Who Were Jannes and Jambres in the Bible?


The Bible contains a wealth of stories and characters that teach valuable lessons, inspire faith, and provide guidance for living a righteous life. However, not all biblical characters are explicitly named in the text. Jannes and Jambres are two such figures who, despite not being directly mentioned in the original Hebrew scriptures, have become the subjects of considerable curiosity and speculation among believers. Their story is intrinsically tied to one of the most well-known events in the Bible: the conflict between Moses and Pharaoh’s magicians during the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.

In this blog post, we will delve into the history and context of Jannes and Jambres, examining their roles and significance in the Bible, as well as exploring some of the extra-biblical sources that mention them. By shedding light on these enigmatic figures, we hope to gain a deeper understanding of the biblical narrative and its implications for our own lives as Christians.

Who Were Jannes and Jambres in the Bible?

The Exodus Story and the Role of Jannes and Jambres

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Jannes and Jambres are most closely associated with the story of the exodus, as recounted in the book of Exodus. In this narrative, Moses, the leader of the Israelites, confronts the Pharaoh of Egypt and demands that he let the Israelite people go. In response to Pharaoh’s refusal, God sends a series of devastating plagues upon Egypt.

During this confrontation, Pharaoh’s magicians and wise men, whom many scholars believe to be Jannes and Jambres, are called upon to replicate the miraculous signs performed by Moses and his brother Aaron. According to Exodus 7:11-12 (NKJV), “Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.” This passage implies that the magicians were able to perform feats of magic that, at least initially, appeared to be on par with the divine power displayed by Moses and Aaron.

Biblical Mentions of Jannes and Jambres

While the names Jannes and Jambres are not explicitly mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, they do appear in the New Testament. In his second letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul references these two individuals as examples of people who oppose the truth and stand in the way of the spread of the gospel. 2 Timothy 3:8 (NKJV) states, “Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith.”

This verse not only identifies Jannes and Jambres as the magicians who opposed Moses but also likens them to those who, in Paul’s time, were resisting the message of the gospel. This connection highlights the ongoing battle between the forces of God and those who seek to undermine His truth.

Extra-Biblical Sources

Apart from the mention in 2 Timothy, much of the information about Jannes and Jambres comes from extra-biblical sources, such as Jewish and early Christian writings. These sources provide additional details about their lives and roles in the story of the exodus.

In the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan, an Aramaic translation and paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible, Jannes and Jambres are described as the sons of Balaam, a pagan prophet who opposed the Israelites in the book of Numbers. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, in his work “Antiquities of the Jews,” also refers to Jannes and Jambres as famous Egyptian magicians who contested with Moses and tried to discredit the power of God through their magical arts.

Early Christian writers, such as Origen and Eusebius, further expand upon the story of Jannes and Jambres. In his work “Against Celsus,” Origen refers to a lost book called “The Book of Jannes and Jambres,” which supposedly contained a dialogue between these two magicians and Moses. Similarly, in his “Ecclesiastical History,” Eusebius cites the existence of an apocryphal work titled “The Penitence of Jannes and Jambres,” which detailed their conversion to the worship of the true God.

While these extra-biblical sources provide intriguing insights into the lives and actions of Jannes and Jambres, it is essential to remember that they should be approached with caution, as their historical accuracy and theological reliability may not be on par with the canonical scriptures.

The Significance of Jannes and Jambres in the Christian Faith

The story of Jannes and Jambres serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle between God’s truth and the forces that seek to undermine it. As Christians, we are called to discern and reject false teachings and practices that may appear convincing on the surface but ultimately lead us away from the truth.

Furthermore, the example of Jannes and Jambres highlights the importance of humility and submission to God’s will. As powerful magicians, they may have initially believed that they could challenge the divine authority of Moses and Aaron. However, their eventual defeat and the overwhelming power of God’s plagues demonstrated that no human skill or knowledge can stand against the Almighty.


In conclusion, while Jannes and Jambres may not be directly named in the Hebrew scriptures, their story is still deeply intertwined with the biblical narrative of the exodus. Their opposition to Moses, as well as their subsequent mention in the New Testament, serve as a cautionary tale for all Christians to remain vigilant in the face of deception and to always place our trust in the Lord.

As we continue to study the Bible and grow in our understanding of God’s word, let us remember the lessons from Jannes and Jambres: to be discerning in our beliefs, to resist the temptation of false teachings, and to humbly submit ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. By doing so, we can become effective witnesses for Christ and ensure that our faith remains steadfast, even in the face of adversity.

May the story of Jannes and Jambres inspire us to remain faithful to God and His truth, as we continue our journey as Christians in an ever-changing world.

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