Enoch as Angel
Q: Why did God make Enoch an angel when he made no other human an angel?
A: The Hebrew name Enoch means “dedicated,” “disciplined,” or “trained.” The Bible records two different men with this name. The first Enoch came after Cain killed Abel and was banished: “Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. (Genesis 4:17)” The only other thing we know about this Enoch comes in the following verse: “To Enoch was born Irad.”
The other Enoch is the one about whom you ask. He was descended from Adam through Seth. Of his parentage, Genesis 5:18 says, “When Jared had lived 162 years he fathered Enoch.” When Enoch was 65 years old, “he fathered Methuselah, (v. 21)” who was the longest living human recorded in Scripture, for “all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died. (v. 27)”
When you read the entire genealogy in Genesis 5, you find an ongoing refrain following the naming of each of Noah’s ancestors. Ten men are mentioned, along with their ages when they fathered the next named child — Adam fathered Seth; Seth fathered Enosh; Enosh fathered Kenan; Kenan fathered Mahalalel; Mahalalel fathered Jared; Jared fathered Enoch; Enoch fathered Methuselah; Methuselah fathered Lamech; Lamech fathered Noah. Finally, “after Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (v. 32)”
Skipping ahead to Genesis 9:29, we read, “All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.” Of those who preceded Noah, Genesis 5 says of each that “all the days” that he lived were so many years, “and he died. (vv. 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 31)” Each, that is, except for Enoch. Of him, we read that Enoch was sixty-five “when he fathered Methuselah (v. 21)” and that he “walked with God” for another 300 years while having “other sons and daughters. (v. 22)” After living a total of “365 years, (v. 23)” Enoch still “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (v. 24)” For His own reasons, the Lord chose to bring Enoch to Himself without Enoch facing death.
This Enoch receives mention four more times. First Chronicles 1:3 places him in the list of names from Adam to Abraham and Luke 3:37 lists him in the genealogy of Jesus. Jude 14-15 recites an end-times prophecy from an apocryphal book named for Enoch. It tells of the Lord coming “with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all.”
The other mention of Enoch comes in Hebrews 11, the great “Faith Chapter” of Scripture. There, His God-given faith is commended: “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (vv. 5-6)”
This completes our Biblical knowledge of Enoch. His name implies someone who holds steadfast to good teaching. He lived 365 years, fathering Methuselah and other children. God commended his faith by allowing him to avoid death, translating Enoch directly to eternal life. He and the prophet Elijah are the only two people we know who avoided earthly death. With Jesus, they are the only three whom we know ascended bodily into heaven.
Only when we go poking about among non-biblical resources do we find anything about Enoch becoming an angel. Primary sources include books called 2 Enoch (also the Slavonic Enoch) and 3 Enoch. Scripture scholars generally reject them because their writing is so far outside the theology of the canonical books of the Bible. Some of these writings imply that Enoch was changed into an angel known as Metatron. Also, there are mentions of Enoch going back and forth between earth and heaven, contrary to the finality of Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5.
Any connection between the biblical Enoch and the angels of heaven comes only from human imagination. The angels are created beings. While the Scriptures sometimes show them taking human form, nothing in the Bible indicates that they are related to humankind. Contrary to many folk tales and various other works of fiction, people do not become angels when they die or when they are taken to heaven. Our hope is not to become like the angels in form but rather in holiness and in eternally living in God’s presence.
Ours will not be a mere spiritual resurrection; we will not live forever only as spirit beings. Instead, God, “who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to [our] mortal bodies. (Romans 8:11)” He promises us that we will be raised bodily from the dead, just as was Christ, “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)”
One of the few clues we receive concerning our resurrection bodies comes from 1 John 3. After showing that the world rejects Christians because it rejected Christ, John continued, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (v. 2)” If the God-man Jesus Christ didn’t set aside His human flesh in the Resurrection, it should be certain that Enoch and all other believers will likewise continue as creatures of flesh and blood as well as spirit for all eternity.
Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.
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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.
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Newspaper column #519