Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy
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 32:7-12 ) , 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 Zechariah 11:13 ) , 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 F25 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 F26 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 F1
``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 F2, 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 F3, 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 Zechariah 11:6 ) , 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 11:9-11 Zechariah 11:14 ) , 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 Zechariah 11:13 ) , which were afterwards "cast unto the potter". The Jews F4 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" 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 (yrkv wbh) , 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.
F25 In loc.
F26 Mede's Works, p. 963, 1022, 1023.
F1 T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 14. 2. Vid. Praefat. R. David Kimchici in Jer.
F2 Sepher Hagilgulim apud Surenhus. Biblos Katallages, p. 41.
F3 R. Isaac Chizzuk Emuna, par. 2. c. 25. p. 412.
F4 Bereshit Rabba, sect. 98. fol. 85. 3, 4.