Enoch The Forbidden Legacy
The opening chapters of the Book of Enoch reiterates the story told in Genesis 6 concerning the Sons of God coming unto the Daughters of Men and taking wives from among their number. The reader then learns how, 'in the days of Jared', two hundred Watchers 'descended' on 'Ardis', the summit of Mount Hermon - a mythical location equated with the triple-peak of Jebelesh Sheikh (9,200 feet), placed in the most northerly region of ancient Palestine. In Old Testament times its snowy heights had been revered as sacred by various peoples who inhabited the Holy land; it was also the probable site of the Transfiguration of Christ when the disciples witnessed their Lord 'transfigured before them'.
On this mountain the Watchers swear an oath and bind themselves by 'mutual imprecations', apparently knowing full well the consequences of their actions will have both for themselves and for humanity as a whole. It is a pact commemorated in the name given to the place of their 'fall ', for in Hebrew the word Hermon, or herem, translates as 'curse'. Why the two hundred angels should have chosen this location as opposed to any other to make their descent into the lowlands is never made clear. Yet this is what they do, travelling down to mix and mingle among humanity in the hope of sampling the delights of mortal women.
We are then introduced to Shemyaza, the leader of the Watchers, while eighteen of his minions are also named; these, it says, are 'their chiefs of tens'. I will not question the authenticity, origin or reality of this curious statement, but simply continue with the story.
After the Watchers find themselves wives and 'go unto them', the women give birth to the enormous Nephilim babies, who grow up to become barbaric in every way possible. The words here are pertinent and must be quoted in full:
'And they [the mortal women] became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: who consumed all the acquisitions 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 accusation against the lawless ones.'
The height of the Nephilim, given as 3,000 ells, with one English ell being the equivalent of forty-five inches, is an exaggeration of the sort so often found in myth. It is used only to emphasise a specific point, which is to record that these gibborim, or 'mighty men', were of great height and possessed enormous appetites. More disconcerting is the suggestion that the Nephilim turned against their mortal families and engaged in what can only be described as cannibalism.
'Sinning' against 'birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish' could either mean that they were consumed by the Nephilim as food, or that the giants committed barbaric sexual acts with them, perhaps both. Whatever the answer, they would appear to have developed a lust for drinking blood , which must also have been viewed as abhorrent by the communities in which they were born and raised.
The Secrets of Heaven
We now learn how the rebel Watchers who walked among humanity revealed the forbidden secrets of heaven. One of their number, a leader named Azazel, is said to have 'taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals [of the earth] and the art of working them', indicating that the Watchers were the first to bring the use of metal to mankind. He also instructed them on how they could make 'bracelets' and 'ornaments' and showed them how to use 'antimony', a white brittle metal employed in the arts and medicine. To the women he taught the art of 'beautifying' the eyelids, and the use of 'all kinds of costly stones' and 'colouring tinctures', indicating that before this time the wearing of make-up and jewellery was unknown.
Through this unforgivable act, the Daughters of Men were believed to have been 'led astray', and because of it they became 'corrupt', committing fornication not only with the Watchers themselves, but also, it must be assumed, with men who were not their regular partners. Azazel also stood accused of teaching women how to enjoy sexual pleasure and indulge in promiscuity - a blasphemy seen as 'godlessness' in the eyes of the Hebrew storytellers.
Linquistic experts believe that the names Azazel and Shemyaza probably derive from the same source, but were made into two separate fallen angels before their introduction to the Book of Enoch.
Other Watchers stand accused of revealing to mortal kind the knowledge of more scientific arts, such as the knowledge of the clouds, or meteorology; the 'signs of the earth', presumably geodesy and geography; as well as astronomy and the 'signs', or passage, of the celestial bodies, such as the sun and moon. Shemyaza is accredited with having taught men 'enchantments, and root-cuttings', a reference to the magical arts shunned by most orthodox Jews, but accepted to some degree by the Dead Sea communities. One of their number, Penemue, taught 'the bitter and the sweet', surely a reference to the use of herbs and spices in foods, while instructing men on the use of 'ink and paper', implying that the Watchers introduced the earliest forms of writing. Far more disturbing is Kasdeja, who is said to have shown 'the children of men all the wicked smitings of spirits and demons, and the smitings of the embryo in the womb; that it may pass away'. In other words, he taught women how to abort their babies.
These lines concerning the forbidden sciences handed to humanity by the rebel Watchers raise the whole fundamental issue of why angels of heaven should have possessed any knowledge of such matters in the first place. None of these skills are what one might expect heavenly messengers of God to possess. This has led to speculation that they were human in the first place.
Plight of the Watchers and Nephilim
One by one the angels of heaven are appointed by God to proceed against the Watchers and their offspring the Nephilim, described as 'the bastards and the reprobates, and the children of fornication'. Azazel is bound hand and foot, and cast for eternity into the darkness of a desert referred to as Dudael. Upon him are placed 'rough and jagged rocks' and here he shall forever remain until the Day of Judgement, when he will be 'cast into the fire' for his sins.
For their part in the corruption of mankind, the Watchers are forced to witness the slaughter of their own children before being cast into some kind of heavenly prison, an 'abyss of fire'.
Although the Watchers' leader, Shemyaza, is cast into this abyss alongside his brothers, other versions say that he underwent a more dramatic punishment. Since he was tempted by a beautiful mortal maiden named Ishtahar to reveal the Explicit Name of God in exchange for the offer of carnal pleasure, he is to be tied and bound before being made to hang for all eternity between heaven and earth, head down, in the constellation of Orion.
The suggestion that the rebel Watchers had to look on as their children were murdered hints at a form of infanticide in which those born of the union between fallen angels and mortal women were systematically rounded up and slaughtered as their fathers watched helplessly. If this supposition is correct, then it could explain the fear and revulsion instilled in Lamech and Bathenosh at the birth of their son Noah, who apparently resembled a Nephilim baby; their horror being connected not simply to their own son's strange appearance, but to the fact that the offspring of the Watchers were being murdered by those angels still loyal to heaven.
Following the incarceration of the rebel Watchers, Enoch is summoned to 'heaven' and addressed by the Archangels, who are also, confusingly, referred to as Watchers. They request that he intercedes on their behalf and puts to the rebel angels the crimes they have committed against mankind. Enoch accepts this task and goes to see them in their place of incarceration. On his approach, he finds them 'all afraid, and fear and trembling with them'. Fear of punishment is surely a human tendency, not the emotions one might expect of incorporeal messengers of God, and where was this prison, so accessible to Enoch? The text suggests it was near 'the waters of Dan, to the south of the west of Hermon'. The 'waters of Dan' refers to one of the tributaries of the river Jordan in northern Palestine. The root of the Hebrew word dan means 'to judge' which might mean the location was specifically chosen because its name is significant of the subject, ie., the judgement of the angels.
The corruption still left in the world after the incarceration of the Watchers, and the death of their Nephilim offspring, is to be swept away by a series of global catastrophes, ending in the Great Flood so familiar within biblical tradition. In a separate account of the plight of the Nephilim, this mass-destruction is seen in terms of an all-encompassing conflagration sent by the angels of heaven in the form of 'fire, naphtha and brimstone'. No one will survive these cataclysms of fire and water save for the 'seed' of Noah, from whose line will come the future human race.
This is how the Dead Sea communities and the earliest Christians understood the Book of Enoch, yet never is there any insinuation that the rebel Watchers were beings of flesh and blood, only that they assumed physical form in order to lie with mortal women. By virtue of this, such a view of events could be seriously challenged, for there is compelling evidence to suggest that the rebel Watchers - even, the angels of heaven themselves - might originally have been a race of human beings who existed in the Middle East at a distant point in history. If this were so, then memories of these monumental and quite horrendous events would appear to have been distorted and mythologized across the passage of time, until they became simply moralistic folk-tales in a slowly evolving religious history adopted during Old Testament times.
What then were the alternatives? There w ere two: Either the reader can accept that religious literature of this nature is purely fantasy, based on the deep psychological needs and values of a God-fearing society. Or he or she can accept that incorporeal angels not only exist, but that they can also descend to earth, take on human form and then couple with mortal women, who afterwards give birth to giants that grow up to become ruthless barbarians of the sort portrayed in the Book of Enoch.
Which of these solutions seems easiest to accept? Which of these choices feels most right to accept?
Even if the rebel Watchers were once human beings of flesh and blood, where did they come from, in what time-frame did they live, and what was the true fate of their progeny? Did they all either perish in the mass genocide orchestrated by the angels still loyal to heaven or die in the cataclysms which culminated in the Great Flood? Did any survive? The Book of Enoch provides no immediate answers, though one particular passage in Chapter 15 concerning the final fate of the Nephilim lingers:
'... because they are born from men [and] from the holy watchers in their beginning and primal origin; they shall be evil spirits on earth, and evil spirits shall they be called ... And the spirits of the giants [will] afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth, and cause trouble; they [will] take no food [but nevertheless hunger] and thirst, and cause offences. And these spirits shall rise up against the children of men and against the women, because they have proceeded [from them].'
The text here speaks of 'evil spirits' ... demons and devils might be more appropriate terms. Yet if it could for one moment be assumed that 'blood descendants' is what was originally intended, then these enigmatic lines imply that those born of Nephilim blood are, by virtue of their ancestral 'spirit', destined to 'afflict, oppress, destroy, attack, do battle, and work destruction on the earth'. These are chilling thoughts indeed, yet in the puritanical words of the Book of Enoch these corrupted souls are also destined to become the damned, who will 'take no food, [but nevertheless hunger] and thirst'.
The djinns, the malevolent spirits of Islamic tradition, are said to 'suffer from a devouring hunger and yet cannot eat', while in East European folklore, there are likewise supernatural denizens that drink blood yet can 'take no food' [but can nevertheless hunger] and thirst', and these are, of course, nosferatu - vampires. Whatever the reality of such beings in anthropological terms, vampires live on in the dark, sinister world of Gothic horror, which owes much of its character to the way in which the initial publication of the Book of Enoch in 1821 influenced the inner visions of poets and artists.
When Giants walked the Earth
When we read the Book of Genesis, we see just how out of place the story of the Sons of God coming unto the Daughters of Men appears to be in comparison with the rest of its eclectic contents. Indeed, if it is correct to assume that the account of the Fall of Man and the Serpent of Eden reflect an abstract rendition of the fall of the Watchers, then the whole story is included twice.
Adding to the mysterious nature of Genesis 6 is the fact that there are, neither before nor after these verses, any direct references to the coming of the Sons of God, the Nephilim or the Mighty Men (gibborim). Nor are there any references anywhere in the Bible to equate the bene ha-elohim with the Watchers. This information comes only from the Enochian literature of the first and second centuries BC. To add to the confusion, the term bene ha-elohim actually translates as 'the sons of the gods', while the name elohim is a female noun with an irregular plural, implying not 'gods' at all, but 'sons of the goddesses'. Never is this theological confusion sufficiently explained, and for the purposes of this article, it seems best to stay with the idea that the term referred to fallen angels alone, without evoking a fixed gender.
So what about the rest of the Pentateuch - the first five books of the Old Testament, traditionally accredited to Moses the lawgiver? Could this provide the additional clues to the origin of the Genesis chapter concerning the Sons of God coming unto the Daughters of Men, along with their subsequent incarceration and the destruction of their offspring, the Nephilim?
Glancing through the chapters of Genesis that immediately follow these enigmatic verses, we read about the generations of Noah and his subsequent role as the saviour of both humanity and the animal kingdom. It is a story that all of us learn in school, yet like most of Genesis it is awkwardly worded, confusing, repetitive and highly contradictory in its statements.
The Bible says that God purged the earth of its corruption and iniquity by bringing about a universal deluge, yet nowhere does it say that the Sons of God, the Nephilim or the Mighty Men, were destroyed by these global cataclysms. This fact has to be assumed by the reader simply because Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives, are the sole survivors of the Great Flood. Moreover, there is much evidence to suggest that some members of the fallen race actually survived these troubled times.
Races of Giants
Scattered throughout the Pentateuch are references to the existence of giants living in the bible lands long after the generations of Noah. These terrifying individuals almost invariable feature in wars waged against foreign raiders and the Israelite peoples by indigenous Canaanite tribes; Canaan being the name given to Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon in Old Testament times.
If we look at the later chapters of Genesis, we find references to giants living in the age of the prophet Abraham, a date usually fixed at around 2000 BC. Several verses deal with how Chedorlaomer, the king of ancient Elam, a country placed in the highlands of south-west Iran, encounters no less than three tribes of giants, who rise up against him and are defeated by his forces in the land of Canaan. They are listed as 'the Rephaim in Ashteroth Karnaim ... the Zuzims in Ham; and the Emims in Shaveh Kiriathaim'.
Later, in the Book of Deuteronomy, which deals with the wanderings of the Jewish tribes, following the Exodus out of Egypt at the time of Moses, the text speaks of Canaan as 'a land of Rephaim', or giants, where the 'Rephaim dwelt therein aforetime'. Because of their reported great stature, in many translations of the Bible from the original Hebrew, the word 'giants' is rendered instead of 'Raphaim'. Deuteronomy also tells us that 'the Ammonites call them Zamzummins: a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakim'.
As tall 'as the Anakim'?
Who then were the Anakim? And how might they relate to the Watchers and Nephilim? The most important entry is to be found in the Book of Numbers:
'And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, which come of the Nephilim: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.'
So the Anakim are specifically cited as the descendants of the legendary Nephilim. Elsewhere the Anakim are referred to as the inhabitants of Canaan, 'a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof: and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature'. Further, it actually names the 'sons of Anak', or Anakim, as Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, although no further details are given concerning their appearance. They are encountered by the spies sent out by Joshua, Moses' successor, to report back on the inhabitants of Hebron, or Kirjath-arba, 'the chief city of the Anakim', situated in what is today southern Palestine, before they are attacked and finally defeated by one of these 'spies', named Caleb.
So the Anakim were destroyed, but survivors of their race probably lived on, and certainly did so in the minds of the Old Testament chroniclers. They may have been three brothers from the town of Hebron, one of Palestine's most ancient cities, but there is every indication that they were also a powerful race in their own right who inhabited Canaan from very earliest times.
The word Anak is generally taken by scholars to mean 'long-necked'. The enormous size of the Anakim is, of course, to be taken with a large pinch of salt, yet why were the Anakim seen as direct lineal descendants of the Nephilim, the progeny of the fallen angels who were supposedly wiped out at the time of the Great Flood? No explanation is given, and the reader is left to assume that they must have been linked in some way to the family of Noah, who himself bore the traits of the Watchers and Nephilim.
Perhaps the 'spirit' of the fallen race does therefore live on in the collective unconscious of modern-day society. Perhaps the descendants of the Nephilim, the hybrid offspring of the two hundred rebel Watchers, are still inside us, their presence hinted at only by the unsettling knowledge that our dark past holds hidden truths which are now beginning to reveal themselves for the first time - secrets that only a few enlightened souls have ever realised and are preserved in the heretical Book of Enoch.