Revelation 2:14: Christ's Disapproval of the Church's Failure to Discipline

Verse 14:[1] But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of (Num. 24:14; 25:1; 31:16; 2 Pet. 2:15; Jude 11) Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, (Rev. 2:20; Acts 15:29; 1 Cor. 8:9, 10; 10:19, 20) to eat things sacrificed unto idols, (1 Cor. 6:13, etc.) and to commit fornication.



[But I have against thee a few things] Namely, things about to be said (Ribera); or, which I would sett before thee, and which I would have emended by thee (Menochius). See Revelation 2:4 (Grotius). He attributes the errors of the people to the Bishop (Gagnæus).


But I have a few things against thee; though I have much to commend thee for, yet I have some things to accuse thee of, and to complain of thee for.


[The doctrine of Balaam] Thus He calls the doctrine of the Nicolaitans (Menochius), which was almost equivalent to that (Durham); for both permitted them to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to consort with prostitutes promiscuously (Pareus, thus Ribera, Menochius, Durham, Cluverus, Gagnæus). See Numbers 23-25 (Erasmus, Junius, Piscator, etc.).


Because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam: by the doctrine of Balaam, he means the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, (as he expounds himself, verse 15,) which was like the doctrine of Balaam.


[Who taught Balac (King of the Midianites, Numbers 22 and following: But that was is narrated in Numbers 25 was done by the counsel of Balaam, is apparent out of the tradition always among the Hebrews, as we said on Numbers 25; Micah 6:5; 2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11: And that very thing is able to be gathered out of Numbers 31:16 [Grotius]) to cast a stumblingblock (or, to throw an obstacle [Beza, Piscator], that is, to send the women who by their appearance would be for a stumblingblock [Ribera, Menochius]) before the children of Israel] That is, To plot the ruin of the Israelites, by making God angry with them. Thus σκάνδαλον/stumblingblock is taken in Joshua 23:13;[2] 1 Samuel 18:21;[3] Psalm 69:22;[4] 106:36.[5] Ἐνώπιον/before with the Genitive here[6] means as much as the Dative. Thus לִפְנֵי/before often in the writings of the Hebrews. In a manuscript it is, ὃς ἐδίδαξε τῷ Βάλακ βασιλεῖ σκάνδαλον, who taught for Balac the king a stumblingblock,[7] that is, he taught the Midianites unto the advantage and according to the requests of Balac the King (Grotius).



[To eat, etc., φαγεῖν, etc.] To eat things sacrificed to idols (or, offered to images [Beza, Piscator], namely, by the Moabitish and Midianite women [Piscator]: Not only did those Israelites eat of things offered, but they also presented worship to the gods of the Midianites: However, here Christ considered it sufficient reference what those Israelites had in common with the Nicolaitans [Grotius]) and to fornicate (Montanus). With the women mentioned (Piscator, thus Drusius), who were enticing them to fornication, upon the condition that they would previously venerate Chemosh, the idol of Moab,[8] or at least eat flesh offered to it. Now, this was the counsel of Balaam, that the Hebrews might be deserted and punished by God, offended by such sins, and thus be overcome by the Moabites (Tirinus).


Who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel; that Balaam of whom we read, Numbers 24; 25, who being sent for by Balak the king of Moab to come and curse Israel, and finding that God restrained him, and turned his tongue from cursing them to pronounce blessings to them, instructed Balak at last how to lay a stumblingblock before them, to make them to fall, namely, to set the Moabitish women to tempt them to commit uncleanness with them, and so to feast with them in their idols’ temples, and eat of their meat first offered unto their idols.

[1] Greek: ἀλλ᾽ ἔχω κατὰ σοῦ ὀλίγα, ὅτι ἔχεις ἐκεῖ κρατοῦντας τὴν διδαχὴν Βαλαάμ, ὃς ἐδίδασκε τὸν Βαλὰκ βαλεῖν σκάνδαλον ἐνώπιον τῶν υἱῶν Ἰσραήλ, φαγεῖν εἰδωλόθυτα καὶ πορνεῦσαι.


[2] Joshua 23:13a: “Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps (לְפַ֣ח וּלְמוֹקֵ֗שׁ; εἰς παγίδας καὶ εἰς σκάνδαλα, in the Septuagint) unto you (לָכֶם; ὑμῖν, in the Dative)…”


[3] 1 Samuel 18:21a: “And Saul said, I will give him her, that she may be a snare (לְמוֹקֵ֔שׁ; εἰς σκάνδαλον, in the Septuagint) to him (לוֹ; αὐτῷ, in the Dative), and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him…”


[4] Psalm 69:22: “Let their table become a snare (לְפָח; εἰς παγίδα, in the Septuagint) before them (לִפְנֵיהֶם; ἐνώπιον αὐτῶν, in the Septuagint): and that which should have been for their welfare, let it become a trap (לְמוֹקֵשׁ; εἰς σκάνδαλον, in the Septuagint).”


[5] Psalm 106:36: “And they served their idols: which were a snare (לְמוֹקֵשׁ; εἰς σκάνδαλον, in the Septuagint) unto them (לָהֶם; αὐτοῖς, in the Dative).”


[6] Greek: ἐνώπιον τῶν υἱῶν.


[7] Codex Alexandrinus.


[8] See Numbers 21:29.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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