The Book of Watchers – 1 Enoch 1-5

1 Enoch 1-5 is an introduction to the Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 6-36). Nickelsburg  argues the superscription to the book is an allusion to Deuteronomy 33:1 and he translates it to make the allusion more clear.

Deuteronomy 33:1 This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the people of Israel before his death.

1 Enoch 1:1 The words of the blessing with which Enoch blessed the righteous chosen who will be present on the day of tribulation, to remove all the enemies; and the righteous will be saved.

Chapter 1 describes a “day of tribulation” (יום צרה, εἰς ἡμέραν ἀνάγκης) during which the ungodly will be destroyed and a great cataclysm. The chapter is rich with apocalyptic language here: mountains and high places falling down, earth split asunder, etc. This tribulation is a time when the Enoch-Apocalypse“God of the universe” will come forth from his dwelling and “march upon Sinai and appear in his camp” (1:4). This awesome event will cause all to tremble, even the Watchers, the angelic beings who constantly observe the actions of God.

This arrival of God is for judgment, as 1:9 states: “He will come with ten millions of his holy ones in order to execute judgment upon all.” This verse is used by Jude in the New Testament, but here in 1 Enoch it is the theme for the whole Book of the Watchers. With respect to the plot of the book, the judgment is the coming Flood, but it is clear the writer of 1 Enoch is thinking beyond the Flood to a future judgment of God on the wicked in his own day. Like Noah and his family, the elect of the writer’s day will be preserved from this coming judgment: “to the righteous he will grant peace.” The phrase “the elect” will be repeated throughout the Book of Watchers.

Chapters 2-5 are speculative wisdom not unlike Job 38-41. The writer invites his readers to examine the orderliness of creation and observe that God does not change. The natural order is a progression of seasons which follow very precise patterns and laws. In 5:4 he turns this into a condemnation of the wicked: “But as for you, you have long transgressed and spoken slanderously….” Verse seven then turns to the righteous, who will have “joy and peace in the earth.”

After the judgment, wisdom will be given to the elect who will all live and not return again to sin, being preserved from the plagues and wrath (5:7). This is not necessarily immortality since verse eight says they will live out the complete designated number of their days. Verse 9, however says their lives and happiness will “increase forever.” Isaac says some manuscripts modify this to “and their lives shall be increased in peace,” taking away some of the ambiguity OTP, 1:15 note v, on verse 10). Nickelsburg agrees with this translation.

Like many prophetic books, 1 Enoch begins by sounding several key themes. First, judgment is coming on the wicked. Like the Flood, this judgment will be a cataclysm which destroys all. But second, the elect will be preserved from this coming tribulation. Like Noah’s family, Enoch’s community may suffer, but they will be ultimately preserved and vindicated when the final judgment arrives. These are themes found in many apocalyptic texts; in the New Testament, Revelation promises judgment is coming and the preservation of the elect through that time of persecution.

15 thoughts on “The Book of Watchers – 1 Enoch 1-5

  1. I have a question for believers in an “inspired, authoritative” canon of the Bible, in which non-canonical books have virtually no authority (tho sometimes used for backgrounds, etc.): Can you point to any clear, substantial criteria by which those among them who are actual biblical scholars believe they can support the special, privileged status of some (canonized) books over others (non-canonized)?

    You know this, but for other possible readers, I have formal (originally conservative) theological training and continue, for decades, to read biblical scholarship, theology, history, etc. So I’m aware of the basic traditional case and lit re. canonization in general, including FF Bruce and those, scholarship-wise, qualified to write on it. Related to my question and pertinent to your posts on apocalyptic lit recently, would be this question: “How do traditional/orthodox theologians find legitimate discrimination between the non-canonical apoc. lit and the incorporation of just portions of it (or similar concepts to it) in Daniel, the Synoptics and Revelation particularly?”

    BTW, tho far from well up on Roman Catholic history and theology, it seems the inclusion of some non-canonical apoc. lit, etc., as “apocrypha” in the larger Bible of Catholicism illustrates the difficulties, historically and still to this day, of finding clear criteria for separating “authoritative” works.

    • By the way, I might add that a few years ago I did hear Richard Bauckham, a supposed “heavyweight” on such matters, discuss the non-canonical books of the NT era. While it was to a general M.Div. (not PhD) audience, I heard nothing of substance offered by him, tho I’d allow for both audience and shortness of time. I found his presentation quite superficial, without even a nod, that I recall, to greater complexity he lacked time to deal with.

  2. How is Michael a fallen angel he is still in rev 12-7. Is google reading the bible at all this is false information

    • Hello David, not sure what your question is since this article does not concern Michael, the archangel, mentioned in Revelation 12:7. The original article is about the non-biblical Jewish text known as First Enoch, which has a unique view of fallen angels and their role of bringing sin into the world.

      Google has nothing to do with this site, Google is a search engine that might bring you here. I am responsible for the content (and it is not false info!)

  3. This is a very interesting blog you have written about 1 Enoch. I enjoy reading about apocalyptic literature. This reminds me of the movies that are written about the apocalypse. They all share something in common, usually. There seems to be a devastating event that is taking place, some set of people who are ordinary or not that have a crazy way of saving the earth and then everyone else. I am curious as to why apocalyptic movies and literature attracts such a large crowd. Is it the relief that in the end there are some that are saved. It would be a boring movie or book if everyone died. Is it the intensity of the plot because we are all hoping that these movies don’t happen in real life. Who knows. But I am glad that we have a faithful God who is going to save us no matter what happens in the end. I like how the chapters 2-5 of 1 Enoch show the reader that God does not change. He is who he is and will never change. God is also a God of judgment and will Judge the earth fairly. We all eagerly wait for Jesus to return in hope that in him we will be saved from the sin of this earth and brought back to our heavenly home.

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