This passage follows an introduction (vss. 1-4) in which Jude calls out persons that have “have come in by stealth” to spread teaching that is “ungodly, turning the grace of our God into sensuality and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master, and Lord” (vs. 4 CSB). Jude progresses to reminding the audience that although they know about Christ’s salvation, they need to remember the desolation of rebellious people (vs. 5), spiritual beings (vss. 5-6), and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (vs. 7). These people in their midst do the same things as the groups mentioned by defiling their flesh (sexual immorality), rejecting authority (God, scriptures, prophets, elders), and slandering “glorious ones” (vs. 8 CSB – the spiritual beings mentioned in vss. 5-6). The reference to Israel as “a people out of Egypt and later destroyed those who did not believe” (vs. 5 CSB) suggests that the heretics in their midst were at one time orthodox but have now fallen (Green 190). Jobes points out that Jude had the Hebrew texts in mind when referring to these things, and his audience was probably Jewish believers (Jobes, 241).
Moving into vss. 9-11, Jude presents an extra-biblical scene where the archangel Michael argues with the devil over Moses’ body. This passage was taken from the oral tradition and apocryphal literature as a further example of what will happen to the False teacher – rebuke from YHWH (Blum, 391). These people will suffer the fate of Cain (Gen. 4:1-17), commit Balaam’s error (Num 22:5), and are rebellious like Korah (Num. 16:1).
Vss. 12-13 provides insight into just how these false teachers were affecting the daily spiritual life of Jude’s audience. Vs. 12 calls them “dangerous” (CSB) or “hidden reefs” (NASB, ESV) that affect their “love feasts,” which were an allusion to the eucharist (Blum, 392). The author then uses images of “waterless clouds,” “swept by winds,” fruitless,” “twice dead,” “uprooted,” wild waves of the sea,” and “wandering stars,” which all imply images of evil and chaos (Green, 203 – 204.) He then moves to the extra-biblical source of 1 Enoch in vs. 14-15, recalling the prophecy of judgment on the ungodly (described in vs. 16).
Jude concludes this portion of his letter (followed by a beautiful doxology in vss. 24-25) by focusing away from the heretics and encouraging his audience. After all the doom and gloom of the previous verses, he offers hope to his audience by a “word of strengthening, of promise, of holiness. This is what we must do in order not only to be on our guard but to brace ourselves for the shock.” (Wright, 203-204). By building up in the “most holy faith” and “praying in the Holy Spirit” (vs. 20), the audience can keep themselves “in the love of God” and “the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life” (vs. 21, CSB). Those who are mentioned in vss. 17-19 will cause the doubters mentioned in vs. 22. But the audience is encouraged to show them mercy so that they could be rescued from this apostasy (Wright, 205).
Blum, E. (1981). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews through Revelation (Logos ed., Vol. 12). (F. Gaebelein, Ed.) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Christian Standard Bible. (2020). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishing.
Green, M. (1987). 2 Peter and Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 18, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Logos ed., Vol. 18). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Jobes, K. (2011). Letters to the Church: A Survey of Hebrews and the General Epistles. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Wright, T. (2011). Early Christian Letters for Everyone: James, Peter, John, and Judah (Logos ed.). Louisville, KY: SPCK; Westminster John Knox Press.