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Jude 1:11 (KJV): Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.

Jude 1:11 (NIV): Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion.

Who is “them” mentioned above and what is the way of Cain, the error of Balaam and the gainsaying of Korah?

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NIV: "Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam's error; they have been destroyed in Korah's rebellion." "Core" seems to be only in the KJV, all other modern translations say "Korah". –  curiousdannii Oct 11 '13 at 14:05
    
The question in the title differs from the question in the body. Are you asking who "they" are? –  Narnian Oct 11 '13 at 14:22
    
@Narnian both, your answer to "they" is great! –  Rick Oct 11 '13 at 14:24

3 Answers 3

This isn't an arbitrary grouping of Old Testament sinners, but instead a group of three men who each had the particular error of trying to corrupt the rightful worship of God. Good intentions are not enough when it comes to worship - we must not go against his instructions.

In the case of Cain, the implication is that God did not accept his sacrifice because he did not offer the best of his crops. (Genesis 4:3-5)

In the case of Balaam, Numbers 34:16 says that he not only had intended to curse the Israelites, but that he had advised the Moabites into seducing the Israelites and getting them to worship Baal, which is told in Numbers 25.

In the case of Korah, Moses and Korah actually had a worship contest! (Numbers 16) Korah was a Levite, but he wasn't one of the priests, and so he wasn't allowed to do all that Aaron was. This made him jealous, but God confirmed that only those he said could present incense at the tabernacle.

We could add to the list Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, who in Leviticus 10 burned "strange fire" at the tabernacle and were burned up by God. Creativity was a dangerous thing when it came to worshipping God at the tabernacle!

Jude 10 says that these people "do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction." We must be careful not to follow our instincts blindly, but check them against the revealed word of God.

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Hebrew 11:4 says: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain". How did Cain transgress faith? –  Rick Oct 11 '13 at 15:05

"Them" refers to the people mentioned in verse 4 of Jude:

For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 4 NASB

So, "they" are the proverbial "wolves in sheep's clothing"--people who were among the believers, but were not believers. They were "among" them, but they were not "of" them.

"The Way of Cain" refers to Genesis 4:16:

Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.

Balaam tried to go against the will of God (Numbers 22), and Korah opposed God's servant Moses (Numbers 16).

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The book of Jude is primarily a book of do's and don'ts for the Christian.

The three you refer to are cited along with the Angelic rebellion as instances of attempts to usurp the Authority of God.

You may find that if you read these instances in the old testament, and then consider the complete narrative of Jude it will be easier to understand.

Also if you are interested there are several free Bible study programs available for download on the internet, I have found two which I recommend highly; The Word @ theword.org, and e-sword @ e-sword.net.

There are multiple Bible translations, commentaries, dictionaries, and other helps also downloadable for free on thee sites.

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Why do you call Judge a book of do's and don'ts? More than half of it is a warning against false teachers. –  curiousdannii Oct 11 '13 at 15:40
    
@curiousdannii I am assuming that you are referring to the Book of Jude and not the book of Judges. In the book of Jude after listing those who sinned so greatly against God beginning in verse 20 he exhorts the reader to not follow them, but to rely on Jesus as a guide –  Bye Oct 11 '13 at 23:52
    
Oops yes I meant Jude. I don't disagree that he does give some instructions at the end, but "primarily" seems to go too far. That would be a fair description of James I think, but not Jude. –  curiousdannii Oct 12 '13 at 1:29

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