Apocalypses: Book of the Watchers


Time Period

c 300 BCE, after Genesis has been written, but before the Maccabean Revolt.


Part of the 1 Enoch corpus.

The words of the blessing with which Enoch blessed the righteous chosen …

Angelic Guide

Enoch receives guidance from several angels across the book.

And one of the holy ones came to me and raised me up and stood me on my feet and brought me up to the door.


Brief parts of the book’s first half, and the majority of the second half, are concerned with Enoch’s tour of the universe.

And I departed for where no human walks. I saw the wintry winds of darkness and the gushing of all the waters of the abyss. I saw the mouth of all the rivers of the earth and the mouth of the abyss.

Primordial Events

Most of the book’s first half is an expansion on Genesis 6.1–4, the story of gods/angels having children through human women, providing an explanation for the origins of evil in the world.

When the sons of men had multiplied, in those days, beautiful and comely daughters were born to them. And the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them.

Historical Review


After-the-fact Prophecy

Because the narrative takes place in the earliest days of humanity, the flood is presented as a future event.

‘Go to Noah and say to him in my name, ‘Hide yourself.’ And reveal to him that the end is coming, that the whole earth will perish.’


Unlike most apocalypses, the oppression depicted is not of the author’s specific community, but of all humans by giants, the angel-human hybrids.

‘But now the giants who were begotten by the spirits and flesh—they will call them evil spirits on the earth, for their dwelling will be on the earth.’

Social Upheaval





A final day of judgment is anticipated, with the fallen angels as the primary object of punishment.

‘And on the day of the great judgment, he will be led away to the burning conflagration.’

New Creation



The Book of the Watchers is definitely composed of multiple sources, but the precise separation between them is difficult to find, as they have been rewritten into each other.

Chapters 1–5 function as an introduction, anticipating themes that will be found. It was most likely based on Deuteronomy 33.2 and other theophany passages found in the Hebrew Bible.

Chapters 6–11 and 12–16 contain two interweaved stories of how angels brought evil into the world, expanding on Genesis 6.1–4. In one, Semihazah is the leader of the fallen angels, and their sin is marrying human women, fathering giants that bring immense violence to the earth. In the other, Asael is the leader, and the sin is revealing forbidden knowledge and practices to humanity, corrupting them. The book doesn’t explicate a crisis like eschatological apocalypses, but it is thought these chapters function somewhat allegorically for the ‘alien invasion’ of the Greeks into Israel, or the corruption of the priesthood by marrying foreign women, or both.

Chapters 17–19 branch out of Enoch’s ascension to heaven in chapter 14. He is given a brief tour of the hidden parts of the world, including a look at the prison of the angels. This may have been the book’s original conclusion.

Chapter 20 contains a list of the seven archangels, different from the list of four archangels used in chapters 9–11.

Chapters 21–36 contain a second tour of the cosmos. These chapters were probably added to in a few stages, beginning with the more eschatological 21–23 and 24–27, with the non-eschatological 28–36 appended last.


1 Enoch 1: Introduction to the original book’s core theme: the arrival of God for the final judgment.

1 Enoch 2–5: Sinners are instructed to observe the natural order and see how they have violated it with their sins, now condemned to be punished when the eschaton arrives.

1 Enoch 6–11: The angels leave heaven and bring evil to the world. The four archangels are assigned to punish them and warn Noah of the flood.

1 Enoch 12–16: The narration backtracks, revealing Enoch was commissioned to announce doom over the fallen angels. He mediates between the angels and God, attempting to get them mercy, which is denied.

1 Enoch 17–19: Enoch is taken on a tour of the cosmos.

1 Enoch 20: A list of the seven archangels and their duties.

1 Enoch 21–23: Enoch’s tour is extended. He sees the places where the spirits of dead humans wait for the final judgment.

1 Enoch 24–27: Enoch’s tour is extended. He sees seven mountains with God’s throne in the center, then a small mountain surrounded by a valley, an opaque reference to Jerusalem (the mountain) and Gehenna (the valley), the places of reward and punishment.

1 Enoch 28–36: Enoch’s tour is extended. Leaving behind the theme of eschatology, he sees hidden parts of the cosmos, including the ancient garden of Eden, the places of mysterious animals, and the gates of weather and the stars.