The Second Parable – 1 Enoch 45-49

The second parable in the Book of Similitudes (chapters 45-57) is a description of the eschatological judgment of the wicked and the vindication of the righteous. In many ways this is the most interesting section of the parables so I will break it up over three posts. The parable begins with a description of what happens to those who deny the name of the Lord of Spirits. Chapter 45 is a poetic introduction to the second section and describes “that day” when “my Elect One will sit on the seat of glory” (verse 3-4). Heaven and earth will be transformed and the righteous will dwell on the new earth.


Chapter 46 describes the Elect One and is one of the critical sections in First Enoch. He will have a head white like wool and have a countenance full of grace. This description is similar to the angel in Daniel 10, and the description of Jesus in Revelation 1. 1 Enoch likely stands in between these two descriptions; Revelation and 1 Enoch are dependent on Daniel 10. He will be born among human beings and have a face of a human, and is a “prototype of the Before-Time” (verse 3). He will be “that Son of Man” on whom righteousness dwells. This Son of Man will open up the hidden storehouses and is destined to be victorious before the Lord of Spirits (46:3). The Elect One will remove kings from their comfortable seats and strong ones from their thrones, loosen the reins of the strong and crush the teeth of sinners (46:4). The faces of the strong will be slapped and they will be filled with shame and have no hope (46:6).

This “reversal” may be important for the setting of the ministry of John the Baptist who describes the coming messianic age in terms of a “settling” of scores (Luke 2:7-19). Jesus’ extended condemnation of the Pharisees in Matthew 23 certainly has a “reversal” motif. Similarly, in Matthew 7:15-23 Jesus says that not all who are expected to be “in the kingdom” will be – even those who claim to do miracles in the Lord’s name (the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13). While 1 Enoch clearly has the nations in mind, Jesus’ idea of reversal seems to operate on a spiritual level. Those who think they are spiritually prepared for the kingdom may not be and may find themselves on the outside when the kingdom comes.

The prayer of the righteous is recorded in chapter 47. The prayers and blood of the righteous go up to heaven before the Lord of Spirits all of the time. Enoch sees the “Antecedent of Time” sitting on his throne, with the books opened before him (Dan 7:10, 12:1, Rev 20:12-15). As the righteous worship him, he prepares to judge. In Chapter 48:1-2 Enoch sees the fountains of wisdom. Earlier in chapter 42 wisdom was searching for a place to dwell, now wisdom is pictured as a fountain in heaven from to which all may come and drink.

After this, the Son of man receives a name in the presence of the Lord of Spirits (48:3), but it is a name which is given to him from before the beginning of time. This Son of Man appears, therefore, to pre-exist, since we read in 48:6 he was chosen before the creation of the world.  He will become a “staff for the righteous ones,” people may lean on him and not fall; he will be the hope of the sick and all who dwell on the earth will worship him (48:4-5, cf. 62:6, 9, 63, 90:37; Ps. 72:9, 11; Phil. 2:10.)  He will be the light of the Gentiles (Isa. 42:6, 49:6, cf. Luke 2:32) and the righteous will be saved by his name (48:7).

There are many obvious parallels to the presentation of Jesus as the Messiah in the New Testament. As I suggested earlier, caution is necessary because this section does not appear in Dead Sea Scrolls. This means there is always the possibility of Christian editing of this text to give additional support to a particular view of Jesus. On the other hand, even this section of 1 Enoch stands in a stream of messianic expectations beginning in the Hebrew Bible. It should come as no surprise a Jewish apocalyptic movement like the earliest Christians should be similar to the expectations of 1 Enoch.

All these writers were reading the same prophets from the Hebrew Bible and attempting to apply those prophecies to their own experiences.

The Book of Parables – 1 Enoch 37-44

After a brief genealogical introduction in chapter 37, Enoch is given three “parables.” These are not parables in the same sense as the parables of Jesus, but rather oracle-like material, hence the translation in OTP “thing” in 38:1.  Chapters 38-44 concern judgment, chapters 45-57 concern those who deny the name of the Lord, and chapters 58-69 concern the fate of the elect. The final two chapters are a conclusion which add some legendary elements to the translation of Enoch

The first parable concerns coming judgment from the perspective of the elect / righteous and the non-elect / unrighteous.  Chapter 38 begins with the expectation of the “community of the righteous” appearing and the sinner of this world being judged (38:1).  The Righteous One will appear before the community of the righteous and lead this judgment (38:2, 3).  For those who denied the name of the Lord, it will be better that they never were born. This is said of the one who betrays Jesus (Mark 14:21; Matt 26:24). This is also a theme in the later Ezra literature when describing those who are facing torment in Hades (Greek Apocalypse of Ezra, 1:6, 21, 5:9, 14).  This time of judgment is when the secrets of the Righteous One will be revealed (38:3) and all the kings of the earth will perish (38:5-6).

Ethiopian-angelsIn Chapter 39 Enoch receives the “books of zeal and wrath” as well as the “books of haste and whirlwind.”  Verses 3-8 is a description of Enoch’s experience of being swept up in a whirlwind from the earth into heaven where he saw the dwelling places of the righteous among the angels.  This place under the “wings of the Lord of Spirits” is where the righteous will praise God forever.  In 39:6 Enoch sees the “Elect One of Righteousness and of Faith,” presumably the same as the Righteous One in 38:3. Enoch responds to this vision in praise (39:9-14).

Enoch then sees a vision of hundreds of thousands of angels, innumerable and uncountable in chapter 40.  Among these angelic beings are four “who do not slumber.” Like Revelation 4-5, there are four figures on the four side of the Lord of Spirits surrounded by an innumerable crowd of beings standing in the presence of God.

  • Michael, the merciful and forbearing.
  • Raphael, who is in charge of disease and wounds.
  • Gabriel who is in charge of all power of strength.
  • Phanuel, who is in charge of those whose hope is eternal life.

Enoch is introduced to all the secrets of heaven in Chapter 41, including how kingdoms break up and how the actions of people are weighed in the balance. He sees the cosmic stores (3-7) and the sun and moon, which no one can hinder. Chapter 42 continues the theme of mystery with a poetic personification of wisdom looking for her place among the children of men but eventually returning to dwell among the angels.

Chapters 43-44 describe other cosmic secrets such as lightning and the names of the stars of heaven. This personification of wisdom may be important background to the Gospel of John.  In the prologue to John’s gospel, the Logos is with God in the beginning and comes down from heaven to dwell with men, although men do not recognize him (John 1:1-14).  Here in 1 Enoch, personified wisdom also descends to dwell among men and returns to heaven.

Dating the Similitudes – 1 Enoch 37-71

The book now known as 1 Enoch is a compilation of at least five smaller books. Chapters 1-36 (or at least 6-36) are usually entitled The Book of the Watchers and this next section The Book of the Similitudes or the Parables of Enoch. A problem for dating these chapters is that the Similitudes have not been attested in the Qumran literature. Although Milik dated this section to A.D. 270, most scholars date the Similitudes after 40 B.C. based on the reference to the Parthians in 56:5:

 “In those days, the angels will assemble and thrust themselves to the east at the Parthians and Medes. They will shake up the kings (so that) a spirit of unrest shall come upon them, and stir them up from their thrones; and they will break forth from their beds like lions and like hungry hyenas among their own flocks.”

It is possible this verse refers to a past attack from the east led by the Parthians and Medes. In 40 B.C. a governor of the Parthians name Barzapharnes invaded part of Judea to aid Antigonus II against Hyrcanus II (Josephus, JW 1.13.1–11; Antiq. 14.13.3–14.6). On the other hand, 1 Enoch 56 may be an intertextual allusion to classic eschatological texts like Joel 2:4-5, Zechariah 12; 14; and Ezekiel 38-39. James VanderKam considers a simple identification of these verses with the Parthian invasion is “is not without its problems” and that “one should exercise caution in employing these verses” to date the Similitudes (1 Enoch 2: Chapters 37–82, 209).

Ethiopic Illuminated Gospel, 1300s.

Ethiopic Illuminated Gospel, 1300s.

A second factor in dating this section is 67:8-13, verses which appear to allude to the last days of Herod the Great. In these verses “a poisonous drug of the body and a punishment of the spirit unto the kings, rulers, and exalted one.” Herod died at the hot springs at Kallirrhoë seeking relief from an excruciating disease (Josephus called this disease “God’s judgment upon him for his sins,” Antiq., 17.6.5). Although this seems to require a date after 4 B.C., but many Enoch scholars now consider an allusion to the death of Herod an interpolation into the text.

It may very well have been a part of the Enoch literature in the late first century B.C., but since the section is missing from the Dead Sea Scrolls, it is impossible to be certain. James Vanderkam suggests a range of 40 B.C. to A.D. 70 for these chapters, although “with some preference for the earlier part of this time span” (1 Enoch 2, 63).

The reason dating the Similitudes is important is the use of the term “son of man” in the Similitudes. (For a basic overview of the issues, see Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 177-193). Until the Aramaic fragments of the other four sections of Enoch were found at Qumran, the Similitudes were dated to the pre-Christian era and the phrase “son of man” in the gospels was thought to have been drawn from popular apocalyptic texts of the first century. Because the Qumran fragments are missing the Similitudes, it possible to argue they were not a part of the original, pre-Christian Enoch collection or that they have Christian interpolations.

Even if it is proven the Similitudes pre-date the New Testament, readers should be very cautious describing the relationship between the “son of man” sayings in the Gospels and 1 Enoch.

Enoch’s Heavenly Journey – 1 Enoch 17-36

1 Enoch 17-19 contain Enoch’s first journey through the heavens. In this first vision there are a number of scenes which depict an ancient world view which graphically imagines how the orderly universe is maintained.  He sees the “high places” and storehouses of the earth where the rains and snows are kept. In Chapter 18 he sees the storehouse of the wind, the cornerstone of the earth, and the pillars of heaven. He also sees a “dark pit” with heavenly fire, Uriel-Archangeldescribed as a “desolate and terrible place.” The angel who accompanies Enoch explains the dark pit as the place where the “stars and powers of heaven” are imprisoned because they failed to arrive punctually. They are imprisoned until the “year of mystery” (OTP 1:23, note y, one manuscript has “myriad of years,” Charles has “ten thousand years”). In chapter 19 the angel (now identified as Uriel) explains the dark pit as the place where the angels who defiled themselves with women will be placed. The fallen angels are said to have led humans to sacrifice to demons, the first time this particular sin has been mentioned. The first vision concludes in 19:3 with a notice that Enoch alone among humans was allowed to see the vision.

Chapter 20 is a list of the names of the archangels and their functions:

  • Uriel (Suru’el), who is in charge of the world and over Tartarus
  • Raphael, who is over the spirits of men.
  • Reuel (Raguel), who takes vengeance on the world for the luminaries.
  • Michael, who is obedient in his benevolence over the people.
  • Sariel (Saraqa’el), who is set over the spirits of mankind who sin in the spirit.
  • Gabriel, who is over the paradise, the serpents and the cherubim.
  • Remiel, whom God set over those who rise (Remiel is only found in manuscript Ga2 as is therefore relegated to a footnote in OTP. Without Remiel, there are only six angels, explaining the addition of a seventh in some manuscripts).

1 Enoch 20:7-10 briefly describes the terrible prison of the fallen angels. The place is a narrow cleft filled with a great fire. Enoch cannot estimate the size of the place, but he is terrified because of the sight. Uriel tells him the fallen angels will be confined forever.

Chapters 21-27 record Enoch’s second journey. In this vision Enoch travels to the place of punishment of the fallen stars, which are the fallen angels. He sees a chaotic and terrible place in which seven stars as large as mountains are bound. When Enoch asks who the stars are Uriel chastises him for his eagerness. The angel explains the place as a prison-house for the angels who are detained there forever. On the west side of a great mountain Enoch sees a place where the dead assemble until the Day of Judgment (Chapter 22). Enoch sees the spirit which left Abel crying out for the descendants of Cain to be exterminated. From there he continues to the west where he sees the tracks of the sun, the “fire burning in the west” (Chapter 23).

In Chapters 24-25 Enoch goes to another place of the earth and was shown a huge mountain of fire. From there he could see seven other mountains made of precious stone and each more glorious than the next. The greatest of these summits is the throne on which God will sit “when he visits the earth with goodness” (25:3). On this mountain is a fragrant tree which no human has the authority to touch until the time of judgment. This is probably the Tree of Life from Paradise, similar to Revelation 22:2, 14 (4 Ezra 8:52). The fragrance of this tree will “penetrate their bones” and they will live a long life on the earth, “as you fathers lived in their days” (Some copies of 1 Enoch expand this to include “no sorrow, pain, torment, and plague shall not touch them”, Isaac 26, note l). This is a significant passage in the first section of Enoch since it looks forward to a time when God will visit the earth and begin a period of peace. This “kingdom” motif is more obvious later in Enoch and will be expanded greatly in later apocalyptic texts.

Enoch is taken to the “center of the earth” in Chapter 26, the city of Jerusalem (cf. Ezek. 5:5). A stream of water flows out of the holy mountain in several directions, similar to the description of the Temple in Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22:1-5. From this vantage point he sees a desolate land with deep valleys and no trees growing in them. He asks the angel Uriel about this desolate land in Chapter 27. This is the place, the angel explains, where those who cursed the Lord and “utter hard words concerning the glory.” Isaac gives a marginal reference to Matthew 5:29-30, although the only connection is the use of the term gehenna for hell.

Chapters 28-36 are a number of brief “directional” journeys in which Enoch moves to the east, then the north, west and south, visiting various mountains with fragrant trees. In these places we read a description of the tree, the scent and flavor of the fruit, etc. In the north, west, and south he sees the gates of the rain and snow, etc. In 33:3-4 Enoch sees the gates of heaven opened and the stars of heaven coming out. Enoch records the names, ranks, seats, periods, and months of their coming and going. All this is explained to him by the angel Uriel along with the names, laws and companies of these stars. All of this information is not included in the book but forms something of a basis for the later astronomical texts written in Enoch’s name.

Although biblical apocalypses occasionally bring the seer into a heavenly throne room, there is nothing quite like Enoch’s heavenly travels. John sees heaven on several occasions (Rev 4-5; 11:19), but there is no journey through layers of heaven or hell.

Enoch Pleads with the Watchers – 1 Enoch 12-16

1 Enoch 12 introduces the reader to Enoch for the first time. He was hidden “before all this happened” with the “Watchers and holy ones” presumably for his protection. Since the phrase הָֽאֱלֹהִ֗ים in Genesis 5:22 could refer to God or angels, “walked with God” could be rendered “walked with angels.” 1 Enoch seems to take the phrase as angels, since Enoch speaks with the watchers in this section.

Enoch-Fallen-AngelWhile Enoch is worshiping God in prayer, he is told to go to the Watchers who have “abandoned the high heaven” and “defiled themselves with women” and tell them of the destruction to come. This is not a warning which carries with it a chance of repentance: Enoch is announcing to these Watchers they will be in a place where they will “groan and beg forever over the destruction of their children, and there shall not be peace for them even forever” (verse 6).

In chapter 13 Enoch goes to Azazel and tells him the judgment which God has planned. All of these Watchers are seized with great fear and beg Enoch to write out a prayer of forgiveness to the Lord of Heaven. Enoch intends to do this, so he sits by the waters of Dan near Mount Hermon, where the Watchers first descended to earth. Dan is an ancient city at the headwaters of the Jordan near Mount Hermon. Enoch falls asleep and has a dream. After he awakens, he finds the Watchers at Lesya’el still weeping and covering their faces. He relates to the details of his dream, which contains “words of righteousness,” in fact, a reprimand to the Watchers.

The content of Enoch’s dream is the subject of 1 Enoch 14-16. In 14:1-7 Enoch tells the Watchers their prayers have not been heard and they will be punished for all eternity. The vision proper begins in verse 8. He is caught up into clouds and fog where he sees a “great house” surrounded by “tongues of fire.” The great house is described as built of white marble and lined with mosaics, with a crystal-like floor. There are fiery cherubim guarding the gates, which are also of fire. Enoch is terrified by this vision and he shakes and trembles greatly.

When he sees inside the house, he sees a great throne with “the Great Glory” sitting upon it. The imagery in this section is obviously drawn from several throne visions in the Old Testament, primarily Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1. Revelation 4 is likely influenced by the descriptions of the throne of God in Isaiah and Ezekiel rather than 1 Enoch, but they are all similar enough to think of these throne room scenes as well-known heavenly images.

Just as in Isaiah and Ezekiel, Enoch is unable to stand when he sees this vision of the throne, and he prostrates himself before the throne. The Lord calls him near and then lifts him into the gate (although Enoch continues to lower his eyes). Revelation 4-5 is also heavily dependent on the throne vision of Ezekiel and to a lesser extent Isaiah. There are significant differences in Revelation with respect to the details of the imagery. While in 1 Enoch the whole heavenly environment is described, in Revelation the throne is of primary importance.

In chapters 15-16 God speaks to Enoch, although God is really addressing the Watchers who have left heaven. Presumably this is what Enoch related to them when he met them at Lesya’el in chapter 13. These angels will be judged because they abandoned their place and took human wives. Their children, the giants, will become evil spirits in the earth because they have a spiritual foundation (15:8-12). These spirits will continue to be corrupt until the “consummation of the great age” when “everything is concluded.”

This probably does not mean the “end of the world” but rather the end of the present age and the beginning of the next. E. P. Sanders and N. T. Wright constantly warn against thinking the Jews were looking forward to the end of space and time (contra Albert Schweitzer). The Watchers are told that they did not know all of the mysteries of Heaven. Because they have “broadcast” the mysteries they did know to the women of earth, they will have no peace (16:3).

Enoch’s call up to heaven to be given a mystery to relate to those about to be judged is a motif which resonates with the general outline of the Book of Revelation. In his vision John also sees the heavenly throne room and sees the judgments to come. He too relates them to his readers so that they are prepared. In both 1 Enoch and Revelation there is no “end of the world,” but rather a restoration of the world to the original creation as God had designed it in the first place.