False teachers foretold, who shall bring in destructive doctrines and shall pervert many, but at last be destroyed by the judgments of God, 2 Peter 2:1-3. Instances of God's judgments in the rebellious angels, 2 Peter 2:4. In the antediluvians, 2 Peter 2:5. In the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha, 2 Peter 2:6-8. The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly, as well as to punish the ungodly, 2 Peter 2:9. The character of those seducing teachers and their disciples; they are unclean, presumptuous, speak evil of dignities, adulterous, covetous, and cursed, 2 Peter 2:10-14. Have forsaken the right way, copy the conduct of Balaam, speak great swelling words, and pervert those who had escaped from error, 2 Peter 2:15-19. The miserable state of those who, having escaped the corruption that is in the world, have turned back like the dog to his vomit, and the washed swine to her wallowing in the mire, 2 Peter 2:20-22.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.But there were false prophets - There were not only holy men of God among the Jews, who prophesied by Divine inspiration, but there were also false prophets, whose prophecies were from their own imagination, and perverted many.
As there shall be false teachers among you - At a very early period of the Christian Church many heresies sprung up; but the chief were those of the Ebionites, Cerinthians, Nicolaitans, Menandrians, and Gnostics, of whom many strange things have been spoken by the primitive fathers, and of whose opinions it is difficult to form any satisfactory view. They were, no doubt, bad enough, and their opponents in general have doubtless made them worse. By what name those were called of whom the apostle here speaks, we cannot tell. They were probably some sort of apostate Jews, or those called the Nicolaitans. See the preface.
Damnable heresies - Αἱρεσεις απωλειας· Heresies of destruction; such as, if followed, would lead a man to perdition. And these παρεισαξουσιν, they will bring in privately - cunningly, without making much noise, and as covertly as possible. It would be better to translate destructive heresies than damnable.
Denying the Lord that bought them - It is not certain whether God the Father be intended here, or our Lord Jesus Christ; for God is said to have purchased the Israelites, Exodus 15:16, and to be the Father that had bought them, Deuteronomy 32:6, and the words may refer to these or such like passages; or they may point out Jesus Christ, who had bought them with his blood; and the heresies, or dangerous opinions, may mean such as opposed the Divinity of our Lord, or his meritorious and sacrificial death, or such opinions as bring upon those who hold them swift destruction. It seems, however, more natural to understand the Lord that bought them as applying to Christ, than otherwise; and if so, this is another proof, among many,
1. That none can be saved but by Jesus Christ.
2. That through their own wickedness some may perish for whom Christ died.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.Many shall follow - Will follow, because determined to gratify their sinful propensities.
Pernicious ways - Ταις απωλειαις· Their destructions; i.e. the heresies of destruction, or destructive opinions, mentioned above. But instead of απωλειαις, destructions, ασελγειαις, lasciviousnesses or uncleannesses, is the reading of ABC, and upwards of sixty others, most of which are among the most ancient, correct, and authentic. This is the reading also of both the Syriac, all the Arabic, the Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Slavonic, Vulgate, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Ecumenius, and Jerome. A very few, and those of little repute, have the word in the text.
The word lasciviousnesses is undoubtedly the true reading, and this points out what the nature of the heresies was: it was a sort of Antinomianism; they pampered and indulged the lusts of the flesh; and, if the Nicolaitans are meant, it is very applicable to them, for they taught the community of wives, etc. Griesbach has received this reading into the text.
By reason of whom - These were persons who professed Christianity; and because they were called Christians, and followed such abominable practices, the way of truth - the Christian religion, βλασφημηθησεται, was blasphemed. Had they called themselves by any name but that of Christ, his religion would not have suffered.
And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.And through covetousness - That they might get money to spend upon their lusts, with feigned words, πλαστοις λογοις, with counterfeit tales, false narrations, of pretended facts, lying miracles, fabulous legends. "In this single sentence," says Dr. Macknight, "there is a clear prediction of the iniquitous practices of those great merchants of souls, the Romish clergy, who have rated all crimes, even the most atrocious, at a fixed price; so that if their doctrine be true, whoever pays the price may commit the crime without hazarding his salvation." How the popish Church has made merchandise of souls, needs no particular explanation here. It was this abominable doctrine that showed to some, then in that Church, the absolute necessity of a reformation.
Whose judgment now of a long time - From the beginning God has condemned sin, and inflicted suitable punishments on transgressors; and has promised in his word, from the earliest ages, to pour out his indignation on the wicked. The punishment, therefore, so long ago predicted, shall fall on these impure and incorrigible sinners; and the condemnation which is denounced against them slumbers not - it is alert, it is on its way, it is hurrying on, and must soon overtake them.
For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;For if God spared not the angels - The angels were originally placed in a state of probation; some having fallen and some having stood proves this. How long that probation was to last to them, and what was the particular test of their fidelity, we know not; nor indeed do we know what was their sin; nor when nor how they fell. St. Jude says they kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation; which seems to indicate that they got discontented with their lot, and aspired to higher honors, or perhaps to celestial domination. The tradition of their fall is in all countries and in all religions, but the accounts given are various and contradictory; and no wonder, for we have no direct revelation on the subject. They kept not their first estate, and they sinned, is the sum of what we know on the subject; and here curiosity and conjecture are useless.
But cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness - Αλλα σειραις ζοφου ταρταρωσας παρεδωκεν εις κρισιν τετηρημενους· But with chains of darkness confining them in Tartarus, delivered them over to be kept to judgment; or, sinking them into Tartarus, delivered them over into custody for punishment, to chains of darkness. Chains of darkness is a highly poetic expression. Darkness binds them on all hands; and so dense and strong is this darkness that it cannot be broken through; they cannot deliver themselves, nor be delivered by others.
As the word Tartarus is found nowhere else in the New Testament, nor does it appear in the Septuagint, we must have recourse to the Greek writers for its meaning. Mr. Parkhurst, under the word ταρταροω, has made some good collections from those writers, which I here subjoin.
"The Scholiast on Aeschylus, Eumen., says: Pindar relates that Apollo overcame the Python by force; wherefore the earth endeavored ταρταρωσαι, to cast him into Tartarus. Tzetzes uses the same word, ταρταροω, for casting or sending into Tartarus; and the compound verb καταταρταρουν, is found in Apollodorus; in Didymus' Scholia on Homer; in Phurnutus, De Nat, Deor., p. 11, edit. Gale; and in the book Περι Ποταμων, which is extant among the works of Plutarch. And those whom Apollodorus styles καταταρταρωθεντας, he in the same breath calls ῥιφθεντας εις Ταρταρον, cast into Tartarus. Thus the learned Windet, in Pole's Synopsis. We may then, I think, safely assert that ταρταρωσας, in St. Peter, means not, as Mede (Works, fol., p. 23) interprets it, to adjudge to, but to cast into, Tartarus; ῥιπτειν εις Ταρταρον, as in Homer, cited below. And in order to know what was the precise intention of the apostle by this expression, we must inquire what is the accurate import of the term Ταρταρος. Now, it appears from a passage of Lucian, that by Ταρταρος was meant, in a physical sense, the bounds or verge of this material system; for, addressing himself to ΕΡΩΣ, Cupid or Love, he says: Συ γαρ εξ αφανους και κεχυμενης αμορφιας ΤΟ ΠΑΝ εμορφωσας, κ. τ. λ. 'Thou formedst the universe from its confused and chaotic state; and, after separating and dispersing the circumfused chaos, in which, as in one common sepulchre, the whole world lay buried, thou drovest it to the confines or recesses of outer Tartarus -
'Where iron gates and bars of solid brass
Keep it in durance irrefrangible,
And its return prohibit.'
"The ancient Greeks appear to have received, by tradition, an account of the punishment of the 'fallen angels,' and of bad men after death; and their poets did, in conformity I presume with that account, make Tartarus the place where the giants who rebelled against Jupiter, and the souls of the wicked, were confined. 'Here,' saith Hesiod, Theogon., lin. 720, 1, 'the rebellious Titans were bound in penal chains.'
Τοσσον ενερθ' ὑπο γης, ὁσον ουρανος εστ'απο γαιης.
Ισον γαρ τ' απο γης ες ΤΑΡΤΑΡΟΝ ηεροεντα.
'As far beneath the earth as earth from heaven;
For such the distance thence to Tartarus.'
Which description will very well agree with the proper sense of Tartarus, if we take the earth for the center of the material system, and reckon from our zenith, or the extremity of the heavens that is over our heads. But as the Greeks imagined the earth to be of a boundless depth, so it must not be dissembled that their poets speak of Tartarus as a vast pit or gulf in the bowels of it. Thus Hesiod in the same poem, lin. 119, calls it -
ΤΑΡΤΑΡΑ τ' ηεροεντα μυχῳ χθονος ευρυοδειης·
'Black Tartarus, within earth's spacious womb.'
"And Homer, Iliad viii., lin. 13, etc., introduces Jupiter threatening any of the gods who should presume to assist either the Greeks or the Trojans, that he should either come back wounded to heaven, or be sent to Tartarus.
Η μιν ἑλων ῥιψω ες ΤΑΡΤΑΡΟΝ ηεροεντα,
Τηλε μαλ', ἡχι βαθιστον ὑπο χθονος εστι βερεθρον,
Ενθα σιδηρειαι τε πυλαι, και χαλκεος ουδος,
Τοσσον ενερθ' αιδεω, ὁσον ονρανος εστ' απο γαιης.
'Or far, O far, from steep Olympus thrown,
Low in the deep Tartarean gulf shall groan.
That gulf which iron gates and brazen ground
Within the earth inexorably bound;
As deep beneath th' infernal center hurl'd,
As from that center to the ethereal world.'
'Where, according to Homer's description, Iliad viii., lin. 480, 1, -
- - Ουτ' αυγης ὑπεριονος ηελιοιο
Τερποντ', ουτ' ανεμοισι· βαθυς δε τε ΤΑΡΤΑΡΟΣ αμφις.
'No sun e'er gilds the gloomy horrors there,
No cheerful gales refresh the lazy air,
But murky Tartarus extends around.'
"Or, in the language of the old Latin poet, (cited by Cicero, Tuscul., lib. i. cap. 15),
Ubi rigida constat crassa caligo inferum.
"On the whole, then, ταρταρουν, in St. Peter, is the same as ῥιπτειν ες Ταρταρον, to throw into Tartarus, in Homer, only rectifying the poet's mistake of Tartarus being in the bowels of the earth, and recurring to the original sense of that word above explained, which when applied to spirits must be interpreted spiritually; and thus ταρταρωσας will import that God cast the apostate angels out of his presence into that ζοφος του σκοτους, blackness of darkness, (2 Peter 2:17; Jde 1:13), where they will be for ever banished from the light of his countenance, and from the beatifying influence of the ever blessed Three, as truly as a person plunged into the torpid boundary of this created system would be from the light of the sun and the benign operations of the material heavens." By chains of darkness we are to understand a place of darkness and wretchedness, from which it is impossible for them to escape.
And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;Spared not the old world - The apostle's argument is this: If God spared not the rebellious angels, nor the sinful antediluvians, nor the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha, he will not spare those wicked teachers who corrupt the pure doctrines of Christianity.
Saved Noah the eighth - Some think that the words should be translated, Noah the eighth preacher of righteousness; but it seems most evident, from 1 Peter 3:20, that eight persons are here meant, which were the whole that were saved in the ark, viz. Shem, Ham, Japhet, and their three wives, six; Noah's wife seven; and Noah himself the eighth. The form of expression, ογδοον Νωε, Noah the eighth, i.e. Noah and seven more, is most common in the Greek language. So in Appian, Bell. Pun., p. 12, Τριτος δε ποτε εν σπηλαιῳ κρυπτομενος ελαθε, sometimes he the third (i.e. he with two others) lay hid in a cave. Andocides, Orat. iv. p. 295: Αἱρεθεις επι τουτῳ δεκατος αυτος, he himself the tenth (i.e. he and nine others) were chosen to this. See a number of other examples in Kypke.
World of the ungodly - A whole race without God - without any pure worship or rational religion.
And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;The cities of Sodom and Gomorrha - See the notes on Genesis 19 (note), for an account of the sin and punishment of these cities.
Making them an ensample - These three words, ὑποδειγμα, παραδειγμα, and δειγμα, are used to express the same idea; though the former may signify an example to be shunned, the second an example to be followed, and the third a simple exhibition. But these differences are not always observed.
And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:Vexed with the filthy conversation - Καταπονουμενον ὑπο της των αθεσμων εν ασελγεια αναστροφης· Being exceedingly pained with the unclean conduct of those lawless persons. What this was, see in the history, Genesis 19., and the notes there.
(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)That righteous man dwelling among them - Lot, after his departure from Abraham, A. M. 2086, lived at Sodom till A. M. 2107, a space of about twenty years; and, as he had a righteous soul, he must have been tormented with the abominations of that people from day to day.
The word εβασανιζεν, tormented, is not less emphatic than the word καταπονουμενον, grievously pained, in the preceding verse, and shows what this man must have felt in dwelling so long among a people so abandoned.
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly - The preservation and deliverance of Lot gave the apostle occasion to remark, that God knew as well to save as to destroy; and that his goodness led him as forcibly to save righteous Lot, as his justice did to destroy the rebellious in the instances already adduced. And the design of the apostle in producing these examples is to show to the people to whom he was writing that, although God would destroy those false teachers, yet he would powerfully save his faithful servants from their contagion and from their destruction. We should carefully observe,
1. That the godly man is not to be preserved from temptation.
2. That he will be preserved in temptation.
3. That he will be delivered out of it.
But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.But chiefly them that walk - That is, God will in the most signal manner punish them that walk after the flesh - addict themselves to sodomitical practices, and the lust of pollution; probably alluding to those most abominable practices where men abuse themselves and abuse one another.
Despise government - They brave the power and authority of the civil magistrate, practising their abominations so as to keep out of the reach of the letter of the law; and they speak evil of dignities - they blaspheme civil government, they abhor the restraints laid upon men by the laws, and would wish all governments destroyed that they might live as they list.
Presumptuous are they - Τολμηται· They are bold and daring, headstrong, regardless of fear.
Self-willed - Αυθαδεις· Self-sufficient; presuming on themselves; following their own opinions, which no authority can induce them to relinquish.
Are not afraid to speak evil of dignities - They are lawless and disobedient, spurn all human authority, and speak contemptuously of all legal and civil jurisdiction. Those in general despise governments, and speak evil of dignities, who wish to be under no control, that they may act as freebooters in the community.
Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.Whereas angels, etc. - This is a difficult verse, but the meaning seems to be this: The holy angels, who are represented as bringing an account of the actions of the fallen angels before the Lord in judgment, simply state the facts without exaggeration, and without permitting any thing of a bitter, reviling, or railing spirit, to enter into their accusations. See Zechariah 3:1, and Jde 1:9; to the former of which St. Peter evidently alludes. But these persons, not only speak of the actions of men which they conceive to be wrong, but do it with untrue colourings, and the greatest malevolence. Michael, the archangel, treated a damned spirit with courtesy; he only said, The Lord rebuke thee, Satan! but these treat the rulers of God's appointment with disrespect and calumny.
Before the Lord - Παρα Κυριῳ is wanting in a number of MSS. and most of the versions.
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;But these, as natural brute beasts - 'Ὡς αλογα ζωα φυσικα· As those natural animals void of reason, following only the gross instinct of nature, being governed neither by reason nor religion.
Made to be taken and destroyed - Intended to be taken with nets and gins, and then destroyed, because of their fierce and destructive nature; so these false teachers and insurgents must be treated; first incarcerated, and then brought to judgment, that they may have the reward of their doings. And thus, by blaspheming what they do not understand, they at last perish in their own corruption; i.e. their corrupt doctrines and vicious practices.
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;They that count it pleasure to riot in the day time - Most sinners, in order to practice their abominable pleasures, seek the secrecy of the night; but these, bidding defiance to all decorum, decency, and shame, take the open day, and thus proclaim their impurities to the sun.
Spots - and blemishes - They are a disgrace to the Christian name.
Sporting themselves - Forming opinions which give license to sin, and then acting on those opinions; and thus rioting in their own deceits.
With their own deceivings - Εν ταις απαταις. But instead of this, AB, and almost all the versions and several of the fathers, have εν ταις αγαπαις, in your love feasts, which is probably the true reading.
While they feast with you - It appears they held a kind of communion with the Church, and attended sacred festivals, which they desecrated with their own unhallowed opinions and conduct.
Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:Having eyes full of adultery - Μοιχαλιδος· Of an adulteress; being ever bent on the gratification of their sensual desires, so that they are represented as having an adulteress constantly before their eyes, and that their eyes can take in no other object but her. But instead of μοιχαλιδος of an adulteress, the Codex Alexandrinus, three others, with the Coptic, Vulgate, and one copy of the Itala, together with several of the fathers, have μοιχαλιας, of adultery.
Cannot cease from sin - Which cease not from sin; they might cease from sin, but they do not; they love and practice it. Instead of ακαταπαυστους, which cannot cease, several MSS. and versions have ακαταπαυστου, and this requires the place to be read, Having eyes full of adultery and incessant sin. The images of sinful acts were continually floating before their disordered and impure fancy. This figure of speech is very common in the Greek writers; and Kypke gives many instances of it, which indeed carry the image too far to be here translated.
Beguiling unstable souls - The metaphor is taken from adulterers seducing unwary, inexperienced, and light, trifling women; so do those false teachers seduce those who are not established in righteousness.
Exercised with covetous practices - The metaphor is taken from the agonistae in the Grecian games, who exercised themselves in those feats, such as wrestling, boxing, running, etc., in which they proposed to contend in the public games. These persons had their hearts schooled in nefarious practices; they had exercised themselves till they were perfectly expert in all the arts of seduction, overreaching, and every kind of fraud.
Cursed children - Such not only live under God's curse here, but they are heirs to it hereafter.
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;Which have forsaken the right way - As Balaam did, who, although God showed him the right way, took one contrary to it, preferring the reward offered him by Balak to the approbation and blessing of God.
The way of Balaam - Is the counsel of Balaam. He counselled the Moabites to give their most beautiful young women to the Israelitish youth, that they might be enticed by them to commit idolatry. See the notes on Numbers 22:5, etc., and Numbers 23:1 (note), etc.
The son of Bosor - Instead of Βοσορ, Bosor two ancient MSS. and some of the versions have Βεωρ, Beor, to accommodate the word to the Hebrew text and the Septuagint. The difference in this name seems to have arisen from mistaking one letter for another in the Hebrew name, בעור Beor, for בצור Betsor or Bosor; tsaddi צ and ain ע, which are very like each other, being interchanged.
But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.The dumb ass, speaking with man's voice - See the note on Numbers 22:28.
The madness of the prophet - Is not this a reference to the speech of the ass, as represented in the Targums of Jonathan ben Uzziel and Jerusalem? "Wo to thee, Balaam, thou sinner, thou madman: there is no wisdom found in thee." These words contain nearly the same expressions as those in St. Peter.
These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.These are wells without water - Persons who, by their profession, should furnish the water of life to souls athirst for salvation; but they have not this water; they are teachers without ability to instruct; they are sowers, and have no seed in their basket. Nothing is more cheering in the deserts of the east than to meet with a well of water; and nothing more distressing, when parched with thirst, than to meet with a well that contains no water.
Clouds that are carried with a tempest - In a time of great drought, to see clouds beginning to cover the face of the heavens raises the expectation of rain; but to see these carried off by a sudden tempest is a dreary disappointment. These false teachers were equally as unprofitable as the empty well, or the light, dissipated cloud.
To whom the mist of darkness is reserved - That is, an eternal separation from the presence of God, and the glory of his power. They shall be thrust into outer darkness, Matthew 8:12; into the utmost degrees of misery and despair. False and corrupt teachers will be sent into the lowest hell; and be "the most downcast, underfoot vassals of perdition."
It is scarcely necessary to notice a various reading here, which, though very different in sound, is nearly the same in sense. Instead of νεφελαι, clouds, which is the common reading, και ὁμιχλαι, and mists, or perhaps more properly thick darkness, from ὁμου, together, and αχλυς, darkness, is the reading in ABC, sixteen others, Erpen's Arabic, later Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, and Vulgate, and several of the fathers. This reading Griesbach has admitted into the text.
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.They speak great swelling words of vanity - The word ὑπερογκα signifies things of great magnitude, grand, superb, sublime; it sometimes signifies inflated, tumid, bombastic. These false teachers spoke of great and high things, and no doubt promised their disciples the greatest privileges, as they themselves pretended to a high degree of illumination; but they were all false and vain, though they tickled the fancy and excited the desires of the flesh; and indeed this appears to have been their object. And hence some think that the impure sect of the Nicolaitans is meant. See the preface.
Those that were clean escaped - Those who, through hearing the doctrines of the Gospel, had been converted, were perverted by those false teachers.
While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.While they promise them liberty - Either to live in the highest degrees of spiritual good, or a freedom from the Roman yoke; or from the yoke of the law, or what they might term needless restraints. Their own conduct showed the falsity of their system; for they were slaves to every disgraceful lust.
For of whom a man is overcome - This is an allusion to the ancient custom of selling for slaves those whom they had conquered and captivated in war. The ancient law was, that a man might either kill him whom he overcame in battle, or keep him for a slave. These were called servi, slaves, from the verb servare, to keep or preserve. And they were also called mancipia, from manu capiuntur, they are taken captive by the hand of their enemy. Thus the person who is overcome by his lusts is represented as being the slave of those lusts. See Romans 6:16, and the note there.
For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.The pollutions of the world - Sin in general, and particularly superstition, idolatry, and lasciviousness. These are called μιασματα, miasmata, things that infect, pollute, and defile. The word was anciently used, and is in use at the present day, to express those noxious particles of effluvia proceeding from persons infected with contagious and dangerous diseases; or from dead and corrupt bodies, stagnant and putrid waters, marshes etc., by which the sound and healthy may be infected and destroyed. The world is here represented as one large, putrid marsh, or corrupt body, sending off its destructive miasmata everywhere and in every direction, so that none can escape its contagion, and none can be healed of the great epidemic disease of sin, but by the mighty power and skill of God. St. Augustine has improved on this image: "The whole world," says he, "is one great diseased man, lying extended from east to west, and from north to south; and to heal this great sick man, the almighty Physician descended from heaven." Now, it is by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as says St. Peter, that we escape the destructive influence of these contagious miasmata. But if, after having been healed, and escaped the death to which we were exposed, we get again entangled, εμπλακεντες, enfolded, enveloped with them; then the latter end will be worse than the beginning: forasmuch as we shall have sinned against more light, and the soul, by its conversion to God, having had all its powers and faculties greatly improved, is now, being repolluted, more capable of iniquity than before, and can bear more expressively the image of the earthly.
For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.For it had been better for them not to have known - For the reasons assigned above; because they have sinned against more mercy, are capable of more sin, and are liable to greater punishment.
The holy commandment - The whole religion of Christ is contained in this one commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; and thy neighbor as thyself." He who obeys this great commandment, and this by the grace of Christ is possible to every man, is saved from sinning either against his God or against his neighbor. Nothing less than this does the religion of Christ require.
But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.According to the true proverb - This seems to be a reference to Proverbs 26:11 : ככלב שב אל קאו kekeleb shab al keo; as the dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool repeateth his folly. In substance this proverb is found among the rabbins; so Midrash Ruth, in Sohar Chadash, fol. 62: Orphah is returned to her mire, Ruth persevered in spirit; and again, Ibid. fol. 64: "Orphah, which is נפש הבהמית nephesh habbehemith, the bestial soul, is returned to her mire."
The Greeks have something like it; so Arrian, Dissert. Epict. l. iv. c. 11, says: Απελθε και χοιρῳ διαλεγου, ἱν' εν βορβορῳ μη κυλιηται, "Go and reason with the swine, lest he be rolled in the mire." This is called a true proverb: for it is a fact that a dog will eat up his own vomit; and the swine, howsoever carefully washed, will again wallow in the mire. As applied here it is very expressive: the poor sinner, having heard the Gospel of Christ, was led to loathe and reject his sin; and, on his application to God for mercy, was washed from his unrighteousness. But he is here represented as taking up again what he had before rejected, and defiling himself in that from which he had been cleansed.
Here is a sad proof of the possibility of falling from grace, and from very high degrees of it too. These had escaped from the contagion that was in the world; they had had true repentance, and cast up "their soursweet morsel of sin;" they had been washed from all their filthiness, and this must have been through the blood of the Lamb; yet, after all, they went back, got entangled with their old sins, swallowed down their formerly rejected lusts, and rewallowed in the mire of corruption. It is no wonder that God should say, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning: reason and nature say it must be so; and Divine justice says it ought to be so; and the person himself must confess that it is right that it should be so. But how dreadful is this state! How dangerous when the person has abandoned himself to his old sins! Yet it is not said that it is impossible for him to return to his Maker; though his case be deplorable, it is not utterly hopeless; the leper may yet be made clean, and the dead may be raised. Reader, is thy backsliding a grief and burden to thee? Then thou art not far from the kingdom of God; believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.