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THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Chapter 1 - Verse 20
Verse 20. For it is written, etc. See Ps 69:26. This is the prediction, doubtless, to which Peter refers in Ac 1:16. The intermediate passage in Ac 1:18,19, is probably a parenthesis; the words of Luke, not of Peter. It is not probable that Peter would introduce a narrative like this, with which they were all familiar, in an address to the disciples, The Hebrew in the Psalm is, "Let their habitation (Heb., fold, enclosure for cattle; tower, or palace) be desolate, and let none dwell in their tents." This quotation is not made literally from the Hebrew, nor from the Septuagint. The plural is changed to the singular, and there are some other slight variations. The Hebrew says, "Let no men dwell in their tents." The reference to the tents is omitted in the quotation. The term habitation, in the Psalm, means evidently the dwelling-place of the enemies of the writer of the Psalm. It is an image expressive of their overthrow and defeat by a just God: "Let their families be scattered, and the places where they have dwelt be without an inhabitant, as a reward for their crimes." If the Psalm was originally composed with reference to the Messiah and his sufferings, the expression here was not intended to denote Judas in particular, but one of his foes, who was to meet the just punishment of rejecting, and betraying, and murdering him. The change, therefore, which Peter made from the plural to the singular, and the application to Judas especially, as one of those enemies, accords with the design of the Psalm, and is such a change as the circumstances of the case justified and required. It is an image, therefore, expressive of judgment and desolation coming upon his betrayer—an image to be literally fulfilled in relation to his habitation, drawn from the desolation when a man is discomfited, overthrown, and his dwelling-place given up to desolation. It is not a little remarkable that this Psalm is repeatedly quoted as referring to the Messiah. Ps 69:9, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up," expressly applied to Christ in Joh 2:17. Ps 69:21, "They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink." The thing which was done to Jesus on the cross, Mt 27:34. The whole Psalm is expressive of deep sorrow—of persecution, contempt, weeping, being forsaken, and is throughout applicable to the Messiah; with what is remarkable, not a single expression to be, of necessity, limited to David. It is not easy to ascertain whether the ancient Jews referred this Psalm to the Messiah. A part of the title to the Psalm in the Syriac version is, "It is called a prophecy concerning those things which Christ suffered, and concerning the casting away of the Jews." The prophecy in Ps 69:25 is not to be understood of Judas alone, but of the enemies of the Messiah in general, of which Judas war one. On this principle the application to Judas of the passage by Peter is to be defended.
And, His bishopric let another take. This is quoted from Ps 109:8: "Let his days be few; and let another take his office." This is called "a Psalm of David," and is of the same class as Psalms 6, 22, 25, 38, and 42. This class of Psalms is commonly supposed to have expressed David's feelings in the calamitous times of the persecution by Saul, the rebellion of Absalom, etc. They are all also expressive of the condition of a suffering and persecuted Messiah; and are many of them applied to him in the New Testament. The general principle on which most of them are applicable, is not that David personated or typified the Messiah, which is nowhere affirmed, and which can be true in no intelligible sense; but that he was placed in circumstances similar to the Messiah; encompassed with like enemies; persecuted in the same manner. They are expressive of high rank, office, dignity, and piety, cast down, waylaid, and encompassed with enemies. In this way they express general sentiments as much applicable to the case of the Messiah as to David. They were placed in similar circumstances. The same help was needed. The same expressions would convey their feelings. The same treatment was proper for their enemies. On this principle it was that David deemed his enemy, whoever he was, unworthy of his office; and desired that it should be given to another. In like manner, Judas had rendered himself unworthy of his office, and there was the same propriety that it should be given to another. And as the office had now become vacant by the death of Judas, according to one declaration in the Psalms, so, according to another, it was proper that it should be conferred on some other person. The word rendered "office" in the Psalm, means the care, charge, business, oversight of anything. It is a word applicable to magistrates, whose care it is to see the laws executed; to military men who have charge of an army, or a part of an army. In Job 10:12, it is rendered "thy visitation"—thy care; in Nu 4:16, "and to the office of Eleazar," etc.; 2 Ki 11:18. In the case of David it refers to those who were entrusted with military or other offices, and who had treacherously perverted them to persecute and oppose him; and thus shown themselves unworthy of the office. The Greek word which is used here—episkophn—is taken from the Septuagint, and means the same thing as the Hebrew. It is well rendered in the margin, "office, or charge." It means charge of any kind, or office, without in itself specifying of what kind. It is the concrete of the noun —episkopov—, commonly translated "bishop," and means his office, charge, or duty, That word designates simply having the oversight of anything; and as applied to the officers of the New Testament, it denotes merely their having charge of the affairs of the church, without specifying the nature or the extent of their jurisdiction. Hence it is often interchanged with presbyter, or elder, and expresses the discharge of the duties of the same office. Ac 20:28, "Take heed (presbyters or elders, Ac 1:17) therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers"—episkopouv—bishops." Heb 12:15, "Looking diligently," etc.—episkopountev Php 1:1, "with the bishops and deacons." "Paul called presbyters, bishops; for they had at that time the same name."—Theodoret, as quoted by Schleusner. 1 Pe 5:2, "Feed the flock of God, (i.e., you who are elders, or presbyters, 1 Pe 5:1;) taking the oversight thereof,"—episkopountev. These passages show that the term in the New Testament designates the supervision or care which was exercised over the church, by whomsoever performed, without specifying the nature or extent of the jurisdiction. It is scarcely necessary to add that Peter here did not intend to affirm that Judas sustained any office corresponding to what is now commonly understood by the term "bishop."
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