Notes on Jude verses 5-9
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Jude 5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
Now Jude begins a series of examples from the Old Testament. In this verse he reminds the readers of the Exodus, taking place after the Ten Plagues on Egypt and God’s deliverance (Exodus 12-19).
The destruction of those who didn’t believe is found in several locations. While Moses was on Mt. Sinai, the people convinced Aaron to make a golden calf—then worshiped the calf while Moses was talking with the God Who had redeemed Israel (Exodus 32)! This sin cost 3000 people their lives. God meant business with His chosen people.
This was also true even of priests and Levites. Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, died when they offered “strange fire” before the Lord (Lev. 10:1). Korah, son of Kohath, son of Levi, along with Dathan and Abiram, led a rebellion against Moses.(Numbers 16). God opened up the earth so that 250 people who offered incense; the next day, 14,700 more died as a result of a plague. After this, 24,000 Israelites died after they worshiped Baal-peor (Numbers 25:1-9). Besides all these, the entire population of those Israelites aged 20 years or older were condemned to die in the wilderness because they refused to honor God’s promises, especially in the report of the Ten Spies (Numbers 14).
Jude may have had other instances besides these in mind when he wrote this letter. Comparing the first “census” of fighting men, aged 20 and older, with the second, Israel had a net loss of 1800 men capable of military service (Numbers 2:32, 603,550; compared to 601,750 in Numbers 26:51) No doubt there was a comparable loss of life among the women.
6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
Jude has the entire army of fallen angels in mind here, selecting and referencing one particular group. Jesus related to the disciples that He had seen Satan fall like lightning from Heaven (Luke 10:18) and later John would write in Revelation 12 that Satan was once and for all cast into the earth and all the fallen angels with him. Even before this, Jesus had spoken of “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41)”.
But John also wrote in Revelation that there are four angels bound in the Euphrates River for a specific hour, day, month, and year (Rev. 9:14-15). As of this writing, they are still there.
That fallen angels are still “alive and well” on this earth is clear. Paul warned believers in Ephesians 6 that believers do not struggle against flesh and blood—other human beings—but against various levels of evil spiritual beings. Demons, having various designations in the KJV, affected and afflicted people in the time of Jesus (Matt 9:32-33, 12:22, 15:22-28, 17:18; Mark 5:11-16, 9:17-27, to list a few examples). James wrote that “devils (sic) also believe, and tremble (James 2:19)” knowing that there is a God.
My own opinion is that Jude confirms the existence of evil spirits and their fate, also acknowledging that some are under severe restriction until their judgment. Other Scriptures indicate that some (many?) evil spirits or demons are using their relative freedom to afflict believers even today but all these evil spirits face eternal separation from God in everlasting fire (Matt 25:41).
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Sodom and Gomorrha are first mentioned in Genesis 10:19, where Moses described the border of the Canaanites. The exact date of the founding of either city is not known but by Genesis 13, the men of Sodom were described as ‘wicked and sinners before the LORD exceedingly (Gen. 13:13).’ Incredibly, Lot, the nephew of Abram/Abraham, chose to live near there (Gen. 13:12) and was captured along with most if not all the people of Sodom, Gomorrha, and other cities in the Battle of the Nine Kings (Gen. 14). Abram rescued Lot, who seems to have promptly returned to Sodom, and stayed there until angels took him and some of his family away from the city (Gen. 19).
Jude lists the two apparently worst sins of these cities as fornication and going after “strange flesh”. Fornication generally refers to sexual relations between two partners, one or both unmarried (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/fornication# ) whereas adultery is usually associated with sexual relations between two people, married, but not to each other (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/adultery?s=t).
It is not clear what Jude is referencing when he speaks of “strange flesh”. This could be a chaste or discreet way of describing same-sex desires, such as the demand by the men of Sodom to “know” or “have relations with” the two visitors who came to Lot (Genesis 19:5).
8 Likewise also these (filthy) dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
Now Jude circles back to the men who “crept in unawares (v.4) with these descriptions. First he says they are “(filthy) dreamers” who “defile the flesh”. Note, the word “filthy” is in italics in the KJV meaning it was not part of the original text but added by the translators. Even so, the term seems to indicate these people whom Jude is describing think about nothing but evil. Compare this with the general attitude of people in the days of Noah; Moses wrote in Genesis 6:5 that evil was about the only thing people thought about (paraphrased). Jesus Himself spoke of “the days of Noah” in Matthew 24:38-39 and Luke 17:27.
Yet these dreamers didn’t stop there. Jude adds that they “defile the flesh”, but gives no examples. Perhaps he didn’t have to: the readers must have known exactly what he was talking about. He may be speaking of those who practice fornication, much like the Sodomites of the previous verse. Corinth had long been known for its evil lifestyle yet many believers had been saved out of such an evil background (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 for examples and proof). Peter also had written of people, false teachers, who preached and promoted “liberty” while, incredibly, being trapped in corruption (2 Peter 3:19-20).
They didn’t stop there either. Jude adds that they “despise dominion and speak evil of dignities”. Paul and Peter had written believers to pray for the leaders, obey the government and rulers over them, and to try and lead a good life (see Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-17). Some may point to Paul’s outburst against the high priest in Acts 23:3 but Paul replied he didn’t know he was speaking to the high priest. David twice spared Saul’s life even when one of David’s men asked for the chance to kill Saul (1 Sam 24 and 26).
During Absalom’s rebellion, Shimei of Benjamin cursed David. David never forgot this (2 Sam 16). Were these false teachers doing something similar, causing Christians to receive unwarranted blame?
9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
This quotation is not found in the 66 books of the Bible (64, at the time; Jude would perhaps not have known this letter would be accepted into the canon and Revelation seems not to have been written yet). This in no way detracts from the authority of Jude’s letter. A similar situation existed in Acts 17 when Paul quoted from Greek poets during his address/speech/sermon on Mars’ Hill.
Jude may simply be contrasting the respect of authority Michael felt for God with the lack of respect shown to “dignities” as mentioned in the previous verse. One wonders how many other bodies Satan may have wanted to take for himself—only he would know why, and what he may have planned to do.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)