Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The right way.—(Comp. Acts 13:10.) In the Shepherd of Hermas (I. Vis. III. vii. 1) we have “Who have believed indeed, but through their doubting have forsaken their true way.” (See Notes on 2Peter 2:1; 2Peter 2:3; 2Peter 2:13; 2Peter 2:20; 2Peter 3:5.)
Are gone astray.—The main verb of this long sentence. Here parallels with Jude begin again. In the historical incident of Balaam, as in that of Sodom and Gomorrha, our Epistle is more detailed than Jude (see on 2Peter 2:7). The past tenses in this verse are quite in harmony with the view that this chapter is a genuine prediction. (Comp. Genesis 49:9; Genesis 49:15; Genesis 49:23-24.) The future foretold with such confidence as to be spoken of as already past is a common form for prophecy to assume.
Balaam the son of Bosor.—Bosor seems to be a dialectical variation from Beor, arising out of peculiar Aramaic pronunciation—a slight indication that the writer was a Jew of Palestine. The resemblance between these false teachers and Balaam consisted in their running counter to God’s will for their own profit, and in prostituting their office to an infamous purpose, which brought ruin on the community. He, like they, had “enticed unstable souls,” and had “a heart exercised in covetousness.” A comparison of this passage with Revelation 2:14-15, gives countenance to the view that among the false teachers thus stigmatised the Nicolaitans may be included. In Jude 1:11, these ungodly men are compared not only to Balaam, but also to Cain and Korah. It seems more likely that St. Jude should add these two very opprobrious comparisons than that the vehement writer of this Epistle should reject material so suitable to his invective. If so, we have here another argument for the priority of our Epistle. (See on 2Peter 2:12.)2 Peter 2:15. Which have forsaken the right — Ευθειαν, straight; way — The way of truth and integrity, and are gone astray — Have wandered in dangerous and destructive paths; following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor — (So the Chaldeans pronounced what the Jews called Beor,) namely, the ways of covetousness. Balaam loved wealth and honour so much, that to obtain them he acted contrary to his conscience. To follow his way, therefore, is to be guided by similar base passions, and to commit similar base actions; who loved the wages of unrighteousness — “When Balaam was first sent for to curse the Israelites, Balak’s messengers carried only the rewards of divination in their hands, Numbers 22:7 : and therefore when God forbade him to go, he easily acquiesced, and refused to go, 2 Peter 2:13. But when Balak sent a second request by more honourable messengers, and with them a promise to promote him to very great honour, and to do whatever he should say to him, Balaam, inflamed with the love of the promised hire, endeavoured a second time to obtain permission to go. And though God allowed him to go, on the express condition that he should do nothing in the affair without his order, Balaam went with the resolution of cursing the Israelites, whether God permitted him or not;” as evidently appears from the circumstances of the story, to which the reader is referred. “And though he so far obeyed God that he blessed the Israelites, it was no dictate of his heart, but a suggestion of the Spirit of God, which he could not resist. For that his love of the hire, and his inclination to curse the Israelites continued, he showed by his behaviour afterward, when, to bring the curse of God upon the Israelites, he counselled Balak to entice them to fornication and idolatry by means of the Midianitish women, Numbers 31:16; Revelation 2:14 :” in giving which advice he acted most unrighteously, knowing it to be evil, and that God’s purpose concerning the Israelites was irrevocable, Numbers 23:19, &c. “He therefore gave the advice, not in the persuasion that it would be effectual, but merely to gain the promised hire, which therefore is called the hire of unrighteousness. In these things the false teachers, who, to draw money from their disciples, encouraged them by their doctrine to commit all manner of lewdness, might well be said to follow in the way of Baalam; and their doctrine might justly be called, the doctrine of Balaam.” — Macknight.
Following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor - See Numbers 22:5, following. In the Book of Numbers, Balaam is called the son of "Beor." Perhaps the name Beor was corrupted into Bosor; or, as Rosenmuller suggests, the father of Balaam may have had two names. Schleusner (Lexicon) supposes that it was changed by the Greeks because it was more easily pronounced. The Septuagint, however, reads it as Βεὼρ Beōr - "Beor." The meaning here is, that they IMitAted Balaam. The particular point to which Peter refers in which they imitated him, seems to have been the love of gain, or covetousness. Possibly, however, he might have designed to refer to a more general resemblance, for in fact they imitated him in the following things:
(1) in being professed religious teachers, or the servants of God;
(2) in their covetousness;
(3) in inducing others to sin, referring to the same kind of sins in both cases.
Balaam counselled the Moabites to entice the children of Israel to illicit connection with their women, thus introducing licentiousness into the camp of the Hebrews (Numbers 31:16; compare Numbers 25:1-9); and in like manner these teachers led others into licentiousness, thus corrupting the church.
Who loved the wages of unrighteousness - Who was supremely influenced by the love of gain, and was capable of being employed, for a price, in a wicked design; thus prostituting his high office, as a professed prophet of the Most High, to base and ignoble ends. That Balaam, though he professed to be influenced by a supreme regard to the will of God Numbers 22:18, Numbers 22:38, was really influenced by the desire of reward, and was willing to prostitute his great office to secure such a reward, there can be no doubt.
(1) the elders of Moab and of Midian came to Balaam with "the rewards of divination in their hand" Numbers 22:7, and with promises from Balak of promoting him to great honor, if he would curse the children of Israel, Numbers 22:17.
(2) Balaam was disposed to go with them, and was restrained from going at once only by a direct and solemn prohibition from the Lord, Numbers 22:11.
(3) notwithstanding this solemn prohibition, and not with standing he said to the ambassadors from Balak that he would do only as God directed, though Balak should give him his house full of silver and gold, Numbers 22:18, yet he did not regard the matter as settled, but proposed to them that they should wait another night, with the hope that the Lord would give a more favourable direction in reference to their request, thus showing that his heart was in the service which they required, and that his inclination was to avail himself of their offer, Numbers 22:19.
(4) when he did obtain permission to go, it was only to say that which the Lord should direct him to say, Numbers 22:20; but he went with a perverse heart, with a secret wish to comply with the desire of Balak, and with a knowledge that he was doing wrong, Numbers 22:34, and was restrained from uttering the curse which Balak desired only by an influence from above which he could not control. Balaam was undoubtedly a wicked man, and was constrained by a power from on high to utter sentiments which God meant should be uttered, but which Balaam would never have expressed of his own accord.
following—out: so the Greek.
the way—(Nu 22:23, 32; Isa 56:11).
son of Bosor—the same as Beor (Nu 22:5). This word was adopted, perhaps, because the kindred word Basar means flesh; and Balaam is justly termed son of carnality, as covetous, and the enticer of Israel to lust.
loved the wages of unrighteousness—and therefore wished (in order to gain them from Balak) to curse Israel whom God had blessed, and at last gave the hellish counsel that the only way to bring God's curse on Israel was to entice them to fleshly lust and idolatry, which often go together.The right way; the way of truth, 2 Peter 2:2, i.e. the way of faith and holiness, which is the only right way to happiness.
Are gone astray; into the by-paths of error. There is but one right way, and many wrong, in which they wander that leave the right. He seems to allude to Balaam, Numbers 22:1-41, who left the way of God, which was, to be obedient to God, and not go beyond his word, Numbers 2:18, and ran into the way of sin, when he went with Balak’s messengers to curse God’s people; and therefore his way is said to be perverse, Numbers 2:32.
Following the way of Balaam;
1. In respect of their false doctrine: for, as Balaam was disobedient to God, and, against his command, went to Balak; so these men forsook the way of truth prescribed by God in his word.
2. In respect of their wicked lives: Balaam taught Balak to entice the children of Israel to commit fornication, and eat things sacrificed unto idols, Revelation 2:14; and these taught men to commit lewdness, and indulge themselves in their sensualities.
3. Chiefly in respect of their covetousness, as follows.
Of Bosor; either this is the name of his country, called Pethor, Numbers 22:5, and by change of two letters, P into B, and th into s, ( frequent in the Syriac language), Besor, or Bosor: or, the name of his father, called Beor, in Numbers, having two names; unless the apostle call him Bosor in allusion to Basar, flesh, as being of a fleshly mind, as the false teachers here were. Thus Beth-el was called Beth-aven, Hosea 4:15; and Beelzebub called Beelzebul, the god of dung, Matthew 10:25.
Who loved the wages of unrighteousness; the reward which Balak offered him for an unrighteous act, viz. the cursing of God’s people.
and are gone astray; from the right way, the way of truth and holiness, into the paths of error and profaneness:
following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor; which Jude calls his error, Jde 1:11, and is the path of covetousness, uncleanness, and idolatry, sins which he was either guilty of himself, or taught, advised, and seduced others to; see Revelation 2:14. The Vulgate Latin version reads "Balaam out of Bosor", taking "Bosor" for the name of a place, of which "Balaam" was; but not "Bosor", but "Pethor", was the place of Balaam's residence, Numbers 22:5. The Arabic and Ethiopic versions supply, as we do, "the son of Bosor"; and the Syriac version reads, "the son of Beor", as in Numbers 22:5; for Beor and "Bosor" are the same names; the "sheva" being pronounced by "o", as it is by "oa" in "Boanerges", and the "ain" by "s". Moreover, the letters and are sometimes used for one another, as in and and and so and especially in the Chaldean dialect; and Peter now being at Babylon in Chaldea, see 1 Peter 5:13; it is no wonder that he so pronounced.
Who loved the wages of unrighteousness: which were the rewards of divination, Numbers 22:7; which were brought him for his divining or soothsaying, and may well be called unrighteous wages, since it was for doing unrighteous things, or things in an unrighteous manner; and these he loved, desired, and greedily coveted, and fain would he have taken Balak's gold and silver, and have cursed Israel, but was restrained by the Lord: he showed a good will to it, in going along with the messengers, and in building altars, and offering sacrifice in one place after another, in which there was a great resemblance between him and the men here spoken of.Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2 Peter 2:15-16. Comparison with Balaam; cf. Judges 1:11. The comparisons with Cain and Korah are wanting here.
καταλιπόντες εὐθεῖαν ὁδὸν κ.τ.λ.] with εὐθ. ὁδ. cf. Acts 13:16; the words connect themselves closely with ἐπλανήθησαν, to which then the subsequent participial clause is added by way of a more precise definition. With ἐξακολουθ. cf. chap. 2 Peter 1:16, 2 Peter 2:2. The conjunction of this verb with τῆ ὁδῷ is explained by the circumstance that ὁδός is here taken in a figurative sense: manner of life, conduct.
The form Βοσόρ, Heb. כְּעוֹר, arises from a peculiar pronunciation of ע; Grotius is wrong in regarding the word as the corrupted name of the country, פְּחוּרָה, Numbers 22:5. Several commentators: Krebs, Vitringa, Wolf, Grotius, etc., assume that there is here an allusion to the counsel which Balaam gave to the Midianites to the corrupting of the Israelites (Numbers 31:16; Revelation 2:14) (so, too, Dietlein); but, according to 2 Peter 2:16, the reference is rather to the intended cursing of the people of Israel, to which certainly Balaam, for the sake of reward, was inclined; hence: ὃς μισθὸν ἀδικίας (see 2 Peter 2:13) ἠγάπησεν. Although such inclination on his part is not definitely mentioned in Numbers 22:1-20, still, judging from the narrative of the ass, it is to be presupposed; cf., too, Deuteronomy 23:5. Corroboration from the rabbinical writings, see Wetstein.—2 Peter 2:16. ἔλεγξιν δὲ ἔσχεν ἰδίας παρανομίας] “but he received (suffered) rebuke (blame) for his trespass;” his παρανομία (not equivalent to vesania (Vulg.), but synonymous with ἀδικία) consisted in this, that he was willing, for the sake of the reward, if God permitted it, to curse Israel, and for this reason went to Balak. ἰδίας stands here in place of the pers. pron. αὑτοῦ. Dietlein presses ἰδίας, by translating: “belonging to him,” and adds by way of explanation: “to him who must be looked upon as the prototype of the false prophets.” Wiesinger, on the other hand, sees the significance of ἰδίας in this, that “he who was a prophet to others, had to suffer rebuke of an ass for his own παρανομ.” But neither the one nor the other is alluded to in the context.
That which follows states in what the ἔλεγξις consisted.
ὑποζύγιον] properly: a beast that bears a yoke, here as in Matthew 21:5, designation of the ass.
ἄφωνον] in contrast to human speaking.
ἐν ἀνθρώπο φωνῇ φθεγξάμενον] does not state the reason of the ἐκώλυσε, but emphasizes the miraculous nature of the occurrence (ἄφωνον … φωνῇ).
ἐκώλυσε τὴν τοῦ προφήτου παραφρονίαν] Schott understands Balaam’s παραφρονία to be his striking of the ass; Wiesinger: “his folly, in setting himself against the angel;” but it is more correct to understand by it the aforenamed παρανομία, which the angel opposed. Hofmann rightly observes: “the signification of the verb does not imply that it is left undone, but simply that opposition is offered to what is done or is intended to be done; cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:16.” The word ΠΑΡΑΦΡΟΝΊΑ, “folly,” ἅπ. λεγ. (the verb in 2 Corinthians 11:23), unusual in the classics also, instead of which ΠΑΡΑΦΡΟΣΎΝΗ or ΠΑΡΑΦΡΌΝΗΣΙς; see Winer, p. 90 [E. T. 118].
ΤΟῦ ΠΡΟΦΉΤΟΥ] (cf. Numbers 24:4) stands in emphatic antithesis to ὙΠΟΖΎΓΙΟΝ ἌΦΩΝΟΝ.
 Formerly in this commentary ἐκώλυσεν was explained thus: that although Balaam’s παραφρονία was not exactly prevented by the ass, still, by the conduct of the latter, a beginning was made to prevent it.2 Peter 2:15-16. Example of Balaam. “They have left the straight way and wandered from it, having followed the way of Balaam, who loved the ways of wickedness, and was rebuked for his transgression, when a dumb ass spoke with a man’s voice, and forbade the infatuation of the prophet.”15. which have forsaken the right way …] There may possibly be a reference to “the way of truth” in 2 Peter 2:2 and to the general use of “the way” for the sum and substance of the doctrine of Christ. (See note on 2 Peter 2:2.) It may be noted that the charge thus brought against the false teachers by St Peter is identical with that which St Paul brings against Elymas of “perverting the right ways of the Lord” (Acts 13:10). We may see in the sorcerer of Cyprus, as well as in that of Samaria, a representative instance of the character which both Apostles condemn.
following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor] The use of the term “way” is probably connected with the stress laid in the narrative of Numbers 22:32 (“Thy way is perverse before me”), in the journey which Balaam took in spite of the Divine warnings. The form Bosor, instead of Beor, may represent the mode of pronouncing the guttural letter that enters into the Hebrew name (ע) which prevailed in Galilee, analogous to that which in other languages has turned ἐπτὰ into septem, ὕλη into sylva, and the like. On this supposition, St Peter’s use of the form presents a coincidence with his betraying himself by his Galilean dialect in Matthew 26:73. The characteristic feature of that dialect was its tendency to soften gutturals. Another explanation, not, however, incompatible with this, has been found in the conjecture that as the Hebrew word Bashar signifies “flesh,” the Apostle may have used the form of the name which conveyed the thought that Balaam was “a son of the flesh,” carnal and base of purpose. Like explanations have been given of the change of Sychem (= a portion) into Sychar (= a lie) (John 4:5), of Beelzebub (= lord of flies) into Beelzebul (= lord of dung) (Matthew 10:25; Matthew 12:24). If we accept the explanation given by many commentators of the name Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6) as being a Greek equivalent for Balaamites, there would be reason for thinking that the prominence given to his history at this period of the Apostolic age led men, after the manner of the time, to find even in the syllables of his name a paronomasia which made it ominous and significant of evil.
The prominence just spoken of is traceable not only here and in the parallel passage of Jude (2 Peter 2:11), but in Revelation 2:14, where it appears in close connexion with the practice of eating things sacrificed to idols and the impurity associated with that practice. It has been contended by some writers (Renan, St Paul, c. x. p. 304) that from the point of view of the three writers who thus refer to Balaam, St Paul, in teaching the essential indifference of the act (1 Corinthians 8:4-8), appeared to reproduce the errors of the son of Beor. The hypothesis is, however, a singularly untenable one. No teacher could condemn the practice more strongly than St Paul, though he does so on rational and spiritual grounds, and not from the Jewish standpoint of there being an actual physical contamination in the things so sacrificed (1 Corinthians 8-10). It would indeed be much more in accordance with facts to infer that it was St Paul’s allusion to the history of Balaam’s temptation of the Israelites (1 Corinthians 10:8; Numbers 25:9; Numbers 31:16) that first associated the name of the prophet of Pethor with the corrupt practices of the party of licence in the Apostolic Church, and that St Peter, St Jude, and St John were but following in his track. It is noticeable, lastly, that in the purely Ebionite or Judaizing books, known as the Clementine Homilies and Recognitions, there is no reference to the name of Balaam.
who loved the wages of unrighteousness] The phrase is repeated from 2 Peter 2:13 as laying stress on this point of parallelism between the earlier and later forms of evil. It is not without interest to note that in both the Apostle reproduces what we find recorded as spoken by him in Acts 1:18.2 Peter 2:15. Ἐξακολουθήσαντες τῇ ὁδῷ τοῦ Βαλαὰμ, following the way of Balaam) See note on Judges 1:8, from Isaiah 56—Βοσὸρ, Bosor) This and Beor are synonyms. Hill. Onom., pp. 700, 763, 774. Lightfoot (Hor. in Act., p. 270) thinks that sigma was written by Peter among the Babylonians by a Chaldaism for צ.Verse 15. - Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray; literally, forsaking (or having forsaken; there are two slightly differing readings, both well supported) the right way, they went astray. The false teachers in St. Peter's time were like Elymas the sorcerer, whom St. Paul accused of perverting "the right ways of the Lord" (Acts 13:10; comp. also verse 2 of this chapter). In the 'Shepherd of Hermas' occurs what may be an echo of this verse: "Who... have forsaken their true way" (Vis., 3:7. 1). Following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor. The word rendered "following" (ἐξακολουθήσαντες) is found also in chapter 2 Peter 1:16 and 2 Peter 2:2 of this Epistle, but nowhere else in the New Testament; it means "to follow out to the end." Comp. Numbers 22:32, where the angel of the Lord says of Balaam, "Thy way is perverse before me." The form "Bosor," instead of "Beor," arose probably from a peculiar (perhaps Galilaean) pronunciation of the guttural ע in בְּעור. Thus we, perhaps, have here an undesigned coincidence, a slight confirmation of St. Peter's authorship: he was a Galilaean, and his speech betrayed him (Matthew 26:73); one characteristic of the Galilaean dialect was a mispronunciation of the gutturals. But some commentators see in the resemblance of the form "Bosor" to the Hebrew בָּשָׂר, flesh, an allusion to those sins of the flesh into which Balaam allured the Israelites. Compare the Jewish use of such names as Ishbosheth in derision for Eshbaal ("the man of shame" for "the man of Baal"), and Jerubbesheth (2 Samuel 11:21) for Jerubbaal. The references to Balaam here, in St. Jude, the Book of the Revelation, and 1 Corinthians 10:8, show that his history had made a great impression on the mind of thoughtful Christians. St. John connects his name with the Nicolaitanes in Revelation 2:15, much as St. Peter here connects it with the false teachers of his time. Some, again, see in the etymology of the word "Nicolaitane" an allusion to that of "Balaam," as if the Nicolaitanes were followers of Balaam. There is another explanation in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' that the word "Bosor" is an Aramaic form, and that "the form possibly became familiar to St. Peter during his residence at Babylon, and suggests the probability that Aramaic traditions were still current respecting Balaam at the Christian era, and on the banks of the Euphrates" (additional note on Numbers 22:5). But the two oldest manuscripts read "Beer" here. Who loved the wages of unrighteousness (comp. verse 13, and also St. Peter's words in Acts 1:18). Balaam is not definitely accused of covetousness in the Old Testament narrative; but his conduct can be explained by no other motive.
Lit., straight, which is the radical meaning of right.
Are gone astray (ἐπλανήθησαν)
See on Mark 12:24.
Rev. gives Beor, the Old Testament form of the name.
Wages of unrighteousness
See on 2 Peter 2:13.
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