Angelology: The Fallen Angels

          “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God… You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you… So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings… you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.”1 In these verses, the Lord speaks a prophecy against the king of Tyre, while portraying the fall of one of God’s created angels, the one who was known in his might as Lucifer. The ‘guardian cherub’ of the Lord’s creation, Lucifer was made perfect from the beginning, but subsequently lost his cherished position of power and splendor due to a prideful and corrupt heart. In his height he was personified as the radiant and gleaming light of the morning star, Venus.2 Yet just as Venus shines with all its grandeur, its beauty is merely a reflection of the light that shines upon it. Lucifer’s pride shrouded his ability to see that he was only radiant because of the reflected glory of the Most High, a jewel whose beauty can only be seen in pure light. Lucifer, the light bearer, became Satan, the adversary.3 He was cast out from God’s presence along with the offending angels. Satan and his cast of miscreants were not the last angelic beings to fall from God’s glory however. We are told of another group of celestial dissenters who became prideful in their own right and lusted for the things God had created. Through the words recorded for us by prophets and men in the Bible, we will see how these fallen angels came to be cast out of the heavenly realm that God had provided for them and followed in Satan’s footsteps, inflicting upon themselves a similar damnable judgment as that of God’s once appointed guardian cherub.

          Genesis chapter 6 speaks of the corruption that had befallen mankind in the antediluvian era. The text tells us that as the people began to multiply, the sons of God looked down upon the daughters of men and saw that they were fair. They took wives for themselves of the daughters of men and bore children of them. Corruption had been introduced to the earth and filled men’s hearts with wickedness continually. It was not long after this irreverent act by the sons of God that he pronounces judgment on all mankind to wipe clean the earth of the stain these beings had placed upon it. So who were these beings that so defiled God’s creation that he would be so displeased with them as to destroy nearly the whole earth? The Hebrew term for the “sons of God” is bene ha-‘elohim, meaning divine beings or angels. This term is used several times in the Old Testament and at each instance is defined in the same way. There are also a number of other indicators including syntax, correlative Biblical texts, and contemporary Near Eastern literature that support this interpretation.4 Take for instance the passage in Job about the creation of the Earth: “Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God [beney 'elohim] shouted for joy?”5

          The angelic interpretation of bene ha-‘elohim is further supported by the significance of the term Nephilim. The text indicates that the Nephilim were the children of unholy unions between divine beings and mortal women. “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”6 They existed before the flood and also after, somehow preserved in a race called the Anakites or Anakim, being from the descendants of Anak.7 Other races giants which may also have come from this line are known in the Bible as the Rephaim, the Zuzim, and the Emim. Their lineage is not known, but if we believe that the known world was wiped clean of all flesh during the flood as the Bible states, then one supposition is that the genetics of these beings must have carried on through one of the wives of Noah’s sons and not of Noah himself since his line was considered to be “perfect in his generations.”8 Another held belief is that a second, later group of angels fell from their heavenly home after the flood and committed the same sins as the original Watchers had done. However it happened, the lineage of the giants continued for some time in Biblical history.

          The translation of the term Nephilim has been debated over the years. Some consider the meaning of the word to be linked to the Hebrew verb naphal, which translated means “to fall.” They argue that:

“the term Nephilim is in the passive voice, i.e., ‘those who were made to fall’ or ‘those who were cast down.’ The New Testament Greek term eblethesan conveys precisely the same meaning. (‘And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’) This form of the word Nephilim is entirely different from the active voice of the verbal form, i.e., Nophelim, those who fell of their own accord or in a natural manner. Elsewhere the Bible confirms that these fallen ones were ‘cast down’ and ‘delivered into the chains of darkness’ – they did not descend by their own free will but were forcibly removed from heaven.”9

Others conclude that the term is actually the Aramaic word naphil, meaning giant.10 It may be that both of these analyses are correct. The sons of God were the progenitors of the Nephilim and from there the word may have derived its etymology.

          There is a reference in the book of Genesis that has been obscured to us by our non-Hebrew translation that may also substantiate the claim of the descent of these celestial beings. In this pre-Noachian era, there lived a prophet named Enoch who was the seventh generation from Adam. The father of Enoch was Jared, whose name means “shall come down” or “descent.” It may have been that at the time of the birth of Jared that these things were taking place as his name suggests. One hundred and sixty two years later, with the birth of his son Enoch, the prophet, the beginning of the end of the angels sinful and mischievous antics became imminent.

          The non-canonical Book of Enoch is believed to have been written by Enoch in the antediluvian era and contains a record of the misdeeds done by these angels that caused the great deluge. The early Church Fathers of the first and second century often referenced the book, giving it the full weight of an inspired work. Among these were Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian to name a few. We also see Tertullian refer to the book as the “Scripture of Enoch.” He records, “But as Enoch has spoken in the same scripture of the Lord, and ‘every scripture suitable for edification is divinely inspired,’ let us reject nothing which belongs to us.”11 Regrettably his statement is short-lived as we find that around the time of the compilation of the canon in the 4th century A.D., the Church Fathers did reject the book. They considered it heretical on the grounds of disbelief of some of its content – namely that angels could take human form and bare children. Due to their determination, the book was nearly lost to the passing of time. Fortunately it was preserved for us in the Ethiopian scriptural canon and on documents found by a shepherd wandering in the desert of Qumran.

          Fragments of the often overlooked text have been found among the other sacred works known as the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, which date to around 200 B.C. Jozef Milik, an expert and translator of the scrolls studied the Book of Enoch and wrote that while the book was not included in the Hebrew canon, it still may have been considered a sacred historical text.12 We see evidence of this recorded for us in the New Testament. Jude, the brother of James (who is also believed to have been the brother of Jesus), whose book is in the New Testament canon, directly quoted from the book:

“Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about them: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’”13

Even when not directly quoted as Jude did, other New Testament authors reference the underlying themes of the book. Paul mentions the reasoning behind why women should cover their heads when they pray as “because of the angels”14 who lusted after them. Peter also writes,

“For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;”15

Peter points out in his letter the judgment that came upon the fallen ones, an unequivocal reference to the Enochian text. He also notes that the Lord cast the angels into Tartarus (or hell – same reference as in Enoch), a place of darkness or the underworld, to wait in agony until the day of judgment.

          Looking back a little further into history seems to place the origins of the book in antiquity. The Epic of Gilgamesh which dates back to the 18th century B.C. provides another testament, although one that is steeped in heathen traditions. In his paper on Angelology in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Mehmet-Ali Atac points out the parallels between the Enochian story and that of the Epic of Gilgamesh:

“There is the paradoxical situation of Enkidu’s being both heavenly and earthly at the same time… Hence, with Enkidu and Shamhat, we do encounter the exact same paradigm as that found in the Jewish fallen angel tradition, a divine man having sexual relations with a mortal woman. Furthermore, just as in the Jewish tradition the fallen angels once defiled cannot resume their former heavenly state, so Enkidu can no longer run with the wild animals and slowly moves toward death and the Netherworld after his initiation into human intercourse. In fact, in Tablet I of the Standard Version, after his sexual intercourse with Shamhat, Enkidu is characterized as follows: ‘Enkidu had defiled his body so pure…’.”16

The similarities between the two works is compelling, especially the comparison between the characters names. Mehmet-Ali continues, “Enoch himself shares certain aspects of character with Enkidu as well as a superficial similarity in name (Hebrew Hanoch, Arabic Ukhnukh): both come to save mankind from lustful abuse, and Enkidu’s dream vision of entering the Underworld is comparable to Enoch’s vision.”17 By these references, the pagan Epic of Gilgamesh seems to confirm knowledge of the ancient story.

          We also have recently uncovered archeological evidence recently that points to its origins as well. The Book of Enoch mentions the name of angels who both transgressed and were righteous. Several cups were found in Babylonian ruins which have these same names inscribed on them of the angels mentioned in the text. Additionally, according to Thomas Ellis of the Manuscript Department in the British Museum, these cups were deciphered to be “amulets or charms against evil spirits, disease, calamity, and sudden death.”18 All of which seems to fit with the events mentioned in the book.

          While Genesis is a summary of these events, the Book of Enoch expounds upon them in detail. In the Book of Enoch, the sons of God are referred to as “The Watchers” who came down out of heaven to fulfill their lustful desires for the daughters of men. In addition to the unholy unions they sought, The Watchers taught the women all sorts of evils including sorcery and incantations. Azazyel, the chief perpetrating angel, taught them how to make swords, knives, shields, breastplates, mirrors, bracelets, paints, stonework, and dyes. Others taught them astronomy and signs, and fornication and transgressions increased. Their children were giants, being nearly three thousand ells tall (translated as three hundred cubits tall or 450 feet).19 They were so large, it became impossible to feed them and being forever hungry they began to devour birds, beasts, reptiles, and fish for food. When that no longer satisfied them, they began to kill and eat men. Seeing their own demise, man began calling out to heaven.

          Enoch was a man who was righteous before God. God allowed him to see visions of the heavenly places and described a strikingly similar vision as to that the prophet Daniel had more than a thousand years later.20 God sent Enoch to the Watchers to tell them of his plan for their treachery. Being eternal beings from the start, they could not die as a man was destined to. The line of communication between the Watchers and God had been severed by the angels’ evil deeds and therefore could not talk to him directly. They pleaded to God through Enoch to ask him for forgiveness, but no recompense would be given. Jude tells us that “the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day.”21 The wives were not free from their sins either as it says they will also be judged, for they “led astray the angels of heaven that they might salute them.”22 As for their children who were half of heaven and half of earth, the Book of Enoch states that they will be evil spirits upon the Earth since they were born upon it. They are to roam the Earth and shall oppress, corrupt, fall, contend, and bruise it, until the day of the great consummation.23 It may be that these evil spirits are the ones we read about in Matthew, who identify Jesus as the son of God and say to him, “’What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’”24 Ironically, perhaps even with an allusion to their original fate, they then ask Jesus to send them into a herd of swine that run off a cliff and perish in the water.

          Through the testimony of the Bible and the Book of Enoch, we are shown that the fallen angels, also known as The Watchers, were ultimately responsible for the great deluge which destroyed all flesh, but man did not escape God’s wrath for his role in the reprehensible acts he took part in either. While it is unfortunate that the Book of Enoch had been lost to most of the world for more than 1,500 years, we have now been made privy to its contents and claims as to its accuracy through the declaration of the writers of the Bible and other verifications. The text may have been preserved onboard the ark by Noah, the great-grandson of Enoch who was referred to in the New Testament the “preacher of righteousness.”25 Being privy to its prophetic teachings and coming condemnations, he not only had the ability, but the duty to use its contents to teach the people of the world of the coming and inescapable judgment on mankind in hopes they would repent. Of all the souls to inhabit the Earth, only eight souls, that of Noah and his family, were able to escape the torrent. We are warned in the Bible to not fall for the same temptations as the fallen angels we read about in the Book of Enoch and instead to embrace God and his saving grace. As the Psalms records, for “God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the ‘gods’” and concludes “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.”26 May we not fall into the same temptations that caused the angels to lose their abodes in heaven and strive to follow God rather than after our own lusts and desires.


1 “Ezekiel 28:12-19 (NIV),” Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
2 “Isaiah 14:12,” Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
3 Ron Phillips, Everyone’s Guide to Demons & Spiritual Warfare, (Florida: Charisma House, 2010), 53.
4 Rabbi M. Shamah, “Bene Ha‘elohim,” Sephardic Institute (2009), added October 23, 2009, accessed February 24, 2013, http://judaicseminar.org/bible/beresheet5.pdf.
5 “Job 38:6-7 (NASB),” Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
6 “Genesis 6:4 (NASB),” Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
7 “Numbers 13:31,” Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
8 “Genesis 6:9 (KJV),” Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
9 Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Fallen Angels and the Origin of Evil, (Montana: Summit University Press, 2000), 72-73.
10 “The Sons of God and the Nephilim-Part 7,” Tim Chaffey, posted on July 3, 2011, http://midwestapologetics.org/blog/?p=551.
11 Introduction to The Book of Enoch The Prophet by Lyman Abbott, trans. by Richard Laurence, (Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2000), iv-v.
12 “The Book of Enoch,” The Reluctant Messenger, accessed February 25, 2013, http://reluctant-messenger.com/enoch.htm.
13 “Jude 1:14-15 (NIV),” Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
14 “1 Corinthians 11:10 (NIV),” Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
15 “2 Peter 2:4-5 (KJV),”Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
16 Mehmet-Ali Ataç, “‘Angelology’ In The Epic of Gilgamesh,” Journal Of Ancient Near Eastern Religions 4, no. 1 (September 2004): 3-27, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed February 17, 2013), 17-18.
17 Ibid, 19.
18 Introduction to The Book of Enoch The Prophet by Lyman Abbott, trans. by Richard Laurence, (Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2000), xiii-xiv.
19 “Enoch 7:12,” in The Book of Enoch The Prophet, trans. by Richard Laurence, (Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2000), 7.
20 Ryan E. Stokes, “The Throne Visions of Daniel 7, 1 Enoch 14, and the Qumran Book of Giants (4Q530): An Analysis of Their Literary Relationship,” Dead Sea Discoveries 15, no. 3 (November 2008): 340-358, Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed February 17, 2013), 342.
21 “Jude 1:6 (NIV),”Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
22 “Enoch 19:2,” in The Book of Enoch The Prophet, trans. by Richard Laurence, (Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2000), 26.
23 “Enoch 15:9,” in The Book of Enoch The Prophet, trans. by Richard Laurence, (Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2000), 21.
24 “Matthew 8:28-34 (NIV),” Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
25 “2 Peter 2:5 (NIV),”Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.
26 “Psalms 82:1-7 (NIV),”Biblegateway.com, accessed February 23, 2013, http://www.biblegateway.com.

1 Comment

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One Response to Angelology: The Fallen Angels

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