Enoch the Prophet*
It's been assumed, because the Pearl of Great Price is a little, thin book, that anybody can handle it and write a commentary about it. Acutally it is the most difficult and portentous of our scriptures, and we can't begin to approach the ancient aspects of this most difficult of books unless we know a lot more than we do now. The Prophet Joseph says, "The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out." It's no small thing to approach a writing like the Pearl of Great Price.
In commenting on the book of Enoch, I'll refer mostly to sources outside the Pearl of Great Price. Because all the versions from which the book are taken were unknown in the time of Joseph Smith, these give remarkable confirmation of the Pearl of Great Price. Remember, Joseph Smith did give us a book of Enoch in chapters 6 and 7 of the book of Moses. I've written over a thousand pages on it, and I haven't even scratched the surface. The noncanonical stories of the Garden of Eden and the Flood have been very damaging to the Christian message, because they are the easiest to visualize, and you can popularize them more easily than any other of the Bible accounts.
Everybody has seen a garden, and everybody has been in a heavy rainstorm, so it requires no effort of the imagination for a six-year-old to convert concise, straightforward Sunday-school recitals into the vivid images that will stay with him for the rest of his life. These stories have been discredited as nursery tales because in a sense they are nursery tales, retaining forever the forms they take in the imaginations of small children, defended by grownups, who refuse to distinguish between childlike faith and thinking as a child when it is, as Paul says, time to "put away childish things." (1 Corinthians 13:11.)
It's equally easy and deceptive to fall into adolescent disillusionment, especially when "emancipated" teachers smile tolerantly at the simple gullibility of bygone days while passing stern moral judgment on the savage old "tribal god" who, overreacting with impetuous violence, wiped out Noah's neighbor simply for making fun of his boat-building on a fine summer day. The sophisticated say that these so-called myths were tolerable in bygone days, but now it's time to grow up.
Apocalyptic in general, and the writings attributed to Enoch in particular, are correctives for this myopia. They give us what purports to be a much fuller account of what happened. In the Bible we have only two or three verses about Enoch. But these parts that have been thrown out of the Bible (anciently they were part of it) give us a much fuller picture. This allows us to curb the critics' impetuosity and limit their license. The apocalyptic writings tell us in detail what happened—in much greater detail than the Bible. They also tend to make it clear to us just why it happened, and they have come to be regarded as invented "theodicies" to justify the ways of God to man.
In giving us a much fuller account than the Bible of how the Flood came about, the book of Enoch settles the moral issue with several telling parts:
1. God's reluctance to send the Flood and his great sorrow at the event.
2. The peculiar brand of wickedness that made the Flood mandatory.
3. The frank challenge of the wicked to have God do his worst.
4. The happy and beneficial side of the event—it did have a happy outcome.
Now to the first item, about God's not wanting to send the flood: In the Hebrew book of Enoch (discovered by Dr. Jellinek in 1873, long after Joseph Smith's time), Enoch introduces himself to Rabbi Ishmael, who meets him in the seventh heaven in the heavenly temple and says to him, "I am Enoch the son of Jared. When the generation of the flood committed sin, and said to God, turn away from us, for the knowledge of thy ways gives us no pleasure, then the Holy One delivered me from them that I might be a witness against them in the high heavens for all ages to come that no one might say the merciful one is cruel." In the Syriac Apocalypse of Paul, the apostle also is introduced to Enoch, being told when he is asked, "Who is this weeping angel?": "It is Enoch, the teacher of righteousness."
"So I entered into that place," Paul reports, "and saw the great Elijah, who came to meet us." He too was weeping, saying, "Oh Paul, how great are the promises of God and his benefits and how few are worthy of them!"
There is, to say the least, no gloating in heaven over the fate of the wicked world. It is Enoch who leads the weeping, as it is in the Joseph Smith account. Enoch puts forth his arm and weeps, and says, "I will refuse to be comforted." (Moses 7:44.) Enoch is the great weeper in the Joseph Smith version. Of course, he doesn't want the destruction of the human race. But in the Joseph Smith version, the amazing thing is that when God himself weeps and Enoch says, "How is it that thou canst weep?" (Moses 7:29), Enoch bears testimony that the God of heaven actually wept. It is a shocking thing to say, but here again, if we go to another Enoch text, there it is! When God wept over the destruction of the temple, we're told in one of the midrashim that it was Enoch who fell on his face and said, "I will weep, but weep not thou!" God answered Enoch and said, "If thou [Enoch] wilt not suffer me to weep, I God will go whither thou canst not come and there I will lament"—in other words, it's none of your business if I want to weep. The significant thing is that the strange conversation in both stories is between God and a particular individual—Enoch. How would Joseph Smith know that?
In another text we are told, "When God sets about to destroy the wicked, then the Messiah lifts up his voice and weeps, and all the righteous and the saints break out in crying and lamenting with him." Here again we recall from the Joseph Smith Enoch how all the righteous and "all the workmanship of my hands" shall weep (Moses 7:40) at the destruction of the human race. The Lord says, "Wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?" (Moses 7:37.) But the same thing happens in the apocryphal writings; not only God but all the other creatures weep for the wickedness of man.
The stock reply to the charge against God of cruelty has ever been that man with his limited knowledge is in no position to judge the wisdom or charity of what God does or does not do. The extreme example of the argument is set forth in the Khadir stories. But, significantly, this argument is not emphasized in the apocalyptic writings. There God does not say to the holy man who is afflicted by the fate of the wicked, "Who are you to question what I do?" He does not blast Enoch or Abraham or Ezra or the brother of Jared on the spot for daring to question his mercy. On the contrary, he commends each one for his concern for his fellowmen and explains, in effect, "I know just how you feel, but what you fail to understand is that I had good reason for doing what had to be done, and I feel much worse about it than you could. You come far short of being able to love my creatures more than I." He commends the prophet Ezra for taking their part: "But even on this account, thou shalt be honorable before the most high because thou hast humbled thyself even as Abraham in pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah," wicked though you know they were. In the same spirit he replies to Baruch, "Do you think that there is no anguish to the angels in the presence of the mighty one? Do you think that in these things the Most High rejoices or that his name is glorified?" He doesn't want to see men miserable. The Joseph Smith text says that "Enoch looked upon their wickedness and their misery and wept"; he saw that they weren't happy at all. Then God tells them, I am not happy about that either"; no one in heaven is, for that matter. When Enoch is distressed beyond measure at the cosmic violence he must behold, Michael comforts him: "Why art thou disquieted with such a vision? Until this day lasted the day of his mercy, and he has been merciful and long suffering toward those who dwell on the earth."
Mercy is the keynote, not vengeance. God has not hastened to unleash the forces of nature but holds them back like a dam as long as possible. When the angels, in another Hebrew Enoch fragment, beg God to get on with the work and wipe out the unworthy human race, he replies, "I have made and I remove; I am long-suffering and I rescue." After Enoch saw the angels of punishment who are prepared to come and let loose all the powers of the waters (this would be the Flood, to bring judgment and destruction on all who dwell on the earth), "the Lord of spirits gave commandment to the angels who were to go forth that they should not cause the waters to rise, but should hold them in check, for those angels were over the powers of the waters." On the contrary, the Flood was caused specifically by the cruelty of men, as we are told in Moses 7:34. God held back as long as he could while the angels were urging him to unleash the destruction. (The same thing is happening today. The angels protest, "Why do you let this go on so long?")
Thus this violence of the deluge, the completest of world catastrophes, is shown in the book of Enoch to be the only solution to problems raised by the uniquely horrendous types of wickedness that were infesting the whole world with an order that was becoming fixed and immovable. There's no other cure for it. The Enoch literature elaborates particularly on the theme of Genesis: "The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." (Genesis 6:11—12.)
"They are without affection, and they hate their own blood" is the Moses version. (7:33.) The texts say there were great disorders on the earth because of man who hates his neighbor and people who envy people: "A man does not withhold his hand from his son nor from his beloved to slay him nor from his brother."
Incidentally, the book of Enoch is quoted at least 128 times in the New Testament and very often in other places. Since the apocryphal manuscripts were discovered, we've recognized that Enoch is quoted all over the Bible and also frequently in the Book of Mormon. That is very interesting, since the Enoch literature has been discovered long since 1830.
A quotation from an Enoch text occurs in the thirteenth chapter of Helaman. "Ye have trusted in your riches," Enoch tells the people. "Ye have not remembered the Lord in the day he gave you your riches." (Cf. Helaman 13:33.) This is also Samuel the Lamanite speaking, an expert in the scriptures; he knew all about these things. He had access to the plates of brass and other records. And here Enoch speaks in a writing not discovered until 1888: "Ye have not remembered the Lord in the days he gave you your riches; ye have gone astray that your riches shall not remain, because you have done evil in everything. Cursed are you and cursed are your riches."
"Men dressing like women; women like men." The peculiar evil of the times consisted not so much in the catalog of human viciousness as in the devilish and systematic efficiency with which corruption was being riveted permanently to the social order. It was evil with a supernatural twist. The angels or "Watchers" themselves yielded to earthly temptation, mingled with the daughters of men, and used the great knowledge entrusted to them to establish an order of things on earth in direct contradiction to what was intended by God. Some Enoch texts tell of false priesthoods in the days of Seth; Adam had prophesied them, and God is angry in their attempts to surpass his power. Angels and all the races of men use his name falsely for deception. They're not worshipping devils. The Apocryphon of John tells us that the original attempt to corrupt men and angels, through the lust of sex, was a failure until the false ones set up a more powerful machinery of perversion. At first they failed, it says, so they came together and created the antimimon pneuma, a clever imitation of the true order of things, "and they brought gold and silver and metals, copper, and iron and all the treasures of the earth, so they married the women and begat the children of darkness; their hearts were closed up, and they became hard by this imitation false spirit." It was the deliberate exploitation of the heavenly order as a franchise for sordid earthly ambitions.
Another text says the ordinances have degenerated into a false baptism of filthy water. According to the Slavonic Secrets of Enoch, it was administered by false angels: "Woe unto you who pervert the eternal covenant and reckon yourselves sinless." It was no open revolt against God but a clever misuse of his name; no renunciation of religion but a perversion of piety. "The time is approaching when all life is to be destroyed on earth, for in those days there shall be great disorder on the earth."
Another theme is quoted in our Moses 7:26. The Adversary will glorify himself and rejoice with his followers in their works. The devil "laughed, and his angels rejoiced." As a result, the order of the entire earth will change and every fruit and plant will change its season, awaiting the time of destruction. The earth itself will be shaken and lose all solidarity. It is the reversal of all values as men worship: "Not the righteous law; they deny the judgment and take my name in vain." This vicious order was riveted down by solemn oaths and covenants of which we read a great deal in the Enoch literature. When the Sons of Heaven marry the Daughters of the Sons of Men, their leader Semiazus says, in a very recently discovered Greek fragment, "I fear you will not be willing to do this thing." So they say, "Let us swear an oath and bind ourselves all to each other. Then they all swore oaths and bound each other by them." The Lord says in the writings of Enoch in the book of Moses, "By their oaths, they have foresworn themselves, and, by their oaths, they have brought upon themselves death." The false oaths and the foreswearing is also an important theme. The systematic false teaching of the fallen angels soon "fills all the earth with blood and wickedness as the cries of the slain ascend to the gates of heaven, their groaning comes up and cannot depart because of the crimes being committed upon all the face of the earth." The passage in the book of Moses says the same thing.
The great heavenly angels, viewing these horrors from above and seeing only one solution, asked God how long he was going to permit Satan to get away with it. This is another aspect of theodicy: Must not God put an end to men when their evil deeds threaten far greater destruction than their own demise would be? The Pistis Sophia (transcribed, as it tells us in the introduction, from an earlier book of Enoch) asks, "Why did God throw the universe out of gear?" and answers, "For a wise purpose, for those who are destroyed would have destroyed everything." As it is, God had to hold back the destroyers until the last moment. The great danger to all existence was that the perverters knew too much. "Their ruin is accomplished because they have learned all the secrets of the angels and all the violence of Satan"; the threat is from them who have received the ordinances but have removed themselves from the law of the gospel. One must be willing to accept the law of God and the law of the gospel before he is qualified to receive the rest of the ordinances. They had received the ordinances, but they were not keeping the basic laws on which the ordinances were given. Still, employing the forms and knowledge they had, they set up a counter-religion and way of life. It was a time, says the Zohar, when the name of the Lord was called upon profanely. "In the days of Jared my father," says Enoch to Methuselah, "they transgressed the covenant of heaven; they sinned and betrayed the law of the gospel. They mingled with women and sinned with them. They also married and bore children, but not according to the spirit, but by the carnal order only." They changed the ordinances, they married under a different order.
Another text, first published in 1870, addresses the same issue: "Woe to you who write false teachings and things that lead astray and many lies, who twist the true accounts and wrest the eternal covenant and rationalize that you are without sin." This then was no mere naughtiness, but a clever inversion of values with forms and professions of loyalty to God that in its total piety and self-justification could never be set aright—it could only get worse. The Zohar states the general principle: whenever the Holy One has allowed the deep mysteries of wisdom to be brought down into the world of mankind, they have become corrupted, and men have attempted to declare war on God. The only redeeming feature of the thing was that the fallen angels who had perverted the human race had not learned all the mysteries in their heavenly condition (we're told in a Gizeh fragment), and so were not able to give away everything. As it was, their power for evil was almost unlimited.
According to the Psalm of Solomon, an early Syriac document discovered in 1906, "The secret places of the earth were doing evil, the son lay with the mother and the father with the daughter, all of them committed adultery with their neighbor's wives, they made solemn covenants among themselves concerning these things, and God was justified in his judgments upon the nations of the earth." (We're treating this as a theodicy.)
What else could he do? Part of the apocalyptic picture is the infection of the earth itself by the depravity of man, with the wicked sinning against nature and so placing themselves in a position of rebellion against the cosmos itself. It is as if one were to drive full speed the wrong way on the freeway during the rush hour. Only trouble can come from it. "While all nature obeys," Enoch tells the people, "you do not obey, you are puffed up and are vain; therefore, your destruction is consummated, and there is no mercy or peace for you." If you break all the laws, of course you will think that nature is fighting you. "They began to sin against the birds and the beasts and against each other, eating flesh and drinking blood while the earth fell under the rule of the lawless, until finally the earth itself laid an accusation against the lawless ones." All of this from an apocryphal source. That's interesting, because Enoch in the Pearl of Great Price hears a voice from the bowels of the earth, saying, "Wo, wo is me, the mother of men. . . . When shall I rest?" (Moses 7:48.)
Instead of the flood sent over a surprised community one fine day, we have in Enoch the picture of a long period of preparation during which the mounting restlessness of the elements clearly admonishes the human race to mend its ways. In the Enoch story, the darkening heavens, the torrential rains, and all manner of meteoric disturbances alternate with periods of terrible drought, and of course that is very clear in the book of Moses version: Remember how the land was blackened and utterly deserted in other parts, but remember also how "the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains." (Moses 7:28.) It's a dark sky, and always the water is flowing, the rivers turn from their courses, and so on. The same picture is in the apocryphal writings as in the Joseph Smith account of Enoch—the darkening heavens and the torrential rains. "Every cloud and mist and dew shall be withheld because of your sins," says one of the Enoch texts. "If God closes the windows of heavens and hinders the dew and rain from falling because of you, what will you do?" Enoch asks.
As during the twenty-five years of recurrent earthquakes that warned Abraham's Cities of the Plain to repent, the earth itself in Enoch's day became increasingly restless. The sea was first drawn back and the fishes were flopping around; and in the Joseph Smith version, sure enough, "There also came up a land out of the depth of the sea." (Moses 7:14.) Then the wicked invaded the new land, as Enoch had foretold, and all the people were in fear and trembling: "And fear shall seize them to the extremities of the earth, and the high mountains shall be shaken and fall down and be dissolved, flow down and be turned into side channels and shall melt like wax before a flame, and the earth will be rent with a splitting and cracking, and everything on earth shall be destroyed." This passage from the Slavonic version describes the same scene as in Moses 7:13—14, where the mountains flow down, the rivers are changed, and the earth shakes, when Enoch spoke the word of the Lord. The mountains shook, and all people were afraid; the rivers were turned from their courses, and the land rose up from the sea—the same picture. This does not sound as fantastic as it once did. Any catastrophe of the magnitude of the flood must have been accompanied by large-scale preliminary disturbances, plus side effects, exactly like those described. The terrible insecurity of the times heightened the social disaster, and the people began to fight among themselves. "A man shall not know his brother, nor a son his father or mother. For God permitted certain angels to go to the sons of adultery and destroy the sons of the watchers who were among mankind and set them to fighting against each other."
The preliminary vision is the key Enoch saw (in the Joseph Smith version) of a great people, who dwelt in tents in the plain in the valley known as Shum; and another great people of Canaan, who completely exterminated the people of Shum. They thus occupied the land and divided themselves; the land was cursed, and they had a terrible time. Emphasis is laid on the pollution of the earth, both physical and moral, for the two go together, and only a great purging of water, wind, or fire can cleanse it. Without such a periodic purging, says the Zohar, the world would not be able to endure the sins of mankind. In another Gizeh fragment we read, "And thou wilt cleanse the earth from all uncleanliness and from all filthiness, and all the earth shall be cleansed from the pollution—and from all impurity, and he shall cleanse the earth from the defilement that is in it." That is what happens. In the book of Moses the earth says, "Wo, wo is me, the mother of men. . . . When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me?" (7:48.)
Characteristic of the sweep and scope of the Enoch apocalyptic are the disturbances of the whole cosmos, for Enoch wept not just for the earth but for the heavens' sake. And he "wept and stretched forth his arms, and . . . his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook." (Moses 7:41.) Why shouldn't these and all the creations weep? And all the heavens mourn? This is a common theme in the Enoch literature. The whole cosmos shares the fate of a violated planet. The whole earth shakes and trembles and is thrown into confusion, and the heavens and their lights shake and tremble. "And I saw how a mighty quaking made the heavens to quake and the angels were disquieted with a great disquiet." Inhabitants in the other worlds weep too.
In contemplating these terrifying events, Enoch never allows us to forget that the real tragedy is not what becomes of people, but what they become. That's the sad thing. The people of Enoch's day and Noah's day were quite satisfied with themselves as they were, and they hotly resented any offers of help or advice from God's messenger; and all men were offended by Enoch's preaching. "They do not sow the seed which I give them," the Lord says to Enoch in a very important Enoch text, "but have taken another yoke and sow seeds of destruction and reject my kingship, and all the earth will be overwhelmed with iniquities and abominations." When Enoch asks the Lord why there were destructions, the first thing the Lord says is, "Behold, they are without affection"; "I gave them commandment they should have me to be their father, but they won't do it." Then he goes on, "I commanded them that they should love one another and serve me their father."
Here he says, "They don't sow the seed that I gave them; they've rejected my kingship, and all the earth will be overwhelmed." "The kings of the earth say, 'We have not believed before him; our hope was in the scepter of our kingship and in our glory.'" So when disaster strikes, they must confess that his judgments have no respect of persons. "We pass away from before his face on account of our own works." The theme often repeated in the book of Moses is that because of their own iniquities, they have brought destruction upon themselves. This is a very common theme. The refrain is ever "Wo unto you foolish ones, for you shall perish through your own folly." "They denied the Lord and would not hear the voice of the Lord but followed their own counsel. They go astray in the foolishness of their own hearts." They know not what they are doing when they say to God, "Turn away from us, for the knowledge of thy ways gives us no pleasure"—though God gave them promise of all that he would give them and all that he wanted them to do.
In the Joseph Smith version, Enoch asks, "Why are you going to destroy them? Why are we weeping?" The Lord answers, "In the day I created them I gave them three things, all they could want; I gave men knowledge, I gave them their agency, and I told them what to do—gave them a commandment that they should love one another and have me as their father. But behold they are without affection; they hate their own blood." A new fragment from the Apocalypse of Paul has the Lord explaining to Enoch what he promised men and told them he wanted them to do. "But they have defrauded themselves in refusing to keep the precepts which our Lord gave unto them. Therefore, ask no more concerning the multitude of them that perish," said the Lord, "for having received liberty [he used the word agency in the Joseph Smith version], they despised the Most High, scorned his laws, and forsook his way. Slavery was not given from above but came by transgression, and the barrenness of your women does not come by nature but by your willful perversions."
Peculiar to the world of Enoch is not only the arrogant quality of the sinning that went on, but the high degree of enlightenment enjoyed by the sinners, making them singularly culpable before God. Enoch explains that the Lord said, "I established Adam and gave him dominion." This verse from an old Slavonic version is practically the same verse we see in the book of Moses: "I established Adam and gave him dominion, and I gave him knowledge, I gave him his agency, and I gave him commandments, and said to him, 'This you should do, and this is bad.' What more do you want?" (See Moses 7:32—33.) God has given the human race the power of understanding and the word of wisdom. God created men last of all in his own form—put into man eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart with which to deliberate, with eyes wide open, their choices. God says, "I hoped they would come to me, but they had no love to offer me. Rather they praised the alien one and cleaved to him ['for he loved Satan rather than God'], and for that, they deserted their mighty Lord." Their mocking kings can say, with those of Enoch's day, "We pass away on the account of our own works, descending into Sheol." The fallen angels by their own sweet choice have rebelled and are gone into captivity—"a prison have I prepared for them" (Moses 7:38); therefore they shall go into hell. "Wo unto you mindless ones, for ye shall perish through your own folly; ye have not given ear nor received what is good for you." Following their own foolish ambitions and dreams, and setting their hope not on the foundation of the inheritance of their fathers, in a spirit of apostasy they have no peace of mind and no joy, but stubbornly continue their ruinous course, ignoring God's commandments and blaming others for their misfortunes "with great and hard accusations with an unclean mouth and lies—you are hard-hearted and have no peace." They are not beyond getting the point, for when Enoch speaks to them directly, "They could not speak nor could they raise their eyes to heaven for shame because of their sins and were condemned." He showed them a book, as in the Joseph Smith version. (Moses 6:5, 8, 46.) You cannot deny, he says "for a book of remembrance [you] have written among [you]"; and when he showed them the book, they "could not stand in his presence." (6:47.) This version says, "They could not speak nor raise their eyes to heaven for shame because of their sins when he showed them from the book."
A significant aspect of the apocalyptic picture is the technological advancement of the doomed and wicked world in which men defy God, confident in their technological and scientific knowledge (there's a great deal about this). To the various fallen angels designated by name, the Enoch text assigns the introduction among men of the study of chemistry, the manufacture of weapons and jewelry and cosmetics, the trade secrets of angels—formulas, incantations, drugs, astrologies," and so forth. "They thought to emancipate themselves from dependence on God through their technological know-how." This is not as foolish as it sounds, says the Zohar, for "they knew all the arts and all the ruling principles that governed the cosmos, and on this knowledge they relied until at length God corrected them by restoring the earth to its primitive state and covered it with water." In the days of Enoch even the children were acquainted with the mysterious arts—what we would call advanced sciences. Rabbi Yasah says, "With all that knowledge could they not foresee destruction?" to which Rabbi Isaac replies, "They knew, all right, but they thought they were just smart enough to prevent it, but what they did not know was that God rules the world. He gave them respite as long as the righteous men Jared, Methusaleh, and Enoch were alive, but when they departed from the world, God let the punishment descend and they were blotted from the earth." "Alas," cries Rabbi Simeon, "for the blindness of the sons of men, all unaware as they are, how full the earth is of strange and invisible beings and hidden dangers, which could they but see them, they would marvel how they themselves can survive ten minutes on the earth." In Enoch's time, they had all sorts of engineering projects for controlling and taming nature, as did Nimrod, but the Lord altered the order of creation so that their mastery of nature became their own undoing. The same scientific prowess that led them to reject God led them to insult nature, and the upheavals that engulfed them demonstrate the very real ecological connection between the sins of men and the revolt of the elements. This was formally viewed as fatal extravagance and irrational apocalyptic.
There is more. You can find out sure enough that Joseph Smith knew what he was talking about when he wrote this book of Moses, continuing the prophecies of Enoch. Theodicy—the vindication of God's justice—is merely one aspect of the Enoch literature that is touched upon in the Enoch section of the book of Moses.
* A version of "Enoch the Prophet" first appeared in Pearl of Great Price Symposium: Brigham Young University November 22, 1975 (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Publications, 1976), pp. 76—85.