A thoughtful reader emailed me some concerns about my use of the Book of Enoch as a source in this post and elsewhere on this site. I’ve wanted to explain why and how I use Enoch for a while. Specifically, here are his concerns:
I was concerned respectfully at your last article when you mentioned the book of Enoch as a reliable source. Let me show you what I found out of Enoch.
Enoch 68:9…And the fourth (one of the chief evil angels) was named Penemue: he taught the children of men the bitter and the sweet,
10 and he taught them all the secrets of their wisdom.
11 And HE INSTRUCTED MANKIND IN WRITING WITH INK AND PAPER
12 and THEREBY MANY SINNED FROM ETERNITY TO ETERNITY and until this day.
13 For MEN WERE NOT CREATED FOR SUCH A PURPOSE, TO GIVE CONFIRMATION TO THIER GOOD FAITH WITH PEN AND INK.
14 For men were created exactly like the angels, to the intent that they should continue pure and righteous, 15 and death, which destroys everything, could not have taken hold of them,
16 but through this their knowledge they are perishing, and through this power
Do you see this? The book of Enoch teaches it’s a sin forever to use pen and ink, even to write the faith…. I believe you are endangering your understanding and pure knowledge of God if you heed this book and believe it’s true, and to line it up to what Genesis is really saying.
Which if you examine it closely with prayer and think about the sons of God being the holy seed like you find in the prophets with God saying they transgressed by mingling the holy seed with the women born to the sons of men, you will discover it is not saying fallen angels had sex with women and made half breed demons. Giants there in Genesis just means Tyrants in the Hebrew. The sons of men’s hearts were wicked continually in every thought. That is why God wanted to destroy them, not because half breed demons who were 450 feet tall as it says in Enoch were eating humans and all the living creatures. (emphasis mine)
These are some good thoughts, that I’m sure many readers share these concerns, so they are worth addressing. For starters, the citation should be Enoch 69:8-10. 1 And secondly, no the Book of Enoch is not theologically on par with the Bible, and in fact contradicts the Bible in many places.
But before I begin, I want to state I really appreciate this loving and caring approach to bringing correction to me. It’s exactly how Christians should do it.
Who was Enoch?
According to Genesis, Enoch was the seventh descendant from Adam, who “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” (5:22). 2
The author of Hebrews explains, “By faith, Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now therefore, before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him…” (11:5).
Jude, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones…” (1:14). Jude is quoting from the Book of Enoch.
As we’ll see, other New Testament authors allude to the Book of Enoch’s take on certain historical events.
The Book of Enoch
The Book of Enoch was not a book written by the Enoch of Genesis. It was written around 300 BC.
During this period of Jewish history, “God no longer spoke by his Spirit to prophets. Instead, the seer dealt with the problem of evil through dreams, visions, or through heavenly journeys with angelic guides.” 3 These authors wrote and distributed books of apocalyptic (that is, revealing something that was hidden) significance. To add credence to their writings, they wrote and published under pseudonyms, like Enoch, Noah, Moses or Adam. Some were rejected as fantasies, but others were considered fairly truthful and accurate. The Book of Enoch is one of these books.
While it was not considered the inspired word of God, the Book of Enoch influenced Jewish thinking about certain historical events, especially the pre-flood world, and the causes and repercussion of the flood, and why the world was such a mess. Enoch goes into detail about the actions of the sons of God, which Enoch called the Watchers, and what exactly they traded to humans for access to their women.
Enoch was widely read and discussed in Jesus’ day. It was basically a best-seller, perhaps like reading something by CS Lewis today. It was extremely influential.
In short, the Book of Enoch reflects the Jewish thinking about these events and related ideas in the time of Jesus.
The Sons of God and the Giants of Genesis 6
The text in dispute is Genesis 6:1-4, where the sons of God are recorded as marrying and having children with the daughters of men. The context is sometime after Adam and Eve are kicked out of the Garden but before the Great Flood.
When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh:his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. (Gen 6:1-4, emphasis added).
So, these angels had sex with women, who gave birth to giants.
Male Descendants of Seth?
Many modern commentators interpret this event along non-supernatural lines. They insist that the sons of God mentioned there are godly male descendants of Seth, who married wicked women (whom were all evil, apparently), and thus their children were especially evil (i.e., tyrants, fallen one, followers of other gods). They were especially evil, according to the “sons of seth” view.
These commentators are incorrect in their interpretation. They are forcing a view onto Genesis 6:1-4 that is absolutely foreign to the world that produced and originally read the Bible.
In Genesis 6, “sons of God” do not refer to humans.
The latest scholarly work on this proves that any interpretation that the sons of God are humans is wrong.
The latest most comprehensive work on this came in 2010, “On the Origin of Watchers: A Comparative Study of the Antediluvian Wisdom in Mesopotamian and Jewish Tradition” by Amar Annus. You have to register to get it, but basically any interpretation that contradicts this work is uninformed and out-dated.
I love Dr. Heiser’s comments about this work:
This article deals a death blow to any non-supernatural (or non-mythic as some prefer) interpretation in the sense that, if you care about interpreting the Bible in context, no human interpretation of the sons of God can work. It violates every point of context. Annus’ article is the most current study on the Mesopotamian apkallu. It supersedes ALL preceding work on this subject. That means your standard academic commentaries that all pastors are using are hopelessly out of date and mis-informed. Anyone commenting onGen 6:1-4 hereafter will have to account for this article or else be academically inept. (emphasis mine)
Believe the scripture or do not believe it, but don’t twist it to mean something that it doesn’t say.
For some reason, the idea of angels having sex with humans and producing giants makes some people uncomfortable. But it’s right there in the Bible. Get over it.
Enoch’s Take on the Watchers
Let’s look at what Enoch actually says. Be sure to keep the Genesis text you just read in mind:
It came to pass after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, that daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the Watchers, the sons of heaven, saw them, they became infatuated with them, saying to each other, “Come let us choose for ourselves wives from the offspring of men, and let us have children.” Then their leader Shemyaza said to them, “I fear that you may not go through with this plan. And that I alone will suffer for such a terrible crime.”
But they answer him and said, “We all swear and bind ourselves by mutual oath, that we will not change our mind, but will execute our plan.”
Then they swore all together, and bound themselves by mutual oaths. The whole number of those who descended on what is the top of Mount Hermon, in the days of Jared, was two hundred. That mountain therefore came to be Hermon, because they had sworn upon it, and bound themselves by mutual oaths. (1 Enoch 6:1-8)
The author elaborates on Hermon, because that’s the same word for “destruction” or “holy war” in Hebrew. Hermon was the center of demonic activity in the Old Testament, and the place where Jesus transfigured himself, announcing that the Gates of Hell would not prevail against his church.
And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them charms and enchantments, and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants.
And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: who consumed all the accusations of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drink the blood. Then the earth laid accusations against the lawless ones.
And Azazel taught men to make swords, and knives, and smiled, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids and all kinds of costly stones, and all coloring tinctures.
And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornications, and they were led astray and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjuaza taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, Armaros the resolving of enchantments, and root-cuttings, Armaros the resolving of enchantments, Baraquijal taught astrology, Kokabel the constellations, Ezeqeel the knowledge of the clouds, Araquiel the signs of the earth, Shamsiel the signs of the sun, and Sariel the course of the moon. And as men perished, they cried and their cry went up to heaven. (Enoch 7:1 – 8:2).
In Chapter 9 God’s council discusses what is going on. In Chapter 10, God decrees the flood will wash the world clean and sends His angel Michael to lock up the Watchers who had rebelled and brought so much destruction.
“Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him in to darkness… place on him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there forever,…” (10:4-5)
In Chapters 11 and 12, God instructs Enoch about his judgment, and Enoch explains it to the Watchers. In Chapters 13 and 14, the Watchers ask Enoch to intercede for them, to ask God to have mercy. Enoch goes to God and delivers their petition for mercy.
In chapters 15, 16, and so on, God sends Enoch back to hell to explain God’s rejection of their petition and God’s judgement of the Watchers.
“…those who have led the world astray, with chains they shall be bound…” (69:27).
He preaches that their plans to thwart God’s intentions for the earth were going to fail.
On the Origin of Demons
While God pronounces His judgement on the Watchers, God makes some remarks about the spirits of the giants killed in the flood. Enoch 15:8 – 16:1:
And now, the giants, who are produced from the spirits and the flesh, shall be called evil spirits upon the earth, and on the earth shall be their dwelling. Evil spirits have proceeded from their bodies; because the are born from women and from the holy Watchers is their beginning and primal origins; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called.
As for the spirits of heaven, in heaven shall be their dwelling, but as for the spirits of the earth, which were born up on the earth, on the earth shall be their dwelling.
And the spirits of the giants afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble. They take no food, but revels hunger and thirst, and cause offenses. And these spirits shall rise up agains the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded from them.
From the days of the slaughter and destruction and death of the giants, from the sounds of whose flesh the spirits have gone forth, shall destroy without incurring judgment so thus shall they destroy until the day of the consummation, the great judgement in which the cage shall be consummate, over the Watchers and the godless, yea, shall be wholly consummated.
Thus is one explanation commonly held in the time of Jesus on the origin of demons, and an idea reflected in the New Testament writings when Jesus encountered demons (which was quite a lot).
New Testament Interpretation of the Watchers and Giants
Three NT authors quote from or allude to these ideas about the Watchers doing the nasty with human women. (“Watchers” is a word that the Book of Daniel also used to describe a powerful supernatural angelic entity called the sons of God).
Peter’s Take on the Watchers
Peter compares these Watchers with certain heretical teachers. Note the adjectives he uses to describe these Watchers, how the context reveals a period of time before the flood, which helped trigger the flood. What you may not realize is, he’s using imagery found in the Book of Enoch regarding these beings. Here’s Peter’s take, in 2 Peter 2:1-10 (emphasis added).
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.
Peter not only links the sensual conduct of angels with humans to the Flood, but also to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. When you read about the people of Sodom, you’ll notice their interest in angel-human sex, and in being allied with the offspring of angel-human unions, the Rephaim.
Jude’s Take on the Watchers
Jude, the brother of Jesus, also relied on Enoch to describe the sexually immoral angels (5-7, emphasis added):
Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
Jude likewise references Enoch when he writes that the offending sons of God, the “angels” are being held in chains for a future judgement, and he also links the the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah to the sexual sins of the angels.
Paul even thinks about the world from this understanding. The city of Corinth had temples where temple prostitution was practiced, including supposed sexual contact between angels and humans. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul writes that women should cover their sexual organs during worship, i.e., that they should be sexually modest.
He adds, “because of the angels” in verse 10, because Paul was concerned that women would accidentally seduce an angel and get pregnant, like what happened in Genesis 6. This would be bad, in Paul’s- and everyone else’s- eyes.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Bible
The Bible is full of weird things, including people who see the unseen realm and angels who had sex with humans. We shouldn’t be afraid of what it says, but seek to understand the text as the authors intended and their intended audience would have read it. Forcing text to fit preconceived ideas ensures we miss God’s messaging.
If you have challenges with my use of scripture, please ask. I actually do have sources that back up my interpretation and use.
- My copy is translated by R.H. Charles D. Litt., D.D., London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1917, republished in “The Researchers Library of Ancient Texts, Volume One, The Apocrypha Includes the Books of Enoch, Jasher, and Jubilees”, Defender Publishing, 2011. ↩
- Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ↩
- George Ladd, The Presence of the Future, William B. Eeerdman’s Publishing Company, 1974, page 80 ↩