Legends of Old Testament Characters/Chapter 10




ENOCH, or Edris,[1] as he is called by the Arabs, was born in Hindostan, but he lived in Yemen. He was a prophet. In his days men worshipped fire, being deceived by Eblis. When God sent Enoch to his brethren to turn them from their false worship, they would not believe him.

Idolatry began in the times of Jared, son of Mahalaleel, and it spread to such an extent that, when Noah was born, there were not eighty persons who worshipped the true, and living, and only God. Jared fought Satan, the prince of demons, and captured him, and led him about in chains wherever he went.

Enoch knew how to sew, and was an accomplished tailor. He was the first to put pen to paper; he wrote many books. He had in his possession the books of Adam, and for ten years, instead of sleeping, he spent the night in reading them.

He instructed men in the art of making garments; Enoch showed them how to cut out the skins to the proper shape, and to sew them together; and how to make shoes to protect their feet.

And then, when the people had derived this great blessing from him, they were ready to listen to his books; and he read to them the books of Adam, and endeavoured thereby to bring them back to the knowledge of the true God.

When he had spent many years in prayer, the Angel of Death desired to make a compact of friendship with him. He took on him a human form and approached him, saying, "I am the Angel of Death, and I desire thy friendship. On account of thy great piety, thou mayest make me a request which I shall accomplish."

Enoch answered, "I desire that thou shouldst take my soul."

The angel replied, "I have not come to thee for this purpose; thy time is not yet arrived at its appointed close."

Then Enoch said, "It is well; but take my soul away for a little space, and then return it to my body, if God so wills."

The angel said, "I cannot do this without God's consent." But he presented the supplications of Enoch before Allah, and God, knowing what was the design of Enoch, granted the prayer.

Then Azrael bore away the soul of Enoch, and at the same instant the Eternal One restored it to him. After this, Enoch continued to praise and pray to God; and the Angel of Death became his friend, and often came to visit him.

Years passed, and Enoch said one day to the angel, "Oh, my friend! I have yet a request to make."

Azrael answered, "If I can grant it, I will do so readily."

Enoch said, "I would see Hell, for I have undergone death, and I know its sensations. I would know now the torments of the lost."

But the angel answered, "This I cannot grant without permission from the Almighty."

God heard the prayer of Enoch, and He suffered Azrael to accomplish what the prophet had desired. Then the Angel of Death bore away Enoch, and showed him the seven stages of Hell, and all the torments inflicted there on sinners: after that he replaced him where he was before.

After some while had elapsed, Enoch again addressed Azrael, and said, "I have another request to make."

The angel answered, " Say on."

Then said Enoch, "I desire to see the Paradise of God, as I have seen Hell."

Azrael replied, "I cannot grant thy petition without the consent of God."

But the All-Merciful, when he heard the request of his servant, consented that it should be even as he desired. So the angel bore Enoch into Paradise. And when they had reached the gates, the keeper, Ridhwan, refused to open, saying to Enoch, "Thou art a man, and no man can enter Paradise who has not tasted death."

Then Enoch replied, "I also have tasted death; the soul that I have will dwell eternally with me; God has resuscitated me from death."

Ridhwan, however, said, "I cannot do this thing and admit thee without the order of God."

Then the order arrived from Allah, and the angel of the gate refused no more; so Enoch entered; but before Enoch and Azrael passed the gates, Ridhwan said to the prophet, "Go in, and behold Paradise, but be speedy and leave it again, for thou mayst not dwell there till after the Resurrection."

Enoch replied, "Be it so;" and he went in and viewed Paradise, and came out, as he had promised; and as he passed the threshold of the door he turned and said to the angel, "Oh, Ridhwan! I have left something in there; suffer me to run and fetch it."

But Ridhwan refused; and a dispute arose between them. Enoch said, "I am a prophet; and God has sent me thirty books, and I have written them all, and I have never revolted against God. In those books that God sent me, I was promised Paradise. If it be necessary that I should have undergone death, I have undergone it. If it be necessary that I should have seen Hell, I have seen it. Now I am come to Paradise, and that is my home; God has promised it to me, and now that I have entered I will leave it no more."

The dispute waxed hot, but it was terminated by the order of God, who bade Ridhwan open the gate and re-admit Enoch into Paradise, where he still dwells.[2]


The Book of Enoch, quoted by S. Jude in his Epistle, and alluded to by Origen, S. Augustine, S. Clement of Alexandria, and others of the Fathers, must not be passed over.

The original book appears from internal evidence to have been written about the year 110 B.C.[3] But we have not the work as then written; it has suffered from numerous interpolations, and it is difficult always to distinguish the original text from the additions.

The book is frequently quoted in the apocryphal "Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs," which is regarded, as canonical by the Armenian Church, but the references are for the most part not to be found in the text. It was largely used by some of the early Christian writers, either with acknowledgment or without. The monk George Syncellus, in the eighth century, extracted portions to compose his Chronography. This fragment in Syncellus was all that was known of the book in the West till the last century. The Jews, though remembering the work, had lost it in Hebrew; but it was alluded to by the Rabbis down to the thirteenth century, and it is referred to in the Book Sohar, though the writer may not have read the book of Enoch. Bruce, the African traveller, was the first to bring it to Europe from Abyssinia in two MSS., in the year 1773. Much attention was not, however, paid to it till 1800, when De Sacy in his "Magasin Encyclopédique," under the title "Notice sur le Livre d'Enoch," gave some account of the work. In 1801, Professor Laurence gave to the public an English translation, accompanied by some critical remarks. Since then, the book has been carefully and exegetically examined. The version we now have is Ethiopic.

The Book of Enoch consists of five divisions, or books, together with a Prolegomena and an Epilegomena.

After the introduction (caps. 1—5), which describes the work as the revelation of the seer Enoch concerning the future judgment and its consequences, with warnings to the elect as to the signs; the First part (caps. 6—16) opens with an account of the fall of the Angels, their union with the daughters of men, and the generation of the Giants. Connected with this, and divided from it by no superscription or sign of change of subject, is an account of a journey made by Enoch, in the company of the angels, over the earth and through the lower circles of heaven, during which he is instructed in various mysteries hidden from the knowledge of men, and a great deal of this wondrous information is communicated to the reader.

This description of a journey, which is itself divided into two parts, unquestionably belongs to the original book, and the historical portion, narrating the procreation of the Giants, is an interpolation.

The Second portion of the book (caps. 37—71), with its own special superscription and introduction, is called "The Second History of Wisdom." It continues the history of the voyage. The first portion contained the description of the mysterious places and things in the earth and in the lower heaven; the second portion contains an account of the mysteries of the highest heaven, the angel-world, the founding of the kingdom of the Messias, and the signs of His coming.

The close of this portion contains prophecies of Noah's Flood, and accounts of the fall of the Angels, their evil life and their punishment. The whole account of the Flood, which comes in without rhyme or reason, is also a manifest interpolation.

The Third portion (caps. 72—82), also under its own heading, is on "The Revolution of the Lights of Heaven," and describes the motions of the planets, the duration of the seasons, and the number of the days of the months, and the great winds of heaven. With this part the voyage of Enoch closes.

The Fourth part (caps. 83—91), which has no superscription, but which is generally designated as "The Book of the Dream History," contains the visions shown Enoch in his youth, which, in a series of pictures, gives the history of the world till the end of time. This part closes with some words of advice from Enoch to his sons.

The Fifth and last part (caps. 92—105) is "The Book of Exhortation," addressed by Enoch to his family against sin in all its forms, under all its disguises, and concludes with an account of certain presages which should announce the birth of Noah.

The Talmudic writers taught that Enoch at his translation became a chief angel, and that his name became Metatron. In the Chaldee version of Jonathan on the words of Genesis v. 24, it is said, "And Enoch served before the Lord in truth, and was not among the inhabitants of the earth, for he was translated above into the firmament, through the word of the Lord; and He called him by the name of Metatron (the great writer)." And in Rabbi Menachem's Commentary on the Five Books of Moses, it is written, "The Rabbi Ishmael relates that he spoke to the Metatron, and he asked him why he was named with the name of his Creator and with seventy names, and why he was greater than any prince, and higher than any angel, and dearer than any servant, and more honoured than all the host, and more excellent in greatness, in power, and dominion than all the mighty ones. Then he answered and said, 'Because I was Enoch, son of Jared. This is what the holy, ever-blessed God wrought,—when the races of the Flood (i.e. the sinners who lived at the time when the Fiood came) sinned, and did unrighteously in their works, and had said to God, "Depart from us,"—He took me from that untoward generation into the highest heaven, that I might be a witness against that generation. And after the ever-blessed God had removed me that I should stand before the throne of His Majesty, and before the wheels of His chariot, and accomplish the requirements of the Most High, then my flesh became flame, and my arteries fire, and my bones juniper ashes, and the light of my eyelids became the flashing of lightning, and my eyeballs torches of fire, and the hair of my head was a flame, and all my limbs were fiery, burning wings, and my body became burning fire; and by my right hand flames were cleft asunder; and from my left hand burnt fiery torches; but around me blew a wind, and storm, and tempest; and before and behind me was the voice of a mighty earthquake.'"

The Rabbi Ishmael gives further particulars which are enshrined in the great Jalkut Rubeni.[4]

The Rabbi Ishmael, according to this book, received in addition these particulars from the lips of Enoch. He was carried to heaven in a chariot of fire by horses of fire; and when he entered into the presence of God, the Sacred Beasts, the Seraphim, the Osannim, the Cherubim, the wheels of the chariot, and all the fiery ministers recoiled five thousand three hundred and eighty miles at the smell of him, and cried aloud, "What a stink is come among us from one born of a woman! Why is one who has eaten of white wheat admitted into heaven?"

Then the Almighty answered and said, "My servants, Cherubim and Seraphim, do not be grieved, for all my sons have rejected my sovereignty and adore idols, this man alone excepted; and in reward I exalt him to principality over the angels in heaven." When Enoch heard this he was glad, for he had been a simple shoemaker on earth; but this had he done, at every stitch he had said, "The name of God and His Majesty be praised."

The height of Enoch when a chief angel was very great. It would take a man five hundred years to walk from his heel to the crown of his head. And the ladder which Jacob saw in vision was the ladder of Metatron.[5] The same authority, above quoted, the Rabbi Ishmael, is reported to have had the exact measure of Enoch from his own lips; it was seven hundred thousand times thousand miles in length and in breadth.[6]

The account in the Targum of Palestine is simply this. "Enoch served in the truth before the Lord; and behold, he was not with the sojourners of the earth; for he was withdrawn, and he ascended to the firmament by the Word before the Lord, and his name was called Metatron, the Great Saphra."[7]

Whether the Annakos, or Nannakos of whom Suidas wrote, is to be identified with Enoch, I do not venture to decide. Suidas says that Nannak was an aged king before Deucalion (Noah), and that, foreseeing the Deluge, he called all his subjects together into the temple to pray the gods with many tears to remit the evil.[8] And Stephanos, the Byzantine lexicographer, says that Annakos lived at Iconium in Phrygia, and that to weep for Annak, became a proverb.

  1. I give the Arabic legend. The account in Jasher is different. Enoch retired from the world, and showed himself only at rare intervals, when he gave advice to all who came to hear his wisdom. He was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, in a chariot with horses of fire. (Yaschar, pp. 1094-1096.)
  2. Tabari, i. c. xxxv.
  3. Dillmann, Das Buch Enoch; Leipzig, 1853. Ewald, in his "Geschichte der Volks Israel" (iii. 2, pp. 397-401), attributes it to the year 130 B.C.
  4. Fol. 26, col. 2.
  5. Jalkut Rubeni, fol. 27, col. 4.
  6. Ibid., fol. 107, col. i.
  7. Targums, ed. Etheridge, i. p. 175.
  8. Suidas, Lexic. s. v. Nannacos.