Verse 26. "They gave forth their lots" - In what manner this or any other question was decided by lot, we cannot precisely say. The most simple form was to put two stones, pieces of board, metal, or slips of parchment, with the names of the persons inscribed on them, into an urn; and after prayer, sacrifice, &c., to put in the hand and draw out one of the lots, and then the case was decided. I have considered this subject at large on Lev. xvi. 8, 9; and Josh. xiv. 2.
"He was numbered with the eleven apostles." - The word sugkateyhfisqh, comes from sun, together with, kata, according to, and yhfov, a pebble or small stone, used for lots, and as a means of enumeration among the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians; hence the words calculate, calculation, &c., from calculus, a small stone or pebble. From this use of the word, though it signifies in general to sum up, associate, &c., we may conjecture that the calculus or pebble was used on this occasion. The brethren agreed that the matter should be determined by lot; the lots were cast into the urn; God was entreated to direct the choice; one drew out a lot; the person whose name was inscribed on it was thereby declared to be the object of God's choice, and accordingly associated with the disciples.
But it is possible that the whole was decided by what we commonly call ballot, God inclining the hearts of the majority to ballot for Matthias.
Nothing certain can, however, be stated on this head. Thus the number twelve was made up, that these might be the fountains under God of the whole Christian Church, as the twelve sons of Jacob had been of the Jewish Church. For it has already been remarked that our Lord formed his Church on the model of the Jewish. See the notes on John xvii. 1, &c. As the Holy Ghost, on the day of pentecost, was to descend upon them and endue them with power from on high, it was necessary that the number twelve should be filled up previously, that the newly elected person might also be made partaker of the heavenly gift. How long it was found necessary to keep up the number twelve, we are not informed: the original number was soon broken by persecution and death.
ON the death of Judas there is a great diversity of opinion among learned men and divines.
1. It is supposed, following the bare letter of the text, that Judas hanged himself, and that, the rope breaking, he fell down, was burst with the fall, and thus his bowels gushed out.
2. That, having hanged himself, he was thrown on the dunghill, and, the carcass becoming putrid, the abdomen, which soonest yields to putrefaction burst, and the bowels were thus shed from the body, and possibly torn out by dogs.
3. That, being filled with horror and despair, he went to the top of the house, or to some eminences and threw himself down; and thus, failing headlong, his body was broken by the fall, and his bowels gushed out.
4. That Satan, having entered into him, caught him up in the air, and thence precipitated him to the earth; and thus, his body being broken to pieces, his bowels gushed out. This is Dr. Lightfoot's opinion, and has been noticed on Matt. xxvii. 5.
5. Others think that he died or was suffocated through excessive grief; and that thus the terms in the text, and in Matt. xxvii. 5, are to be understood.
The late Mr. Wakefield defends this meaning with great learning and ingenuity.
6. Others suppose the expressions to be figurative: Judas having been highly exalted, in being an apostle, and even the purse-bearer to his Lord and brother disciples, by his treason forfeited this honour, and is represented as falling from a state of the highest dignity into the lowest infamy, and then dying through excessive grief. The Rev. John Jones, in his Illustrations of the four Gospels, sums up this opinion thus: "So sensible became the traitor of the distinguished rank which he forfeited, and of the deep disgrace into which he precipitated himself, by betraying his Master, that he was seized with such violent grief as occasioned the rupture of his bowels, and ended in suffocation and death." P. 571.
After the most mature consideration of this subject, on which I hesitated to form an opinion in the note on Matt. xxvii. 5, I think the following observations may lead to a proper knowledge of the most probable state of the case. 1. Judas, like many others, thought that the kingdom of the Messiah would be a secular kingdom; and that his own secular interests must be promoted by his attachment to Christ. Of this mind all the disciples seem to have been, previously to the resurrection of Christ. 2.
From long observation of his Master's conduct, he was now convinced that he intended to erect no such kingdom; and that consequently the expectations which he had built on the contrary supposition must be ultimately disappointed. 3. Being poor and covetous, and finding there was no likelihood of his profiting by being a disciple of Christ, he formed the resolution (probably at the instigation of the chief priests) of betraying him for a sum of money sufficient to purchase a small inheritance, on which he had already cast his eye. 4. Well knowing the uncontrollable power of his Master, he might take it for granted that, though betrayed, he would extricate himself from their hands; and that they would not be capable of putting him either to pain or death. 5. That having betrayed him, and finding that he did not exert his power to deliver himself out of the hands of the Jews, and seeing, from their implacable malice, that the murder of his most innocent Master was likely to be the consequence, he was struck with deep compunction at his own conduct, went to the chief priests, confessed his own profligacy, proclaimed the innocence of his Master, and returned the money for which he had betrayed him; probably hoping that they might be thus influenced to proceed no farther in this unprincipled business, and immediately dismiss Christ. 8. Finding that this made no impression upon them, from their own words, What is that to us? See thou to that, and that they were determined to put Jesus to death, seized with horror at his crime and its consequences, the remorse and agitation of his mind produced a violent dysentery, attended with powerful inflammation; (which, in a great variety of cases, has been brought on by strong mental agitation;) and while the distressful irritation of his bowels obliged him to withdraw for relief, he was overwhelmed with grief and affliction, and, having fallen from the seat, his bowels were found to have gushed out, through the strong spasmodic affections with which the disease was accompanied. I have known cases of this kind, where the bowels appeared to come literally away by piece meal.
Now; when we consider that the word aphgxato, Matt. xxvii. 5, which we translate hanged himself, is by the very best critics thus rendered, was choked, and that the words of the sacred historian in this place, falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out, may be no other than a delicate mode of expressing the circumstance to which I have alluded under observation 6, perhaps this way of reconciling and explaining the evangelist and historian will appear, not only probable, but the most likely. To strengthen this interpretation, a few facts may be adduced of deaths brought about in the same way with that in which I suppose Judas to have perished. The death of Jehoram is thus related, 2 Chron. xxi. 18, 19: And after all this, the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease: and it came to pass that, after the end of two years, HIS BOWELS FELL OUT, by reason of his sickness; so he died of sore diseases; µyaljtb bethachaluim, with inflammations, or ulcers. The death of Herod was probably of the same kind, chap. xii. 23. That of Aristobulus, as described by Josephus, WAR, book i. chap. 3, is of a similar nature. Having murdered his mother and brother, his mind was greatly terrified, and his bowels being torn with excruciating torments, he voided much blood, and died in miserable agonies. Again, in his ANTIQ.
book xv. chap. 10., sect. 3, he thus describes the death of Zenodourus: "His bowels bursting, and his strength exhausted by the loss of much blood, he died at Antioch in Syria." Taking it for granted that the death of Judas was probably such as related above, collating all the facts and evidences together, can any hope be formed that he died within the reach of mercy? Let us review the whole of these transactions.
I. It must be allowed that his crime was one of the most inexcusable ever committed by man: nevertheless, it has some alleviations. 1. It is possible that he did not think his Master could be hurt by the Jews. 2. When he found that he did not use his power to extricate himself from their hands, he deeply relented that he had betrayed him. 3. He gave every evidence of the sincerity of his repentance, by going openly to the Jewish rulers: (1.) Confessing his own guilt; (2.) asserting the innocence of Christ; (3.) returning the money which he had received from them; and there (4.) the genuineness of his regret was proved by its being the cause of his death.
But, II. Judas might have acted a much worse part than he did: By persisting in his wickedness. 2. By slandering the character of our Lord both to the Jewish rulers and to the Romans; and, had he done so, his testimony would have been credited, and our Lord would then have been put to death as a malefactor, on the testimony of one of his own disciples; and thus the character of Christ and his Gospel must have suffered extremely in the sight of the world, and these very circumstances would have been pleaded against the authenticity of the Christian religion by every infidel in all succeeding ages. And, 3. Had he persisted in his evil way, he might have lighted such a flame of persecution against the infant cause of Christianity as must, without the intervention of God, have ended in its total destruction: now, he neither did, nor endeavoured to do, any of these things. In other cases these would be powerful pleadings.
Judas was indisputably a bad man; but he might have been worse: we may plainly see that there were depths of wickedness to which he might have proceeded, and which were prevented by his repentance. Thus things appear to stand previously to his end. But is there any room for hope in his death? In answer to this it must be understood, 1. That there is presumptive evidence that he did not destroy himself; and, 2. That his repentance was sincere. If so, was it not possible for the mercy of God to extend even to his case? It did so to the murderers of the Son of God; and they were certainly worse men (strange as this assertion may appear) than Judas. Even he gave them the fullest proof of Christ's innocence: their buying the field with the money Judas threw down was the full proof of it; and yet, with every convincing evidence before them, they crucified our Lord. They excited Judas to betray his Master, and crucified him when they had got him into their power; and therefore St. Stephen calls them both the betrayers and murderers of that Just One, chap. vii. l2: in these respects they were more deeply criminal than Judas himself; yet even to those very betrayers and murderers Peter preaches repentance, with the promise of remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, chap. iii. 12-26.
If, then, these were within the reach of mercy, and we are informed that a great company of the priests became obedient to the faith, chap. vi. 7, then certainly Judas was not in such a state as precluded the possibility of his salvation. Surely the blood of the covenant could wash out even his stain, as it did that more deeply engrained one of the other betrayers and murderers of the Lord Jesus.
Should the 25th verse be urged against this possibility, because it is there said that Judas fell from his ministry and apostleship, that he might go to his own place, and that this place is hell; I answer, 1. It remains to be proved that this place means hell; and, 2. It is not clear that the words are spoken of Judas at all, but of Matthias: his own place meaning that vacancy in the apostolate to which he was then elected. See the note on ver. 25.
To say that the repentance of Judas was merely the effect of his horror; that it did not spring from compunction of heart; that it vas legal, and not evangelical, &c., &c., is saying what none can with propriety say, but God himself, who searches the heart. What renders his case most desperate are the words of our Lord, Matt. xxvi. 24: Wo unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born! I have considered this saying in a general point of view in my note on Matt. xxvi. 24; and, were it not a proverbial form of speech among the Jews, to express the state of any flagrant transgressor, I should be led to apply it in all its literal import to the case of Judas, as I have done, in the above note, to the case of any damned soul; but when I find that it was a proverbial saying, and that it has been used in many cases where the fixing of the irreversible doom of a sinner is not implied, it may be capable of a more favourable interpretation than what is generally given to it. I shall produce a few of those examples from Schoettgen, to which I have referred in my note on Matt. xxvi. 24.
In CHAGIGAH, fol. ii. 2, it is said: "Whoever considers these four things, it would have been better for him had he never come into the world, viz.
That which is above-that which is below-that which is before- and that which is behind; and whosoever does not attend to the honour of his Creator, it were better for him had he never been born." In SHEMOTH RABBA, sect. 40, fol. 135, 1, 2, it is said: "Whosoever knows the law, and does not do it, it had been better for him had he never come into the world." In VIYIKRA RABBA, sect. 36, fol. 179, 4, and MIDRASH COHELETH, fol. 91, 4, it is thus expressed: "It were better for him had he never been created; and it would have been better for him had he been strangled in the womb, and never have seen the light of this world." In SOHAR GENES. fol. 71, col. 282, it is said: "If any man be parsimonious towards the poor, it had been better for him had he never came into the world." Ibid. fol. 84, col. 3x23: "If any performs the law, not for the sake of the law, it were good for that man had he never been created." These examples sufficiently prove that this was a common proverb, and is used with a great variety and latitude of meaning, and seems intended to show that the case of such and such persons was not only very deplorable, but extremely dangerous; but does not imply the positive impossibility either of their repentance or salvation.
The utmost that can be said for the case of Judas is this he committed a heinous act of sin and ingratitude; but he repented, and did what he could to undo his wicked act: he had committed the sin unto death, i.e. a sin that involves the death of the body; but who can say (if mercy was offered to Christ's murderers, and the Gospel was first to be preached at Jerusalem that these very murderers might have the first offer of salvation through him whom they had pierced) that the same mercy could not be extended to the wretched Judas? I contend that the chief priests, &c., who instigated Judas to deliver up his Master, and who crucified him-and who crucified him too as a malefactor-having at the same time the most indubitable evidence of his innocence, were worse men than Judas Iscariot himself; and that, if mercy was extended to those, the wretched penitent traitor did not die out of the reach of the yearning of its bowels. And I contend, farther, that there is no positive evidence of the final damnation of Judas in the sacred text.
I hope it will not displease the humane reader that I have entered so deeply into the consideration of this most deplorable case. I would not set up knowingly any plea against the claims of justice; and God forbid that a sinner should be found capable of pleading against the cries of mercy in behalf of a fellow culprit! Daily, innumerable cases occur of persons who are betraying the cause of God, and selling, in effect, Christ and their souls for money. Every covetous man, who is living for this world alone, is of this stamp. And yet, while they live, we do not despair of their salvation, though they are continually repeating the sin of Judas, with all its guilt and punishment before their eyes! Reader! learn from thy Lord this lesson, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. The case is before the Judge, and the Judge of all the earth will do right.