Jannes and Jambres appear only once, by name, in the Bible at 2 Timothy 3:8. While our knowledge is limited there some things that can be known and more importantly, some things that we should learn from them.
Jewish tradition taught that Jannes and Jambres were Pharaoh’s two magicians who stood against Moses in Exodus 7:11 ff. Moses was sent to demand the release of the Hebrews from Egyptian servitude. At the first meeting with Pharaoh Moses demonstrated his own bona fides by casting down his staff which became a snake. Two magicians countered with a trick that appeared equal to what Moses had done. But to the astonishment of all, Moses snake devoured the two belonging to the magicians. Tradition asserts that these two magicians were Jannes and Jambres.
While there is an extensive and often bizarre tradition about these two, there are some things that we can know for certain and most importantly, some things that we can learn from them.
Jannes and Jambres Are Examples of False Teachers
This portion of Scripture, at 2 Timothy 3:1-9, discusses the failing away that occurs in the last days. Paul has previously spoken of this heretical time in 1 Timothy 4:1. Paul talks of the same failing away in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12. In both cases false teaching will occur. While Paul looks for the coming of the “man of sin” in his Thessalonian letter, he is more general in the letter to Timothy. But false teaching is in the forefront.
Jannes and Jambres are caricatures of the people detailed in the second Timothy letter.
“For men shall be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, railers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, implacable, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof. From these also turn away” (2 Timothy 3:2-5).
As with all false teachers, these people love themselves more than God, appear righteous but deny the power and glory of the Lord.
Jannes and Jambres Failed Like All False Teachers
Jannes and Jambres gave the appearance of being godly. They opposed Moses and his message of truth. One ancient legion even calls them sons of Baal. They tried to demonstrate their other-worldly power through tricks but ultimately failed (Exodus 8:18-19).
False teachers today sweep millions, even billions, into the fold of deception and trickery. Yet, like these two, they will fail. Sadly, they will take untold souls into a Devil’s hell. Like Simon, their riches will perish with them apart from true repentance.
As Christians, we have the once for all revealed word of God (Jude 3) which sustains and supports all our needs (2 Corinthians 9:8). Through constant examination of the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) we can know the truth (John 8:32) and be prepared to discern truth from fable. As John wrote, let us test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1).