Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.2 Peter 2:1-6 The apostle foretelleth the appearance of false
teachers, the impiety of them and their followers,
and the judgments that would overtake them.
2 Peter 2:7-9 The godly shall be delivered, as Lot was out of Sodom.
2 Peter 2:10-19 The wicked principles and manners of these seducers
2 Peter 2:20-22 The mischief of relapsing into sin.
But there were false prophets also: the apostle having
been exhorting them to continuance and progress in faith, admonishes
them here of such as might labour to draw them from it; and having
made mention of the Old Testament prophets, holy men of God, he hereby
takes occasion to tell them of, and caution them against, false
teachers which would be among themselves. This also in the text
plainly relates to what went before: q.d. Together with those
prophets which were sent by God, there were likewise false prophets,
such as were not sent of him.
Among the people; the people of Israel.
Even as there shall be false teachers; teachers of false doctrine,
Matthew 7:15 Acts 20:29.
Among you; among you Jewish, as well as among the Gentile
Christians; or, among you as Christians and God’s people under the New
Testament, in opposition to the people of God under the Old.
Who shall privily bring in: the Greek word signifies either to
bring in slily and craftily, under specious pretences, and without
being observed, Galatians 2:4 Judges 1:4; or, to bring in over and above,
or beside the doctrine of the gospel, which they did not renounce; or
both may be implied.
Damnable heresies; Greek, heresies of destruction, i.e.
destructive, such as lead to destruction, viz. eternal, or damnation.
Even denying; either in their words or their practices, either
directly, or by consequence of their doctrines or actions; they that
profess they know God, but contradict that profession in their lives,
are said to deny him, Titus 1:16.
The Lord; either:
1. God the Father, so called, Luke 2:29 Acts 4:24, &c., and probably
Revelation 6:10; nor is there any necessity, but, Judges 1:4, the
word may be understood of God the Father. Or rather:
That bought them: if we understand it of God the Father, the sense
1. Denying God that bought them, or acquired them and made them his,
viz. by calling them out of the darkness and gross wickedness of
the world, to the knowledge of Christ and the gospel, and the
fellowship of his church. In this general sense the word buying is
sometimes taken, Isaiah 55:1 Revelation 3:18. Or:
2. Denying God that bought the people of Israel (whereof these false
teachers that should be among the Christian Jews were to be a part)
out of Egypt, to make them his peculiar people, whereof they would
boast themselves, and yet by their wicked practices deny that God
that bought them; the words seem to be taken out of Deu 32:6:
Is not he thy Father that hath bought thee? As likewise from
2 Peter 2:5 of that chapter. Peter calls them spots, 2 Peter 2:13
of this chapter.
But if we understand it of Christ, which seems most probable, the
sense is, either:
1. That Christ bought or redeemed them, (in which sense the word is
sometimes taken), in that by his death he purchased the continuance
of their lives, and the staying of their execution, and rescued
them from that present destruction which, without Christ’s
interposition, had seized on them, as it had likewise on the whole
visible creation immediately upon the apostacy of mankind. Or:
2. This is spoken not only of their pretences, that they should
profess themselves redeemed by Christ, but in the style of the
visible church, which should judge them to be so till they declared
the contrary by their wicked actions; and it likewise holds true in
a forensical or judicial style, according to which whosoever
professeth himself to be redeemed by Christ, and yet denies him in
his deeds, is said to deny the Lord that bought him; it being alike
as to the greatness of the crime, whether he be really redeemed,
or, professing himself to be so, denies his Redeemer.
And bring upon themselves swift destruction; shall hasten their
own destruction, it may be temporal in this world; to be sure, eternal
in the other. It may be called
swift, as coming upon them
unawares, and when they think least of it, as 1 Thessalonians 5:3.
And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.And many shall follow their pernicious ways; Greek, their destructions, i.e. those ways of error which are attended with destruction (the effect being put for the cause by a metonymy); and the sense is, that as these false teachers shall bring destruction upon themselves by their heresies; so others, running with them into the same errors, shall fall into the same destruction.
By reason of whom; or, by whom, viz. these false teachers, or their followers, or both.
The way of truth; the gospel, so called, as being the doctrine of saving truth. It is called the way, Acts 9:2 19:9 22:4; the way of salvation, Acts 16:17; the way of God, Acts 18:26.
Shall be evil spoken of; blasphemed, whether by false teachers themselves and their followers, or by others taking occasion by them: see Romans 2:24 1 Timothy 6:1 Titus 2:5.
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.With feigned words; deceitful speeches, which have a show of truth to hide their errors.
Make merchandise of you; as of slaves or beasts: it seems to be a metaphor taken from merchants that speak great things of bad wares, the better to vend them; the sense is, with specious words, and pious pretences, they shall deceive you to make a gain of you.
Whose judgment; or, condemnation.
Now of a long time; being of old determined by God, and foretold in the Scripture, and so nearer than they themselves imagine.
Lingereth not; i.e. goes on apace, and hastens on them.
And their damnation; or, destruction.
Slumbereth not: i.e. watcheth, as ready to overtake them in its time: it may be a metaphor taken from a traveller, as Proverbs 6:11; or the apostle alludes to Deu 32:35, where the like expression is found: see 2 Peter 2:1.
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 that sinned, but cast them down to hell: elsewhere called the deep, Luke 8:31, and the bottomless pit, Revelation 9:1 11:7 17:8 20:1,3. This implies a change:
1. Of the state of those sinning angels, that whereas before it was the highest among the creatures, now it is the lowest.
2. Of their place, that whereas they were before the throne of God with the rest of the angels, they are now thrust down into a lower place, agreeable to their sin and misery. What place that is we find not expressed in Scripture, and therefore we are not to be over curious in our inquiries after it; but may rest satisfied, that they are excluded from the place of their primitive happiness, and are in a place where they are afflicted with the pain both of loss and sense.
And delivered them into chains of darkness: either to be bound, or held with darkness as with chains; or kept in chains under darkness, as Judges 1:6; where darkness may imply the misery and horror of their condition, and chains, their obduracy in their wickedness, their despair of deliverance, their expectation of future judgment, Hebrews 10:27, together with the providence and power of God, watching over and holding them in that condition, till final vengeance come upon them. It is a metaphor taken from malefactors condemned, who are bound in chains, and kept in the dungeon till execution.
To be reserved; so kept that they cannot escape.
Unto judgment; viz. that of the last day, the time of their full torment, in which the wrath of God, which they feel in a great measure now, will come upon them to the utmost.
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;And spared not the old world: the world, for men in the world, viz. those that lived in it before the flood.
But saved Noah the eighth person; viz. together with the other seven, his wife, three sons, and their wives, 1 Peter 3:20. Noah may be particularly named, because God had a special respect to him, and for his sake spared others.
A preacher: constituted to be so by Divine authority and commission.
Of righteousness: i.e. not only:
1. Of the righteousness of God, who had threatened to destroy the world for its wickedness; but:
2. Of the righteousness of Christ upon all them that should believe. It is not to be doubted but he preached the same righteousness whereof he himself was heir, and that was the righteousness of faith, Hebrews 11:7; and this he did not in words only, but in his actions; in that he built the ark for the saving himself and his household, which was a type of the salvation of believers by Christ. And:
3. Of the righteousness of sanctification, in his exhorting the men that then were to repentance and holiness, if possibly thereby they might prevent the approaching deluge.
Bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; the whole multitude of wicked men then living in the world.
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; which being the chief of the five, include Admah and Zeboim, Zoar, the fifth, being spared for Lot’s sake, Genesis 14:18, compared with Genesis 19:25.
Condemned them with an overthrow; i.e. punished them with a total subversion, or brought that destruction upon them to which he had condemned them.
Making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; of his wrath and vengeance ready to be poured out upon others that should live ungodly, to deter them from the imitation of the sins of those that had so miserably perished. The word may be rendered a type, (as it is, Hebrews 8:5, and Hebrews 9:23), viz. of hell-fire, which is to be the punishment of wicked men at the last day: Judges 1:7 implies as much. As the deliverance of the Israelites out of Egypt was a kind of type of the deliverance of all God’s people to the end of the world; so the subversion of these cities was so memorable an instance of Divine vengeance, that the Scripture frequently alludes to it, as a type or pattern, when it speaks of the general destruction of the wicked of the world.
And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:Vexed; grievously afflicted or wearied.
The wicked; unjust, lawless, (understand men), such as had no respect to law or justice, in opposition to Lot, whom he calls just and righteous.
(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)Seeing and hearing: their wickedness was so open and shameless, that he not only heard the report of it, but saw them commit it, Isaiah 3:9.
Vexed; Greek, tormented, i.e. extremely afflicted and troubled his own soul, provoking himself to godly sorrow at the sight and fame of their unlawful deeds. His grief was voluntary, and he active in it; the like is said of Christ, on occasion of Lazarus’s death, John 11:33, where the margin reads, he troubled himself.
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; according to the common rule, that words of knowledge in Scripture connote affections, as Psalm 1:6. God’s knowing here implies not only his infinite wisdom, whereby he is never at a loss, but knows all the various ways whereby the godly may be delivered; but likewise his love and good will to them, whereby he is ready to do it, hath a heart for it: so the word is taken, Ecclesiastes 4:13 Amos 3:10; the text reads, will no more be admonished, the margin, knows not, &c.
How to deliver the godly; those that walk in the steps of just Lot and Noah, who was perfect in his generation. This concludes what the apostle began, 2 Peter 2:4: the sum is: If God spared neither wicked angels nor wicked men, destroying the old world and Sodom, but delivered Lot and Noah, righteous persons; he still hath wisdom, power, and will to deliver other godly men, and punish other wicked men.
Out of temptations; afflictions, Jam 1:2,12.
And to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: the Greek word is in the present tense, which may be understood, either:
1. As put for the future, and then the sense is as in our translation, that though God many times lets the wicked alone in this world, so that they escape present punishment, yet they shall not escape future torment; they are a while spared, but never pardoned; and when free from temporal evils, are reserved for eternal vengeance. Or:
2. It may be understood as in the present tense, which agrees well with the instances of God’s vengeance before mentioned, which was executed on wicked men in this world; and then the sense is: The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations when he sees fit, even in this life, and how to reserve those wicked men, whom he punisheth with temporal judgments here, to a much more severe and dreadful punishment at the day of judgment hereafter.
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: the apostle here applies the general doctrine delivered to false teachers, whose character he gives in several particulars; the sense is, that God reserves all wicked men to the day of judgment, but those especially that second their corrupt doctrine with a wicked conversation. The verb
reserve is to be repeated from the former verse.
That walk after the flesh; to walk after the flesh is either:
1. To follow the conduct of the sensual appetite, like brute beasts, which are led by sense, not by reason or judgment: or:
2. More especially it implies their giving up themselves to filthy lusts, probably unnatural ones, Judges 1:7, going after strange flesh.
In the lust of; i.e. through, or out of, implying the cause or spring from whence their actual uncleanness came, viz. their own lust.
Uncleanness; or, pollution; q.d. In the lust whereby they are polluted, or in their impure lusts.
And despise government; i.e. governors, or magistrates; as brotherhood for brethren, 1 Peter 2:17.
Presumptuous; Greek, bold, or daring, viz. because
they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.
Self-willed; stubborn, refractory, addicted to their own ways, and therfore will not be ruled by others.
Dignities; or, glories, viz. rulers and magistrates, whom God hath made glorious, or on whom he hath put the honour of being above others, and made them his own lieutenants and vicegerents upon earth.
Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.Angels; good angels, Judges 1:9.
Greater; either greater than these audacious false teachers, or else greater than the forementioned dignities.
In power and might; i.e. greater in their natural strength, and in their dignity.
Bring not railing accusation; use not reviling, reproachful language; the same with speaking evil in the former verse.
Against them; either:
1. Against dignities, 2 Peter 2:10; and then the meaning is, that good angels, great and powerful as they are, yet bring not a railing accusation before the Lord against magistrates and princes, but when they have had any thing against them, yet have carried themselves with modesty, and due respect to that dignity in which God had placed such, having a regard to civil government as God’s constitution, and being themselves, at God’s appointment, guardians and keepers, even of wicked kingdoms, as Daniel 10:1-21 and Daniel 11:1-45. Or:
2. Against themselves, as in the margin; and then the sense is, that angels do not reproach nor revile each other, nay, not the devil himself as appears, Judges 1:9, which place may explain this; and therefore it did ill become these false teachers, who were so much below angels, to contemn, revile, or rail on princes and civil magistrates, who were so much above themselves, and had their authority from God.
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; the false teachers before mentioned.
As natural brute beasts; beasts which are void of reason, and follow only their sensual inclination.
Made to be taken and destroyed; being made for men’s use, and so to be a prey to them; while they hasten after their food, they are taken in nets and snares, and being taken are destroyed.
Speak evil of the things that they understand not; either the great mysteries of religion, whereof they are stupidly ignorant; or rather, dignities, before mentioned, which they, (not knowing, or not considering, them to be of God, and of so great use to men), following the inclination of their own corrupt natures, speak against.
And shall utterly perish in their own corruption; or, shall be corrupted in their own corruption, i.e. shall be utterly destroyed by their own fault and folly; penal corruption (or perdition) following upon sinful. The sum is: That as brute beasts, which have no reason, follow their brutish appetite, till it lead them into destruction, and where they sought their meat they find their death, Proverbs 7:23; so these false teachers, not being guided by reason, much less by the light of the Spirit, but merely by sway of their natural inclinations, in speaking evil of that ordinance which God hath honoured, shall bring upon themselves that destruction they have deserved.
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;And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness: under this general term, all the several sins they are charged with are comprehended.
As they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time; this is said to aggravate their sin, and signifies either their impudence in it, that they had cast off all shame, and practised their luxury by day light, whereas ordinary sinners are wont to choose the night for such works of darkness, Romans 13:12,13 1 Thessalonians 5:7; or their security, that they spent the day of their life in their pleasures, placing their happiness in present enjoyments, unmindful of a future reckoning and an eternal state.
Spots they are and blemishes; not only altogether polluted themselves, but such as defile others, and are blemishes to the church whereof they profess themselves members.
Sporting themselves with their own deceivings: some read agapaiv instead of apataiv, leaving out the pronoun, rendered their own; and understand this of the love feasts, in which they luxuriously gorged themselves. This might well agree with Judges 1:12, but that the generality of Greek copies read apataiv, which we turn deceivings, i.e. either errors, taking the word passively; q.d. They do but make a sport of sin, and please themselves with it; and this agrees too with Judges 1:12, feeding themselves without fear: or cheatings, or imposings upon others, taking
deceivings actively; q.d. They sport themselves while they so finely deceive you, pretending love in their feasting with you, when they do it only to gratify their appetites; or sporting themselves, and making merry, with what they have cheated you of.
While they feast with you; viz. in your feasts of charity, with the specious pretence of which they covered their naughtiness.
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; he mentions the eyes, both because they let in the objects of lust into the heart, Job 31:1 Matthew 5:28, and because the signs of lust in the heart appear especially in the eyes, Genesis 39:7 Proverbs 6:25.
Full of adultery; full of an adulteress, which either may be a Hebraism, the concrete being put for the abstract, as drunken for drunkenness, and thirsty for thirst, Deu 29:19; or it may be a proverbial expression of the wretchedness of such men’s hearts, when they still carried an adulteress in their eyes.
That cannot cease from sin; never satisfied with looking upon, or still looking about for, such objects as might inflame their lusts; or still seeking with wanton looks to entice others to folly.
Beguiling; either alluring them by their wantonness to embrace their false doctrines, promising them pleasures and carnal liberties, 2 Peter 2:18; or enticing them to lewdness, by instilling false doctrines into them, which tend to licentiousness.
Unstable souls; those that were not well grounded in the faith and doctrine of holiness, who might therefore easily be drawn aside.
An heart they have exercised with covetous practices; a heart wholly intent upon getting gain, accustomed to it, and skilful in it.
Practices; the word is in the plural number, to show that the seducers had several arts and ways of exercising their covetousness.
Cursed children; Greek, children of the curse. It may be taken either actively, for such as were causes of a curse, brought a curse with them; or passively, for such as were worthy of a curse, or obnoxious to it; as children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3.
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;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.
But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.But was rebuked; not only by the angel’s speaking to him, but by the ass’s, as follows.
The dumb ass speaking with man’s voice, forbade; not in express words, that we read of, but the ass’s speaking with human voice, discerning the angel before Balaam did, and going back, when he, carried out by the power of his covetousness, would needs go forward, were so prodigious things as might sufficiently convince him of his sin, in going to Balak contrary to God’s command at first given; and it was no small dishonour put upon him, that he who would not hearken to God, should have an ass for his teacher.
The madness; in going against God’s command, and to curse those who, God had told him, were blessed.
Objection. Balaam had leave given him to go with Balak’s messengers, Numbers 22:20, and refused Balak’s offers, 2 Peter 2:18.
1. Balaam did not contemn the gifts offered, but had a desire after them, as appears by his inquiring of God the second time, 2 Peter 2:19, though God had fully revealed his will to him before, 2 Peter 2:12.
2. God bade him go that he might bless the people, 2 Peter 2:12, compared with 2 Peter 2:20, whereas he went not out of a respect to God’s answer, but out of a covetous mind, and a desire to curse Israel, as appears by Joshua 24:9,10, and by the cursed counsel he gave, Numbers 25:1, compared with Numbers 31:16, and Revelation 2:14.
Of the prophet: Balaam is called a prophet here, either:
1. Because he pretended to be so: thus the false prophets are sometimes called absolutely prophets, Jeremiah 6:13 26:7,8,11. Or:
2. Because he really was a prophet, though a wicked and covetous one; for he inquired of God, and had answers from him, Numbers 6:22 8:9,10,18,19; and Moses says expressly, that the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, Numbers 23:5,16; and that prophecy concerning the Messiah, Numbers 24:17, could not but be of God, yet it is probable that Balaam, out of covetousness, might sometimes use divination, nay, it is plain in some cases he did, Numbers 24:1.
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: 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.
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.Great swelling words of vanity; i.e. big words, full of sound, and void of sense, at least of truth. He seems to tax the affected, vain speech of seducers, who were wont to clothe their erroneous doctrines (if not disguise the truths of God) with strange, uncouth phrases, which made a show of some rare discoveries, or deep mysteries, whereas indeed they were empty of any thing solid, or tending to edification.
They allure: as with a bait; a metaphor taken from the manner of taking fish.
Through the lusts of the flesh; to which they give liberty, as a bait to draw men after them.
Through much wantonness; this explains the former, and shows what lusts they indulge men in, viz. wantonness and uncleanness.
Those that were clean escaped; truly, or really, which seems the better reading than that in the margin: and this is said of them:
1. In respect of the profession they made of a real conversion.
2. In respect of the assent they gave to the word by which they were called.
3. In respect of the change that appeared in their outward conversation.
From them who live in error: whether the error of Judaism, or heathenism, wherein they had been formerly involved, and others still were. This might be the case of some in whom yet there was no saving change wrought; that they might be brought off from these more foul ways of sin and error in which they had walked and yet might afterward return to the same, or as bad, Matthew 12:43 13:21.
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; liberty for their lusts, and so from the yoke of the Divine law. They abused the name of Christian liberty, and extended it to licentiousness.
They themselves are the servants of corruption; under the power and dominion of sin.
For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage: he alludes to the law of war, according to which, he that is overcome, and taken captive by his enemy, becomes his servant. These false teachers, that talked so much of Christian liberty, yet being overcome by their own lusts, and kept under by them, were the worst of slaves.
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; those more gross wickednesses in which most of the world still lieth, 1Jo 5:19.
Through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; such a knowledge of Christ as brings with it an outward reformation of life, though it do not purify the heart. For that the apostle doth not here speak of those that were rooted in Christ by a saving and heart purifying faith, appears by 2 Peter 2:14, where he calls them
They are again entangled therein, and overcome; return to their old sins, yield up themselves to them, and continue in them.
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.It had been better for them not to have known; their sin had been less if they had not known the truth, but now they sin against knowledge, and therein their apostacy is much worse than their ignorance would have been.
The way of righteousness; the way of obtaining righteousness by Christ, and of living godly in Christ, 2 Timothy 3:12, prescribed in the gospel; the same which is called the right way, 2 Peter 2:15, and the way of truth, 2 Peter 2:2.
The holy commandment; the same in other words. It is called holy, not only as proceeding from God, who is holy, but as teaching nothing but what is holy, and being the means God useth in making men holy, and as being opposed to the pollutions of the world before mentioned.
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.But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb: this is added, to prevent the scandal that might arise from their apostacy; q.d. It is not to be wondered at that they are again entangled in and overcome by their former pollutions, when there never was a thorough change wrought in their hearts. Dogs and swine (beasts unclean by the law) they still were, under the greatest appearances of reformation, and such they now show themselves to be by their vile apostacy.
The dog is turned to his own vomit again: as dogs vomit up what is burdensome to them, but, still being dogs, and not having changed their natures by easing their stomachs, lick up their own vomit again; so these, under a fit of conviction, through the power of the word, disgorge those sins which burdened their consciences, but having thereby gotten some ease, and their old nature and love to their former lusts still remaining, they again return to the same sins they had for a time forsaken.
The sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire: as swine, that naturally love the dirt and mire, if sometimes they be washed from it, yet, still retaining their former disposition, return again to it; so likewise these here mentioned, however they may be washed from the pollutions of the world, and by the preaching of the gospel brought off from their former ways of sin, and brought into a profession of holiness, yet, still retaining their old nature and corrupt dispositions, they are easily prevailed over by them, and so relapse into their former abominations.