In this section, Jude identifies, through a litany of examples, who the false teachers are, what their sins are, and the judgment that they will receive. Jude's aim is to get his audience to see the danger that these teachers present and to prepare them for his suggested course of action in the next section. I know that the post is long, but this is an exceedingly difficult section of Scripture for us living in the 21st century.
Vs. 5: Jude's audience already knows all that they need to know to handle the problem of the false teachers. However, like us, they need a reminder and exhortation from Jude. While the first half of verse 5 is gentle, the second half is a strong warning not to turn away from God. The OT incident behind the warning is probably that of Numbers 14 where the Israelites want to return to Egypt. God responds by saying to Moses, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you into a nation greater and stronger than they" (Num. 14:11-12 TNIV). Later on in this story God determines that none of the adults present that day will ever enter the promised land.
Vs. 6: The text behind the incident in vs. 6 is Genesis 6:2, 'the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose' (NIV). This verse generated a lot of speculation on who the 'sons of God' were. During the period of the early church almost all Jews and Christians believed that the 'sons of God' were angels who were driven by lust for human women and defiled themselves by having sexual relations with them. A non-canonical text from the second century B.C., 1 Enoch, goes into great length about the identity and fate of these 'sons of God.' It concludes that they were bound in chains, waiting for the final judgment.
Jude's point in using this well known example (in the first century) was to show that judgment will fall on those who sin sexually. Perhaps, too, although this is not certain, it's emphasizing judgment on those who abuse their authority for sexual gain.
Vs. 7: Jude's third and final example is in many ways similar to the second. The story of the sin and judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah can be found in Gen. 18-19. It is interesting too that the men of Sodom wanted to have sex with the angels (the inverse of vs. 6). These two examples combine to show that there was something decidedly unnatural about the sexual relations that the false teachers were having. The main point, though, in using Sodom and Gomorrah as an example is to stress the impending judgment that would fall.
Vs. 8: Jude now makes the connection we have been making all along, the false teachers fall under the same condemnation as do the extreme sinners mentioned in the prior three examples. The first two claims against the false teachers are clear, they committed serious sexual sin and rejected God's moral authority in doing so. The last is not as clear immediately, but understanding it helps make vs. 8 clearer as a whole.
In Jewish and early Christian tradition, the Law was mediated to Moses via angels (see e.g, Gal. 3:19). Thus what the false teachers were probably, on some grounds, slandering angels, and considering them evil, and thus impugning the Law, because it was mediated via angels. This, then, in their opinion, gave them complete sexual freedom. All of this they probably based on prophetic dreams that they claimed to have received.
Vs. 9-10: Another OT story that provoked a lot of reflection among Jews and Christians in the centuries around the first century was the story of the burial of Moses. According to Deuteronomy 34:5-6, Moses was buried in an unknown location in Moab by an unspecified 'he'. The most natural way to take that he, is to assume that 'he' refers to God. Thus tradition developed surrounding God's burial of Moses. Unfortunately the ending of the work that Jude culls his example from (The Testament of Moses) is lost, but Jude and a few other works preserve enough of the ending to help us understand the story. The story goes as follows: Moses died and Michael the archangel went to get his body to take it and bury it. At that moment the devil arrived on the scene and said that Moses did not deserve an honorable burial because he had murdered an Egyptian (Ex. 2:11-12). Michael the archangel then called upon God to rebuke the devil for his slander. The devil fled and Michael buried Moses.
What's Jude's point? The false teachers were slandering God's angels which was something that they should not do since the angels were their superiors. They were rejecting moral authority. Contrast them with Michael, who wouldn't even rebuke the devil, even though he could, he cried out for God to do the rebuking, since God alone is judge.
Jude's statement in vs. 10 is ironic. They claimed to have a higher spirituality and an ability to throw off the "shackles" of the Law and its mediators, the angels, while in reality, they were ignorant animals.
Vs. 11: Now, Jude pronounces judgment on the false teachers. By comparing them to Cain, Jude is not accusing them of murder. At that time, Cain was seen as the model of the extraordinary sinner, and also, importantly, as one who led others into sin. Thus the false teachers were dangerous and leading others into sin.
Balaam was the paradigm of the prophet for hire. We can read the story of how he was hired to curse the Israelites (but couldn't) in Num. 22-24 and in an interpretation of the events in Deut. 23:4-5. Jude was accusing the false teachers of being out for profit. Also, importantly, we read of how Balaam ensnared the Israelites into sexual sin in Num. 31:15-16.
Korah was an example of one who rebelled against authority. We can read the story of his rebellion against Moses and Aaron as the one through God's will was mediated to the people in Num. 16. God destroyed him and his followers in an earthquake.
The sum of these three examples is to show that the false teachers were greedy, rebellious - probably against apostolic authority, and leading others astray, especially into sexual sin. Their end, and the end of their followers would be destruction, just as it was for Korah and his followers.
Vs. 12-13: The ESV handles the translation of this verse best, the false teachers are 'hidden reefs at your love feasts...' The false teachers posed a subtle but very dangerous threat; following them resulted in sure destruction. Love feasts were the common meal that was shared in the church in the first century, of which celebrating the Lord's Supper was a part. This common meal was seen as highly significant. It was a primary means of experiencing Christian community and expressing the unity of believers.
Shepherds were supposed to look after and feed the sheep. They were only looking out for themselves. This may be another allusion to the fact that the false teachers were seeking financial gains or seeking to advance their social status.
The false teachers next are described using four metaphors. They were clouds without rain, meaning they look like they should deliver rain, but don't (c.f., Prov. 25:14). The point is similar to the next metaphor, they should be fruitful at harvest time, but aren't (compare to Jesus warning about false teachers in Mt. 7:15-20). They are driven by the wind, by outside influences rather than the Spirit residing in them. In the end they will be uprooted, or judged because they do not bear the good fruit that they should. Next they are compared to a stormy sea (c.f., Is. 57:20), which essentially is a denunciation of their wickedness and disorderliness.
The final comparison is slightly more difficult. Ancient Jews and Christians believed that the stars were controlled by angels. Interestingly, the fallen angels of 1 Enoch that we discussed in vs. 6 were described similarly. The emphasis here again is on the certainty of their judgment. There also is a warning present here. Stars were used for navigation in the ancient world. If a star wandered it would lead any who followed it off course.
Vs. 14-16: The quote in vs. 14-15 is 1 Enoch 1:9 and is a text foretelling final blessing for the righteous and judgment for the wicked. Jude applies this text to the false teachers; they are wicked (again it's interesting that in 1 Encoh 1:5, the fallen angels of Jude 6 - called Watchers in 1 Enoch - are mentioned specifically as those fearing the coming judgment) and their end is certain. God will judge them. Jude 16 plainly lays out what their sins were.
The general tone is clear. The false teachers and those who follow them will face certain judgment and destruction by God.
Vs. 17-19: Here, repeating the idea from the start of vs. 5, Jude is simply reminding them of what they knew would happen. They were warned by the apostles who founded the church that false teachers would come into the church who would not submit to God's authority and would be sinful. The problem was that these false teachers were gaining a following and dividing the church, thus Jude had to address the situation.