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And having thrown down the silver coins into the sanctuary, he departed, and having gone away, he hanged himself. Bible other translations

“he hanged himself.” The natural reading of Matthew 27:5 leads us to believe that Judas killed himself very soon after Jesus was arrested, and the rest of Scripture supports that conclusion. We have supporting evidence from Luke 24:9 that Judas killed himself before Jesus was raised from the dead, because when the women found the tomb empty on Sunday morning, they went to “the Eleven,” which is a title that the remaining apostles were given after Judas killed himself (see commentary on Luke 24:9). Although there seems to be a contradiction between Matthew 27:5 and Acts 1:18, that can be resolved (see commentary on Acts 1:18).

The verb for “hanged himself” is apagchomai (#519 ἀπάγχομαι) and it occurs here in the aorist tense, middle voice (apēgxato; ἀπήγξατο), and thus it refers to something that Judas did to himself, in this case, hanged himself. Apagchomai only occurs this one time in the New Testament, and Robert Gundry offers a reason that Matthew would have this unusual verb here. Apagchomai is the same verb and in the same verb form (aorist middle third person singular) that is used in the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament) in the record of the death of David’s friend and counselor Ahithophel. Ahithophel had been David’s friend for years, but he turned against David and joined Absalom’s rebellion against David (2 Sam. 15-18). He began to advise Absalom, David’s son and enemy (2 Sam. 17:1-3), but when his advice was not heeded, he committed suicide by hanging himself. In explaining the occurrence of apagchomai in Matthew, Gundry writes that it “alludes to Ahithophel’s suicide by hanging (2 Sam. 17:23). The allusion not only exemplifies Matthew’s habit of borrowing OT [Old Testament] phraseology. It also agrees with his interest in Jesus as the son of David…for Ahithophel was a friend of David. As Ahithophel turned against David, Judas turned against Jesus” (R. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art).

Jesus Christ is called “the Son of David” many times in Scripture, and the comparisons and typology between David and Jesus Christ are numerous and strong. That seems to be the case here in Matthew 27:5 as well. Ahithophel, David’s friend, turned against David and then ended up hanging himself, and similarly, Judas, an apostle of Jesus Christ, turned against the Son of David and then later hanged himself. The typology between David and Christ in the context of Judas betraying Christ can also be seen at the Last Supper (John 13:18), when Jesus quoted Psalm 41, a psalm of David, and said “The one who eats my bread lifted up his heel against me” (Ps. 41:9). This betrayal happened to David, possibly by Ahithophel, and it happened to Jesus as well when Judas betrayed Jesus.

Unlike Peter who denied Christ but then repented and rebuilt his relationship with Jesus, Jesus indicated that Judas would kill himself rather than repent and continue as part of the believing community. Quite early on in his ministry Jesus knew Judas was “a devil” (John 6:70). Furthermore, at the Last Supper Satan entered Judas and influenced him to betray Christ and likely kill himself shortly afterward as well (Luke 22:3). Furthermore, people who sin, even who sin greatly, are forgiven if they repent and ask for forgiveness, but Jesus said of Judas, “woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24). It does not seem that Jesus would have said this if he believed Judas would repent of betraying Jesus.

Also, the disciples knew that Judas had betrayed Jesus, so it is unlikely that they would have received him back into their company. Jesus had revealed at the Last Supper that one of the Apostles would betray him, and the Apostles discussed it at that time (Matt. 26:20-25; Mark 14:17-21). Then, in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus asked Judas directly if he was betraying him (Luke 22:48), and the Apostles were right there with Jesus to hear that. Since Judas came to the Garden with the Roman soldiers, and given what Jesus had said about being betrayed by one of the Twelve, the Apostles had to know that Judas was the one who had betrayed them. Given that, it would be very unlikely that the rest of the Apostles would have taken Judas back into their company. However, if they had, it would have only been with Judas’ heartfelt and humble apology and confession of sin, but there is no such confession recorded in the Bible.

Judas knew his betrayal was known to the Apostles, and thus to him it would have been highly unlikely that the Apostles would take him back into their company, especially after Jesus said it would be better if Judas had not been born. All this is evidence that Judas killed himself very soon after returning the money to the religious leaders (Matt. 27:3-5).


Commentary for: Matthew 27:5