The Fallen Angels

Pieter Bruegel – Fall of rebel Angels

And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters. And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: ‘Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.’ And Semjâzâ, who was their leader, said unto them: ‘I fear ye will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.’ And they all answered him and said: ‘Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by mutual imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.’ Then sware they all together and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Jared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by mutual imprecations upon it. And these are the names of their leaders: Sêmîazâz, their leader, Arâkîba, Râmêêl, Kôkabîêl, Tâmîêl, Râmîêl, Dânêl, Êzêqêêl, Barâqîjâl, Asâêl, Armârôs, Batârêl, Anânêl, Zaqîêl, Samsâpêêl, Satarêl, Tûrêl, Jômjâêl, Sariêl. These are their chiefs of tens.

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 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.

And Azâzêl 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, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all colouring tinctures.  And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjâzâ taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, Armârôs the resolving of enchantments, Barâqîjâl, (taught) astrology, Kôkabêl the constellations, Ezêqêêl the knowledge of the clouds, 〈Araqiêl the signs of the earth, Shamsiêl the signs of the sun〉, and Sariêl the course of the moon. And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven (Book of Enoch, chap VI-VIII)

This text – taken from the Book of Watchers – is based on that of Genesis 6:1-4:

When men began to multiply on earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw the daughters of men were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. Then the Lord said, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for he is flesh: yet his days shall be one hundred twenty years.”
There were giants in the earth in those days – and even later – when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bare children to them: these are the heroes of old, men of renown

It is a very fragmented text. It seems a kind of summary of a much longer text. Moreover the central phrase – i.e. the lowering of age – breaks the narrative thread of the song. Probably the biblical author was not interested in the mythic theme of the fall of the angels. He wanted to gather material – presented in a so rough way – to document what he meant: the degeneration of humanity after the man’s expulsion from Eden and that will lead to flood.

The Enoch text is complete and perhaps it is even older than that of Genesis. This does not mean that the Enoch’s text is more important, but only that it better illustrates the mythical background that the author of Genesis would have known. In the text of Enoch the distinction between the angels – or sons of gods  – and the giants is clear. The giants are the fruit of the union between angels and women of the earth. The expression children of heaven corresponds to the expression children of God of Genesis. So I think that the term  Elohim (i.e. God) corresponds to the term heaven. This interchangeability between God and heaven is highly significant, and prevents us to give to elohim a too concrete meaning.

The general perversion and degeneration of humanity is caused – in the line of thought of the Book of watchers – not by man, but by a heavenly rebellion. For the first time we have here the name – also present in the Bible – of Azazel, as one of the fallen angels who teaches to men the art of seduction and fornication.

Moreover there is the cry that men get up to the sky, as exhausted by the cruel rule of the giants who came to eat even the meat of humans and animals. A cry that is also found in the Bible, for example in the case of the Jewish slaves in Egypt.

The events that Enoch describes are real? No, of course not! The language of Enoch is mythical. Myth is the way by which the ancient hebrews and early christians explained the origin of evil in the world. The question is that many catholics think that these mythical figures are real things, i.e. the demons that lead men and women to sin. It is a delicate and complex issue of which I’ll talk again.

Simone Venturini


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