The Fallen Angels – 1 Enoch 6-8

The Book of the Watchers describes the fallen angels (1 Enoch 6-8).  In the biblical story of the Nephilim, the sons of God saw the daughters of men were beautiful so they married them and had children (Gen 6:1-4). These children were called the Nephilim, the “mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” In Genesis, the story shows how far the Nephilim, giants in genesiswickedness of humans had become: humans interacted sexually with spiritual beings. No details are given on how this might be possible, but the next verse in Genesis says “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This brief story is tantalizing: who are these “sons of God” and what were the Nephilim? 1 Enoch offers an expansion of this biblical story in chapters 6-11. Are the Nephilim fallen angels?

In 1 Enoch, the sons of God are the “sons of heaven,” angelic beings led by Shemihazah. The name Shemihazah (שׁמיחזה, šemîḥăzāh) means “My name has seen” and is sometimes vocalized as Semyaz of Semyaza (Nickelsburg, 179). “Name” refers to God, so the name refers to constantly watching God. This is ironic since God will see this rebellion and render judgment on the Shemihazah. Some readers want to find some reference to Satan as the leader of fallen angels in the Book of Enoch. As the story progresses, however, Azazel emerges as the ringleader (but later Enoch will intercede on behalf of Azazel). This is an example of how foolish (and impossible) it is to project modern Christian angelology on 1 Enoch. Azazel is not the modern version of Satan at all!

The two hundred angels take an oath to descend to Mt Hermon, find women to marry and have children with them. 1 Enoch 6:7-8 lists the names of the leaders of these angels. Most have names with some reference to God (Remashel, “evening of God” or Kokabel, “star of God” ). The most interesting of these names is Dan’el, a name associated with the Ugaritic literature and often offered as an explanation of the legendary character of Daniel.

This is Fake.

This is Fake.

In chapters 7 and 8 the angels make good on their oath and take women as wives. They teach humans “magical medicines, incantations, the cutting of roots and about plants.” The origin of folk-medicine is therefore ascribed to these angelic beings. The children of the angels are giants standing three hundred cubits (an improbable 450 feet tall!) These giants eat so much food the humans cannot feed them anymore. The giants proceed to eat humans as well as all other kinds of animals.

The text notes especially that they drank the blood of animals, “sinning against them.” In the biblical flood story, the Noahic covenant includes a command about consuming blood. 1 Enoch 7-8 is a reflection upon this command which was probably given because the antediluvian world did in fact consume blood.

In addition to teaching humans in interpret a wide range of signs, they teach humans medicinal magic. The angel Azazel teaches humans metal-working, including making of ornaments and weapon making. Azazel also teaches them to make eye-shadow and other physical ornamentation. This may be a polemic against pagan practice of using make up in their religious ceremonies. Other angels teach the humans how to track the stars (astrology and divination) and the signs of the moon. These angels are responsible for teaching humans all sorts of sinful practices. Humanity cries out as a result of this oppression, a cry which “goes up to heaven.”

This detailed expansion of the biblical stories blames wicked angelic beings for revealing mysteries to humans which will result in sin. It is not Adam’s rebellion in the garden that is responsible for human evil, but wicked angelic beings who do not remain in their appointed place. What is more, the great Flood is not the result of human sin, but the rebellion of these angelic beings.

This is a significant re-writing of the worldview of Genesis 6. What is the author’s motivation for this shift of blame?

19 thoughts on “The Fallen Angels – 1 Enoch 6-8

  1. “What is more, the great Flood is not the result of human sin, but the rebellion of these angelic beings.” Not true. The choice for people to follow the fallen ones is still the sin of man.

  2. I have always been curious about the section in Genesis 6 about the Nephilim. It seems like a very odd section, and many other Christians are probably confused about it just like I am. In that light, it is very interesting that 1 Enoch further addresses this passage and elaborates on it. Additionally, remembering that 1 Enoch is apocalyptic literature and that Second Temple Period apocalyptic literature is hopeful, this story, though sad and full of sin and wickedness is hopeful that God’s judgment will come and remove the wickedness. The wickedness, in the story presented by this book, comes from what the angles teach the humans to do. Chapters 7-8 talk about what types of things the angels taught them. Some of the things, such as medicine and the properties of roots and plants (1 Enoch 7:2) do not sound like they would be bad things to teach the people, but in some way, they were full of wickedness. Other aspects, such as the incantations (1 Enoch 8:3), do not sound like good things to teach the people. 1 Enoch 8:3-4 says, “ Asder’el taught the course of the moon as well as the deception of man.” I wonder if this statement means that this angel taught men how to deceive, lie, and steal from other people? That also seems like a mistake to teach people that, with some of these, it is easy to see why 1 Enoch would say the angels are responsible for teaching humans sinful practices. I am also confused by the beginning of the story, in 1 Enoch 6:3-4, one angel expresses fear that the others will not keep this suggestion, he says, “I fear that perhaps you will not consent that this deed should be done, and I alone will become (responsible) for this great sin.” Why does this angel fear that the others would not agree that the deed should be done and gets them all to swear an oath that they will do it. I do not understand the purpose of the oath, and why this angel wanted to ensure the deed should be done.

  3. The supernatural origins of life and the supernatural explanations for the rise of evil are subjects that make many Christians uneasy. Most casual Christians accept the notion that the serpent in Eden was a literal snake and that the woman had no incredulity about their conversation. That the serpent was a divine being, and perhaps a member of the divine counsel isn’t even considered. That G-d wanted to create a flesh-and-blood human family to populate the earth, and that led to a rebellion that conspired to tempt man into sin and thereby have G-d’s justice annihilate the work of His hands…. partially explains Genesis 3:15 and the war between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.

    I reference the ESV and read Genesis 6:1-5, Deuteronomy 32:8, 1 Kings 22:19-23, 1 Samuel 28:13-14, Psalm 82, Jude 1:6-7, 2 Peter 2:1-10. I also remember the writers were NOT writing to us but to contemporaries who clearly understood the implications. Too many modernists in the church regard these scriptures as WEIRD…. too weird to be taken literally, let alone to discuss seriously.

    But, if it’s WEIRD, it’s IMPORTANT.

    So, lots of people translating the scriptures–including the KJV translators–feel compelled to put their own (modernist) twist on the passages…. Deuteronomy 32:8 is a case in point. In Hebrew, the passage references G-d’s divorce from humankind at the Tower at Babel. He divides the people into nations and places them under the protectorate of the created beings of His divine council–dividing humanity according to the number of the sons of G-d (benei ha’elohim). But, later the divine beings turned evil (Psalm 82) and demanded human worship. (Ephesians 6:12)

    Unfortunately, the KJV translators replaced benei ha’elohim with children of Israel, DESPITE the fact that Babel occurred before G-d chose Abraham to create a people that would belong to Him alone…. which explains why humans are regarded as unfaithful spouses always seeking after other gods.

    G-d is supernatural. the Sons of G-d are supernatural–including the dead. 1 Samuel 28:13-14 refers to the deceased prophet as a god coming up out of the earth after being summoned by the witch at Endor.

    AND, we who are flesh and blood are also supernatural, but upon death we too become spirit beings occupying the supernatural world as the sons of G-d.

    But, people can believe whatever they wish regarding our origins and the Great Rebellion. Our salvation depends alone on our following Yeshua Ha’Maschiach, our Passover Lamb.

  4. Is a person engaging in sin by merely being exposed to it? Can a person unsee or unknown something after seeing and knowing?

    • Not sure why this question is on a 1 Enoch post…but in my view temptation and sin are two different (although related) things. For example, Jesus was tempted by Satan but did not sin. So one can encounter a tempting situation, and not yield to that temptation. An Example: If I struggle with alcohol abuse, I can go into a bar or restaurant and see people drinking, but not drink myself. I might be tempted, but I can refuse and not go on a bender.

      On the other hand, it might be very difficult to be around things that tempt without sinning, especially if we follow Jesus’s lead and describe thoughts as sinful.

  5. This is very true. God told Jeremiah, I have know you from before you was form in your mother’s womb. So everything that is written here is adding up.

  6. The fallen angels had already sinned against God, so yes, what was their concern? We read that they bore “great giants”, the “sin” they committed against birds,beasts, fish and reptiles was cannibalism. When they wiped out the animals and humans around them, they ate each other as their fathers were forced to “watch”, hence “the watchers” and the curse from that oath- what happend to one happened to all.
    Hope this helps

  7. it should have been cannon but those in charge like the Evil Pharisees Sadducee and other didn’t want those books in. They taught man stuff they didn’t want us to know. It was wickedness on their part to not to teach us or let it be Cannon. They and by they I mean the books that were part of the Dead sea scrolls, but they explain stuff that the Bible leaves out. Jubilees goes into more detail of where all the other people came from instead of just letting us guess. No I know it tells us Adam and Eve but it doesn’t say all the other people like Cain taking his sister and her name. and some detail in the Giants that Enoch doesn’t go into. Jubilees makes it clear that Animals did talk and not what science says is false but they did. Plus it makes it appear that Adam and Eve had kids outside of Eden. For it says Adam had to wait 40 days to enter Eden after a male child and Eve had to wait 80 days after a female child. meaning after they had or gave birth to male and or female. Not for just being a male or female as some might interpret. Asher goes into a lot of other detail about Enoch and also explains Abraham and how he came to be instead of just being there. Their wickedness thought they could control us better if they didn’t let those books be Cannon. Enoch says the fallen angels taught us secrets from heaven. Metallurgy, war etc… God said those were useless, and wasn’t taught all the secrets yet for they were yet young angels or watchers. We weren’t to know those things yet but Enoch does say we were striving to learn so we would have we were just not ready for that knowledge yet.

  8. To play devil’s advocate, perhaps the author of Enoch is not rewriting the Genesis 6 story. Though the fallen angels tempt humanity with these new sinful activities, the onus is still on mankind to resist those temptations. Blame certainly falls on the tempter, but there is still blame on the tempted for giving in. In the same way, the serpent tempted Eve in the garden, and Eve subsequently tempted (in a less deceptive way) Adam. Yet, the blame still rests on Adam for giving in to the temptation, and Paul writes in Romans 5 that it was because of Adam’s compliance that sin – and thus death – came to all men. So perhaps the author was not trying to argue for the true innocence of man, but instead was portraying these fallen angels much in the same way as the serpent.

    • I suppose humans should “resist those temptations” – but 1 Enoch does not really consider them temptations, but hidden knowledge that the bad watchers were not supposed to reveal to the humans. The watchers are bad because they left their divinely appointed place and role and revealed secret wisdom to humans.

  9. so God not only unleashed the flood to eradicate the evil of humanity but also to eradicate the abominations His sons brought forth

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