What Is the Book of Enoch? Who Was Enoch? Originally published July 27-28, 2018

A while back, in one of these columns, we discussed ofanim.  We noted that they were among the angels mentioned in the Book of Enoch.  Apparently Enoch knew something about angels, reporting that he traveled with them.

Enoch (חֲנוֹךְ Hanokh”) was the great-grandfather of Noah, and his book says that he was writing it himself.  Enoch was the son of Jared, and there are actually two books:  I Enoch, also known as the Ethiopic Book of Enoch, and II Enoch, known as the Slavonic Book of Enoch, or the Book of the Secrets of Enoch.  According to Wikipedia, some say the full book is extant only in the Ge’ez language, with Aramaic fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls and a few Greek and Latin fragments, and some opine that it was originally written in Hebrew and/or Aramaic.  If Enoch literally wrote it himself, we can ponder how it might have survived the Flood. 

Enoch’s dad Jared became a father at age 162, and lived 800 years longer.  Enoch, though, fathered Methuselah at age 65, and then only lived 300 more years.  (Pulling out our Gershwin, we sing, “Methuselah lived 900 years…,” though it was actually 969.)  Noah, born in 1056 (if Adam was born on day 6), lived to be 950 (the flood was in 1656).  Enoch’s life must have ended suddenly, as Genesis 5:24 says that he “walked with God; then he was no more, for God took him.”  He died (or was taken) in the year 987, at the youthful age of 365.  Scholars note that Enoch was the seventh generation and lived 365 years, thus connecting him with solar cycles, and some gave that as the argument for using solar calendars.

Enoch tells the story of his journeys between the place of God and the earth.  He flew with the angels and saw the rivers and mountains and the very ends of the earth from above.  He witnessed angels falling from grace (the “Watchers”), taking wives of humans and breeding evil giants (“Nephilim”) who would consume the earth were they not stopped.  Then Enoch was named the scribe to keep track, and to report back and forth.  The punishment of those fallen angels was decreed, and Enoch reported it.  He was shown the functions of the Heavenly hosts, and the order of the planets and stars.  He brought back three stories which he was compelled to tell.

Several sources link the story of Enoch with various Sumerian reports.  And last week’s parashah shows us giants, and Genesis 6:4 mentions the Nephilim that are in the Book of Enoch, giants derived from divine beings and human females.

The Book of Enoch is generally not considered liturgical, except to some of the Ethiopian Orthodox sects.  Jews include it in the Apocrypha, the external books.  Sir Walter Raleigh, writing in 1616 (imprisoned in the Tower of London), said that the Book of Enoch, with “the course of the stars, their names and motions” had been discovered in Sheba in the first century, thus was available to Origen and Terullian.  He attributed the information to Origen, in Homilies on Numbers.

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