Thirty Pieces: Gored by an Ox

24 11 2010

‘Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray Jesus.’
(Matthew 26:14-16 ESV)

I don’t know about you, but I rarely barter with shekels. So to be honest, I don’t actually know how much they’re worth.

I can count to thirty, you’ll be pleased to know. So I am aware, for example, that thirty is significantly more than ten, but less than one hundred. But that doesn’t much help me understand the exact value of thirty pieces of silver.

I think I’ve always assumed that it was a large amount, that Judas was motivated by the desire for money. But actually, a quick look at the cross-references appears to suggest otherwise.

Thirty pieces of silver was the equivalent of about four months’ wages for a labourer. That equates to around £4,750. I don’t know if that sounds a lot to you. I would happily find a good use for £4,750, so it’s nothing to be sniffed at.

But is it much for a human life?

Exodus 25:32 says this:

‘If an ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.’ (Exodus 25:32)

30 pieces of silver. £4,750. Jesus’ life was valued the same as that of a slave, accidentally impaled by an animal.

This leads me to think that Judas wasn’t motivated by money, he surely would have settled on a higher figure. The thirty pieces represent the fact that both Judas and the Priests esteemed Jesus so little. Though Jesus was in the form of God, he made himself nothing, taking the form of a slave, and being obedient to the point of death (Phil 2:4-8). The death of a slave, gored by an ox.

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