. He was drawn, as the others were, by the preaching of the Baptist, or his own Messianic hopes, or the “gracious words” of the new Teacher, to leave his former life, and to obey the call of the Prophet of Nazareth. The choice was not made, we must remember, without a provision of its issue. John 6:64. The germs of the evil, in all likelihood, unfolded themselves gradually. The rules to which the twelve were subject in their first journey, Matt. 10:9, 10, sheltered him from the temptation that would have been most dangerous to him. The new form of life, of which we find the first traces in Luke 8:3, brought that temptation with it. As soon as the twelve were recognized as a body, travelling hither and thither with their Master, receiving money and other offerings, and redistributing what they received to the poor, it became necessary that some one should act as the steward and almoner of the small society, and this fell to Judas. John 12:6; 13:29. The Galilean or Judean peasant found himself entrusted with larger sums of money than before, and with this there came covetousness, unfaithfulness, embezzlement. Several times he showed his tendency to avarice and selfishness. This, even under the best of influences, grew worse and worse, till he betrayed his Master for thirty pieces of silver.

(Why was such a man chosen to be one of the twelve?—(1) There was needed among the disciples, as in the Church now, a man of just such talents as Judas possessed—the talent for managing business affairs. (2) Though he probably followed Christ at first from mixed motives, as did the other disciples, he had the opportunity of becoming a good and useful man. (3) It doubtless was included in God’s plans that there should be thus a standing argument for the truth and honesty of the gospel; for if any wrong or trickery had been concealed, it would have been revealed by the traitor in self-defence. (4) Perhaps to teach the Church that God can bless and the gospel can succeed even though some bad men may creep into the fold.

What was Judas’ motive in betraying Christ?—(1) Anger at the public rebuke given him by Christ at the supper in the house of Simon the leper. Matt. 26:6-14. (2) Avarice, covetousness, the thirty pieces of silver. John 12:6. (3) The reaction of feeling in a bad soul against the Holy One whose words and character were a continual rebuke, and who knew the traitor’s heart. (4) A much larger covetousness—an ambition to be the treasurer, not merely of a few poor disciples, but of a great and splendid temporal kingdom of the Messiah. He would hasten on the coming of that kingdom by compelling Jesus to defend himself. (5) Perhaps disappointment because Christ insisted on foretelling his death instead of receiving his kingdom. He began to fear that there was to be no kingdom, after all. (6) Perhaps, also, Judas “abandoned what seemed to him a failing cause, and hoped by his treachery to gain a position of honor and influence in the Pharisaic party.”

The end of Judas.—(1) Judas, when he saw the results of his betrayal, “repented himself.” Matt. 27:3-10. He saw his sin in a new light, and “his conscience bounded into furty.” (2) He made ineffectual struggles to escape, by attempting to return the reward to the Pharisees; and when they would not receive it, he cast it down at their feet and left it. Matt. 27:5. But (a) restitution of the silver did not undo the wrong; (b) it was restored in a wrong spirit—a desire for relief rather than hatred of sin; (c) he confessed to the wrong party, or rather to those who should have been secondary, and who could not grant forgiveness; (d) “compunction is not conversion.” (3) The money was used to buy a burial-field for poor strangers. Matt. 27:6-10. (4) Judas himself, in his despair, went out and hanged himself, Matt. 27:5, at Aceldama, on the southern slope of the valley of Hinnom, near Jerusalem, and in the act he fell down a precipice and was dashed into pieces. Acts 1:18. “And he went to his own place.” Acts 1:25. “A guilty conscience must find either hell or pardon.” (5) Judas’ repentance may be compared to that of Esau. Gen. 27:32-38; Heb. 12:16, 17. It is contrasted with that of Peter. Judas proved his repentance to be false by immediately committing another sin, suicide. Peter proved his to be true by serving the Lord faithfully ever after.—Ed.)