A Righteous Remnant in 1 Enoch 83-84

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-manusrcriptEnoch 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).

8 thoughts on “A Righteous Remnant in 1 Enoch 83-84

  1. Good point about defining the righteous remnant. I’ve long marveled at the unhistorical and unconnected concept many pastors and other Christians seem to have about a “righteous remnant” carrying authoritative revelation through many centuries of now-obscure Jewish history before Christ. And then they seem to extend the concept re. Christian orthodoxy, running something like this (despite the gaping gaps in continuity of thought or agreed-up authority): Jesus-12 Apostles-Paul-a few murky generations (Proto-orthodoxy)-Epiphanius and Eusebius/Constantine (increasing Orthodoxy as forced politically). Very “dodgy” as my Brit friends say.

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  2. The material in 1 Enoch is surely unique. Enoch’s prophetic visions seem to be very detailed and similar to other prophetic visions. I noticed that in Tomasino, he talks about how Enoch was someone who was a part of the apocalyptic literature during that time. Many Jewish writers seemed to be skeptical of his writings probably due to how intense they were. Tomasino also discussed how some of the the material in the pseudepigrapha seems to be so crazy that it must have been fabricated or made up. “One of the troubling aspects of pseudepigraphic literature is that it seems deliberately deceptive. Were the authors of these texts dishonest people, attempting to bamboozle the naive masses with their trickery?” (Tomasino, 257-258). If Enoch’s visions were authentic, I think that his speech was created in favor of the Hasmoneans.

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  3. I wonder if Enoch is talking about dark angels or another kind of angel when he says that the angels have to come under judgment. If he is not talking about dark angels specifically then I wonder what the angels did to deserve judgment. If the people in the world were full of sin, then why do the angels deserve judgment?

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  4. Like most apocalyptic literature, canonized or otherwise, the remaining few always seem to be the focus, as though they are the protagonists of the narrative. Even apocalyptic movies and shows today focus heavily on the preservation of those few people who remain on the earth and often includes their struggle for survival (Walking Dead, X-Men Apocalypse, Fallout, etc.). The difference in biblical and intertestamental literature is meant for the encouragement of a specific group of people, labeled by the author as “the righteous remnant.” Tomasino says that the Animal Apocalyspe section of 1 Enoch is a symbolic account of the Maccabean revolt (Tomasino, 30).

    As for the “righteous remnant”, apocalyptic literature is usually written by someone within the persecuted or minority group and motivated to encourage the others that their commitment to what they believe is not in vain, even when it opposed those around them. The Maccabeans believed in the “kingdom” God was setting up through them and His just judgment on the Hellenists and Greeks for their idolatry.

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  5. Enoch’s books sure do provide an entertaining read, and although because of timely discovery it’s not in the original canon, I find that it might not be just coincidental that it aligns some texts and themes with the original canonical books. We can learn a lot more from apocryphal books than Christians might assume that we can.

    In the context of which Enoch was written, it’s harder to say because of the prophetic elements that can be so widely interpreted. Enoch is often called “The Scribe of Judgment” for a reason, so perhaps his words — although debatably canon — can be linked to more situation than just one.

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  6. Christians today like to sometimes use the Bible almost like a “buffet”. We like to take certain promises or things that we like and we tend to leave or ignore the things that we do not like. I think that for the book of Enoch that some people could have taken these passages and applied them to the Hasmoneans as the righteous people struggling against the Greeks but I also think that later, some people could have viewed them as the Hasadim who were struggling under their Hasmonean ruler. Either way, just like Christian today with the Bible, I think that by reading these verses would have given either group encouragement and hope.

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