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Bible Dictionaries
Judas Iscariot

Smith's Bible Dictionary

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Ju'das Iscar'iot. (Judas of Kerioth). He is sometimes called "the son of Simon," John 6:71; John 13:2; John 13:26, but more commonly Iscariotes. Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:19; Luke 6:16; etc. The name Iscariot has received many interpretations more of less conjectural. The most probable is from Ish Kerioth, that is, "man of Kerioth," a town in the tribe of Judah. Joshua 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, Matthew 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; John 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. Matthew 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 traitors 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 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." Matthew 27:3-10. He saw his sin in a new light, and "his conscience bounded into fury."

(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. Matthew 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 grand forgiveness;

(d) "compunction is not conversion."

(3) The money was used to buy a burial-field for poor strangers. Matthew 27:6-10.

(4) Judas himself, in his despair, went out and hanged himself, Matthew 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 neither hell or pardon."

(5) Judas' repentance may be compared to that of Esau. Genesis 27:32-38; Hebrews 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. - Editor).

Bibliography Information
Smith, William, Dr. Entry for 'Judas Iscariot'. Smith's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​sbd/​j/judas-iscariot.html. 1901.
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