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Enoch and His City

As the grandfather of Noah, Enoch occupies a prominent place in the history of God’s relationship with His creation. Although much of Enoch’s history is lost, the clues that are offered within the Biblical account, and the tantalizing remnants in other ancient writings reveal a character worthy to be the grandfather of the great patriarch, Noah. His role in the creation of a magnificent city called Zion, reinforce his place in ancient history. The challenge is in demonstrating a synthesis of the existing Biblical accounts and extra-Biblical historic and literary accounts.

The author of the Book of Hebrews mentions the translation of Enoch in his discussion of the faith of the ancients. He then goes on to mention how Abraham, while he was wandering in the land of promise, living in tents, “waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). The text goes on to imply that all of the patriarchs were seeking to reach, or return to, a country or a city—a heavenly city (Hebrews 11:13-16). Hebrews 12:22 associates this city with Mount Zion. The author contrasts the experience of the Israelites under Moses and how they were not able to even touch Mount Sinai with that of the followers of Jesus Christ, who were given full access to Mount Zion. Speaking to a community of Christian believers, the author declares, “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, . . . and to an innumerable company of angels, of the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven” (Hebrews 12:22-23).

Aquila Lee argues that “the idea about Mt. Zion as ‘heavenly Jerusalem’ was taken up by the early church when they read Psalms 2 together with Psalms 110 as applying to Jesus.”[1]

The Hebrew Life of Enoch (Bet ha-Midrash) has the kings of the earth hailing Enoch as their supreme head. The book of Jasher repeats the same story. Adolph Jellinek’s collection of Jewish traditions, Bet ha-Midrash, records the story of more than eight hundred thousand men who followed Enoch and refused to leave him as he was about to be taken up into heaven riding a chariot of fire. The text states that when the kings of the land came to find these thousands of followers of Enoch, they were not found and were thought to be dead, but no bodies could be located.

The picture of thousands of men coming to recognize and acclaim Enoch at the place where he “and his sons and the leaders of the people were” suggests the nucleus of an organization. Their gathering together is the first step in a long process of withdrawing from a wicked world. Enoch himself had already withdrawn, but like Adam, Abraham, Job, and Moses had returned. In each of these cases, the apocryphal testaments tell how the hero is first carried to heaven in a vision, then returns and describes the vision to his family and followers, then takes must depart. Enoch’s departure is undeniably the most spectacular, setting the standard for fiery chariots and sky-borne hosts later. At the same time, it is the most sober and “scientific.” The Jewish sources tell of Enoch’s departure with his people from the world’s point of view—those who remained behind:

And all the people gathered together to Enoch to hear this thing; and Enoch taught the children of men the way of God.

… And the spirit of God was upon Enoch, and he taught all his people the wisdom of God and his ways. 130. … And all the people were astonished and awed by his wisdom and knowledge, and bowed down to the earth before him.” 131.

… And all the people gathered together unto Enoch … and he taught them again to keep the ways of the Lord and gave them all his peace [etc., etc.].[2]

When Enoch spoke to his children and the princes, then all the other people in the neighborhood heard that the Lord had called Enoch, and 2,000 of them gathered to Azouchan (or Achuzan) where Enoch and his sons and the elders of the people were, and saluted him: Thou blessed of the Lord … bless now thy people and glorify us before the Lord, because the Lord has chosen to establish thee [as] one who takes away our sins.[3]  The word for establish here, postaviti, often translated as “appoint,” also can be translated as to “ordain” (as a priest), to dedicate, appoint as a substitute; to take a duty upon oneself, implying that Enoch is not the Savior but one after the order of him.

"And at that time the children of men sat down before Enoch and he spoke to them. And they raised their eyes and saw something like a great horse coming down from heaven, and the horse moving in the air [wind] to the ground. And they told Enoch what they had seen. And Enoch said to them, ‘That horse has come down to the earth to take me; the time and the day approach when I must go from you and no longer appear among you.’ And at that time that horse came down and stood before Enoch, and all the people who were with Enoch saw it. And then Enoch went forth, and there came a voice to him saying, ‘Who is the man who rejoices in the knowledge of the ways of the Lord God? Let him come this day to Enoch before he is taken from us.’ And all the people gathered together and came to Enoch on that day. … And after that he mounted up and rode upon the horse and went forth on his way, and all the people went forth and followed him to the number of 800,000 men. And they went with him for a day’s journey. And behold, on the second day he said to them, ‘Return back from following me lest ye die.’ But none of them turned back but went with him. And on the sixth day the number of people had increased, and they stuck with him. And they said to him, ‘We will go with thee to the place where thou goest; as the Lord liveth, only death will separate us from thee! And it came to pass that they took courage and went with him, and he no longer addressed [remonstrated with] them. And they went after him and never turned back from him. And those kings who did turn back ordered a count to be made of all the remnant of men who went out after Enoch. And it was on the seventh day, and Enoch went up in a tempest [whirlwind] of the heavens with horses of fire and chariots of fire. And on the eighth day all the kings who had been with Enoch sent to take the number of the men who had stayed behind with Enoch [when the kings left him] at the place from which he had mounted up into the sky. And all the kings went to that place and found all the ground covered with snow in that place, and on top of the snow huge blocks [stones] of snow. And they said to each other, ‘Come, let us break into the snow here to see whether the people who were left with Enoch died under the lumps of snow.’ And they hunted for Enoch and found him not because he had gone up into the sky."[4]  

Scholars note that the Prophets emphasize the moral aspect of Zion, while the Psalms, with their royal imagery and ritual background, favor the political. Yet both are speaking of a very real earthly community, confirmed by references in both to “bringing again” Zion—recognizing that Zion actually has been on the earth in the past and can be enjoyed by the believers again as soon as they are willing to “return to the original relationship with Yahweh,” a condition “in which alone Israel’s filial relationship to God can be renewed and which God … will reestablish in the future.” The familiar picture of the Lord “taking possession again of the seat in Jerusalem” as he collects “his scattered people from all quarters of their heritage, at a time of gathering” is ordinarily couched in the classic terms of the book of Enoch.  Enoch, the grandfather of Noah, is honored throughout history as the builder of a people, Zion, who built a city, and were taken with this great prophet, with the implication that they will come when Zion is “brought again.”

Things didn’t get better with Zion removed.  In fact, they continued to get worse. Noah’s sons, Japeth, Ham and Shem, were righteous.  But the Lord says that Noah’s granddaughters “have sold themselves.”  The wickedness was entering into the lives of Noah’s family.  And he was afraid.  He tried to teach the people, but they would not listen.  So God sent a flood to destroy wickedness from the world, to save the children that would be brought into it. But he told Noah to build an ark.

This is the pattern of Noah. Sometimes the Lord simply gives us the ability to endure the trial. He will give us strength, knowledge, or endurance. Though salvation is available to everyone, our relationship with the Savior is an intimate and personal one. We must each choose to surrender our will to trust in our Savior Jesus Christ. This lesson becomes apparent through the synthesis of the historic resources available, with a recognition of the biblical account as the foundational truth.


[1] Aquila H. Lee, From Messiah to Preexistent Son (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 258

[2] Bet ha-Midrash, 4:129-130, “Life of Enoch.”

[3] Andre Vaillant, Secrets of Enoch, (Jardin Livres, 2013), 60–61.

[4] Life of Enoch, Bet ha-Midrash, 4:131.

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