John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible
2 Peter 2
INTRODUCTION TO 2 PETER 2
This chapter contains a description of false teachers, that were then in Christian churches, as there had been false prophets among the Jews; and they are described by the doctrines, which they privily introduced; in general, damnable heresies; in particular, denying the Lord that bought them; and by their success, having many followers of them in their pernicious ways; and by the sad effects following hereupon; with respect to the way of truth, that was blasphemed; with respect to their hearers, they, through the covetousness of these false teachers, were made merchandise of; and with respect to themselves, swift and sure destruction would be brought upon them, 2 Peter 2:1, which is illustrated and confirmed by the instances of punishment in the angels, the men of the old world, and the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, 2 Peter 2:4 and whereas, in these instances, notice is taken of the deliverance of some righteous persons, as Noah and Lot, when wicked men were destroyed; the apostle draws this conclusion from the whole, that the Lord knows both how to deliver the saints out of afflictions, and to reserve wicked men until the day of judgment, then to be punished, 2 Peter 2:9, especially such shall be then punished, who are described by their impure course of lift, their contempt of civil government, and their presumption and selfwill, 2 Peter 1:10 which sins of theirs are aggravated by the different conduct of angels, superior to them; and by their being like brute beasts, as ignorant as they, and even below them; whose punishment will be to perish in their corruption, as the just reward of their unrighteousness, since they are open in sin, take pleasure in it, and sport themselves with it, and are spots and blemishes in Christian societies, 2 Peter 2:11 and these, who are no other than the false teachers before spoken of, are further described by their adulterous eyes, which cannot cease from sin; by their beguiling unstable souls; by the covetous practices their hearts were exercised with; by their just desert, cursed children; by the course they steer, forsaking the right way, going astray from it, and following the way of Balaam in his covetousness, and other wicked practices, for which he was reproved by his ass; and by various metaphors, which express the emptiness of these persons, and which also point at their destruction, and describe their boasts and brags, and the influence they have, through their lasciviousness and uncleanness, on some persons, who have been outwardly reformed, 2 Peter 2:14 and this they obtain over them in a very stupid and senseless way, by promising them liberty, when through being overcome by them, and drawn into sin, they were brought into bondage, and become servants of corruption; and so their case is worse than it was before their reformation, and profession of religion; and better it would have been not to have had the knowledge they had, than after it to turn from the paths of truth and holiness, which is illustrated by a true Scripture proverb, which expresses the filthy nature of sin, the character of these men, and their irrecoverable state and condition, 2 Peter 2:19.
But there were false prophets also among the people,.... As well as holy men of God, who gave out prophecies, by the inspiration and impulse of the Holy Spirit; that is, among the people of the Jews, God's professing people, whose God was the Lord, and who had chosen them to be a special and peculiar people, above all people of the earth; and had distinguished them by his favours from all others: among these, though the Syriac version reads "in the world", there were false prophets, who ran, and were not sent; and who prophesied, and the Lord spake not to them: of these there were many in Jeremiah's time, and in the times of Ezekiel; and in Ahab's time, besides the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, slain by Elijah, there were four hundred that called themselves the prophets of the Lord; among whom went forth a lying spirit, encouraging Ahab to go up to Ramoth Gilead, promising him prosperity and success; Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah, with whom Micaiah, the true prophet, had much contention, was at the head of them; and such there were among that people in all ages, until the times of Christ, and in his likewise; see Matthew 7:15 now from these, by an easy transition, the apostle proceeds to another part of his design in this epistle, to describe the characters of false teachers under the present dispensation, that saints may beware, and avoid their pernicious principles and practices:
even as there shall be false teachers among you; which need not to be wondered at, or stumble any, it being no new or strange thing, but what was always more or less the case of the people of God. This is a prophecy of what should be, and agrees with the prediction of our Lord, Matthew 24:11 and which regards not only the times immediately following, in which it had a remarkable fulfilment, for false teachers now began to arise, and appeared in great numbers in the age succeeding the apostles, but to all periods of time from hence, to the second coming of Christ; and these were to spring from, and be among such that bore the Christian name, and so regards not Mahometans and Deists; and it is to be observed, that the phrase is varied in this clause, and these are called not "prophets" but "teachers": because as prophecy was more peculiar to the former dispensation, so is teaching to the present:
who privily shall bring in damnable heresies: errors in the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel; such as relate to a trinity of persons in the Godhead; and to the person of Christ, to his proper deity, distinct personality, eternal sonship, and real humanity; and to his office as Mediator, rejecting him as the true Messiah, and as the only Saviour of sinners; denying his sacrifice and satisfaction, and the imputation of his righteousness; and to the Holy Spirit, his deity, personality, and divine influences and operations: these are "damnable", or "destructive", or "heresies of destruction"; which lead to eternal destruction both those that introduce and propagate them, and those that embrace and profess them; for they remove, or attempt to remove, the foundation of eternal life and happiness: the manner in which these are usually introduced is "privily"; at unawares, secretly, under a disguise, and gradually, by little and little, and not at once, and openly; and which is the constant character and practice of such men, who lie in wait to deceive, creep into churches at unawares, and into houses privately; and insinuate their principles under specious pretences and appearances of truth, using the hidden things of dishonesty, walking in craftiness, handling the word of God deceitfully, and colouring things with false glosses and feigned words: and even denying the Lord that bought them; not the Lord Jesus Christ, but God the Father; for the word κυριος is not here used, which always is where Christ is spoken of as the Lord, but δεσποτης; and which is expressive of the power which masters have over their servants
and bring upon themselves swift destruction; either in this life, being suddenly cut off in the midst of their days, and by the immediate hand of God, as Arius and other heretics have been; or eternal damnation in the other, which their tenets lead unto, and which will swiftly come upon them when they are promising themselves peace and safety.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways,.... Their principles and their practices, which lead to destruction, The Complutensian edition, the Alexandrian copy, and six copies of Beza's, and others, read "their lasciviousnesses"; and so the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "their luxuries"; and all the Oriental versions seem to have read in like manner. The Syriac version renders it, "their impurity"; and the Arabic version, "their unchastities"; and the Ethiopic version, "their lust"; and which seems to have respect to the impure conversation of the followers of Simon Magus, the Nicolaitans, the Gnostics, Carpocratians, and others, who indulged themselves in all unnatural lusts and uncleanness; and generally, when men make shipwreck of faith, they also do of a good conscience, and become immoral in their conversations; and yet, as destructive as their principles, and as dishonourable and scandalous as their practices be, many were, and are their followers; so it was foretold by Christ, Matthew 24:11, and so it has been, Revelation 13:3. The road both of error and wickedness is a broad one, in which many walk; and a multitude is no proof of the truth of a church or of the principles of men, nor to be followed:
by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of; that is, either Christ, who is truth itself, and the true way to eternal life and happiness; or the Gospel, the word of truth, which holds forth Christ the truth, and points to him, and every other truth, and nothing but truth; or the Christian religion, which is the true way, in opposition to all sects and heresies; and is what should be blasphemed and spoken against, either by these men or their followers; for the phrase may be rendered, "by whom", as it is in the Vulgate Latin version, and the meaning be, that they should, in a blasphemous way, speak and write against Christ and his truths, reproach and revile them, and in a virulent manner oppose them, and trample them under foot: "or for the sake of them", as other versions read; and as we do; "by reason of them"; they should be the occasion, by their impure lives, of the name of Christ, and his doctrines, being blasphemed by profane and irreligious men; see Romans 2:24. The Alexandrian copy, and one of Stephens's, read "the glory of truth"; and so the Ethiopic version, "the glory of his truth".
And through covetousness;.... Which is generally a prevailing vice among false teachers, they having no other end in view than themselves; either to gain popular applause and vain glory, which they are always covetous of; or to amass riches to themselves, after which they have an insatiable desire:
shall they with feigned words; made words, words of their own devising, and not which the Holy Ghost teacheth; whereby they cover themselves, and privily introduce their pernicious principles; and therefore new words and phrases are always to be suspected and guarded against, especially in articles of moment and importance: or with flattering words and fair speeches, great swelling words of vanity, having men's persons in admiration, because of worldly advantage; and in this way they gain their point:
make merchandise of you; deal with the souls of men, as merchants do with their goods, carry them to market and sell them; so false teachers deal with the souls of their followers, draw them, and sell them to Satan, and they themselves pay for it; see Zechariah 11:5 but in the issue, and that in a short time, they will be no gainers by such practices:
whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not: that is, their condemnation, which God in righteousness has determined, "from the creation of the world", as the Ethiopic version reads, or from all eternity, see Judges 1:4, to bring them into, for their vile principles and practices, is not retarded and delayed; it does not linger and stay behind, or slacken its pace; it will not tarry, it will come upon them at the appointed time:
and their damnation slumbereth not; an avenging God, who has appointed them to damnation for their sins, slumbers not; the justice of God is not asleep, nor careless and negligent, but is awake, and watches over them, to bring the evil upon them they have deserved, and is in reserve for them, and will hasten to perform it; the determined destruction does not lie dormant, but in a little time will be stirred up, and fall with dreadful weight on such sinners, as may be concluded from the following awful instances.
For if God spared not the angels that sinned..... By whom are meant the devil and his angels; who are spirits created by God and as such were good; their first estate which they left was pure and holy, as well as high and honourable; they, were at first in the truth, though they abode not in it; they were once among the morning stars and sons of God, and were angels of light; their numbers are many, and therefore are here expressed in the plural number, "angels", though it cannot be said how large; a legion of them was in one man; one at first might be in the rebellion, and draw a large number with him into it, at least was at the head of it, who is called Beelzebub, the prince of devils: what their first sin was, and the occasion of it, is not easy to say; it is generally thought to be pride, affecting a likeness to, or an equality with God; since this was what man was tempted to by them, and by which he fell, as they are thought to do; and because this is the sin of such who fall into the condemnation of the devil; 1 Timothy 3:6 and is the sin, that goes before a fall in common; as it did before the fall of man, so it might before the fall of angels, Proverbs 16:18. The passage in John 8:44 seems most clearly of any to express their sin, which was "not abiding in the truth"; in the truth of the Gospel, particularly the great truth of the salvation of men, by the incarnate Son of God; and which they could by no means brook and which might spring from pride, they not bearing the thought that the human nature should be exalted above theirs; hence the Jews, in opposing Christ as the Messiah and Saviour, are said to be of their father the devil, and to do his lusts; and Judas that betrayed him, and fell from his apostleship, and the truth, is called a devil; and the heresies of men, respecting the person and office of Christ, are styled doctrines of devils; and men that have professed this truth, and afterwards deny it, are represented in the same irrecoverable and desperate case with devils, and must expect the same punishment, John 8:44, and also it may be observed on the contrary, that the good angels that stand, greatly love, value, esteem, and pry into the truths of the Gospel; particularly the scheme of man's salvation, by the incarnation, obedience, sufferings, and death of Christ: now these
God spared not; or "had no mercy on", as the Arabic version renders it; he did not forgive their sin, nor provide a Saviour for them; but directly, and at once, notwithstanding the dignity and excellency of their nature, in strict justice, and awful severity, without any mercy, inflicted due punishment on them; wherefore it cannot be thought that false teachers, who, as they, abide not in the truth, but deny and oppose it, should escape the vengeance of God:
but cast them down to hell; they were hurled out of heaven, from whence they fell as lightning, into the "lowest", or inferior places, as the Syriac version renders it; either into the air, as in Ephesians 2:2 or into the earth; as in Revelation 12:9 or into the deep, the abyss, the bottomless pit, where they are detained, as in a prison, Luke 8:31 though for certain reasons, and at certain times, are suffered to come forth, and rove about in this earth, and in the air: and these, when removed from their ancient seats in heaven, were not merely bid to go away, as the wicked will at the day of judgment; or were "drove" out, as Adam was from the garden of Eden; but "cast down"; with great power, indignation, wrath, and contempt, never to be raised and restored again:
and delivered them into chains of darkness: leaving them under the guilt of sin, which is the power of darkness, and in black despair; shutting them up in unbelief, impenitence, and hardness of mind; being holden with the cords of their sins, and in the most dreadful state of bondage and captivity to their lusts, in just judgment on them; and in the most miserable and uncomfortable condition, being driven from the realms of light, deprived of the face and presence of God, in the utmost horror and trembling, and fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation to consume them; and in utter darkness, without the least glimmering of light, joy, peace, and comfort; and where there is nothing but weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and being also under the restraints of the power and providence of God, and not able to stir or move, or do anything without divine permission; and being likewise, by the everlasting, unalterable, and inscrutable purposes and decrees of God, appointed to everlasting wrath and destruction; by which they are consigned and bound over to it, and held fast, that they cannot escape it:
to be reserved unto judgment: to the day of judgment, to the last and general judgment; the judgment of torment, as the Syriac version here calls it; the words may be rendered, "and delivered them to be kept at judgment, in chains of darkness"; when they will be in full torment, which they are not yet in; and then they will be cast into the lake of fire prepared for them, and be everlastingly shut up in the prison of hell from whence they will never more be suffered to go out; till which time they are indeed under restraints, and are held in by Christ, who has the power of binding and loosing them at pleasure; and who then, as the Judge of men and devils, will bring them forth, and pass and execute sentence on them. The Jews give an account of the dejection, fall, and punishment of the angels, in a manner pretty much like this of Peter's, whom they speak of under different names; so of the serpent that deceived Adam and Eve, whom they call Samael, and because of that sin of his, they say
"cast down Samael and his company from the place of their holiness, out of heaven;'
and of Aza and Azael, angels, who, they say, sinned by lusting after the daughters of men, they frequently affirm, that God cast them down from their holiness
And spared not the old world,.... In distinction from the present world, that now is; which was, as it were, formed anew out of that which was destroyed by the deluge. The Vulgate Latin version renders it, "the original world"; and the Ethiopic version, "the first world"; it designs the ancient inhabitants of the world, as it was from the beginning, before the flood; who, being wicked, were not spared by God, but had just punishment inflicted on them:
but saved Noah the eighth person; not the eighth from Adam, as Enoch is said to be the seventh from him, Judges 1:14 for he was the tenth; nor is it to be read with the following clause, "the eighth preacher of righteousness"; but he was the eighth person, or one of the eight persons, saved from the flood; see 1 Peter 3:20 hence the Ethiopic version, rather as a paraphrase than a version, renders it, "but caused to remain seven souls with Noah; whom he saved"; Hottinger
a preacher of righteousness; of the righteousness of God, in all his ways and works, and in case he should destroy the world by a flood, as he had threatened; and of civil and moral righteousness among men, both by words, during the building of the ark, and by works, by his own example, in his righteous life and conversation; and of the righteousness of faith, or of Christ, by which he was justified and of which he was an heir, Hebrews 11:7, the Jews
"be ye turned from your evil ways and works, lest the waters of the flood come upon you, and cut off all the seed of the children of men:'
but though Noah, a preacher of righteousness, was saved, false teachers cannot expect to escape divine vengeance; who only are transformed as ministers of righteousness, but in truth are ministers of unrighteousness; opposers of the righteousness of Christ, and live unrighteous lives and conversations, and so their end will be according to their works:
bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; or "the ungodly of the world", as רשעי ארעא "the ungodly of the earth"
"the generation of the flood shall have no part in the world to come, nor shall they stand in judgment.'
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes,.... By raining brimstone and fire upon them from heaven, Genesis 19:24 which soon reduced them to ashes, with Admah and Zeboiim, Deuteronomy 29:25, cities delightfully situated, which were as the garden of God, and the land of Egypt, together with the inhabitants of them; and after they had received a signal mercy, in being rescued by Abraham from the kings who had carried them captive; and though Abraham, the friend of God, interceded for them, and righteous Lot dwelt among them. The first of these cities is in the Hebrew language called Sedom; Philo the Jew
"a good way off of Jerusalem (he says
and so the author of the book of Wisdom 10:7 speaking of the five cities, on which fire fell, says,
"of whose wickedness, even to this day, the waste land that smoketh is a testimony; and plants bearing fruit, that never come to ripeness.'
Philo the Jew
"there are showed to this day in Syria monuments of this unspeakable destruction that happened; as ruins, ashes, sulphur, smoke, and a weak flame, breaking forth as of a fire burning:'
condemned them with an overthrow; by this sad "catastrophe" God condemned the sins of those men of Sodom and Gomorrah, and condemned their persons to everlasting damnation; of which their temporal punishment was an emblem and figure; see Judges 1:7, the word "overthrow" is generally used when this destruction is spoken of, Deuteronomy 29:23 and therefore retained by the apostle here:
making them ensamples unto those who after should live ungodly; in the commission of any sins, and be open, bold, and impudent in them, and declare them as they did; and especially that should live in the commission of the same sins, those unnatural lusts and uncleannesses, which to this day go by the name of "sodomy", and "sodomitical" practices; now the punishment of the inhabitants of these cities was an ensample to such wicked conduct, showing what they must expect, and was a representation of those everlasting burnings, which such sinners, as a righteous retaliation for their burning lusts, shall be cast into. The Jews say
"the men of Sodom have no part in the world to come, as is said Genesis 13:13 "but the men of Sodom were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly"; wicked in this world, and sinners in the world to come;'
See Gill on 1:7.
And delivered just Lot,.... Who was a just man, being justified by the righteousness of Christ imputed to him; and having the new man formed in him, which is created in righteousness and true holiness; and living soberly, righteously, and godly, though not without sin: for there is not a just man that lives and sinneth not; this righteous man was delivered from the burning of Sodom by the means of angels, Genesis 19:16. The Jews are very injurious to this good man's character, and give a very different one of him from this of the apostle's; they call him a wicked man, a perfect wicked man, as wicked as the inhabitants of Sodom
"When the ungodly perished, she delivered the righteous man, who fled from the fire which fell down upon the five cities.' (Wisdom 10:6)
as the apostle does here; and very truly, since it follows:
vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked; the inhabitants of Sodom, who had no regard to the laws of God or man, or to the law and light of nature; but as worse than brute beasts, lived daily in the commission of unnatural lusts; and therefore their conversation is rightly said to be filthy, and was a grievous burden to righteous Lot: for to a good man, not only his own sins, but the sins of others, whether professors or profane, are a burden, and make him groan under them, being grievously fatigued with them, as this good man was, and weary of life because of them, as Rebekah was, through the daughters of Heth.
For that righteous man dwelling among them,.... Which is sometimes the lot of good men, to their great sorrow and grief, Psalm 120:5. Upon mentioning those words in Genesis 13:12 "and pitched his tent towards Sodom", but the men of Sodom were wicked, &c. says R. Eleazar
"he is a righteous man that dwells between two wicked men, and does not learn their works;'
and such an one was Lot, whatever they are elsewhere pleased to say of him: "in seeing and hearing"; the Vulgate Latin version reads this in connection with the word "righteous", thus, "in seeing and hearing he was righteous": he could not bear to see their filthy actions, and hear their obscene language, but turned away from them, and shut his eyes, and stopped his ears, by which he appears to be a righteous and good man; though rather this belongs to what follows, seeing their wicked practices, and hearing their filthy talk:
vexed his righteous soul from, day today with their unlawful deeds; either "they vexed" him, as the Vulgate Latin and Ethiopic versions read; or rather "he vexed" himself; he fretted and teased himself, and became exceeding uneasy, and was put upon a rack and tortured, as the word signifies, continually, with their wicked actions; see Psalm 119:158.
That "fear him", as the Syriac version renders it; or that "rightly worship", as the Arabic; such as Noah and Lot, men that know God in Christ spiritually and experimentally; that believe in him, love him, fear him, worship him in spirit and truth, and live soberly, righteously, and godly. This verse is a conclusion from the preceding instances and examples, respecting both the mercy and justice of God; the mercy of God in delivering the godly and righteous "out of temptations"; by which are meant, not the temptations of Satan to sin, distrust, and despondency, though the Lord knows how, and is both able and willing to, and does deliver them from them; but afflictions and tribulations, such as Noah and Lot were exposed to; and which are so called, because they try the graces, particularly the faith and patience of the godly; and to deliver from these is the Lord's work: he grants his presence in them; he supports under them; he sanctifies them to them, and in his own time delivers out of them; for he knows how, and by what means, and when to do it, and is both able and willing: he has determined to do it, for the nature, measure, and duration of afflictions are fixed by him, and in his providence he does do it, as the instances before given prove.
And to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished. This is that part of the conclusion from the above premises, respecting the justice of God; and by "the unjust" are designed, persons without a righteousness, and that are full of all unrighteousness, and take pleasure in it, and live unrighteous lives, committing acts of injustice, both with respect to God and men; and the Lord, that has reserved the fallen angels in chains of darkness unto judgment, knows how to reserve "in prison", as the Arabic version renders it, the souls of those in hell, and their bodies in the grave "unto the day of judgment"; of the last and general judgment, when Christ shall judge both quick and dead, and bring every secret thing to light, which that day shall declare, God has appointed to judge the world in; in order "to be punished" in soul and body, with everlasting and complete destruction, which, as yet, is not. This phrase, "the day of judgment", is used in Judith and is a Jewish one.
"Woe to the nations that rise up against my kindred! the Lord Almighty will take vengeance of them in the day of judgment, in putting fire and worms in their flesh; and they shall feel them, and weep for ever.' (Judith 16:17)
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh,.... Not merely after the dictates of corrupt nature, as all men, and even God's elect do, in a state of unregeneracy; but "after strange flesh", as Judges 1:7 expresses it, after the flesh of men:
in the lust of uncleanness; not of fornication and adultery, but of sodomy, and sodomitical practices; sins exceeding great, not only contrary to the law and light of nature, but dishonourable to human nature; and are what prevail where idolatry, infidelity, errors, and heresies do; and which, as they are sins of the deepest dye, deserve the greater damnation, and are chiefly and more especially punished by God with great severity:
and despise government: of parents, to whom these proud boasters and blasphemers are generally disobedient; and of masters, pretending it to be contrary to their Christian liberty; and of magistrates on the same account, and as being a restraint upon their lusts; which is to despise the ordinance of God, his representatives, and to introduce anarchy and confusion, and to open a door to all manner of sin; and also the government of Christ, as head of the church, and King of Zion, whom they will not have to reign over them, and therefore reject his laws, and submit not to his ordinances; and likewise the government of the world itself by God; and so the Ethiopic version renders it, "despise their Creator"; denying his omniscience and his providence, giving out that he neither sees, observes, and takes notice of what is done in the world; nor does he himself do either good or evil, or concern himself about what is done by men.
Presumptuous are they; bold and daring, not fearing to speak against men of the most exalted character on earth, and against God himself in heaven; see Psalm 73:8.
Selfwilled; pleased with themselves, and their own conceits, their dogmas and opinions, with their high sense and profound judgment; and being obstinate in their sentiments, and resolutely bent to retain and defend them.
They are not afraid to speak evil of dignities; or "glories"; of the apostles, who were set in the first place in the church, and were the glory of Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:28; or of angels, styled thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers; or rather of civil magistrates, set in high places, and to whom glory and honour are due; which to do is contrary to the law of God, and of dangerous consequence, Exodus 22:28.
Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might,.... Which is not to be understood of evil angels, or devils; for, besides that they are greatly weakened and impaired by their fall, they are the accusers of men, and railers and slanderers of the best and greatest of men, and the origin of all the blasphemies that are vented against God or men; but of good angels, who excel in strength, who are not only guardians to particular men, and encamp about the saints, but preside over provinces and kingdoms, for which their power and might do abundantly qualify them; and in which they are greater, that is, not than the devils, or than the false teachers, though both are true, but than dominions and dignities, than kings, princes, and civil magistrates: and yet these
bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord; either "against themselves", as the Arabic version and one of Beza's copies read; against one another, against those of their own species, that are in a higher or lower class or office than themselves; and therefore men ought not to despise magistracy, or the higher powers that are over them: or else against the fallen angels, the devils, as should seem from Judges 1:9, or rather against civil magistrates, kings, and princes of this world, who, though so much below them, they vouchsafe to take under their care, and protect them, even Heathen princes, Daniel 10:20; and though there may be oftentimes many things unbecoming in them, yet they do not accuse them, or rail against them before the Lord; and even when, by his orders, they inflict punishment on their persons, as on Sennacherib, and Herod, and others, yet they do not speak evil of their office; and therefore, since angels, who are so much above men, even above the most dignified among them, behave in this manner, it must be an aggravation of the sin of these persons, who are so much below them, to speak evil of them.
But these, as natural brute beasts,.... So far are these men from acting like the angels, that they are sunk below their own species, and are like beasts, and become brutish in their knowledge and behaviour; are like the horse and the mule, without understanding, act as if they were without reason; yea, are more stupid and senseless than the ox, or the ass, which know their owner, and their crib; and even in those things which they might, and do know by the light of nature, they corrupt themselves; and being given up to judicial blindness, and a reprobate mind, call good evil, and evil good, and do things that are not convenient, and which even brute beasts do not; and like as they are guided by an instinct in nature, to do what they do, so these men are led and influenced by the force and power of corrupt nature in them, to commit all manner of wickedness: and like them are
made to be taken and destroyed; or, as it may be rendered, "to take and destroy"; as beasts and birds of prey, such as lions, tigers, wolves, bears, vultures, hawks, &c. to which abusers of themselves with mankind, ravishers of women, extortioners, oppressors, thieves, robbers, and plunderers of men's properties, may be compared: or "to be taken and destroyed"; that is, they are made or appointed to be taken in the net and snare of Satan, are vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, and are afore ordained to condemnation and ruin: and this being their case, they
speak evil of the things they understand not; either of angels, of whose nature, office, and dignity, they are ignorant; and blaspheme them, by either ascribing too much to them, as the creation of the world, and divine worship, as were by some ancient heretics; or by speaking such things of them as were below them, and unworthy of them; or of civil magistrates, not knowing the nature and end of magistracy and civil government, and therefore spoke evil of them, when they ought to pray, and be thankful for them, and live peaceable and quiet lives under them; or of the ministers of the word, whose usefulness for the conversion of sinners and edification of saints were not known, at least not acknowledged by these men; hence they were traduced, and went through ill report among them, being as unknown by them; or of the Scriptures of truth, which heretical men do not truly know and understand, but wrest to their own destruction, or deny; and of the Gospel and the mysteries of it, which are things not seen, known, and understood by carnal men, and therefore are blasphemed, reviled, and reproached by them:
and shall utterly perish in their own corruption: of which they are servants, 2 Peter 2:19, in their moral corruption, in their filthy and unnatural lusts, which are the cause of their everlasting perdition and destruction, to which they are righteously appointed of God.
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness,.... Due punishment, both in body and soul, for all their injustice to God and men; which will be a just recompense of reward they shall receive at the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his works: the justice of which appears by what follows,
as they that count it pleasure to riot in the daytime; who place all their satisfaction and happiness in sensual delight, in rioting and drunkenness, in chambering and wantonness, day after day; putting away the evil day far from them, supposing that tomorrow will be as this day, and that there will be no future judgment nor state; and therefore do not take the night for their revels, as other sinners do, but being without all shame, declare their sin as Sodom, and hide it not:
spots they are, and blemishes; which defile themselves, their minds and consciences, their souls and bodies, with sin, and defile others by their evil communications, and bring dishonour and disgrace upon the ways, doctrines, and interest of Christ:
sporting themselves with their own deceivings; with their sins and lusts, by which they deceive themselves and others, it being a sport to them to commit sin; and in which they take great pleasure and pastime, and not only delight in their own sins, but in those of others, and in them that do them. Some versions, as the Vulgate Latin and Arabic, instead of απαταις, "deceivings", read αγαπαις, love feasts, as in Judges 1:12, and so the Alexandrian copy; in which they behaved in a very scandalous manner, indulging themselves in luxury and intemperance: to which agrees what follows,
while they feast with you; at the above feasts, or at the Lord's table, or at their own houses, which shows that they were of them, and among them, as in 2 Peter 2:1; and carries in it a tacit reproof for the continuance of them, when they were become so bad in their principles, and so scandalous in their lives.
Having eyes full of adultery,.... For the seventh command is not only violated by unclean actions, and obscene words, but also by unchaste looks: and so the Jews explain
""thou shalt not commit adultery", Exodus 20:14; you shall not go after your hearts, nor after "your eyes"; says R. Levi, the heart and the "eye" are sin's two brokers.'
Hence we read
and that cannot cease from sin: which may be understood either of these wicked men, who are like the troubled sea, that cannot rest, but are continually casting up the mire and dirt of sin out of their polluted heart; who live and walk in sin, and are always committing it, their conversation being nothing else but one continued series of sinning; nor can they do otherwise, since they are slaves to their lusts, and are carried away with the force and power of them: or of their eyes, which were always rolling after unlawful objects; their eyes and their hearts were only, and always, for their lust, as the prophet says of others, that they were but for their covetousness, Jeremiah 22:17; a sin also which reigned in these men:
beguiling unstable souls: such as were unsteady in their principles, and unstable in their ways; were like children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, not being rooted in Christ, nor established in the faith; these, as the serpent beguiled Eye, they corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ; imposed false doctrines on them, and deceived them by false glosses and outward appearances; and by fair words and good speeches, and by their wanton looks and carnal lusts, they allured them into the sin of adultery; or ensnared them, drew them into the net and snare of Satan, and so they were taken and led captive.
An heart they have exercised with covetous practices; an immoderate love of money, a covetous desire after it, is the root of all evil, the bane of religion, and source of heresy, and is a vice which has always prevailed among false teachers; and the character here given well agrees with Simon Magus, the father of heresies, and his followers: hence care is always taken to insert, among, the characters and qualifications of Gospel ministers, that they be not greedy of filthy lucre, 1 Timothy 3:3; this iniquity, when it is a reigning one, and is become an habit, as it was in the persons here described, for it had its seat in their heart, they were habituated to it, and continually exercised it in a multitude of instances and wicked practices, is insatiable and damnable:
cursed children; or "children of the curse"; which may be understood either actively, children that do curse, as children of disobedience are such as commit acts of disobedience; so these were cursing children, who, though their mouths might not be full of cursing and bitterness, as openly profane sinners be, yet they inwardly, and from their hearts, cursed the true followers of Christ, and their principles; or passively, cursed children who were under the curse of the law, and from which there was no redemption for them, but at the last day will have the awful sentence pronounced on them, Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.
Which have forsaken the right way,.... The right way of the Lord, the way of truth, the Gospel of truth; or Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life; the true way to eternal life, and which is the right way to eternal happiness; the way of life, righteousness, and salvation by Christ, the Christian faith, and the doctrine of it, which they once professed, but now relinquished:
and are gone astray; from the right way, the way of truth and holiness, into the paths of error and profaneness:
following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor; which Jude calls his error, Judges 1:11, and is the path of covetousness, uncleanness, and idolatry, sins which he was either guilty of himself, or taught, advised, and seduced others to; see Revelation 2:14. The Vulgate Latin version reads "Balaam out of Bosor", taking "Bosor" for the name of a place, of which "Balaam" was; but not "Bosor", but "Pethor", was the place of Balaam's residence, Numbers 22:5. The Arabic and Ethiopic versions supply, as we do, "the son of Bosor"; and the Syriac version reads, "the son of Beor", as in Numbers 22:5; for Beor and "Bosor" are the same names; the "sheva" being pronounced by "o", as it is by "oa" in "Boanerges", and the "ain" by "s". Moreover, the letters צ and ע are sometimes used for one another, as in צאן and עאן, ארץ and ארע, and so ע and ש, especially in the Chaldean dialect; and Peter now being at Babylon in Chaldea, see 1 Peter 5:13; it is no wonder that he so pronounced.
Who loved the wages of unrighteousness: which were the rewards of divination, Numbers 22:7; which were brought him for his divining or soothsaying, and may well be called unrighteous wages, since it was for doing unrighteous things, or things in an unrighteous manner; and these he loved, desired, and greedily coveted, and fain would he have taken Balak's gold and silver, and have cursed Israel, but was restrained by the Lord: he showed a good will to it, in going along with the messengers, and in building altars, and offering sacrifice in one place after another, in which there was a great resemblance between him and the men here spoken of.
But was rebuked for his iniquity,.... Which was not merely going along with the messengers of Balak, for he had leave from the Lord so to do, Numbers 22:20; but going along with them with a desire to curse Israel, when it was the will of God he should go and bless them, in order to get Balak's money; so that his governing iniquity was covetousness, which led him to other sins; and for this he was rebuked by the angel, Numbers 22:32, as well as reproved by his ass, Numbers 22:28, for
the dumb ass, as it was naturally so, the ass on which he rode,
speaking with man's voice; which was supernatural and miraculous, for it was God that opened the mouth of the ass: the mouth of that ass is said, by the Jews
forbad the madness of the prophet: and so Balaam, though a diviner and soothsayer, is called by the Jewish writers
These are wells without water,.... Which look large and deep, promise much, and have nothing in them; so these men looked like angels of light, transformed themselves as ministers of righteousness, had a form of godliness, and boasted of their great knowledge; promised great advantages to their followers, but were like deceitful brooks, or dry wells, and so disappointed those that came to them, and attended on them; having nothing but the filth and slime of error and iniquity, being destitute both of the grace of God, comparable to water, and of the truth of heavenly doctrine, which is like the rain that fills the wells, pools, and fountains.
Clouds that are carried with a tempest; these false teachers may be compared to clouds for their number, for many antichrists and false prophets soon came into the world; and for their sudden rise in the churches, into which they crept privily and unawares; and because of the general darkness they spread, for when errors and heresies prevail it is a dark and cloudy day with the churches, a day of gloominess and darkness, of thick darkness, a day of trouble, rebuke, and blasphemy; and because of the height of them, especially light clouds, as these are compared to, who are high in their own conceits and imaginations, and think, and give out themselves to be some great persons; and also because of their sudden destruction, which lingers and slumbers not, but comes upon them in a moment, and their glory passes away like the morning cloud: and these may be said to be as clouds "carried with a tempest": of their own lusts and passions, by which they are governed, and are led, and carried away with the force of them, and have no power to resist them, being under the dominion of them, and captives to them; and of Satan's temptations, who works effectually in them, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, and being taken in his snare, are led captive by him at his will: Jude says, "carried about of winds", Judges 1:12, with every wind of false doctrine, like meteors in the air; are never at a point, always unsteady and unsettled, and ready to embrace every new and upstart notion:
to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever; the nature of their punishment is expressed by "darkness", the blackest darkness, the mist of darkness, and which Jude calls blackness of darkness, the same with utter darkness; and which signifies a most forlorn and uncomfortable condition, and is a righteous judgment, and just retaliation upon them who studied to darken counsel by words without knowledge; and the certainty of their punishment is signified by its being "reserved", even as the happiness of the saints, and the safety and sureness of it are represented by an inheritance reserved in heaven: and as God has his treasures, magazines, and stores of grace and mercy, felicity and glory, for his people; so he has his wrath and vengeance reserved, laid up in store with him, and sealed up among his treasures, which he will surely bring forth in his own time: and the duration of this punishment is "for ever"; it is a worm that never dies, a fire that is never quenched, Isaiah 66:24 Mark 9:44; it is everlasting fire and burnings, the smoke of which ascends for ever and ever.
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity,.... Marvellous things against the God of gods, great things and blasphemies against God, his name, his tabernacle, and his saints; see Daniel 11:36; or against men, dominions, and dignities, 2 Peter 2:10; or it may design their self-applauses and vain glorying in themselves, and their empty boast of knowledge and learning; and also express the windiness of their doctrines, and the bombast style, and high flown strains of rhetoric in which they were delivered; as likewise the flattering titles they bestowed on men for the sake of their own worldly interest and advantage; see Judges 1:16 and hereby
they allure, through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error: that is, from those who lived in the error of Heathenism or Judaism, from whom, and which, they were clean escaped; or truly, really, and entirely delivered, being fully convinced of the falsity thereof, and of the truth of the Christian religion; though some copies, as the Alexandrian, and two of Beza's, and two of Stephens's, read, not οντως, "truly", but ολιγως, "a little"; and the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "a very little"; to which agrees the Complutensian edition; and the Syriac version renders it "in a few words", or "almost"; and according to the Ethiopic version, "a few persons" are designed; but be they more or less, and truly, or but a little, and for a little while, or almost, escaped from their former errors, in which they were brought up, and lived; yet by the carnal lusts and liberties, lasciviousness and wantonness, which these false teachers indulged, they were allured, ensnared, and drawn by them into their wicked principles and practices.
While they promise them liberty,.... Not Christian liberty, which lies in a freedom from sin, its dominion, guilt, and condemnation, and in serving God with liberty, cheerfulness, and without fear; but a sinful carnal liberty, a liberty from the law of God, from obedience to it as a rule of walk and conversation, and from the laws of men, from subjection to the civil magistrate, and from servitude to masters, and obedience to parents; a liberty to lay aside and neglect the ordinances of the Gospel at pleasure, and to live in all manner of sin and wickedness; a liberty which is contrary to the nature, will, and work of Christ, to his Spirit, and to the principle of grace in the heart, and to the Gospel, and to the conduct and conversation of real saints. Now this was the snare by which the false teachers beguiled unstable souls; liberty being what is greatly desirable to men, and is suited to their carnal lusts and interests: but a vain promise was this, when
they themselves are the servants of corruption; of sin, which has corrupted all mankind in soul and body; and particularly the lust of uncleanness, which these men walked in, and by which they not only corrupted themselves, but the good manners of others also; and which tended and led them both to ruin and destruction, signified by the pit of corruption: and yet these very preachers, that promised liberty to others, were the servants of sin; they were under the power and government of sin. They were not only born so, and were homeborn slaves to sin, but they sold themselves to work wickedness; voluntarily and with delight, they served divers lusts and pleasures, and were slaves and drudges thereunto; as likewise to Satan, whose lusts they would do, and by whom they were led captive; so that their condition was mean, base, and deplorable, and therefore could never make good their promise, or give that which they had not themselves: and which is confirmed by the following reasoning,
for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage: as this is a certain point in war, that when one man is conquered by another, he is no longer a free man, but the other's prisoner and captive, and is in a state of servitude and bondage; so it is when a man is overcome by sin, which must be understood not of a partial victory or conquest, for a good man may be surprised by sin, and overtaken in a fault, and be overcome and carried captive by it for a time, as was the apostle, see Romans 7:23; and yet not be a servant of corruption, or properly in a state of bondage to it; but this is to be understood of a total and complete victory, when a man is wholly under the dominion of sin, it reigns in his mortal body, and he obeys it in the lusts of it, and yields his members instruments of unrighteousness; such a man is neither a free man himself, nor can he much less promise and give liberty to others.
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world,.... The sins of it, the governing vices of it, which the men of the world are addicted to, and immersed in; for the whole world lies in wickedness, and which are of a defiling nature: the phrase is Rabbinical; it is said
"he that studies not in the law in this world, but is defiled בטנופי עלמא, "with the pollutions of the world", what is written of him? and they took him, and cast him without:'
these, men may escape, abstain from, and outwardly reform, with respect unto, and yet be destitute of the grace of God; so that this can be no instance of the final and total apostasy of real saints; for the house may be swept and garnished with an external reformation; persons may be outwardly righteous before men, have a form of godliness and a name to live, and yet be dead in trespasses and sins; all which they may have
through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions, read, our Lord, and the latter leave out, "and Saviour"; by which "knowledge" is meant, not a spiritual experimental knowledge of Christ, for that is eternal life, the beginning, pledge, and earnest of it; but a notional knowledge of Christ, or a profession of knowledge of him, for it may be rendered "acknowledgment"; or rather the Gospel of Christ, which, being only notionally received, may have such an effect on men, as outwardly to reform their lives, at least in some instances, and for a while, in whose hearts it has no place. Now if, after all this knowledge and reformation,
they are again entangled therein; in the pollutions of the world, in worldly lusts, which are as gins, pits and snares:
and overcome; by them, so as to be laden with them, and led away, and entirely governed and influenced by them:
the latter end, or state,
is worse with them than the beginning; see Matthew 12:45. Their beginning, or first estate, was that in which they were born, a state of darkness, ignorance, and sin, and in which they were brought up, and was either the state of Judaism, or of Gentilism; their next estate was an outward deliverance and escape from the error of the one, or of the other, and an embracing and professing the truth of the Christian religion, joined with a becoming external conversation; and this their last estate was an apostasy from the truth of the Gospel they had professed, a reception of error and heresy, and a relapse into sin and immorality, which made their case worse than it was at first; for, generally, such persons are more extravagant in sinning; are like raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; and are seldom, or ever, recovered; and by their light, knowledge, and profession, their punishment will be more aggravated, and become intolerable.
For it had been better for them,.... Not that ignorance is good, or to be excused; but it would have been a lesser evil, and not so much aggravated:
not to have known the way of righteousness; the same with "the way of truth", 2 Peter 2:2, and "the right way", 2 Peter 2:15, the Gospel, which points out the way and method of a sinner's justification before God, which is not by the works of the law, but by the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, and received by faith; and which teaches men to live soberly, righteously, and godly; and a large, notional, though not an experimental knowledge, these apostates had of the word and doctrine of righteousness, and indeed of the whole of the Christian religion, which may truly go by this name:
than after they have known it; owned, embraced, and professed it:
to turn: the Vulgate Latin version, and some copies, as the Alexandrian and others, add, to that which is behind; to their former lusts, or errors, or worse, which they had turned their backs upon externally:
from the holy commandment delivered unto them; by the commandment is meant the Gospel also, see 2 Peter 3:2; called holy, because of its nature and influence, and in opposition to the pollutions of the world; and which is the faith once delivered, Judges 1:3, and which they received, as delivered to them; and, particularly, the ordinances of it, which they once submitted to, kept, and observed, as they were delivered to them, but now relinquished, or corrupted: wherefore, it would have been better for them to have been in their former ignorance, either in Judaism, or in Gentilism, since proportionate to a man's light is his guilt, and so his punishment, see Romans 2:12.
But it is happened unto them, according to the true proverb,.... Which is true, both in fact and in the application of it, and which lies in the Scriptures of truth, at least the first part of it, Proverbs 26:11.
The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire; which expresses the filthy nature of sin, signified by vomit, mire, and dirt, than which nothing is more abominable and defiling; and also the just characters of these apostates, who are filly compared to dogs and swine and likewise their irreclaimable and irrecoverable state and condition, it being impossible they should be otherwise, unless their natures were changed and altered. In the Hebrew language, a "sow" is called חזיר, from the root חזר, which signifies to "return", because that creature, as soon as it is out of the mire and dirt, and is washed from its filthiness, naturally returns to it again: so such apostates return to what they were before, to their former principles and practices: in this manner the Jews explain the proverb,
"Tobiah returns to Tobiah, as it is said, Proverbs 26:11; as a dog returneth to his vomit
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