1:12-16 These people are hidden rocks which threaten to wreck your Love Feasts. These are the people who at your feasts revel with their own cliques without a qualm. They have no feeling of responsibility to anyone except themselves. They are clouds which drop no water but are blown past by the wind. They are fruitless trees in autumn's harvest time, twice dead and torn up by the roots. They are wild sea waves, frothing out their own shameless deeds. They are wandering stars and the abyss of darkness has been prepared for them for ever. It was of these, too, that Enoch, who was the seventh from Adam, prophesied when he said:
Behold the Lord has come with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment upon all and to convict all the impious for all the deeds of their impiousness, which they have impiously committed, and for the harsh things which impious sinners have said against him.
For these people are grumblers. They querulously complain against the part in life which God has allotted to them. Their conduct is governed by their desires. Their mouths speak swelling words. They toady to men for what they can get out of it.
This is one of the great passages of invective of the New Testament. It is blazing moral indignation at its hottest. As Moffatt puts it: "Sky, land and sea are ransacked for illustrations of the character of these men." Here is a series of vivid pictures, every one with significance. Let us take them one by one.
(i) They are like hidden rocks which threaten to wreck the Love Feasts of the Church. This is the one case in which there is doubt about what Jude is actually saying but of one thing there is no doubt--the evil men were a peril to the Love Feasts. The Love Feast, the Agape ( Greek #26 ), was one of the earliest features of the Church. It was a meal of fellowship held on the Lord's Day. To it everyone brought what he could, and all shared alike. It was a lovely idea that the Christians in each little house church should sit down on the Lord's Day to eat in fellowship together. No doubt there were some who could bring much and others who could bring only little. For many of the slaves it was perhaps the only decent meal they ever ate.
But very soon the Agape ( Greek #26 ) began to go wrong. We can see it going wrong in the church at Corinth, when Paul declares that at the Corinthian Love Feasts there is nothing but division. They are divided into cliques and sections; some have too much, and others starve; and the meal for some has become a drunken revel ( 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 ). Unless the Agape ( Greek #26 ) was a true fellowship, it was a travesty, and very soon it had begun to belie its name.
Jude's opponents were making a travesty of the Love Feasts. The Revised Standard Version says that he calls them "blemishes on your love feasts" ( Jude 1:12 ); and that agrees with the parallel passage in Second Peter--"blots and blemishes" ( 2 Peter 2:13 ). We have translated Jude's expression "hidden rocks."
The difficulty is that Peter and Jude do not use the same word, although they use words which are very similar. The word in Second Peter is spilos ( Greek #4696 ), which unquestionably means a blot or spot; but the word in Jude is spilas ( Greek #4694 ), which is very rare. Just possibly it may mean a blot, because in later Greek it could be used for the spots and markings on an opal stone. But in ordinary Greek by far its most common meaning was a submerged, or half-submerged, rock on which a ship could be easily ship-wrecked. We think that here the second meaning is much more likely.
In the Love Feast people were very close together in heart and there was the kiss of peace. These wicked men were using the Love Feasts as a cloak under which to gratify their lusts. It is a dreadful thing, if men enter into the church and use the opportunities which its fellowship gives for their own perverted ends. These men were like sunken rocks on which the fellowship of the Love Feasts was in danger of being wrecked.
(ii) These wicked men revel in their own cliques and have no feeling of responsibility for anyone except themselves. These two things go together for they both stress their essential selfishness.
(a) They revel in their own cliques without a qualm. This is exactly the situation which Paul condemns in First Corinthians. The Love Feast was supposed to be an act of fellowship; and the fellowship was demonstrated by the sharing of all things. Instead of sharing, the wicked men kept to their own clique and kept to themselves all they had. In First Corinthians Paul actually goes the length of saying that the Love Feast could become a drunken revel in which every man grabbed at all that he could get ( 1 Corinthians 11:21 ). No man can ever claim to know what church membership means, if in the church he is out for what he can get and remains within his own little group.
(b) We have translated the next phrase: "They have no feeling of responsibility for anyone except themselves." The Greek literally means "shepherding themselves." The duty of a leader of the Church is to be a shepherd of the flock of God ( Acts 20:28 ). The false shepherd cared far more for himself than for the sheep which were supposed to be within his care. Ezekiel describes the false shepherds from whom their privileges were to be taken away: "As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have become a prey and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep.... Behold I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep" ( Ezekiel 34:8-10 ). The man who feels no responsibility for the welfare of anyone except himself stands condemned.
So, then, Jude condemns the selfishness which destroys fellowship and the lack of the sense of responsibility for others.
(iii) The wicked men are like clouds blown past by the wind, which drop no rain and like trees in harvest time which have no fruit. These two phrases go together, for they describe people who make great claims but are essentially useless. There were times in Palestine when people would pray for rain. At such a time a cloud might pass across the sky, bringing with it the promise of rain. But there were times when the promise was only an illusion, the cloud was blown on and the rain never came. In any harvest time there were trees which looked as if they were heavy with fruit but which, when men came to gather from them, gave no fruit at all.
At the heart of this lies a great truth. Promise without performance is useless and in the New Testament nothing is so unsparingly condemned as uselessness. No amount of outward show or fine words will take the place of usefulness to others. As it has been put: "If a man is not good for something, he is good for nothing."
Jude goes on to use a vivid picture of these evil men. "They are like wild sea waves frothing out their own shameless deeds." The picture is this. After a storm, when the waves have been lashing the shore with their frothing spray and their spume, there is always left on the shore a fringe of seaweed and driftwood and all kinds of unsightly litter from the sea. That is always an unlovely scene. But in the case of one sea it is grimmer than in any other. The waters of the Dead Sea can be whipped up, into waves, and these waves, too, cast up driftwood on the shore; but in this instance there is a unique circumstance. The waters of the Dead Sea are so impregnated with salt that they strip the bark of any driftwood in them; and, when such wood is cast up on the shore, it gleams bleak and white, more like dried bones than wood. The deeds of the wicked men are like the useless and unsightly litter which the waves leave scattered on the beach after a storm and resemble the skeleton-like relics of Dead Sea storms. The picture vividly portrays the ugliness of the deeds of Jude's opponents.
Jude uses still another picture. The wicked men are like the wandering stars that are kept in the abyss of darkness for their disobedience. This is a picture directly taken from the Book of Enoch. In that book the stars and the angels are sometimes identified; and there is a picture of the fate of the stars who, disobedient to God, left their appointed orbit and were destroyed. In his journey through the, earth Enoch came to a place where he saw, "neither a heaven above nor a firmly founded earth, but a place chaotic and horrible." He goes on: "And there I saw seven stars of the heaven bound together in it, like great mountains and burning with fire. Then I said, 'For what sin are they bound, and on account of what have they been cast in hither?' Then said Uriel, one of the holy angels, who was with me and who was chief over them, 'Enoch, why dost thou ask and why art thou eager for the truth? These are the numbers of the stars of heaven which have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and are bound here till ten thousand years, the time entailed by their sins, are consummated'" (Enoch 21: 1-6). The fate of the wandering stars is typical of the fate of the man who disobeys God's commandments and, as it were, takes his own way.
Jude then confirms all this with a prophecy; but the prophecy is again taken from Enoch. The actual passage runs: "And behold! He cometh with ten thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly; and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him" (Enoch 1: 9).
This quotation has raised many questions in regard to Jude and Enoch. There is no doubt that in the days of Jude, and in the days of Jesus, Enoch was a very popular book which every pious Jew would know and read. Ordinarily, when the New Testament writers wish to confirm their words, they do so with a quotation from the Old Testament, using it as the word of God. Are we then to regard Enoch as sacred Scripture, since Jude uses it exactly as he would have used one of the prophets? Or, are we to take the view of which Jerome speaks, and say that Jude cannot be Scripture, because it makes the mistake of using as Scripture a book which is, in fact, not Scripture?
We need waste no time upon this debate. The fact is that Jude, a pious Jew, knew and loved the Book of Enoch and had grown up in a circle where it was regarded with respect and even reverence; and he takes his quotation from it perfectly naturally, knowing that his readers would recognize it, and respect it. He is simply doing what all the New Testament writers do, as every writer must in every age, and speaking to men in language which they will recognize and understand.
In Jude 1:16 Jude sets down three last characteristics of the evil men.
(i) They are grumblers, for ever discontented with the life which God has allotted to them. In this picture he uses two words, one which was very familiar to his Jewish readers and one which was very familiar to his Greek readers.
(a) The first is goggustes ( Greek #1113 ). (gg in Greek is pronounced ng). The word describes the discontented voices of the murmurers and is the same as is so often used in the Greek Old Testament for the murmurings of the children of Israel against Moses as he led them through the wilderness ( Exodus 15:24 ; Exodus 17:3 ; Numbers 14:29 ). Its very sound describes the low mutter of resentful discontent which rose from the rebellious people. These wicked men in the time of Jude are the modern counterparts of the murmuring children of Israel in the desert, people full of sullen complaints against the guiding hand of God.
(b) The second is mempsimoiros ( Greek #3202 ). It is made up of two Greek words, memphesthai, which means to blame and moira, which means one's allotted fate or life. A mempsimoiros ( Greek #3202 ) was a man who was for ever grumbling about life in general. Theophrastus was the great master of the Greek character sketch, and he has a mocking study of the mempsimoiros ( Greek #3202 ), which is worth quoting in full:
Querulousness is an undue complaining about one's lot; the
querulous man will say to him that brings him a portion from his
friend's table: "You begrudged me your soup or your collops, or
you would have asked me to dine with you in person." When
his mistress is kissing him he says, "I wonder whether you kiss me
so warmly from your heart." He is displeased with Zeus, not
because he sends no rain, but because he has been so tong about
sending it. When he finds a purse in the street, it is: "Ah! but I
never found a treasure." When he has bought a slave cheap with
much importuning the seller, he cries: "I wonder if my bargain's
too cheap to be good." When they bring him the good news
that he has a son born to him, then it is: "If you add that I
have lost half my fortune, you'll speak the truth." Should this
man win a suit-at-law by a unanimous verdict, he is sure to find
fault with his speech-writer for omitting so many of the pleas.
And if a subscription has been got up for him among his friends,
and one of them says to him: "You can cheer up now," he will say:
"What? when I must repay each man his share, and be beholden
to him into the bargain?"
Here, vividly drawn by Theophrastus' subtle pen, is the picture of a man who can find something to grumble about in any situation. He can find some fault with the best of bargains, the kindest of deeds, the most complete of successes, the richest of good fortune. "There is great gain in godliness with contentment" ( 1 Timothy 6:6 ); but the evil men are chronically discontented with life and with the place in life that God has given to them. There are few people more unpopular than chronic grumblers and all such might do well to remember that such grumbling is in its own way an insult to God.
(ii) Jude reiterates a point about these wicked men, which he has made again and again--their conduct is governed by their desires. To them self-discipline and self-control are nothing; to them the moral law is only a burden and a nuisance; honour and duty have no claim upon them; they have no desire to serve and no sense of responsibility. Their one value is pleasure and their one dynamic is desire. If all men were like that, the world would be in complete chaos.
(iii) They speak with pride and arrogance, yet at the same time they are ready to pander to the great, if they think that they can get anything out of it. It is perfectly possible for a man at one and the same time to be a bombastic creature towards the people he wishes to impress and a flattering lick-spittle to the people whom he thinks important. Jude's opponents are glorifiers of themselves and flatterers of others, as they think the occasion demands; and their descendants are sometimes still among us.