1. Matthew 27:9 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

Does Matthew make a mistake in attributing the prophecy to Jeremiah?

Matthew 27:9 (ESV)

9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel,

In short

When Matthew attributes 27:9 to Jeremiah he

  1. likely mistakenly attributes the prophecy to Jeremiah;

  2. does not make a mistake but combines elements of Jeremiah and Zechariah.

Matthew explains that Judas repents for betraying Jesus, so he returns the thirty shekels to the chief priests and elders. The chief priests and elders then use the money to buy a filed that becomes know as the Field of Blood. Matthew says this fulfills the prophet Jeremiah, but how?

In fact, when Matthew says that the prophet Jeremiah is fulfilled, he offers a prophetic quote that closely resembles Zechariah 11:12–13. In Zechariah 11 we learn that Zechariah is to become God’s shepherd (Zech. 11:4), but instead of listening to Zechariah, they pay him thirty shekels of silver to go away (Zech. 11:12). Then the Lord tells Zechariah to give the thirty shekels to the potter (Zech. 11:13). Similarly, we read in Matthew that the chief priests and elders paid Judas thirty shekels of silver to make the shepherd, Jesus, go away. The thirty shekels are then paid to a potter, in order to buy the potter’s field. So there is a close connection between Matthew 27:9 and Zechariah 11:12–13. On the other hand, there is no close connection between Matthew 27:9 and Jeremiah. Of course, this does not mean that Matthew made a mistake per se. It could be that a later scribe copied Matthew incorrectly.

Others contend that Matthew has aspects of Zechariah and Jeremiah in mind. The fact is, we have other examples of biblical writers combining elements of two prophets but only naming one (for example, Mark 1:2–3). Given the fact that Matthew mentions Jeremiah, we ought to look to Jeremiah for what Matthew has in mind. Of course, no one doubts that Matthew has Zechariah 11:2–3 in mind, so the only question is which aspect of Jeremiah he has in mind. There are some disagreements over which passage of Jeremiah that Matthew has in mind, but one prominent suggestion is Jeremiah 19:1–13. There a potter is mentioned (Jer. 19:1), as well as the shedding of innocent blood (Jer. 19:4). Also, there is a field where the dead will be buried (Jer. 19:11) and the place is called the valley of slaughter (Jer. 19:6), which is reminiscent of the Field of Blood.

The problem with this argument is that the connection between Jeremiah 19:1–13 and Matthew 27:9 seems coincidental. For example, there are other passages in Scripture that name potters, and there are many instances when innocent blood is shed. Also, the chief priests and elders use the money to buy a field to bury foreigners, whereas Jeremiah has to do with Israelites dying in a foreign land. Further, Jeremiah does not mention key elements such as the thirty shekels, or the fact that the money is given to a potter. On the other hand, just about every element from Matthew 27:9 can be explained by elements of Zechariah 11.

In the end, it seems that when Matthew says the prophecy is fulfilled in Matthew 27:9, he has Zechariah 11:12–13 in mind.

Interpretation 1:
Likely Matthew mistakenly attributes the prophecy to Jeremiah.


Matthew sees that the thirty shekels paid for the betrayal of Jesus, the shepherd, is the same thirty shekels paid to the shepherd Zechariah. He also notices that the thirty shekels paid for Jesus are used to buy a field from a potter, while the thirty shekels paid to Zechariah are given to the potter. Thus when he says that the prophecy of Jeremiah is fulfilled, the content he has in mind is that of Zechariah. This shows that he likely made a mistake.


  • Ulrich Luz

  • Jakob van Bruggen

Minor differences:

Our authors agree that Matthew likely made a mistake by attributing the fulfillment of the prophecy to Jeremiah. That is because the content of the fulfillment seems to come from Zechariah 11:12–13. Our authors differ slightly in how they explain Matthew’s apparent mistake. Ulrich Luz points out that the prophet Jeremiah does mention a potter, so the mention of the potter’s field may have reminded Matthew of Jeremiah. Luz also suggests that Matthew may not have had the source material of Jeremiah and Zechariah available to him, so he could not verify and remedy his mistake.1

Jakob van Bruggen resists placing the mistake on Matthew’s shoulders. He suggests that Matthew may have preserved the mistake by taking his material from an earlier tradition that had originally mistaken the prophets.2 Or Matthew may have associated aspects of Zechariah with Jeremiah as he was recording the text and subconsciously recorded the wrong prophet.3


Interpretation 2:
Matthew does not make a mistake but combines elements of Jeremiah and Zechariah.


The chief priests and elders buy a field from a potter with the thirty shekels that they had originally given to Judas to betray Jesus. The field is used to bury strangers and was known to Matthew as the Field of Blood. Matthew sees that the event fulfills elements of both Jeremiah and Zechariah, so he combines these elements in Matthew 27:9. He then refers to the prophet Jeremiah specifically because Jeremiah was a better-known prophet.


  • Donald Carson

  • Leon Morris

  • John Nolland

  • David Turner

Minor differences:

Our authors agree that Matthew has elements of both Jeremiah and Zechariah in mind in Matthew 27:9. There are some minor differences, though. John Nolland sees it that Matthew 27:9 more closely resembles Zechariah 11:12–13 than anything from Jeremiah, but notes that a potter and a field are mentioned in Jeremiah 18:1–11, Jeremiah 19:1, and Jeremiah 32:6–15.11 Nolland posits that Matthew likely has those passages of Jeremiah in mind. Donald Carson, on the other hand, agrees that Jeremiah mentions a potter and a field in Jeremiah 18:1–11 and Jeremiah 32:6–15 but thinks the connection is too loose to be the source of Matthew 27:9. Instead, Carson argues that Matthew has Matthew 27:9 in mind.12

Another interesting difference is between Leon Morris and Carson. Morris agrees with Carson that if Matthew has Jeremiah in mind, he has a large portion of Jeremiah 19:1–15 in mind, namely, Jeremiah 19:1–13, along with Jeremiah 18:2–3 and Jeremiah 32:6–15. Still, since the content of these passages is only loosely connected to Matthew 27:9, Morris allows for other explanations. For example, it might be that Matthew cites Jeremiah because Jeremiah was the first prophet in a rabbinic book of prophets, but the content he uses comes from Zechariah. Or, Morris posits, Matthew may have quoted from a book that contained proof texts of Old Testament prophets.13 Carson, on the other hand, refers to such theories, including the theory that Matthew made a simple mistake, as highly improbable solutions.14