1 Enoch, Sirach and the Book of Job: Wisdom and Apocalyptic

This blog contains chronological, serialized excerpts of the novel, beginning with “excerpt 1”: First Look: Novel Begins. A new excerpt will be released weekly until the first section of the book is public. The remainder of the book will be reserved for publication. Please leave feedback, this is a work in progress! Thank you for your interest.

For more information, please visit our Official Fire of Norea Facebook Page or blog post “Who or What is Fire of Norea?”.


The following suffers from parameters of subject, style and brevity (plus the general fumbling around in the dark that is the learning experience).

It connects to Norea in several ways: the “sons of God” from Genesis 6 who had some mysterious relationship with the “daughters of men” connect to interesting apocryphal literature, including the books about Enoch. This paper explores relationships between the earliest Enochic literature and the book of Job, which, in turn, explores the relationship between wisdom and apocalyptic literature.

My favorite aspect of the research was learning about the “Divine Warrior” depiction of God and its origin in Babylonian stories. Although this blog makes references that may not be immediately accessible to you, I think you’ll find the journey entertaining if you have an interest in Job or Biblical depictions of angels and Satan. And let’s face it: when it comes down to it, who doesn’t find angry gods and scheming angels entertaining?


1 Enoch, Sirach and the Book of Job:

Wisdom and Apocalyptic

Preliminary Considerations

According to James VanderKam, it would be “inappropriate” to designate the Astronomical Book (AB) and Book of the Watchers (BW) “booklets” of Ethiopic Enoch (referred to henceforth as 1 En) as apocalyptic, although the books do possess some important attributes of the genre.1 However, he argues the character of Enoch derived from Mesopotamian divinatory traditions absorbed into the Jewish tradition, an assertion he parallels with H.P. Müller’s theory of the mantic origins of apocalyptic literature. In this regard, he sees Enochic literature as peculiarly destined to develop into an apocalyptic genre from its earliest origins.

Randal Argall’s study, which compares the AB, BW and Epistle (EE) booklets of 1 En to Sirach, a wisdom book written during the Hellenistic period, views the purpose of both traditions as interpretive, seeking the “hidden meanings in scripture,” and calls into question the appropriateness of the ‘mantic’ label.2 He points out that no ancient text used the self-designation of apokalypsis (‘revelation’) before the end of the first century CE and argues that if the Enochic literature and Sirach have more in common with one another than 1 En has with the Mesopotamian divinatory tradition, the definition should reflect its inclusion in the wisdom tradition. For this, he suggests “revealed” wisdom3 for 1 En and Sirach, but admits that all classifications have their limitations and contradictions.

One such difficulty derives from John J. Collins’ demarcations between wisdom and apocalyptic, referenced in VanderKam’s investigation.4 Referring to the wisdom of the Hellenistic period (such as Sirach), he characterizes the wisdom tradition as using the conceptual language of philosophy, proposes salvation as adaptation to the cosmic order, and suggests that wisdom can be attained by human faculties interacting with creation. By contrast, he argues, apocalyptic literature utilizes the personified language of mythology, asserts a sharp distinction between the ordered heaven and corrupted earth, and claims that Wisdom has retreated to heaven, only available by ecstatic revelation.5 However, pre-Hellenistic wisdom does not conform to these descriptions. For instance, the book of Job, a wisdom text from early in the second Temple period, incorporates mythological tropes such as the divine warrior and monsters of chaos, contains visions and revelation, and argues that wisdom is withheld from humanity at God’s discretion. By Collins’ definition, Job has more in common with the apocalyptic tradition than wisdom of the Hellenistic period, such as Sirach.

Argall productively investigated the textual relationships between Sirach and 1 En, and Collins’ characterizations of wisdom and apocalyptic suggest a strong contrast between early and late wisdom literature. It would not be prudent to attempt to clarify wisdom or apocalyptic or to define the genre of Enochic literature in a paper of this size, but unpacking these inquiries together in a conversation about Enochic literature may provide productive clues about its development. If Sirach and 1 En share their origin in the wisdom tradition as Argall suggests, then comparing 1 En to Job may reveal a broader textual community of influence. In this paper, I will incorporate a study of the book of Job into a review of Argall’s comparison of Sirach and 1 En in order to explore their involvement in a broader wisdom tradition. Then I will compare the mythological elements of Job and the BW, which are not present in Sirach. This should raise important questions about the broader literary influences that affected the development of Enochic literature.

Sirach, Enoch and Job

Dates and Structure

Before investigating the relationships between these books, it would be sensible to discuss the possible dates and processes of production for each to establish parameters for the larger inquiry. I will avoid most attempts to assign texts to particular social groups in reaction to definitive historical periods and instead focus on broader literary traditions. For instance, Argall believes the authors of the AB, BW and, particularly, EE, may have been contemporaries of ben Sira, proposing that Sirach is reacting to an Enochic community by criticizing dream interpretation6 and esoteric wisdom,7 as well as suggesting that the EE author reacted to ben Sira’s claims that “his wisdom is ‘evil’ (94:5).”8 Elements of 1 En are certainly older, however, and whatever conflict may have existed between the two hypothetical schools does not inform the primary thrust of the texts.  We will consider these texts as part of larger literary movements, their infrequent polemics subject to a broad syncretism of various regional influences.

Sirach: Sirach is generally given a terminus date of early 2nd century. The book utilizes prophetic forms such as the woe-oracle and disputation speech, as well as “such traditional wisdom forms as the proverb…riddle, fable and allegory, hymn and prayer, disputation, autobiographical narrative, lists (onomastica), and didactic poetry or narrative.”9 The book shows heavy influence from Stoicism, but promotes the wisdom of Torah study. Sirach is a compilation for wisdom study, probably for a school of ben Sira’s students.

1 En: According to VanderKam, the AB is likely the earliest section, with a terminus date about 200BCE, the BW likely completed shortly after. The EE would have been finished between 175 and 167BCE according to textual clues referring to the Maccabean period. In broadest terms, 1 En records Enoch’s heavenly journeys and reception of wisdom, compiled and communicated for an “elect” community in preparation for the end of history and the reward of a new creation.

Book of Job: Job is a composite piece that likely developed over many years, most likely during or immediately after the Babylonian exile. Job scholar Leo G. Perdue claims the narrative form (1-2; 42:7-17) is the oldest, probably pre-exilic, “a didactic narrative that parallels the Joseph story, the tale of Ahiqar, the Egyptian ‘Protests of the Eloquent Peasant,’ the Akkadian ‘Poor Man of Nippur,’ and the Hittite ‘Tale of Appu'” (Perdue, Creation and Wisdom, 125). The narrative trope common to these tales is that of a protagonist who embodies the values of the community, who must persevere against the challenges presented by a powerful antagonist, and is ultimately rewarded for his virtuous character (namely, his wisdom). In this tale, Job is tormented by “the Accuser,” unaware that God has sanctioned the abuse. Because his piety and fear of God endures the torment, God rewards Job with more wealth than he previously possessed, and grants him a long life and good reputation.

The rest of the book is poetic, primarily a mix of “lamentation” and “sapiential disputation,” structured as a series of debates between Job and his friends and then Job and God, who appears in a whirlwind.  These portions of Job are primarily concerned with the nature of creation and of God, “[a]nd the book explores, not moral virtue exemplified in the behavior of one who at first is unbelievably pious, but the nature and function of being human in a narrative world of the struggle with evil.”10 Finally, chapter 28, a discussion on wisdom, and speeches by the character of Elihu in chapters 32-37 were likely later additions intended to diminish the impact of the earlier poem’s controversial themes.11 Additionally, scholars have long noticed likely textual corruption in other speeches, such as chapters 27 and 28, indications of redaction errors.

Sirach, 1 Enoch and Job and the Wisdom Tradition

Argall analyzes the literary forms of Sirach and the AB, BW and EE booklets of 1 En in relation to one another, organized as revelationcreation and judgment. I will summarize his arguments and apply them to Job for comparison.

Character: Argall identifies both Enoch and ben Sira as sages (Sirach 6:32, 34; 15:10; 1 Enoch 98:9; 99:10) and scribes (Sirach 38:24; 1 Enoch 12:3, 4; 15:1; 92:1). While the authors of the texts use the terms in different ways, he argues that the ultimate purpose of the sage in the Hellenistic period, as exemplified by these authors, is “the scholarly interpretation of oral and written traditions to explicate the major themes of the period.”12 For ben Sira, interpretation of the Torah yields practical wisdom for living a productive life. For the authors of 1 Enoch, interpretation and expanding of the oral and written traditions reveals secret wisdom for the community of “elect” that make up its audience.

Job is no scribe and is never referred to as a sage. Even so, he is characterized as a wealthy, pious man, “the greatest of all the people of the east” (1:3), signifying his preeminent status among the wise. In chapter 29, he describes his role as a judge and leader among his community:  “I chose their way, and sat as chief, and I lived like a king among his troops, like one who comforts mourners” (v25). In this way, Job and Enoch literary tools, the character of antediluvian sage upon whom the values of the community can be projected and around which the tropes and assumptions of the wisdom tradition can be interpreted in service of a new inquiry. For ben Sira, the characterization of Wisdom serves a similar function.

Revelation: According to Argall, revelation has a heavenly origin, delivered by a “revealer figure” and recorded in a book or books for the community.

He utilizes Walther Zimmerli’s description of commission narratives in the Hebrew tradition to characterize prophetic revelation in the two books:

“One type is characterized by such elements as a very personal encounter between God and the one called, a dialogue, expressions of reluctance or objection by the one called, and God’s response through personal promises or the granting of signs (e.g., Jer 1). The second type is not a narrative in the strict sense. The one called sees the Lord sitting on his throne with the       heavenly host surrounding him, the Lord asks the divine council whom he       should send, the heavenly beings suggest various possibilities, the one to be sent voluntarily steps forward, and God places his word in the agent’s mouth         (e.g. Isa 6; Ezek 1-2).”13

Wisdom and Enoch represent the second type of commission:  both are taken to heaven before the divine council to receive wisdom and instruction for sharing that wisdom on earth. Job corresponds to the first type of commission: dreams and visions sent to him by God torture him and he begs to be left alone (7:13-15). When his speeches escalate from lamentation to accusatory and he demands a trial to provide justice, God appears in a whirlwind. Job is shown the power of God, the majesty of creation, and the limits of human authority. These signs and speeches impart a peculiar wisdom to Job:  a new understanding of God and the limits of human capacity for understanding. Although the forms of prophetic commission are different, the three characters of Wisdom, Enoch and Job are all used as narrative tools to impart wisdom to the community, the authority of which rests in its divine origin. Although the prophetic commission in Job is inverted to express the limits of wisdom, the trope serves the same purpose as for Wisdom in Sirach and the heavenly journeys of Enoch.

For all three texts, Sirach, 1 En and Job, a “revealer figure” is important for the propagation of wisdom.  In Sirach, Wisdom tours the cosmos and settles in the Temple where she is described as a tree whose fruit is available to all who may eat of it. Enoch witnesses the tree of Wisdom during his tour of the cosmos, and its fruit is made available only by the angels consuming it and communicating that wisdom to him (1 Enoch 32). 14 He then brings the wisdom to earth, to share with his family. In Job 38-41, God is the revealer figure, giving Job a tour of the undomesticated regions of the earth to experience the wildlife and chaos beasts that exist beyond the dominion of humanity.  When the ordeal has ended, God admonishes Job’s friends and commands them to pay tribute to Job for his piety and wisdom. Although the results differ, all three texts possess a “revealer figure” that brings wisdom from heaven to share with humanity:  Lady Wisdom, Enoch, or the whirlwind.

In Sirach and 1 En, this wisdom is preserved in a book. Enoch transcribed the revealed wisdom from tablets and observations while in heaven, and was commissioned to deliver the writing to his children before his final ascension. Ben Sira reads and interprets the Torah, preserving the revealed wisdom he experienced in his own book. In both cases, the authors interpret the source text allegorically, providing parables to their audiences that convey hidden insights. For instance, according to Argall, the BW’s audience would understand the Watchers to represent the corrupt priesthood.15

The character of Job is not a scribe, nor did he write any books. However, the book of Job reinterprets the wisdom tradition for new insights, just as the authors of 1 En expanded Genesis (or a version thereof) and ben Sira drew wisdom from Torah. Further, as stated above, Job is a narrative tool in service of the authors’ interpretation of wisdom. He is an antediluvian character who performs pre-Temple sacrifices and lives his life according to the wisdom derived from perceived order in the cosmos. More specifically, Job’s wisdom predates Mosaic Law, possibly providing an alternative authority for a scribal community. Regardless, Enoch’s books are as much a character of his narrative as he, and the character of Job likely served the same function:  a record of experiences to demonstrate wisdom. And although the character of Job does not record the experience in a book, the authors of Job utilize traditional literary tropes from the wisdom and prophetic traditions in interesting ways, subverting previous assumptions and arguments in order to reinterpret the literary tradition for a new understanding.16 The authors of Job do not reveal themselves as ben Sira does, nor do they appeal to the authority of Job as the witness who recorded his experiences, as in Enochic literature. Even so, the Book of Job can be read as a record of revealed wisdom.

Finally, Argall states that for 1 En and Sirach, wisdom functions to provide life to those who receive it. Enoch’s audience is the “elect” who will be blessed by the received wisdom and will be protected during the final judgment. For ben Sira, wisdom provides for an exemplary life and a good name that may be honored for generations. For Job, the final understanding is that, while God maintains power and control over the cosmos, that authority is constantly threatened by entropy. The wisdom revealed by the final narrative is that humanity participates in the struggle against chaos:  God rewards Job for his lamentations against injustice with a long life.  The implication is that longevity awaits those who emulate Job’s peculiar form of piety.

In conclusion, Job is a sage who receives a divine revelation from a revealer figure, and the experience is recorded in a book that reinterprets and subverts traditional wisdom and prophetic literary forms. In its own way, the book of Job operates as revealed wisdom in a similar fashion as Sirach and 1 En, providing an example of wisdom literature from the early second Temple period that may, therefore, have influenced Enochic literature.

Creation: Both the Enochic authors and ben Sira appeal to the order of the cosmos as evidence of their respective forms of revealed wisdom. For instance, the cosmic order as described in the AB provides authority for use of the solar calendar, while ben Sira gives primacy to lunar movement. Seasons and festivals important to community practice rely on calendrical authority, which is derived from the movements of celestial bodies; however, each community interprets the movements of the cosmos differently, resulting in variant practices.17

In 1 Enoch, according to Argall, observed reality is regarded as “a kind of cosmic parable” from which hidden wisdom is perceived.18 The righteous are those who adapt themselves to the text’s interpretation of the cosmic order, and their reward will be salvation at the tribulation. For ben Sira, cosmic order has a binary structure of opposites, in which the negative aspects have positive functions such as judgment.19 Ben Sira employs his observation of the cosmic order to support his wisdom claims, and the hidden aspect of punishment threatens those who deviate from the community. Both texts employ rhetorical questions and lists, examples of Hymns of Praise, a common form of creation hymn in wisdom literature.20

In both narratives, the wisdom of order is revealed by a cosmic journey. Wisdom tours the cosmos before settling in Jerusalem, made available for humanity “through the activity of sages like ben Sira.”21 In Enoch’s heavenly journeys, angels reveal the fullest extent of the cosmos to him, wisdom and knowledge not accessible to any other mortal (1 En 19:3). The wisdom revealed by an understanding of the cosmos informs humanity on piety and judgment in both texts, but for ben Sira judgment occurs temporally, as a result of providential order. For Enoch, judgment will arrive at the end of history as the result of God’s physical intervention, described as a theophany (1 En 1:4; 25:3). His journeys reveal the moral dimension of the cosmos, whereby the laws that govern its operation and the places of reward and punishment are observable aspects of its structure. In fact, his journey in BW reveals a prison for stars “which have transgressed the commandment of the Lord,” for which they are to be bound for “ten thousand years” (1 En 18:15-16). This passage suggests final judgment is not reserved for a particular day, and entropy was not a singular event caused by the Watchers.  The cosmos of 1 En requires maintenance, and transgressions and punishment are part of the natural order of creation.  The eschaton represents a recreation of the cosmos, in which the influence of chaos will be eliminated.

In his lamentations, Job interprets the cosmos as evidence of God’s neglect of justice (9:23-24), but also anticipates an intercessor on the divine council (16:19) that would justify his assumption of cosmic order. Although Job believes wisdom is available to all who observe the natural world (12:1-12), he also believes God may choose to withhold that wisdom from humanity (12:13-25). Finally, God confirms the limits of human wisdom and chastises Job’s ignorance of the laws, storehouses and portals, which Enoch had been shown. From the whirlwind, God asks Job:  “Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you establish their rule on the earth?” (38:33).  In the context of the greater speech (Job 38-41, an inversion of the Hymn of Praise), we understand these rhetorical questions are evidence of God’s power and humanity’s limitations. These laws and their impact on humanity are divine secrets, revealed at God’s discretion. In fact, this understanding of wisdom is presupposed by 1 En and Sirach, which both require a “revealer figure” to deliver divine wisdom to earth from heaven. As mentioned above, God takes Job on a tour (40-41), but only to show the chaos beasts Behemoth and Leviathan, proof that humanity has no dominion over creation.

According to Walther Zimmerli, “wisdom theology is grounded in creation,”22 which helps explain the importance of cosmic order in the three texts if all of them are, in some way, wisdom texts. Further, Zimmerli asserted that the structure of wisdom literature differed from “salvation history” in that it regarded wisdom as universal and not grounded in Israel or its providential destiny. G. Ernest Wright defined “salvation history” as the belief that God acted in great redemptive events to determine Israel’s destiny, including “the promise to the patriarchs, the exodus from Egypt, the wilderness wandering, covenant and law at Sinai, the entrance into the land of Canaan, and the covenant with David.”23 Wisdom literature lacked these concerns, even to the point that appellations for God are never nation-specific (i.e., “God of Israel” or “God of the ancestors”) 24 primarily because the focus of wisdom is generally on the individual.  According to Perdue, ben Sira was “the first sage to integrate redemptive history and creation,”25 a result of his commitment to the priesthood.

In Job, God is referred to by the Tetragrammaton, but never in reference to Israel. As stated above, Job is an antediluvian character who existed before Israel and the covenant. Likewise, Enoch’s journeys take place generations before Abraham. Referring to God in reference to Israel would engender an anachronism. As a result, God is never referred to in reference to Israel, but rather as the great Lord or the King of glory in AB and the Most High, the Holy and Great One or variations thereof in BW. In the Apocalypse of Weeks, God is referred to as the Holy One and the Great King.  This apocalypse is concerned with salvation history, but the salvation is reserved for the community who embraces the Enochic wisdom (93:10, the “elect righteous of the plant of righteousness”).  The eschaton in AB (80-82) refers to the “righteous” during the “days of the sinners” (80:2) and in BW (1-5; 10:16-11), Enoch’s wisdom is reserved for the “elect.”  Salvation is reserved for a select group within the nation, the elect who are privy to Enochic wisdom.

If this tradition developed from salvation history, it has been severely altered. More likely these versions of eschaton are concerned with repairing natural order to the cosmos after the intrusion of entropy. After all, in 5:4-7 and 80:2, the disobedience seems particular to a generation of human transgressors, living in the generation of the righteous and surrounded by a cosmos that refuses to disobey God (5:2; 80:1). Both versions of eschaton, then, are likely polemic, and the choice of an antediluvian hero and lack of nation history suggests that the Enochic community opposed Israel’s ruling party or priesthood as transgressors against the cosmic order. This is conjecture, however, and the more important assertion to make here is that the Enochic literature, even with its preoccupation with history, aligns well with Zimmerli’s guidelines for wisdom literature.

In conclusion, concern for the order of the cosmos lies at the center of wisdom traditions, and Enochic literature focuses primarily on the wisdom Enoch received during his heavenly journeys. In these journeys, Enoch witnessed the moral dimension of the cosmos, such as the laws, paths, portals and places of punishment that maintained the order and responded to chaos.  He received knowledge of human history, both the imminent (to prove his prophetic prowess) and the far-flung future of the elect (the text’s audience), in order to communicate the wisdom he had received to the proper audience.  The only aspect of Enochic wisdom that was “secret” involved the legitimacy of that audience (referred to as “elect).  After all, the divine knowledge introduced by the Watchers was forbidden and the secrets of the cosmos could not be exploited.26  For the Enochic community, Enoch’s journeys provided the narrative structure that explained the divine authority behind their calendar, eschatology and morality.  Enochic literature may not represent universal wisdom, but it certainly maintains a strong relationship with the wisdom tradition.


Judgment: The third theme Argall used to display the literary and thematic parallels shared by Sirach and Enochic literature is judgment.  He uses examples of the Divine Warrior Hymn, the Disputation Speech and the Woe-oracle to demonstrate.

The character of the divine warrior originated in Canaanite and Mesopotamian cosmic conflict myths, in which victory over the beasts of chaos resulted in stability of the cosmos. The Divine Warrior Hymn took many forms, in which God represented the divine warrior leading Israel against its enemies (Exodus 15), his wrath attacking the disobedient nation (Isaiah 5:25) or battling Leviathan (Isaiah 27:1). 27 The motifs of the hymn, according to Argall, include God’s victory over enemies; theophany; salvation of the nation; new creation; universal reign; procession to the Temple, and a celebration banquet.28 Both 1 En and Sirach contain scattered aspects of the hymn, primarily in service of judgment scenarios.

In the book of Job, God is often represented as the divine warrior attacking Job as if he were a chaos monster. Most explicitly in 7:12, he cries, “Am I the Sea, or the Dragon, that you set a guard over me?” These are chaos monsters and, as Perdue determines, echoes “Marduk’s defeat of Tiamat: ‘Am I Yamm or the Dragon, that you have positioned a guard against me?'”29 He suggests this parallel represents the author’s familiarity with the Akkadian Enuma eliš:  “God sets up a ‘guard’…as Marduk did following his dividing of Tiamat into two parts to keep the waters of her corpse from escaping into the newly created order to inundate it.”30 Throughout the book, there are similar references.  For instance, God’s “arrows” are in Job (6:4) and God shakes the earth out of place and causes its pillars to tremble (9:6).  God challenges Job to clothe himself “with glory and splendor,” reveal the power of his arm and conquer the wicked (40:10-14).

The disputation speech in wisdom and prophetic literature follows a particular structure of:  introduction; citation of an opponent (generally involving a lamentation about divine judgment); the author’s answer (an appeal to wisdom), and the conclusion (normally an exhortation or summary). 31 In Sirach, the disputation speeches oppose those who “reason that divine justice in the present life is either unfair or altogether unlacking,”32 in defense of the belief that the cosmos operates justly. Enoch’s disputation speeches all occur in EE, appealing to the cosmic journeys as evidence that reward and punishment exist in the afterlife.  In Job, the disputation speech is a dialogue from Job’s friend, Zophar the Naamathite (11:1-6), in which he accuses Job of harmful speeches devoid of wisdom.

Scholars have inconclusively investigated covenant curses, wisdom and prophetic literature and funeral laments for the origin of the Woe-oracle.33 Its structure involves addressing an audience; declaring an offense, and, often, issuing a threat.34 Ben Sira admonishes those who abandon wisdom and Torah. In Enoch, again, all of the Woe-oracles are discovered in EE.  Some reprimand the community for failure of personal responsibility.  Others, occurring with aspects of the Divine Warrior Hymn, are “sinners,” transgressing against God.  Job characteristically inverts the structure of the oracle by proclaiming “if” he has transgressed, “then” let woe befall him:  “If I have walked with falsehood, and my foot has hurried to deceit–let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!” (31:5-6).

Although the authors used the narrative forms in different ways, each text adapted these forms for their own individual vision, drawing from wisdom, prophetic and other poetic traditions.

Concluding Thoughts on Argall’s Study

Argall began his study criticizing the use of “apocalyptic” to define Enochic books, and suggested that productive correlations with other types of literature could be found if labels were ignored. In his conclusion, he decides there are enough parallels between 1 En and Sirach to assign the term “revealed” wisdom to both books, yet with a list of caveats. His primary assertion is that 1 En developed in a scribal community in response to a rival community represented, at least in part, by ben Sira.  Mesopotamian influences embedded in the character’s origin had been assimilated into an Israelite scribe’s design as much as the Hebrew literary tradition that had been reinterpreted for new understanding.   Therefore, he argues, VanderKam’s study of mantic beginnings is productive, but too limited.

Although Argall made it no easier to define Enochic literature under one moniker, his study certainly improved the conversation by engendering new possibilities.  The book of Job, while traditionally categorized as wisdom literature, has presented its own difficulties of classification for scholars. By looking at Sirach, 1 En and Job together, evidence for a broader literary tradition revealed itself. In fact, Argall often suggests ben Sira’s assurance of the cosmic order and temporal justice are a reaction to Joban suspicion.  As I have shown, Job and 1 En both focus on an antediluvian hero to bypass Temple authority for wisdom, and both seem to provide for the constant maintenance of the cosmos in reaction to periodic incursions of entropy.  While VanderKam maintained that the cosmos in AB and BW were constant and unchanging, the text reveals places of punishment that have already been used and the focus of BW is the story of angels acting as chaos monsters to upset the natural order of creation.  Likewise, Job incorporates aspects of the Divine Warrior Hymn throughout its poetic discourse, in which God is represented as battling chaos monsters on a regular basis to restore order to the cosmos.  These mythological components of sage, theophany and monsters, while central to the tales in Job and 1 En, are muted and allegorized in Sirach. In the final section, I will explore these mythological aspects shared by Job and 1 En. 

Mythology in 1 Enoch and The Book of Job

Although classifying Enochic literature as a type of wisdom proves problematic, one cannot deny the fundamental importance of creation and cosmic order to the 1 En, a feature it shares with the wisdom tradition.  The central theme in both Job and 1 En concerns the mythological struggle of chaos entering the ordered cosmos, requiring the theophany of a divine warrior to correct it.

In Job, the “sons of God” assemble for the divine council, and God allows ha-Satan to perpetrate unnatural violence against a just man. Job laments to the earth and heaven for reprieve or justice, at one point echoing the language of Genesis concerning the murder of Abel: “Earth, do not cover my blood; let there be no resting place for my outcry!” (Job 16:18).  Job expects a divine being to witness his suffering and intercede on his behalf (Job 16:19) in a trial against God, who “removes mountains,” “shakes the earth out of its place,” “commands the sun” not to rise, and “seals up the stars” (Job 9:5-7), the language of cosmic upheaval caused by a theophany in the Divine Warrior Hymn.  According to his friend, Eliphaz the Temanite, “God puts no trust even in his holy ones, and the heavens are not clean in his sight” (Job 15:15).  Indeed, there are numerous threats to cosmic order, as Rahab, the Sea, Behemoth and Leviathan are mentioned throughout.  God ignores Job’s lamentation until Job’s language escalates to challenge God as ruler.  At that point, God arrives in a whirlwind to challenge Job to act as a god and defeat the monsters of chaos to maintain cosmic order.  When Job acquiesces to God’s superiority, God provides him with material reward, a good name and longevity.  Allegorically, this reward represents the promise of a new creation for the community after the ultimate defeat of chaos.

The central narrative in 1 En, the BW, incorporates similar mythological traits.  Enoch interprets the “sons of God” from Genesis 6 to indicate the angels of heaven.  Until the arrival of the Watchers and the forbidden secrets bestowed on humanity, one may assume all generations of mortals had been just.  Similar to Job, God allows the divine beings to descend on the just and perpetuate violence against the cosmic order.  They give birth to giants who, like the chaos monsters Leviathan and Behemoth, threaten vast destruction against the helpless mortals. Humanity’s lamentations escalate until the earth itself cries out (1 En 7:6) against the bloodshed, an echo of Genesis 4:10.  The four archangels, heavenly intercessors on the divine council (as Job had anticipated), notice the bloodshed and inform God, who seems to be ignoring the violence as in the book of Job.  The angels approach God summarizing the arguments of Job, expressing fear, reverence and accusations that God is aware of the violence and inaction is unjust:  “Thou seest these things and Thou dost suffer them, and Thou dost not say to us what we are to do to them in regard to these” (1 En 9:11).  This spurs God to action, as in Job, and a theophany is ordered:  the angels descend and defeat the agents of chaos to “heal the earth” (10:7).  As mentioned above, 1 En tells several versions of entropy corrupting the cosmic order, and the efforts to correct it, such as the Deluge, are ineffective.  As a result, examples of a final judgment based on the Divine Warrior Hymn are scattered throughout.  The theophany of God will cause cosmic upheaval, the unrighteous will suffer but the elect will be saved, and a new creation will be born, granting a long life as a reward to the righteous:  the same reward earned by Job.

The knowledge of the cosmos Enoch received was not complete; he learned nothing of God’s nature, and some secrets were forbidden.  The wisdom he delivered to humanity served to explain cosmic order, calendrical authority, and the vast repercussions of transgression.  The wisdom was not truly “hidden,” not a form of divination or esoteric inquiry. As I described of Argall earlier, he indicates that Sirach and 1 En find hidden wisdom in the oral and written narratives that preceded them, and their primary effort was interpretive, to “reveal” those secrets. Job serves the same function, reinterpreting the existing wisdom tradition for new insight and inquiry.  As narrative tools, Enoch and Job are both antediluvian heroes who reached the capacity of wisdom via their natural faculties and relied on divine revelation to obtain the secrets beyond.  Revelation in the narratives secured the authority of the wisdom recorded in the texts for the communities that produced them.  The Enochic and Joban scribal groups undoubtedly shared this goal, but it contradicts demarcations described by scholars such as Collins, who reserved revelation for apocalyptic literature.  The failure of such classifications reinforces the understanding that literature from this period absorbed influences from many regions, cultures and narrative histories, and a broad theoretical approach is necessary. As Argall pointed out, definitions may restrict our effort to investigate texts, and it may prove fruitful to ignore classifications when researching textual parallels.  After all, if 1 En and Job are more closely related than 1 En and Sirach, perhaps the theme of Enochic literature is the constant “struggle with evil” as well.35


  1. James C. VanderKam, Enoch and the Growth of an Apocalyptic Tradition(Washington, D.C.: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1984), 8.
  2. Randal Argall, 1 Enochand Sirach (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), 251.
  3. Argall, 1 Enoch and Sirach, 251.
  4. James C. VanderKam, Enoch and the Growth of an Apocalyptic Tradition, 7 fn24.
  5. John J. Collins, “Cosmos and Salvation: Jewish Wisdom and Apocalyptic in the Hellenistic Age.” History of Religions17:2 (1977-78): 138, 141-142.
  6. Argall, 1 Enoch and Sirach, 81.
  7. ibid, 74-76, 250.
  8. Argall, 1 Enoch and Sirach, 250
  9. ibid, 5.
  10. Leo G. Perdue, Wisdom & Creation: The Theology of Wisdom Literature(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994), 128.
  11. ibid, 124.
  12. Argall, 1 Enoch and Sirach, 7-8.
  13. Argall, 1 Enoch and Sirach, 29-30.
  14. Argall, 1 Enoch and Sirach, 94.
  15. Argall, 1 Enoch and Sirach, 95.
  16. Leo G. Perdue, Wisdom & Creation, 126.
  17. Benjamin G. Wright, “Fear the Lord and Honor the Priest: Ben Sira as Defender of the Jerusalem Priesthood” in The Book of Ben Sira in Modern Research, ed. Pancratius C. Beentjes (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co, 1997), 207.
  18. Argall, 1 Enoch and Sirach, 101.
  19. ibid, 135.
  20. ibid, 100.
  21. ibid, 94.
  22. Leo G. Perdue, Wisdom & Creation, 34.
  23. ibid, 21.
  24. ibid, 35.
  25. ibid, 35.
  26. James C. VanderKam, Enoch and the Growth of an Apocalyptic Tradition, 103. “Since the sun, moon, and stars continue to operate according to the fixed laws and to pursue their unalterable courses, the future cannot be read from them.”
  27. Thomas Neufeld, “Put on the Armour of God: The Divine Warrior from Isaiah to Ephesians(Bath: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), 23-24.
  28. Argall, 1 Enoch and Sirach, 168.
  29. Leo G. Perdue, Wisdom Literature: A Theological History(Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2007), 106.
  30. ibid, 106.
  31. Argall, 1 Enoch and Sirach, 185.
  32. Argall, 1 Enoch and Sirach, 220.
  33. ibid, 196.
  34. ibid, 196.
  35. Leo G. Perdue, Wisdom & Creation, 129.


Argall, Randal A. 1 Enoch and Sirach: A Comparative Literary and Conceptual Analysis of the Themes of Revelation, Creation and Judgment. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995.

Collins, John J. “Cosmos and Salvation: Jewish Wisdom and Apocalyptic in the            Hellenistic Age.” History of Religions 17, no. 2 (1977-78): 121-142.

Neufeld, Thomas. “Put on the Armour of God”: The Divine Warrior from Isaiah to         Ephesians. Bath, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.

Perdue, Leo G. Wisdom & Creation: The Theology of Wisdom Literature. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994.

________________. Wisdom Literature: A Theological History. Louisville, KY: Westminster    John Knox Press, 2007.

VanderKam, James C. Enoch and the Growth of an Apocalyptic Tradition. Washington,             D.C.: The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1984.

________________________. Enoch: A Man for All Generations. Columbia, SC: University of        South Carolina Press, 1995.

Wright, Benjamin G. “Fear the Lord and Honor the Priest: Ben Sira as Defender of    the Jerusalem Priesthood.” In The Book of Ben Sira in Modern Research, edited         by Pancratius C. Beentjes. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co, 1997.


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