The Origin of Satan and His Demons in the Book of Enoch

As we discussed last time, Zoroastrianism had some surprising influences on Jewish thought in Jesus’ day, including ideas that did not exist before in Judaism:

* A personalized adversary to God—Satan
* A hierarchy of angels that followed either God or Satan
* A time of judgment after death
* A place of punishment after death

But it is extremely unlikely that Jews in Jerusalem sat around reading the Zoroastrian Gathas. Instead, they were more directly influenced by intermediate writings  such as the The Book of Enoch (also called 1 Enoch), which was part of an explosion of new Jewish literature written during the post-exilic period between 200 BC and AD 200. Jews were exposed to Egyptian, Greek, and Zoroastrian ideas through these writings.

The Nature of the Book of Enoch

Enoch is part of a Jewish genre called apocalyptic. A simple definition of apocalyptic is that it focuses on the end of history. In addition, apocalyptic is also associated with phenomenal signs, wonders, and symbols. Enoch was certainly not written by the Enoch of Genesis 5, who was the father of Methuselah—no matter what the author of the book of Jude thought. In fact, it was written over a period of many years, by various people, beginning around 200 BC.

Enoch was known among many Jews of Jesus’ time, including the Essenes at Qumran, and was also used by a number of Christian writers through the first centuries after Jesus, though it fell from favor after that. So, for a while, Enoch was quite an influential book among both Jews and Christians, but it was never included in the Old Testament, the Jewish Apocrypha, or the New Testament canon.

The Sons of God and the Daughters of Men

One of the most apparent contributions of Zoroastrianism to Jewish thought is the idea of a powerful, evil adversary to God. The Zoroastrian God was Ahura Mazda—his adversary was called Angra Mainyu. Both Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu were followed by a host of spirits. Today we will see how Enoch turned to an obscure passage in Genesis to bring that idea of a powerful foe with a host of spirit followers into Jewish thought—where it had never existed before.

Genesis chapter 6 says:

The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

That is all; the Bible says nothing more.

Who were these sons of God originally meant to represent? Possibly they were thought to be the descendants of the pure line of Seth, with the daughters of men being descendants of Cain. Or the Sons of God were God-worshipers, while the daughters of men were not. A third possibility is that they were extraterrestrials. We just don’t know what was intended by this short, vague passage.

Enoch gave names to the sons of God and elaborated on the story. Enoch understood them to be fallen angels who had sexual intercourse with human women. God punished them, and their acts led directly to the flood of Noah. Therefore, the fall of the angels related to sexual sins rather than pride as some suppose.

Enoch Identifies the Sons of God who Went to the Daughters of Men

Enoch tells the story in chapters 6 and 7:

In those days, when the children of man had multiplied, it happened that there were born unto them handsome and beautiful daughters. And the angels, the children of heaven, saw them and desired them; and they said to one another, “Come, let us choose wives for ourselves from among the daughters of man and beget us children.”

And Semyaz, being their leader, said unto them, “I feel that perhaps you will not consent that this deed should be done, and I alone will become (responsible) for this great sin.” But they all responded to him, “Let us all swear an oath and bind everyone among us by a curse not to abandon this suggestion but to do the deed.”

Then they all swore together and bound one another by (the curse). And they were altogether two hundred; and they descended into Ardos, which is the summit of Hermon. And they called the mount Armon, for they swore and bound one another by a curse.

And their names are as follows; Semyaz, the leader of Arakeb, Rame’el. Tam’el. Ram’el, Dan’el, Ezequel, Baraqyal, As’es, Armaros, Batar’el, Anan’el, Zaqu’el, Sasomaspe’el, Kestar’el, Tur’el, Yamayol, and Arazyal. These are their chiefs of tens and all the others with them.

And they took wives unto themselves, and everyone (respectively) chose one woman for himself. And they began to go unto them. And they taught them magical medicine, incantations, the cutting of roots, and taught them about plants. And the women became pregnant and gave birth to great giants.

Notice that, in Enoch, the leader is not called Satan but Semyaz. Enoch also lists the good archangels of God in chapter 20:

And these are the names of the holy angels who watch: Suru’el [Uriel]… Raphael… Raguel… Michael… Saraqa’el… [and] Gabriel. [Some lists add Remiel or Ramiel]

Four Concepts Contributed to Jewish thought of Jesus’ Time From Zoroastrianism

We mentioned four Zoroastrian concepts that were never part of Jewish thinking before the exile:

* A personalized adversary to God—Satan
* A hierarchy of angels that followed either God or Satan
* A time of judgment after death
* A place of punishment after death

Today, we discussed the adversary to God and the hierarchies of angels and demons. Next time we will discover what Enoch has to say about a time of judgment and a place of punishment after death.

In this series: Zorastrianism, the Book of Enoch, and Eternal Fire:

Sheep, Goats, and the Bosom of Abraham
What Did Jesus Mean by the ‘Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and His Angels’?
The Influence of Zoroastrianism on Jewish Thought in Jesus’ Time
The Origin of Satan and His Demons in the Book of Enoch
Judgment and Punishment in the Book of Enoch


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37 Responses to The Origin of Satan and His Demons in the Book of Enoch

  1. newtonfinn says:

    Thanks, Tim, for a very informative piece and for mentioning the Genesis reference to the Nephilim. Over the years, I have enjoyed getting a rise from a large number of fellow Christians by pointing out that Hercules is scriptural.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ruth E Womack says:

    Hi Tim this is Ruth writing from England. I can remember being told about fallen angels when I first went to Fundamentalist bible study as a teenager. They took their references from the King James Bible (It was the 1960s) but I can’t remember where, though Lucifer was mentioned. Can you shed any light on this?

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Ruth, perhaps I CAN shed some light on it. Some believers believe strongly in the fall of Satan and his angels and present several biblical passages for support. I wrote a series on these passages debunking the idea of the fall of Satan and his angels. You can follow the link below for the first article and then go to the bottom of that article to find links for the additional passages.

      Feel free to continue the conversation after taking a look at them:


    • Chas says:

      Ruth, The name Lucifer is used only in the original King James bible and then only in one place. It is not clear why the translators chose to put it in at all, because it does not occur in any other bible as far as I know.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. fiddlrts says:

    One interesting side effect of Enoch is that it seems to have diverted attention away from the REAL reason the Flood occurred. (FWIW, I believe the Flood is a legend retold for a theological purpose, not a literal event.) Genesis is actually pretty strong about the reason, which is that mankind’s thoughts and deeds were violent and oppressive. See Genesis 6:11-13 – “the earth was filled with violence…”

    But, I suppose sex (and fear of sex) sells, and the idea of interspecies nookie was pretty outrageous and thus likely to make an impression.

    On a much lighter note, I have occasionally mentioned in an argument that Jude’s use of the term “strange flesh” (which is essentially “hetero” in the original) is less an argument against “homo” sexuality as a warning against breeding with extraterrestrials. So Spock should NEVER have happened, right?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Paz says:

    Thanks Tim, informative post!
    The nature of angels found in many religions and mythologies (spiritual beings, able to take on a human form) is certainly an interesting topic. There are angels described as messengers that connect mankind to God, His helpers (including guardian angels) but there are also the fallen angels (?). Either way, there seems to be an hierarchy in the roles of angels. Also, the angels who are God’s helpers, have greater knowledge than humans and seem to have experienced a past, or they seem to know and understand our human nature (?).

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Paz, I agree that angels in the OT are messengers–in fact ‘messenger’ is what ‘angel’ means. What I do not accept is the mythology that has built around angels; I find no basis for it from the Bible.


      • Chas says:

        Greek mythology, with its many gods and near-gods probably accounts for angels in part.

        Liked by 1 person

      • newtonfinn says:

        Tim, I concur that an inappropriately elaborate mythology has evolved around angels, but they are mentioned not only in the OT but also in the gospel story; they are present at the beginning to announce the birth of Jesus, and are present at the end to announce his resurrection. As with all things “miraculous” or “supernatural,” I believe we are intended to be open to them and take note of them but not to dwell on them or pretend to understand them. The older I get, the more wisdom I draw from Jesus’ observation that one must accept the Kingdom of God like a child if one wishes to enter it. Wonder and reverence, not comprehension and explanation, seem to be the keys that open the door.

        Liked by 3 people

  5. That whole angels-and-men thing has intrigued me for years. I actually have a copy of the Book of Enoch. I first read fragments in the Dead Sea Scrolls and wanted the rest of the story. The other day members of Fear Factory announced they’re working on an album based on Enoch. Of course I preordered it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: Judgment and Punishment in the Book of Enoch | Jesus Without Baggage

  7. mandibelle16 says:

    Fascinating piece about the Nephilium.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: The Influence of Zoroastrianism on Jewish Thought in Jesus’ Time | Jesus Without Baggage

  9. Pingback: What Did Jesus Mean by the ‘Eternal Fire Prepared for the Devil and His Angels’? | Jesus Without Baggage

  10. Pingback: Sheep, Goats, and the Bosom of Abraham | Jesus Without Baggage

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