2 Peter 2:17
These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.
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(17) These are wells.—Or, springs; same word as John 4:6. These men are like dried-up watering-places in the desert, which entice and mock the thirsty traveller; perhaps leading him into danger also by drawing him from places where there is water. (Comp. Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 14:3.) The parallel passage, Jude 1:12-13, is much more full than the one before us, and is more like an amplification of this than this a condensation of that—e.g., would a simile so admirably suitable to false guides as “wandering stars” have been neglected by the writer of our Epistle? A Hebrew word which occurs only twice in the Old Testament is translated by the LXX. in the one place (Genesis 2:6) by the word here used for “well,” and in the other (Job 36:27) by the word used in Jude 1:12, for “cloud.” Thus the same Hebrew might have produced “wells without water” here and “clouds without water” in Jude. This is one of the arguments used in favour of a Hebrew original of both these Epistles. Coincidences of this kind, which may easily be mere accidents of language, must be shown to be numerous before a solid argument can be based upon them. Moreover, we must remember that the writers in both cases were Jews, writing in Greek, while thinking probably in Hebrew, so that the same Hebrew thought might suggest a different Greek expression in the two cases. When we have deducted all that might easily be accounted for in this way, and also all that is perhaps purely accidental, from the not very numerous instances of a similar kind that have been collected, we shall not find much on which to build the hypothesis of these Epistles being translations from Hebrew originals. (See Introduction to Jude, II.)

Clouds that are carried with a tempest.—Better, mists driven by the storm-wind. Wiclif has “myistis.” The words for “clouds” and “carried about” in Jude 1:12, are quite different, so that our version creates a false impression of great similarity. The idea is not very different from that of the “wells without water.” These mists promise refreshment to the thirsty soil (Genesis 2:6), and are so flimsy that they are blown away before they do any good. So these false teachers deceived those who were thirsting for the knowledge and liberty promised them by raising hopes which they could not satisfy.

To whom the mist of darkness.—Better, for whom the gloom of darkness. (See Note on Jude 1:6.) “For ever” is wanting in authority; the words have probably been inserted from the parallel passage in Jude.

2 Peter 2:17. These are wells without water, &c. — Pretenders to knowledge and piety, but really destitute thereof; clouds — Promising fertilizing showers of instructive and edifying doctrine, but yielding none; carried with a tempest — Driven by the violence of their own lusts from one error and vice to another; to whom the mist Ο ζοφος, the blackness; of darkness is reserved for ever — Eternal darkness. Frequently in Scripture the word darkness signifies a state of disconsolate misery; here it denotes the punishment of the wicked after the day of judgment; which our Lord also hath represented by persons being cast into outer darkness. “There being few wells and little rain in the eastern countries, for a thirsty traveller to come to a well that had no water, was a grievous disappointment; as it was also to the husbandman to see clouds arise which gave him the prospect of rain, but which, ending in a tempest, instead of refreshing, destroyed the fruits of the earth. By these comparisons the ostentation, hypocrisy, levity, and mischief of the false teachers are set forth in the strongest colours.”

2:17-22 The word of truth is the water of life, which refreshes the souls that receive it; but deceivers spread and promote error, and are set forth as empty, because there is no truth in them. As clouds hinder the light of the sun, so do these darken counsel by words wherein there is no truth. Seeing that these men increase darkness in this world, it is very just that the mist ofdarkness should be their portion in the next. In the midst of their talk of liberty, these men are the vilest slaves; their own lusts gain a complete victory over them, and they are actually in bondage. When men are entangled, they are easily overcome; therefore Christians should keep close to the word of God, and watch against all who seek to bewilder them. A state of apostacy is worse than a state of ignorance. To bring an evil report upon the good way of God, and a false charge against the way of truth, must expose to the heaviest condemnation. How dreadful is the state here described! Yet though such a case is deplorable, it is not utterly hopeless; the leper may be made clean, and even the dead may be raised. Is thy backsliding a grief to thee? Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.These are wells without water - Jde 1:12-13 employs several other epithets to describe the same class of persons. The language employed both by Peter and Jude is singularly terse, pointed, and emphatic. Nothing to an oriental mind would be more expressive than to say of professed religious teachers, that they were "wells without water." It was always a sad disappointment to a traveler in the hot sands of the desert to come to a well where it was expected that water might be found, and to find it dry. It only aggravated the trials of the thirsty and weary traveler. Such were these religious teachers. In a world, not unaptly compared, in regard to its real comforts, to the wastes and sands of the desert, they would only grievously disappoint the expectations of all those who were seeking for the refreshing influences of the truths of the gospel. There are many such teachers in the world.

Clouds that are carried with a tempest - Clouds that are driven about by the wind, and that send down no rain upon the earth. They promise rain, only to be followed by disappointment. Substantially the same idea is conveyed by this as by the previous phrase. "The Arabs compare persons who put on the appearance of virtue, when yet they are destitute of all goodness, to a light cloud which makes a show of rain, and afterward vanishes" - Benson. The sense is this: The cloud, as it rises, promises rain. The expectation of the farmer is excited that the thirsty earth is to be refreshed with needful showers. Instead of this, however, the wind "gets into" the cloud; it is driven about, and no rain falls, or it ends in a destructive tornado which sweeps everything before it. So of these religious teachers. Instruction in regard to the way of salvation was expected from them; but, instead of that, they disappointed the expectations of those who were desirous of knowing the way of life, and their doctrines only tended to destroy.

To whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever - The word rendered "mist" here, (ζόφος zophos,) means properly muskiness, thick gloom, darkness, (see 2 Peter 2:4); and the phrase "mist of darkness" is designed to denote "intense" darkness, or the thickest darkness. It refers undoubtedly to the place of future punishment, which is often represented as a place of intense darkness. See the notes at Matthew 8:12. When it is said that this is "reserved" for them, it means that it is prepared for them, or is kept in a state of readiness to receive them. It is like a jail or penitentiary which is built in anticipation that there will be criminals, and with the expectation that there will be a need for it. So God has constructed the great prison-house of the universe, the world where the wicked are to dwell, with the knowledge that there would be occasion for it; and so he keeps it from age to age that it may be ready to receive the wicked when the sentence of condemnation shall be passed upon them. Compare Matthew 25:41. The word "forever" is a word which denotes properly eternity, (εἰς αἰώνα eis aiōna,) and is such a word as could not have been used if it had been meant that they would not suffer forever. Compare the notes at Matthew 25:46.

17. (Jude 12, 13.)

wells—"clouds" in Jude; both promising (compare 2Pe 2:19) water, but yielding none; so their "great swelling words" are found on trial to be but "vanity" (2Pe 2:18).

clouds—The oldest manuscripts and versions read, "mists," dark, and not transparent and bright as "clouds" often are, whence the latter term is applied sometimes to the saints; fit emblem of the children of darkness. "Clouds" is a transcriber's correction from Jude 12, where it is appropriate, "clouds … without water" (promising what they do not perform); but not here, "mists driven along by a tempest."

mist—blackness; "the chilling horror accompanying darkness" [Bengel].

These are wells without water: he compares seducers:

1. To wells without water; because as a well invites a traveller to it in hope of quenching his thirst, but being without water, mocks his expectation; so false teachers, making a show of true wisdom and saving knowledge, draw men to them, but being destitute of it, delude them, and make them no wiser than they were.

Clouds that are carried with a tempest;

2. To clouds, & c.; because as clouds many times, promising rain and refreshment, either are scattered by the wind, or break out into a tempest; so these, when they promise to refresh their hearers’ souls with the truth of God, being themselves destitute of it, do them no good, or with their pernicious errors, or corrupt manners, do them much harm. By this comparison he sets forth:

(1.) Their inconstancy, that, like clouds driven with the wind, they are tossed to and fro, from one doctrine to another, Ephesians 4:14. And:

(2.) Their deceitfulness, that they make a show of what they have not, as clouds do of rain, when yet they are scattered, without yielding any.

The mist of darkness; i.e. the darkest darkness, called outer darkness, Matthew 8:12 22:13 25:30; by which the torments of hell are sometimes set forth, as well as sometimes by fire.

These are wells without water,.... Which look large and deep, promise much, and have nothing in them; so these men looked like angels of light, transformed themselves as ministers of righteousness, had a form of godliness, and boasted of their great knowledge; promised great advantages to their followers, but were like deceitful brooks, or dry wells, and so disappointed those that came to them, and attended on them; having nothing but the filth and slime of error and iniquity, being destitute both of the grace of God, comparable to water, and of the truth of heavenly doctrine, which is like the rain that fills the wells, pools, and fountains.

Clouds that are carried with a tempest; these false teachers may be compared to clouds for their number, for many antichrists and false prophets soon came into the world; and for their sudden rise in the churches, into which they crept privily and unawares; and because of the general darkness they spread, for when errors and heresies prevail it is a dark and cloudy day with the churches, a day of gloominess and darkness, of thick darkness, a day of trouble, rebuke, and blasphemy; and because of the height of them, especially light clouds, as these are compared to, who are high in their own conceits and imaginations, and think, and give out themselves to be some great persons; and also because of their sudden destruction, which lingers and slumbers not, but comes upon them in a moment, and their glory passes away like the morning cloud: and these may be said to be as clouds "carried with a tempest": of their own lusts and passions, by which they are governed, and are led, and carried away with the force of them, and have no power to resist them, being under the dominion of them, and captives to them; and of Satan's temptations, who works effectually in them, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, and being taken in his snare, are led captive by him at his will: Jude says, "carried about of winds", Jde 1:12, with every wind of false doctrine, like meteors in the air; are never at a point, always unsteady and unsettled, and ready to embrace every new and upstart notion:

to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever; the nature of their punishment is expressed by "darkness", the blackest darkness, the mist of darkness, and which Jude calls blackness of darkness, the same with utter darkness; and which signifies a most forlorn and uncomfortable condition, and is a righteous judgment, and just retaliation upon them who studied to darken counsel by words without knowledge; and the certainty of their punishment is signified by its being "reserved", even as the happiness of the saints, and the safety and sureness of it are represented by an inheritance reserved in heaven: and as God has his treasures, magazines, and stores of grace and mercy, felicity and glory, for his people; so he has his wrath and vengeance reserved, laid up in store with him, and sealed up among his treasures, which he will surely bring forth in his own time: and the duration of this punishment is "for ever"; it is a worm that never dies, a fire that is never quenched, Isaiah 66:24 Mark 9:44; it is everlasting fire and burnings, the smoke of which ascends for ever and ever.

{8} These are {o} wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of {p} darkness is reserved for ever.

(8) Another note by which it may be known what manner of men they are, because they have inwardly nothing but that which is utterly vain or very harmful, although they make a show of some great goodness, yet they shall not escape unpunished for it, because under pretence of false freedom, they draw men into the most miserable slavery of sin.

(o) Who boast of knowledge and have nothing in them.

(p) Most gross darkness.

2 Peter 2:17. Description of the teachers of false doctrine from another point of view, in as far as by making a false show of freedom they seduce others to immorality. First, a double comparison, of which the second only occurs in Judges 1:12.

οὗτοί εἰσι πηγαὶ ἄνυδροι] The point of comparison lies in the deceptiveness of a πηγή, which is without water; it awakens an expectation which it does not fulfil (as a contrast, cf. Proverbs 10:11; Isaiah 58:11).

πηγή here (which Hofmann wrongly disputes) means, as in John 4:6 : a spring well; fontes enim proprie sic dicti non carent aqua (Gerhard).

καὶ ὁμίχλαι ὑπὸ λαίλαπος ἐλαυνόμεναι] ὁμίχλη properly mist, here clouds of mist, as the plural already goes to prove, as well as the fact that it is not the mist, but the misty clouds, which must be regarded as foretelling rain.

λαίλαψ, according to Aristotle (lib. de mundo), equal to πνεῦμα βίαιον καὶ εἱλούμενον κάτωθεν ἄνω; Mark 4:37. The point of comparison is the same here as in the previous figure, only that by ὑπὸ λαίλ. ἐλαυν. their want of consistency (not: their punishment) is more pointedly referred to.[78]

ΟἿςΤΕΤΉΡΗΤΑΙ] so, too, in Judges 1:13; it connects itself with ΟὟΤΟΙ, not with ὉΜΊΧΛΑΙ, as Hofmann maintains, for how can this relative clause express “the dissolving of vapour into nothing”?

[78] Wiesinger inappropriately remarks: “However empty in itself the conduct of these men may be, still for the Christian community it has the effect of a storm which cleanses it;” for their conduct is not compared to a storm, but to clouds of mist; nor is reference made to their effect on the Church, but to that of the storm on the clouds of mist.

2 Peter 2:17-19. The Libertines are themselves slaves. “They are like waterless wells, and mists that the wind disperses. For them is reserved the fate of gloomy darkness. They utter ponderous nothings, and allure through their lusts those who were just escaping from the temptations of heathen life. Promising freedom to others, they are themselves slaves of corruption. Every one is a slave to that which has mastered him.”

17. These are wells without water] In the parallel passage of St Jude (2 Peter 2:12) we have “clouds without water.” In St Peter’s variation we may, perhaps, trace an allusive reference to our Lord’s teaching as to the “fountain of springing water” in John 4:14, or to St James’ illustration from the “fountain” (the same word as that here translated “well”) that sends forth fresh water only, and not salt and fresh together (James 3:11-12). We are reminded also of the “broken cisterns that can hold no water” of Jeremiah 2:13. There, however, we have in the LXX. the proper Greek word for cisterns as contrasted with the “fountain of living waters.”

clouds that are carried with a tempest] More accurately, mists driven about by a whirlwind, the better MSS. giving “mists” instead of “clouds.” The word was probably chosen as indicating what we should call the “haziness” of the speculations of the false teachers. The Greek word for “tempest” is found also in the descriptions of the storm on the Sea of Galilee in Mark 4:27; Luke 8:23. Did St Peter’s mind go back to that scene, so that he saw, in the wild whirling mists that brought the risk of destruction, a parable of the storm of heresies by which the Church was now threatened? The imagery, it may be noted, is identical with that used by St Paul, when he speaks of men as “carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).

to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever] The two last words are omitted in some of the best MSS. and versions. For “mist” it would be better to read blackness, as in Jude, 2 Peter 2:13. It is noticeable that the word had been used by Homer (Il. xv. 191) of the gloom of Hades, and so had probably come to be associated in common language with the thought of Tartarus, as it is here and in 2 Peter 2:4.

2 Peter 2:17. Οὗτοί εἰσι, these are) From 2 Peter 2:10-16 the character of false teachers has been described; now their very plan of proceeding is described, which they use towards their disciples.—πηγαὶ, wells) A well and a cloud promise water: so these men boast ὑπέρογκα, great swelling words, as though they were the lights of the Church; comp. 2 Peter 2:10; 2 Peter 2:19, at the beginning; but these wells and these clouds give no supply. Those great swelling words are of vanity.—νεφέλαι,[9] clouds) impostors.[10]—οἷς, to whom) This does not refer to wells and clouds, but to these. The definition is put for the thing defined, ἀστέρες πλανῆται, wandering stars. Comp. Judges 1:13, note.—ὁ ζόφος τοῦ σκότους, the mist of darkness) ζόφος is the chilling horror [horror algidus] with which darkness (σκότος) is attended. Comp. note on Hebrews 12:18.—τετήρηται, is reserved) For this reason especially, that they carry off to destruction so many souls. See the following verses.

[9] The reading καὶ ὁμίχλαι (and mists) is preferred by the margin of both Editions, and so also the Germ. Version.—E. B.

[10] Nebulones, dissipated impostors.—T.

ABC Vulg. support καὶ ὁμίχλαι; but Rec. Text νεφέλαι, with Syr. Version and later Uncial MSS.—E.

Verse 17. - These are wells without water. St. Peter has spoken of the vices of the false teachers; he goes on to describe the unprofitableness of their teaching. They are like wells without water; they deceive men with a promise which they do not fulfill. In Jude 1:12 there is a slight difference - "clouds without water" (comp. Jeremiah 2:13). Clouds that are carried with a tempest; better, mists driven by a tempest. The best manuscripts have ὁμίχλαι, mists, instead of νεφέλαι, clouds; they are driven along by the tempest; they give no water to the thirsty land, but only bring darkness and obscurity. The Greek word for "tempest" (λαῖλαψ) is used by St. Mark and St. Luke in their account of the tempest on the Sea of Galilee. To whom the mist of darkness is reserved for over; rather, as in the Revised Version, the blackness of darkness. The words are the same as those of Jude 1:13 (comp. verse 4 of this chapter; also 2 Peter 3:7; and 1 Peter 1:4, where the same verb is used of the inheritance reserved in heaven for the saints). The words "for ever" are omitted in the Vatican and Sinaitic Manuscripts; it is possible that they may have been inserted from the parallel passage in St. Jude; but they are well supported here. 2 Peter 2:17Wells (πηγαὶ)

Better, as Rev., springs; yet the Rev. has retained well at John 4:14, where the change would have given more vividness to Christ's metaphor, which is that of an ever upleaping, living fountain.

Without water

As so often in the East, where the verdure excites the traveller's hope of water. Compare Jeremiah 2:13, and the contrast presented in Isaiah 58:11; Proverbs 10:11; Proverbs 13:14.


The A. V. has followed the Tex. Rec., νεφέλαι, as in Jde 1:12. The correct reading is ὁμίχλαι, mists, found only here in New Testament. So Rev.

With a tempest (ὑπὸ λαίλαπος)

Rev., by a storm. The word occurs only twice elsewhere - Mark 4:37; Luke 7:23 - in the parallel accounts of the storm on the lake, which Jesus calmed by his word. There on the lake Peter was at home, as well as with the Lord on that occasion; and the peculiar word describing a whirlwind - one of those sudden storms so frequent on that lake (see note on the word, Mark 4:37) - would be the first to occur to him. Compare Paul's similar figure, Ephesians 4:14.

Blackness (ζόφος)

See on 2 Peter 2:4, and compare Jde 1:13.

Of darkness (τοῦ σκότους)

Lit., the darkness, denoting a well-understood doom.

Is reserved (τετήρηται)

Lit., hath been reserved, as Rev. See on 1 Peter 1:4; and 2 Peter 2:4.


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