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In Acts 1:20, Peter quotes Psalm 69:25 and Psalm 109:8:

20“For it is written in the Book of Psalms, “‘May his camp become desolate, and let there be no one to dwell in it’; and “‘Let another take his office.’ (ESV)

What are the psalms referring to in their original context? What interpretive approach is Peter employing in the context of Acts?

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Both Psalm 69 and Psalm 109 are psalms of David. Both are, as well, psalms of vindication. In Psalm 69, David's enemies seek to destroy him without cause (v4), so David prays out against them that God would vindicate him against them. Similarly in Psalm 109, David has been betrayed by his friend(s). Therefore, David prays that God would destroy his enemies.

Peter, as you mentioned, picks up these two passages in Acts 1 to demonstrate the need to replace Judas among the twelve. There are two main theories that I am aware of in regards to Peter's use of these passages:

  1. Peter has no real hermeneutic. He's simply proof texting.
  2. Peter sees these Psalms through a Davidic typology.

There is some evidence that Peter's categories allowed for typology. Although it wouldn't be written until after the story in Acts 1, in 1 Peter 3:21, Peter uses the word "αντιτυπον" (meaning something like "antitype") to relate the deluge to baptism.

Moreover, the gospel writers all seem to think that David in some way prefigures the Christ.1 This is not too surprising, though, since the prophets also anticipate a king like David.2 This lends the second theory a bit more credence since Mark is thought by many to have based his gospel on the testimony of Peter - though again, the gospel would have been written undoubtedly at a later date from the story in Acts 1.

It's a least possible, though, that Peter has in mind a Davidic typology when he quotes these two verses. If he does, then he is looking at the sufferings of David at the hand of his betrayers and the prayers David prayed and seeing in these things a pattern of the David-like Messiah and his betrayer. It then becomes appropriate of Jesus' betrayer - like David's betrayer in the psalms - that his "camp become desolate" and "another take his office."


Notes:

1 See Mark 11:10, 12:35-37, and 15:24 (cf. Psalm 22:18)

2 See e.g. Jeremiah 30:8-9 or Ezekiel 34:23-24

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Related source: thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/07/10/… –  Soldarnal Oct 11 '11 at 23:11
    
Thanks for sharing the TGC article. I might have to go buy DA Carson's book mentioned there! –  jrdioko Oct 11 '11 at 23:23
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This answer would be stronger if you quoted a gospel passage (especially from Mark) that shows the author thought of David as a prefiguring of Jesus. Mark 12:35-37 does the job well, I'd say. –  Jon Ericson Oct 11 '11 at 23:25
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Thanks @JonEricson. I meant to do that but for some reason slipped my mind. I've updated –  Soldarnal Oct 12 '11 at 0:05
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