(Jn. 13:18) How did Judas fulfill this passage that was originally about David?

CLAIM: Jesus told the disciples, “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me’” (Jn. 13:18). Here Jesus quotes Psalm 41:9, which originally refers to David’s betrayal by Ahithophel. How does this passage predict Judas?

RESPONSE: When John says that Judas “fulfilled” this passage in Psalm 41:9, we shouldn’t think of this as a one-to-one fulfillment. While some prophecies in the OT were literally fulfilled in this direct sense (Isa. 53; Ps. 22; Dan. 9:24-27), others were not (Mt. 1:23; 2:14-15; 2:23). Many prophecies in the OT were typological. That is, earlier figures served to foreshadow what would come in the future. The NT authors saw David as a type (or a foreshadowing) of the Messiah who was to come. Therefore, when Christ’s life was similar to David’s, the NT authors would say that Christ was “fulfilling” what came before. That is, as with David, so with Christ. Not everything in David’s life was prophetic of Christ. In fact, in this passage, David admits to sinning (Ps. 41:4), so a strict one-to-one correspondence isn’t warranted, but a general correspondence is.

John saw the betrayal of Christ as a fulfillment of David’s life, because David was also betrayed by his close friend. Psalm 41 is a psalm of David. The historical setting for this psalm was no doubt Absalom’s rebellion against David, and the faithless friend mentioned here is no doubt Ahithophel, who betrayed David. When David writes that his friend “ate my bread,” this was a cultural example of having a close friendship. Carson and Beale write, “In ancient Semitic cultures, eating bread at the table of a superior amounted to a pledge of loyalty (2 Sam. 9:7–13; 1 Kings 18:19; 2 Kings 25:29).”[1] Later in his life, Ahithophel later hanged himself (2 Sam. 17:23), as did Judas (Mt. 27:5). Just as this righteous sufferer would face persecution and suffering (vv.5-9), he would also be vindicated by God (vv. 10-12).

Similarities between David and Jesus’ betrayal

David’s Betrayal

Jesus’ Betrayal

Betrayed by a close friend

Betrayed by a close friend

David was persecuted (Ps. 41:5-9), but he was eventually vindicated by God (vv.10-12).

Jesus was persecuted to the point of death, but he was later resurrected.

David’s betrayer hanged himself later in life (2 Sam. 17:23).

Jesus’ betrayer hanged himself (Mt. 27:5).

[1] Beale, G. K., & Carson, D. A. Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos. 2007. 486.