Enoch’s Heavenly Journey – 1 Enoch 17-36

After the pleading on behalf of the Watchers, 1 Enoch 17-19 describes 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 1 Enoch 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.