Many writers have characterized the period between Malachi and Matthew as consisting of “400 silent years”. That may be true as far as the production of inspired Scripture is concerned, but not as far as the spiritual activity of the people of God. Deep, powerful spiritual movements developed, of the sort that produced men like John the Baptist. One of these movements produced the Essene spiritual community at Qumran, which collected and preserved the writings known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Quite a lot of literature was produced and circulated during that time. Much of this literature has been recovered and studied by scholars, like the book of Jubilees, but it is likely the most important and best known of this literature is the work often referred to as the Book of Enoch, more properly known as 1 Enoch, since there are two other later works that go by the name of Enoch.
Many devout God-fearing Jews studied it avidly, as well as many Christians. This is not much different from how many today read and study bestselling Christian books on various biblical or doctrinal topics. See how many views a good sermon or a Spirit-led message gets on YouTube – this is the kind of attention Enoch got for generations. Think of how some podcasts or videos by respected teachers are followed devotedly week by week. 1 Enoch was treated like this.
1 Enoch was considered inspired by many Jews and Christians in the centuries before and after Christ’s earthly ministry. It was quoted by Jude and referenced by Peter. It was considered as Scripture by early church leaders like Tertullian (2nd cent.) and the writer of the Epistle of Barnabas (2nd Cent). Scholars have seen how it was held in very high regard by many, including the community at Qumran.
The most important reason that we are highlighting it is that parts of 1 Enoch detail the background of the activities of fallen angels in bringing various sorts of evil to the earth, and the punishment that they received as a result. This also includes the origin of demons, something not described in the Bible. Here is a very brief summary of these two points –
Genesis 6:1-7 describes how some of the ‘sons of God’ left heaven and came to earth to take wives from human women, from whom were born the Nephilim, huge mighty men. It also describes how the Lord was very grieved and decided to purify the Earth and humanity by sending the Flood. This section of Genesis is not very detailed, and doesn’t say any-thing about the punishment the fallen angels receive.
1 Enoch chapters 6 – 12 and 14:24 – 16:4 fill in the activities of the angels (called Watchers), how they lusted after women and brought secret knowledge from Heaven, including astrology, witchcraft and metal working technology that allowed for the making of weapons, leading to more bloodshed on the Earth.
A very important disclosure is how the origin of demons can be traced to the offspring of the Watchers and the human women; these gigantic offspring were called Nephilim. Whenever Nephilim died, their spirits remained on Earth as demons. This is a key finding, and it was widely accepted in the centuries before and after the ministry of Christ, in both Jewish and Christian circles.
The sins of the Watchers were severely punished by sending them to be imprisoned until the Day of Judgment, something not described in Genesis, but referred to in 1 Peter 3:18-22, 2 Peter 2:4-10, Jude 5-7 and Jude 14-16.
Their offspring (the giant Nephilim) were also killed, both before and as a result of the Flood.
There are other fascinating topics covered in 1 Enoch, as well as valuable background on the Son of Man, a figure which first appears in Daniel, and is elaborated on by Enoch. Enoch’s unique treatment of the Son of Man influenced the writers of the New Testament.
We have been studying 1 Enoch primarily for the insights it gives into various aspects of the spiritual conflict that is seen from one end of the Bible to the other, and we invite you to follow along as we roll out new content about angels, demons and the ‘other books’ that influenced the New Testament writers.