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?

8 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.

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