Although the names Jannes and Jambres are not found in the OT, they appear in the NT in 2 Timothy 3:8 where it says, “Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith.” Here, Paul is illustrating that as Jannes and Jambres obstructed the communication of truth, so do false religious teachers. And history confirms Paul’s prediction that the false teachings of men will be exposed and rejected at some point, even by those most deceived.
Jannes and Jambres are the Egyptian magicians who contended with Moses and Aaron in a magician’s context at Pharaoh’s court as described in Exodus chapter 7. “Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs” (verses 10-12). Later, these same sorcerers duplicated the changing of water into blood (Exodus 7:22) and the production of frogs (8:7). However, the sorcerers could not duplicate the other plagues (8:19).
Jannes and Jambres are mentioned in Jewish Targum (Vol. V, pp. 95, 96). According to rabbinical tradition they were the two magicians at the court of Pharaoh who predicted the birth of Moses, “the destroyer of the land of Egypt,” thereby causing the cruel edicts of Pharaoh (Soṭah 11a; Sanh. 106a). These told Moses when he performed his miracles with the water and the rod: “Dost thou wish to introduce magic into Egypt, the native land of the magic art?” (Men. 85a).
Also, according to traditionis of the Midrash Yelammedenu, Ki Tissa (Ex. xxxii.), Jannes and Janbres were among “the mixed multitude that went up with Israel from Egypt” (Ex. 12. 38) and helped the Isralites to make and worship the golden calf. And they were the “two youths” that accompanied Balaam on his travels when commissioned to curse Israel (Targ. i. to Num. xxii. 22). It should be added that traditions are not supported by the Word of God.
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