The life of Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus, is mentioned twenty-two times in the King James Bible. Who was he? What did Christ have to say about his character? Did he repent of betraying the Savior of mankind just like Peter had a change of heart after he denied the Lord three times? How did Judas die?
Judas is one of Biblical history's most unfortunate and tragic figures. He became a pawn in Satan's evil game to totally destroy the Messiah, an act that would ultimately fail as prophecy predicted (Genesis 3:14 - 15).
What kind of man was Judas Iscariot? There is an old tradition that says, from childhood, he and Jesus had been friends and that Christ continually had to pull him out of trouble. Although this tradition may not be quite true, it is logical to conclude that the two were more than mere acquaintances.
While Scripture is silent regarding the life of Judas before he became a disciple, it does tell us a few things about him during the ministry of Jesus. He was, of course, one of the twelve apostles (Mark 3:14, 19) whose surname Iscariot is believed to mean "a man of murder" or a hireling (Hitchcock's Bible Names) or "a man of Kerioth" (A Dictionary of the Holy Bible). Kerioth was a city within the inheritance of the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:25).
Judas was in charge of the group's money (John 13:29) and was a thief who regularly stole from it (John 12:6). He was known to be a liar (John 12:3 - 6) who was also deceitful and greedy (Matthew 26:14 - 15). He was called a traitor (Luke 6:16) and was identified as a betrayer during the last Passover (John 13:21 - 26). He was willing to pretend to honor someone for his own selfish purposes (Mark 14:44 - 45, Matthew 26:49).
Jesus referred to Judas as a devil (John 6:70) and a son of perdition (John 17:12) who it would have been better if he were never born (Matthew 26:24). It is interesting to note that Christ not only knew he would be betrayed, he hand-picked the betrayer! He stated, when he selected the twelve men who would follow him, "Did I not choose you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" (John 6:71, HBFV).
Judas was possessed personally by Satan the devil during the last Passover (John 13:27), no doubt to insure Christ would die for the sins of the world. The price paid for his betrayal was thirty pieces of silver, an amount predicted in Scripture (Zechariah 11:12, Matthew 26:14 - 15).
Judas felt so bad after betraying someone who was innocent that he tried, unsuccessfully, to return the bribe money paid him. His self-hate continued to grow, however, even after he gave back the money he received.
We know that Judas felt remorse for his actions (Matthew 27:3) and knew he sinned. His sorrow, however, did not lead to true repentance and a change of heart, as it did for Peter (see Luke 22:55 - 62, John 18:17, 25 - 27, etc.). It led to him committing suicide (Matthew 27:5, Acts 1:18).
The majority of Biblical commentaries state that Judas likely killed himself by hanging off a tree that overlooked the valley of Hinnom. It is possible, however, that the phrase "hanged himself" used in Matthew is another way of stating that he stabbed himself with a large knife or sword. Nothing more is stated about him after the last Biblical reference to his life in Acts 1:25.