1 Enoch 83-90 follows a long section of the astronomical speculations, although it is related to chapter 82 as a continuation of Enoch’s dialogue with Methuselah (83:1). These two chapters serve as an introduction to the Animal Apocalypse, a slightly veiled allegory of history up to the Maccabean period.
Enoch received these visions before he was married and still living with his grandfather, Mahalalel (Gen 5:12-17). After Enoch receives a vision the coming flood (83:2b-2), he relates his dream to his grandfather Mahalalel. This is Enoch’s first vision, and like Samuel and Eli (1 Sam 3), Enoch requires guidance from his grandfather to understand the vision.
Within the world of the story, the vision refers to the coming flood. But the description goes beyond Genesis 7 to convey “a picture of cosmic collapse and annihilation” (Nickelsburg, 1 Enoch, 349). As is typical in the Enoch literature, the imagery of the flood is conflated with the ultimate judgment of God.
1 Enoch 83:3-4 I saw in a vision the sky being hurled down and snatched and falling upon the earth. When it fell upon the earth, I saw the earth being swallowed up into the great abyss, the mountains being suspended upon mountains, the hills sinking down upon the hills, and tall trees being uprooted and thrown and sinking into the deep abyss. (OTP 1:61)
Mahalalel explains that sin is so great the earth must “sink into the abyss” (primordial chaos), but there is a possibility God would allow a remnant to remain on the earth. He therefore counsels Enoch to pray for the earth (83:6-9), which he does (83:10-11, 84:1-6). Enoch first praises God and acknowledges his greatness (83:2-4). These two verses resonate with many texts in the Hebrew Bible, although it is remarkably similar to Daniel 2:37-38 (describing Nebuchadnezzar) and Daniel 7:14 (describing the rule of the Son of Man), but also Isaiah 66:1-2 (heavens as God’s throne, the earth as his footstool).
1 Enoch 84:2 Blessed are you, O Great King, you are mighty in your greatness, O Lord of all the creation of heaven, King of kings and God of the whole world. Your authority and kingdom abide forever and ever; and your dominion throughout all the generations of generations; All the heavens are your throne forever, and the whole earth is your footstool forever and ever and ever.
These intertextual allusions to canonical books (as well as using the form of a biblical Psalm) create the image of a biblical prophet interceding on behalf of a people about to face the justice and wrath of God. Like Moses, David or Daniel, Enoch confesses the people of his generation ought to be destroyed for their wickedness (although he blames the angels, 84:5).
Enoch’s request on behalf of the present generation. Even if the angels must come under judgment, Enoch prays that God would allow a remnant of humans survive the devastation. He asks God to raise up the righteous and true flesh “as a seed-bearing plant” (84:6). Within the world of the story of 1 Enoch, this refers to the world after the flood and the family of Noah as a righteous family to repopulate the world. Noah is called a “preserved seed” (1 Enoch 10:3; 65:12; 67:3).
But the image of a plant which survives the coming judgment also resonates with the righteous remnant in Isaiah 6:13. For the writer of this apocalypse, the final judgment is still in the future. The prayer is that God will once again preserve the righteous remnant in that coming apocalyptic judgment.
It is very difficult to date with certainty any section of 1 Enoch, but if these two chapters were originally an introduction to the Animal Apocalypse (which follows in 1 Enoch 85-90), then the historical context of the righteous remnant in the present generation the Maccabean revolt and the righteous ones who remained faithful to the Law when tested by Hellenists.
But is this prophetic speech created to support the Hasmoneans (as the righteous ones struggling against the Greeks), or the Hasadim as they struggled against the later Hasmonean kings? Defining the “righteous remnant” seems to be a regular feature of apocalyptic literature (in the ancient world or today).