What is the biblical significance of thirty pieces of silver?
Perhaps the most well-known biblical passage involving thirty pieces is the description of Judas seeking to betray Jesus. Judas approached the political and religious leaders of Israel and asked what payment he would receive to deliver Jesus to them, and they gave him thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14–15).
"Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, 'I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.' They said, 'What is that to us? See to it yourself.' And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself" (Matthew 27:3–5). The chief priests and elders used the money to buy land from a potter for a cemetery (Matthew 27:6–10).
Thirty pieces of silver is specifically mentioned in the book of Zechariah. In Zechariah 11:4–14, God calls the prophet to care for a flock of sheep "doomed to slaughter." In this prophecy, God foretells the fall of Israel in AD 70, the scattering of the Jewish nation, and various prophecies about Jesus. Zechariah says he got rid of the three shepherds, thought to be the scribes, elders, and priests who worked to condemn Jesus (Matthew 16:21). Zechariah also breaks his two staffs, one named Favor and one Union. The breaking of the Favor staff symbolizes the breaking or suspension of God's favor on His chosen nation to allow His judgment upon them after Jesus' death and resurrection. The breaking of the Union staff foretells the breaking up of the nation by the Romans.
Zechariah is paid for his work as a shepherd with thirty pieces of silver—a small sum for such a responsible job. He describes the wage as a "handsome price" in a sarcastic tone (Zechariah 11:13) and then follows God's instruction to throw the money to the potter. Zechariah does so by throwing the money into the temple for the potter, foreshadowing Judas' actions with the same amount of money.
The first reference to thirty pieces of silver in the Bible can be found in Exodus 21:32 when the Israelites were told that the payment to the master of a slave gored by an ox should be thirty pieces of silver.
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