Notes on Jude verses 10-13

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Jude 10, KJV But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.

Here is another contrast: Jude says the false believers and teachers are guilty of two additional sins. First, they speak evil regarding things they know nothing about. Paul had related that some false teachers had “turned aside unto vain jangling (1 Tim. 1:6, KJV)” and Peter warned about false prophets in 2 Peter 2. He had warned his readers that false teachers existed in the past and more would come in the future.

Second, Jude says that the false believers and teachers, if this phrase is understood correctly, would corrupt themselves in and by what they know naturally. One almost bizarre example comes from Isaiah 44:9-19 where Isaiah describes a method, in which a craftsman chops down a tree and from part of the trunk, makes an idol and prays to it! Aaron must have known something about metal working because the Israelites brought him articles of gold, and he made the golden calf from it (Exodus 32:1-4)!

11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.

Now Jude refers to three other Old Testament examples. The first is the way of Cain, who was the first child ever born on this earth! He and his brother Abel were both aware of God and brought offerings to Him. God rejected Cain’s offering of produce (the “fruit of the ground”, Gen. 4:3,5) but accepted Abel’s offering of an animal (Gen. 4:4). God even spoke directly to Cain (how many times had God done this?) and said he only had to offer the proper sacrifice. Cain rejected God’s words and killed his brother. The rest of the story is in Genesis 4. The way of Cain, then, seems to be rebellion against God, made plain by offering anything available, regardless whether God approved of it or not. Even worse than Cain’s rejection of God is that there is no record in Scripture that he ever repented of his sins.

The story of Balaam is in Numbers 22-24. Balak, king of Moab, wanted Balaam, from Mesopotamia, to curse Israel. Had Balaam’s ancestors known of Abram/Abraham? Balaam first refused Balak’s offer but eventually took the money and came to Moab. God overruled and instead of cursing Israel, Balaam blessed them three times! He was killed in the Israel/Midian war of Numbers 31.

“Core” is the Greek spelling for Korah, a Levite. He, along with Dathan and Abiram led a rebellion against Moses. The story is found in Numbers 16.

12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds (they are) without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;

Jude continues with a description of false believers/teachers. First, he reminds the readers about how the false believers even take part in “feasts of charity”. This may be similar to the Lord’s Supper observance in Corinth (see 1 Cor. 11) or Jude may have something else in mind; if so, he does not elaborate. He does say that the false believers join in the feast (apparently whenever the feast was observed) and didn’t seem to care that they are in the wrong. Paul had written in 1 Cor. 11 that God disciplines those who partake of the Lord’s Supper unworthily: some were weak and sick, physically, and other believers died prematurely. Denying the very reason why the Lord’s Supper was observed or for any other “feast of charity” would certainly qualify!

Then Jude gives a picture from nature, comparing the false believers to “clouds without water”. It is clear that different types of clouds exist, from small, thin wisps to fluffy white clouds all the way to those called “thunderheads”. Clouds contain water vapor but that is no guarantee rain will fall from any given cloud. Jude may have had in mind the cloud “like a man’s hand” that Elijah saw, after he had told his servant to see if any clouds had formed (see 1 Kings 18:42:45). It does not seem likely Jude refers to the cloud of glory which filled and later departed from the Temple because that cloud had nothing to do with rain and everything to do with God’s glory. The idea seems to be that rain always comes from clouds, but clouds themselves are no guarantee rain is coming.

After this Jude gives another example from nature, namely, dead trees. Trees that have no life still stand and sometimes remain standing until they’re either cut down or they fall down. During the winter it is hard to guess if a tree is alive or dead but when spring comes and there is no vegetation, that is a pretty good sign the tree has no life. Since there is no life (sap flowing through the tree) any fruit would of course wither, whether fruit in the normal sense of apples, peaches, etc., or simply leaves. Jesus had even told a parable about a barren fig tree in Luke 13:6-9; the tree had been barren for three years and the head of the house wanted to cut it down; apparently he thought it was dead. His vineyard keeper asked for one more year so he could apply fertilizer (dung, KJV) but if it didn’t bear fruit, it was truly dead and not worth trying to keep alive.

Jude adds another description, saying these false believers were not only dead trees but they were “twice dead, plucked up by the roots”. So not only might a tree be dead, but still be standing; some trees had fallen down and the roots were exposed. A small tree or bush might be pulled up more or less easily, roots and all; without nourishment from water and the soil, the plant would wither and die. Hardly anyone would try to re-plant a dead tree and expect it to grow. In the same way, false teachers are just like dead trees that have been removed from the soil. They cannot give life because they have no life to give.

13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

Jude now refers to these false believers as raging waves. He may have seen some of these on the Sea of Galilee or the Mediterranean itself. Stars are fixed but planets, comets, and meteors are truly wanderers. Their fate is awful: the blackness of darkness forever. All they would have needed to do in order to escape this fate is repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation

Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)

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