March 10, 1988
In this paper, Greek and Aramaic are represented in
Beta Code Transliteration.
"The Experience of Demons (and Angels)
in 1 Enoch, Jubilees, and the Book of Tobit"
George W. E. Nickelsburg, The University of Iowa
This paper is a hastily compiled summary of material from my research
that seems to be relevant to the topic of the PSCO symposium. In this
context, I have documented my observations only with reference to my own
publications and have presumed much
unpublished material drawn from the manuscript of my in-preparation commentary on 1 Enoch and in my soon-to-be-published
short commentary on Tobit in the Harper's Bible
I shall discuss three quite different, but substantially related texts. The
material in them is comparable, but both the genres and the treatment are sufficiently
different to provide interesting definition through contrast. All three texts
are pseudonymous and set in times much earlier than the author's, which is
a serious difficulty for dealing with the topic at hand. The relevant material
in 1 Enoch is set in primordial times and is heavily mythic thick with angels
and demons. Jubilees takes us to Sinai and weaves Enochic material into a preexistent
"historical" framework that tells about named people. Tobit maintains the pseudonymous
veil, but employs mythic material (not unrelated to Enoch, I shall argue) in
a novelistic genre, in which the innovative use of plot, characterization, and
point of view enable us better to understand one exposition of a genuinely human
experience of demons and angels.
I have construed the term "experience" in a broad sense, because
this seems most appropriate to the nature of the texts. My question is this:
In what kind of persons, events, situations, and "things" experienced by these
authors did they perceive the presence or influence of malevolent transcendent
power and activity? As much as possible I have tried to withstand the satanic
impulse to describe "theology," although on occasion it has seemed necessary
to allude to, or articulate this theoretical rather than experiential aspect
of the text.
The Book of Enoch is deeply, and perhaps centrally concerned with the presence
of evil and its ultimate eradication. This focus notwithstanding, the writers
of this corpus show very little interest in the Eden narrative in Genesis 3
(chaps. 24-25; 32:3-6) and the Yahwistic narrative about human deterioration
in Genesis 4-5. The cause of significant evil is traced, rather, to an angelic
revolt, or series of revolts, which are recounted in mythic fashion, with primary
reference to the cryptic account in Gen 6:1-4. The myths of angelic revolt are
told in narrative form in chaps. 6-11 and then alluded to in various ways throughout
1 Enoch 6-11
Three myths, or fragments of myths, are concerned here with angelic rebellion
and the judgment and salvation that quash the revolt and reverse its evil consequences
(G.N. 1977). In the central and structuring component of this section, Semihazah,
a chieftain among "the Watchers, the sons of heaven," and his companions, descend
and marry "the daughters of men" and beget giants, who ravage the earth and
shed the blood of "all flesh." God responds to earth's cry for vengeance, mediated
by the "Holy Watchers," Sariel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael. They are sent
to exterminate the giants, incarcerate the rebel Watchers, and "heal" (Raphael)
and "cleanse" (Michael) the earth of the defilement caused by the Watchers'
forbidden intercourse with women and the blood shed by the giants.
Woven into this story are mythic fragments or accretions that describe the
Watchers' revolt in a different way as the revelation of forbidden knowledge.
This mythic motif has two strands.
In the first strand, in a mythic fragment that bears striking resemblance to
the story of Prometheus and its Ancient Near Eastern parallels, the angelic
chieftain, `Asael (identified in the onomasticon in chap. 6 as number 10 of Semihazah's
subordinates, and presumably his lieutenant) reveals the secrets of metallurgy
and mining, which enable men to fabricate weapons and armor, which cause bloodshed,
as well as silver and gold jewelry and eye-shadow of stibium, through which
the female sex is able to seduce men and angels. This myth of `Asael is important
enough that the Watcher has a special archangel (Raphael) appointed to incarcerate
him and heal the earth of the iniquity that has resulted from his revelations.
In the second strand of the revelatory motif, which may well be an accretion
to the text rather than a fragment of a longer myth, various of the Watchers
reveal the magical arts and the science of astrological prognostication.
When I call this narrative material myth, I mean that it is, in appearance,
a story about ancient times whose purpose is, in fact, to describe and explain
the world of the author's experience. In my view (G.N. 1977), the Semihazah
story is a parody of Diadochan claims of divine parentage. The violent deeds
of the giants are a stand-in for the wars that ravaged the eastern Mediterranean
as Alexander's successors struggled for control of his empire. These kings and
rulers are the offspring of rebel heavenly beings, who have bred into the world
incarnations of their intentional, malevolent rebellion against the divine King
and Creator. Thus, to get to the point of the symposium, the narrator of this
story sees in the world of his experience widespread bloodshed and a world on
the brink of desolation. This victimization of "all flesh," and even of the
blood-choked earth, he attributes to the presence of the demonic in the rulers
of the present age. This understanding of reality parallels Daniel's mythic
description of Antiochus's persecution as a heavenly revolt against God and
the angelic court.
The fragmentary mythic material about `Asael takes a different tack, and one
must understand it against other references to it both in Jub. 4:15; 5:6 and
Ps.-Clem. Hom. 8:13 (cf. the less explicit hint in 1 Enoch 86:1-3). According
to this version, into a world already marked by the violence of Cain's sin,
God sends the Watchers to instruct humanity in righteous and just conduct. (This
is one of the earliest appearances of what looks like a distant ancestor of
the Gnostic revealer.) But, in a chronological order that varies according
to the accounts, they are snared by the beauty of women and they reveal forbidden
secrets. Here again myth speaks both of past and present. In an obvious and
explicit way, the story relates the events that caused the universal corruption
that led to the Flood (cf. 1 Enoch 8:2 with Gen 6:12). Nevertheless, although
primordial past and the experienced present are separated chronologically, they
are linked causally. The kind of bloodshed and violence that is central to
the Semihazah myth is also part of this mythmaker's experience, although it
is not caused by the spawn of heavenly-earthly unions, but is a function of
a forbidden knowledge taught ages ago. And thus, different from Gen 4:22, it
was not a descendant of Cain called Tubal-cain, but an angelic rebel named `Asael,
who revealed (rather than discovered) the technology that facilitated warfare.
And, to return to our theme, it is in the dust and stench of today's battles
that one experiences the ghastly, lingering presence of the primordial angelic
rebels. In similar fashion, the mythmaker links feminine wiles to the metallurgical
revelations of the angelic leader `Asael! Although the myths of both Semihazah
and `Asael focus on sins of lust and violence, the case of `Asael offers a nuance
not found in the myth of Semihazah. Humanity is not simply a victim of the angelic
revolt and its consequences. `Asael's knowledge leads human beings to become
the responsible agents of sin. The familiar figure of the satanic seducer is
present. But the seducer is not present in the experienced sense described
anthropologically in the Qumran two-ways material and, I think, later in Romans
7. The mythmaker does not describe a tempter, an inner or outer presence, Sin
with a capital S, which causes one to think about right and wrong and then
chose the latter. The presence of the seducer is an ancient residue that is
active and functional in the knowledge, which is celebrated as positive and
beneficial by some.
The third strand of tradition is related to the second; various sorts of magical
and divinatory practice have their source in revelations that were constitutive
of the angelic rebellion. Whether one should use terms such as "witchcraft"
and "black arts" is problematic. The text is brief and cryptic and does not
indicate whether this author thought that the magicians and wizards of his own
time were in some sense in league with, or had made a compact with demons or
an archdemon. The point of the text is, rather, that the magical arts and certain
types of manticism represent a tradition that is demonic in origin however
its present practitioners received it and succeeded in practicing it.
The references to magic in 8:3 and 7:1 are
especially difficult to explicate because the Aramaic text is badly
fragmented and the words that one can reasonably reconstruct from it and
their counterparts in the Greek translation are often used in a generic
sense (much as magician, sorcerer, wizard, enchanter are often loosely
interchanged today in popular parlance). What follows are briefly stated
conclusions drawn from an extensive discussion in the MS of my
commentary on 1 Enoch. In 7:1 the Greek FARMAKEI/AS KAI\
E)PAOIDA/S appear to translate the Aramaic LXR$T) WL)$PT).
While the usage of the Targumim and the LXX may indicate in the first
word a reference to magical potions, the Greek term appears to have been
be used in Hellenistic times generically of magic. Nonetheless, the
mention of "the cutting of roots and plants" in 7:1 and 8:3 appears to
refer to magical potions and brews, used in part, perhaps, for
therapeutic purposes. The second Greek word in 7:1 and its Aramaic
counterpart are paralleled in 8:3 by E)PAOIDA/S and XBDW,
and Semitic philological evidence appears to support the translation
"incantation," or, in 8:3, "binding" (with a spell). Knowledge about the
breaking of spells is attributed to Hermoni in 8:3. An association of
the root )$P with healing may be indicated by its usage in
1QApGen 20:19 of Pharaoh's would-be healers. In 9:8 the Watchers are
associated with the production of MI/SHTRA, either potions or
recited charms intended to incite hatred, i.e., to win (back) one's
beloved by causing that person to be despised by one's rival. Finally,
in 8:3, Hermoni is said to have taught XR+M, a word evidently of
Egyptian origin but with wide Semitic currency, which appears to
designate the interpretation of dreams, perhaps through the use of
In summary, the information in 7:1; 8:3; 9:8 designates the rebel Watchers
as the source of knowledge about magical potions and incantations. While the
author's theory as to how these operate, and how the demonic presence might
be "felt" is not explicit, it is evident that these devices were seen to enable
the practitioner and client to participate in a realm of knowledge and activity
and to arrive at results that were seen to be antithetical to God's purpose
Related to wrongly gotten knowledge about the interpretation of dreams is a
list of types of divination from heavenly omens (lightning flashes, stars, shooting
stars, sun and moon) and earthly ones (perhaps earthquakes, floods, and other
disasters, extraordinary births and peculiar and unusual actions by human beings
and animals). These divinatory practices are, of course, widely documentable
in our sources from antiquity. But for this author, the knowledge thus obtained
is gotten through the use of demonically introduced skills, and in the context
of 1 Enoch this knowledge stands in contrast to knowledge of divine origin given
in primordial time to sage Enoch. This factor is central to, and constitutive
of the Enochic epistemology and understanding of evil. God is the source and
possessor of all knowledge, and God has revealed to Enoch what is to be revealed.
Other claims to know what is hidden are attributed to a realm that opposes God,
either because the information is false, or because it is supposed to remain
hidden. To seek and (wrongly claim to) obtain such information is to participate
in the demonic.
1 Enoch 12-16
In the model presumed in this section, the Watchers' revolt takes place when
the angelic priests abandon the heavenly sanctuary and defile themselves doubly,
through forbidden intercourse with women, and by contact with their menstrual
blood (G.N. 1981 b). Although the angelic chieftain is identified as `Asael,
and Semihazah is not mentioned (13:1-3), the primary angelic sin is that associated
with the instigation of Semihazah in chaps. 6-11 (revelation is mentioned only
in 13:2; 16:2-3).
The primary myth in chaps. 12-16 differs from chapters 6-11 in two significant
ways. First there is an explicit metaphysics that distinguishes between eternal
spirit and mortal flesh. Intercourse between the two defies a distinction that
the Creator has built into the creation. It is, in a significant sense, unnatural
and, hence, an act of rebellion against the Creator.
But the metaphysics allows for a consequence that transforms a fundamental
aspect of the demonic experience described in chaps. 6-11. In the earlier version
of the Semihazah story, the primordial giants are stand-ins for today's bloody
kings and generals, and the scenario for their destruction is a vision of the
imminent eschaton. The giants are mortal and will die. The (metaphysics in 12-16
means, however, that when the giants are killed, the death of their "fleshly
bodies," received from their hum an mothers, releases the "eternal" spiritual
component gotten from their angelic fathers. The judgment which results in the
destruction of the Watchers' children is, in a real sense, counterproductive.
The finite presence of the giants now gives way to t he overall presence of
a world of demons which no ghostbuster can capture and domesticate, much less
annihilate. The stuff of eternal spirit, rebelliously bred into the world, now
becomes a world of "evil spirits." Herein lies the difference from
chaps. 6-11. The myth makes an explicit distinction between the primordial revolt
and its quashing and the ongoing present experience of the demonic, which is
causally related to the revolt, and indeed the chronology explicitly refers
to the definitive eschatological resolution. The relevant passage is worth
quoting because of its explicit statement and because of its description of
And the spirits of the giants <lead astray or shatter (emending
a corrupt Aramaic R(YN behind Greek NEMOMENA to either
T(YN or R((YN)>,
do violence, make desolate, and attack and wrestle and hurl upon the earth
and <cause illnesses (seeing behind Greek DRO/MOUS POIOU/NTA a corruption
from Aramaic MRW() or MRWCH, which consonants in Hebrew can be translated
"running" or "oppression"; Eth. hazana = "sorrow" or
"misery")>. And they will eat nothing, but abstain from food and are
thirsty and smite. And these spirits will rise up against the sons of men
and against the women, for they have come forth from them. From the day
of the slaughter and destruction and death of the giants, from the soul
of whose flesh they are making desolate without (incurring) judgment. Thus
they will make desolate until the day of the consummation of the great judgment,
when the great age will be consummated (15:11-16:1).
In the period between the primordial judgment of the Watchers and their sons
and the final judgment, evil spirits are experienced in a variety of ways. The
text is rich and reasonably explicit in its imagery. They lead astray, i.e.,
cause people to sin (if one accepts that emendation). They cause violence and
desolation on the earth whether through war, bloodshed, or other oppressive
activity. Then, in a series of athletic, wrestling images, they are depicted
in a way reminiscent of some of the "possessions" described in the Synoptic
Gospels. And, in a more general way (again granting the emendation), they cause
illnesses. The activity of the evil spirits is thus depicted in imagery that,
to no small extent, is consonant with the violence attributed to the giants
in chaps. 6-11. Human beings, whether through physical violence by other human
beings, "possession," or illness are the hapless and helpless victims of malevolent
A final, comparative point should be made about this section's metaphysics.
Both in its imagery and its worldview, it is analogous to some varieties of
the Gnostic creation myth. I refer not to the use of the Enochic material in
the Apocryphon of John, but to this fact: The text uses a sexual or generational
metaphor to explain the presence in the world of an evil element, whose heavenly
or spirit nature makes it indestructible that is until final, definitive
divine action annihilates it. As in the story of Sophia's casting out of her
miscarriage and its consequences, there is something profoundly tragic in the
present myth, which describes the ongoing presence of evil as the ineluctable
result of God's judgment of the angelic revolt. Granted, speaking theologically,
creation itself is not evil here, and the revolt is chronologically later than
the act of creation, yet here, as in the Gnostic myth, the world is experienced
in largely gloomy terms. Violence, desolation, and illness are, at least rhetorically,
almost universal, and they will continue to be so until the consummation. While
I propose no simple relationship between the two mythic systems, the similarities,
I believe, call for closer comparative analysis.
1 Enoch 92-105
I wish here only to make three points, perhaps more related to theology than
theory, but significant, nonetheless. 1) This "Epistle of Enoch," which presupposes
so much of chaps. 6-36, is largely lacking in references to the myth of angelic
revolt. The textually problematic 98:4-15 (which originally made no reference
to the transformation of mountains and hills, as the Grk. papyrus indicates,
G.N. 1976, 113-18), explicitly asserts that evil was not sent, but is a function
of human sin. The address of the author is consistently to human beings, who
are responsible for their actions. As to "leading astray," the verb, PLANA=N
is frequently used of false teaching and, intransitively of sinful acts. But
with the exception of 99:14, which speaks of a "spirit of error," demons are
not said to be the instigators of human sin. 2) A noteworthy exception occurs
in 99:6-9 a passage that treats idolatry by combining two lines of thought familiar
in Jewish and early Christian texts. In the first instance, or according to
the first tradition, idols are as dead as the material of which they are fabricated
and can provide no help. According to the second line, idolaters "worship phantoms
and demons and abominations and evil spirits and all errors." The passage i
s noteworthy because, in a text that is probably directed mainly against the
sins of the Jewish elite and powerful, the realm of the demonic is here explicitly
connected with non-Jewish religious practice (even if one supposes that there
may be Jews in the land who opt into this paganism). 3) As in 6-11 the realm
of "good" angels is heaven, where they function as witness and advocates, but
at the end they will be active in the events of the great judgment (100:4; 102:3).
1 Enoch 37-71
In the Book of Parables, explicit reference to the Semihazah myth has all but
disappeared. In keeping with a tendency already seen in chaps. 12-16, Semihazah's
name has been deleted, except in the onomasticon in chap. 69. Moreover, reference
to the my th about angelic-human mating is difficult to find. The giants appear
to be alluded to in 56:3-4 ("their chosen and beloved ones"). Again, chap. 69
is an exception. Vv 1-3 parallel the onomasticon in 6:6, while vv 4-12 are a
more expansive list of name s and functions. Vv 4-5 refer to two chieftains
(Jeqon and Asbeel), who are said to be responsible for the sin of mating with
In spite of this deemphasis, the Parables are replete with a widespread and
repeated indictment of the "kings and the mighty," who possess the earth and
oppress the righteous. If one accepts my identification of the giants in the
Semihazah story, then the issue here is largely the same as in the Semihazah
myth (see especially chap. 47, where angelic prayer is raised for the blood
of the righteous and cf. chap. 9). Moreover, the culprits are explicitly identified,
by genre, if not by name.
The relationship of the kings and the mighty to the rebel angels and the realm
of the demonic is construed mainly, I suspect, in terms of the old `Asael myth.
It is this angel alone who is mentioned by name (in the Eth., as in the Eth.
of 6-16, as Azazel, 54:5; 55:4). In the extension of the onomasticon in 69:6-7,
the angel Gadreel has shown the children of men "the blows of death" and weapons
and armor for battle. According to 52:1-8, the epiphany of the Elect One, like
the theophany in chap. 1, will cause the mountains to melt. Here they are mountains
of metal, and the interpretation is that metals for weapons and armor will be
useless. The motif recalls 8:1-2. The revelation motif appears again in 65:6-9.
Here revealed knowledge about metallurgy has led to the making of idols, though
perhaps in v 7, weapons. Initial reference, however, is to the power of those
who practice magical arts. Another reference to this appears in 69:12-13. The
angel Kasdeya has taught people how to use spirits and demons to harm others,
notably how to cause miscarriages or abortions and how to do other sympathetic
and harmful magic. The precise point of vv 8-11 is unclear. In a written document
it is an odd attack against the revelation of "pen and ink." The specific issue
seems to be the writing of contracts.
1) The power and activity of the demonic is experienced in the violent and
bloody deeds of unjust kings, rulers, and generals. Although two different versions
of the myth exist (the "incarnation" of evil and the revealing of the devices
of war), both agree that a rebellion of one of the "good" angels is the cause.
2) Rebellion in the form of revelation has also resulted in the magical crafts
that enable one to harm others, in the Parables at least, through the active
participation of demons.
3) Conversely, according to the incarnational myth in chaps. 12-16, evil spirits
seem to work sickness, possession, and violence quite well without an agent.
4) To employ the divinatory arts to forecast the future is also to make use
of forbidden technique whether or not the knowledge obtained is true or false.
5) The fabricating of idols is possible because of the forbidden revelation
of metallurgy, and, according to one theory, idolatrous worship brings one into
active contact with demons and evil spirits.
6) Although it is rarely mentioned, demons lead humans to stray from the right
path in a more general sense.
The Book of Jubilees
This composition from the first third of the second century B.C.E. is a tendentious
and heavily rewritten version of the "history" recounted in Genesis 1-Exodus
15 (G.N. 1981a, 73-80; 1984, 97-104). Its source material was drawn not only
from the Pentateuch, but also from parts of the Enochic corpus as we know it,
from other written Enoch works or oral interpretations of our corpus, and from
other extended written or oral traditions about the patriarchs.
A number of overarching interests and factors controlled the author's casting
of the narrative what from the Pentateuch was included and excluded, what
was altered, what of extra-Pentateuchal sources was interpolated. Always discussed
in this context is the pervasive chronological framework of the narrative,
which dates events, and especially festivals, according to a solar calendar
of 364 days.
Less frequently discussed, but of great and pervasive importance is a demonology
which has its roots in the Enochic tradition. Many of the motifs and elements
already discussed make their appearance; however, in their use, transformation,
emphasis and deemphasis, lies an interesting and, ultimately, a highly significant
and influential segment of Israelite religious history. It is possible here
only to sketch the highlights.
First, the narrator of the text is "the angel of the presence," who dictates
the whole work to Moses on Mount Sinai, and whose occasional "I" or "we" (me
and my colleagues) slips into the narrative. Thus, the world of high angels
constitutes a major s et of actors in Israelite history. They function on occasion
as opponents to the world of demons, but that is to get ahead of the story.
The angelic narration of Jubilees is significant for a second reason; it makes
an explicit claim not found in the Pentateuch. The account of Israelite history
and corpus of Law are divinely given (an interesting assertion that Paul attempts
to stand on its head in Galatians).
As with 1 Enoch, there is no denial here that sin is in the world very early
on. The first parents break God's command, and Cain kills his brother. But different
from 1Enoch, the form of the text as a running narrative that begins with Creation
makes explicit the fact that because the serpent was a serpent, earliest sin
is construed solely as human activity. As noted earlier, through the use of
Enochic tradition, the author has God cope with human sin by sending angels
to instruct human beings in righteous and just conduct (4:15).
This attempt to deal with sin backfires. The Watchers whom God sent upon the
earth are attracted to the daughters of men, and the main lines of the Semihazah
myth follow from this, narrated both in 5:1-2, 9-12 and 7:21-24. But here the
first major transformation of the myth takes place. Different from 1Enoch 6-11
where all flesh are the victims of the giants and the righteous son of Lamech
only implies a mass of unrighteous humanity otherwise unmentioned here the
Semihazah myth is integrated into the viewpoint of Genesis 6. In Jub. 5:2-3,
19, Noah is explicitly a righteous exception to "all flesh," which has corrupted
all its ways. Not only did the Watchers introduce "fornication and uncleanness"
into the world through their own deeds, but t he bloodshed and violence they
perpetrated was taken up by humans, as well, and so the Flood's judgmental destruction
was, with the exception of Noah and his family, universal (7:21-25).
Enter now the version of the story recounted in 1Enoch 12-16. Although the
rebel Watchers were imprisoned (5:10) and the giants were destroyed (5:9), a
mass of "(unclean) demons and wicked spirits (9:27; 10:1-3), identified in 10:5
as the children of the Watchers ("your Watchers, the fathers of these spirits")
has been unleashed on the world. As in 1 Enoch 12-16, they universally plague
the post-diluvian world. Names become interesting at this point. Jubilees never
mentions the names of Semihazah or `Asael or any others in the onomasticon of
1 Enoch 6:6. Instead, it often refers to the head of the evil spirits, calling
him "the prince (of) mastema." From a text-critical point of view, it is
disputable whether this is actually a proper name (the prince, Mastema) or
whether one should translate "the prince of hostility" (cf. 1QS 3:23; 1QM 13:4,
11; CD 16:5). In either case, it is the post-diluvian chieftain of the evil
spirits rather than a pre-diluvian rebel Watcher who emerge frequently in
Jubilees as an identifiable entity, also occasionally identified with the terms
"Beliar" and "Satan."
Concerning the functions of Mastema (hereafter, for shorthand) Jubilees is
most interesting for its innovations. His primary function seems to be to lead
human beings astray. An almost insignificant note in 1 Enoch becomes the Leitmotif
in Jubilees. After the Flood Noah is concerned that demons are seducing his
children and their children (7:27-28, to consume blood; 10:1-3, to commit all
manner of sin). Later, in 11:5, Mastema will send spirits to encourage idolatry
and all sorts of evil and wrong. Again in 12:1 6-20, Abraham's rejection of
astrological prognostication is in a prayer that contrasts God's dominion with
the dominion of evil spirits over human thoughts.
In these texts we can see a fascinating move in demonological speculation,
although there is not time here to trace its history. The chief of the spirit
remains of the offspring of the rebel Watchers and his underlings are given
the classical functions of the Tempter. Although the idea is not expressed
anthropologically, one sees here human sin in thought or deed, in the religious
realm (idolatry or apostasy) and the ethical sphere of human interaction
as a result of the prodding or seduction o f evil spirits. To my knowledge,
though the text should be combed, the author does not deal with experiences,
but the assertion is made that human sin results from individual demonic activity.
This viewpoint becomes explicit and the satanic identity of Mastema is made
clear in the story of the Akedah, where the account of Genesis 22 is framed
by a Joban prologue and epilogue in heaven (17:15-18:16). Adding to the mixture
the traditional component of angelic rival attorneys, the author relates how
the angels have praised Abraham's righteousness and Mastema objects. The Semihazah-Michael
and `Asael-Raphael opposition where the former are sinners and the latter,
agents of judgment is replaced by opposition between Mastema and the angel
of the presence, in which Abraham is tried and found faithful and patient.
The satanic figure, both as accuser and tempter, is identified as the descendant
of the angelic rebellion. The impulse to sin is linked to the primordial angelic
But Mastema and his entourage show up in other ways. In Ur he sends birds and
ravens to eat newly sown seed and create famine (11:11-24); his activity is
present in "natural" disaster. The evil spirits cause illness, so that the good
angels must instruct Noah about medicines and herbs of the earth. The first
part of the idea is consonant with 1 Enoch 12-16, but in the second part, the
good angels reveal what Semihazah had revealed in 1 Enoch 7:2; 8:3.
Over against the overwhelming prominence of the seductive and tempting functions
of Mastema and his spirits, the major constitutive features of the Semihazah
and `Asael myths fade into obscurity in Jubilees. Of the latter we hear the most.
Abraham identifies astrological forecasting as demonic in origin. The point
is made earlier, in more Enochic language. In 8:1-4, a descendant of Noah discovers
a stone inscription containing the Watchers' revelations about heavenly omens,
and he copies it down. This explains how these pre-diluvian revelations survived
the Flood. "Modern day" guide books to the stars are transcriptions of knowledge
of demonic provenance. Apart from this text, however, the function of forbidden
primordial revelation appears to have been assumed by ongoing demonic seduction
to wrong. The issue of magic is not important. Although the Semihazah myth is
constitutive as an explanation for the origin of evil spirits (= 1 Enoch 12-16),
the association of demons and unjust rulers is not really an issue in Jubilees.
The spirits placed over the nations, which might be connected with unjust and
oppressive rulers (along with Jubilees' main emphasis), lead the nations into
sin (15:31-34). The sharp Israel-Gentile dichotomy so prevalent in Jubilees
is explained on the basis on an angelology and demonology that is related to
whole peoples, or individuals among them, rather than to rulers. The closest
we come to the old idea is in 48:9-19, where is Exodus is a confrontation between
Mastema and the angel of the presence. Mastema, the obstructer of God's purposes,
would have delivered Israel to Pharaoh, both at the Red Sea and, before that,
by revealing their intention to Pharaoh. But he was blocked, bound, and imprisoned
by the Angel of the Presence. The idea is consonant with Jubilees' view that
history is the battleground between good and evil spiritual forces.
Jubilees' view of idolatry clearly agrees with one line in the Epistle of Enoch
and, mainly, disagrees with the other. Typical of Jubilees, evil spirits can
lead one to idolatry, but idols are not the residence of demons; they are dead,
deaf, and dumb stuff (11:5-7; 12:3-5; 20:7-9; 22:16-18, but note the slip in
v 17b ["they worship evil spirits"]).
1) Enoch's Semihazah myth functions as an explanation for the presence of the
demonic world, as in 1 Enoch 12-16.
2) Demonic activity is experienced in human sickness, and demonic lore remains
in astrological wisdom.
3) For the most part, however, in a major departure from 1 Enoch, or at least
a tremendous emphasis on a minor matter, evil spirits have become the seducers
and tempters to human sin, and individuality is given to their chieftain rather
than to a primordial rebel Watcher. The lives of individuals and the history
of Israel's interaction with the nations are a playing out of the battle between
good angels and evil spirits. Said another way, the human decision to sin is
a function of demonic activity. The presence of evil spirits is well nigh universalized
in the area of human activity.
The Book of Tobit
The presence of the angel Raphael and the demon Asmodeus in Tobit are sufficient
to justify a treatment of this book in relation to the Seminar's topic, but
a few observations will indicate some fascinating parallels between Tobit and
1 Enoch, which ha d led me to discuss the book in this context.
1) The first part of Tobit is set in Upper Galilee, the locus of key episodes
in the Enoch cycle (Tob. 1:1-4; 1 Enoch 6:5; 13:4-10, on the latter, see JBL
2) The opposition between Raphael the healing angel and Asmodeus the lecherous
demon, and the former's "binding" of the latter, have a counterpart in 1 Enoch
6-11, though the demon's opponent is changed from Michael to Raphael, who is
`Asael's opponent in 1 Enoch.
3) Raphael's function as one of the seven angels, who bring the memory of the
prayers of the righteous before the glory of the Great One or Holy One, closely
parallels Enochic angelology and even phraseology (cf. 3:16; 12, 15 with
1 Enoch 103:1; 10 4:1).
4) The testamentary forecast in Tob. 14:4-7 has striking parallels in 1 Enoch
93:1-10; 91:11-17 (see espec. the longer and more original S/OL text of Tobit.
5) The divine names in the prayer in 13:6-11 have parallels in Enochic texts
(9:4; 12:3; 25:3, 7).
Against the background of these parallels, a comparison and contrast of Tobit
and Enoch is instructive. As noted above, the detailed characterization and
plot line bring us a bit closer to what we might recognize as "the experience"
of the angelic and demonic in a more traditional sense of the term. We are
further helped by the fact that the protagonist functions as the narrator, and
the story is told from his point of view. We learn what he knows or doesn't
know about demons and angels, and to some extent we learn what others know
and don't know.
Briefly told, Tobit relates the story of two righteous people and their woes
and ultimate deliverance. Tobit, the singular righteous man in Israel, is taken
into Assyrian captivity. He is persecuted for his pious deeds, but eventually
vindicated. Then calamity strikes again, in the form of hot swallow dung which
falls on his eyes and blinds him. One things leads to another, and finally he
prays for death as deliverance. On the other side of Mesopotamia, a distant
relative, Sarah, suffers from the machinations of the demon Asmodeus, who is
in love with her. Though he does not consummate this love, as do Semihazah and
his friends, he kills off her seven successive husbands, in the bedroom, on
the wedding night. Sarah's maids mock her for what they take to be the girl's
treachery (reason not given), and Sarah, too, prays for death as a release from
The prayers are received in heaven by Raphael, one of the seven angelic intercessors,
who, in turn is sent to heal the two hapless Israelites (see 1 Enoch 9-10 for
the pattern of intercessor and mission of deliverance). Raphael appears in human
guise, pretending to be a long lost relative of Tobit and sets off with Tobias,
Tobit's son, supposedly to fetch the family fortune, on deposit elsewhere in
Mesopotamia. On the way, when Tobias and Raphael (a.k.a. Azarias) come to the
Tigris River, a fish conveniently leaps out of the water, and when it is properly
butchered, it provides liver, which when fried on coals drives away demons,
and gall bladder, which when squirted on blind eyes restores sight.
As the two approach Ecbatana, Azarias tells Tobias about the lovely Sarah,
who is Tobias's predestined wife. The youth knows all about her and her demon
and seven dead husbands and wants nothing to do with her. But Azarias assures
him that the fish l iver they have been carrying with them will take care of
the demon. And so it does. Asmodeus is driven to the upper Nile somewhere, where
Raphael binds him. Everyone returns to Nineveh. When Tobias anoints Tobit's
eyes and the old man sees, it is time for real revelations. The angelophany,
extended over miles and weeks, comes to its climax, as Azarias identifies himself
as Raphael and quickly "ascends to him who sent me," while the healed Tobit
and Tobias, the husband of the healed Sarah, look on in astonishment.
First, the experience of the demonic. For the author, sudden death, under very
odd and repeated circumstances, is interpreted as the result of demonic activity.
That God's purposes in procreation and family are being frustrated is much to
the point. Tobit's misfortunes do not seem to be associated with the demonic,
although it is noteworthy that in Jubilees' story about Abraham, the ravens
are Mastema's agents, and the traditional character of that idea is perhaps
evident in Jesus' parable, where the seed-eating birds are a symbol for the
activity of Satan. So perhaps, in the sub-text, this sickness of Tobit is also
induced by the demonic. In the plot, the incident is a result of his pious action
of burying a dead man and having to sleep, unclean, in the open.
Secondly, the experience of the angelic. The healer is an angel in human disguise.
It is his knowledge, not only of the many circumstances surrounding Tobit's
and Sarah's lives and misfortunes, but also of magical cures that facilitates
the hearings of Tobit and Sarah.
All this represents the author's understanding of demonic and angelic activity
in human lives. But there is a catch, which is of the very nature of the plot
and is integrated into the point of view of the characters. None of the characters
know who Raphael is, until he reveals who he is. This makes for very funny
reading at times, such as when Tobit wishes the two a pleasant journey and the
company of an angel. But the author is serious in the midst of his humor. People
are in the company of angels when they don't know it. Indeed, it is very much
to the point of the story, that the characters really don't understand what
is going on, but that when all is said and done, they perceive the hand of God,
or the activity of an angel, who is healer, magician, and matchmaker all in
one. How this device of ignorance and revelation impinges an the characters'
experience of the demonic is not completely clear. If the bird is Satan's agent,
Tobit never knows it. Tobias indicates to Raphael that he knows of Sarah's
demon (6:13-14). Is this his own conclusion? The father, honest man that he
is, admits his daughter's problem, but oddly does not attribute it to a demon
(7:10-11), and the maids blame the girl for her plight (2:8-9).
Is there a theological point behind this plotting. In reality, demons hurt
and smite and kill, and angels heal. In human perception, sickness and death
may or may not be attributable and one never knows through what apparently human
agency God's angels are effecting healing?
Two other observations bear on our topic and form an interesting comparison
with the earlier texts. 1) Different from 1 Enoch, Raphael the intercessor and
healer appears not in the eschaton, but in the lives of humans who need healing
from blindness an d bad luck in the family. Both with respect to demon and angel,
the viewpoint is closer to Jubilees than to 1 Enoch even if, in Jubilees,
the healing lore was given at first to Noah. 2) The means of healing are curious,
to say the least. Perhaps fish gall, especially when well cured for a few days
in the Mesopotamian heat, has a medicinal function, but the procedure is peculiar
enough to have, probably, a few parallels in magical recipe books. The liver
is another matter. (One does not apply medicine to a sick human body; one creates
an incredibly foul stench to drive away an invisible spiritual presence. That's
magical technique, if ever there was such. So, interestingly, where Enoch rejects
magical cures as demonic in origin, and Jubilees attributes the origin of knowledge
about the medicinal use of herbs to angels, Tobit's author has his angel cure
through magical means. At the same time, there is a curious functional duplication
in 8:1-4a and 4b-8 between the magical cure that drives away the demon and
Tobias's and Sarah's prayer that the Lord have mercy on them. The magical and
the "religious" parallel one another and perhaps hint at two very different
approaches to the problem of sickness and cure. Prayer is a constant in Tobit.
Does the magical reflect a tantalizing folkloristic tidbit that the author
cannot dispense with?
Summary and Conclusions
I have attempted to track the evidence for antique experience of the demonic
(and angelic) through three related texts. Here, in summary, are where these
texts see the loci of the demonic and angelic.
1) Kings, Rulers, Generals, and other perpetrators of violence are
agents of the demonic. These may be seen as veritable incarnations of demonic
evil, if one takes relatively literally the generational myth about Semihazah.
Alternatively, one may believe that the weapons they use have been fabricated
through technology based on knowledge revealed by the primordial angelic rebels.
In the more general scheme of Jubilees, any sort of violence and bloodshed is
a function of demonic prodding.
The association of kings and rulers with the demonic will play a major role
in the non-apocalyptic Jewish texts and in the NT. Stories about the deaths
of Antiochus Epiphanes, Ptolemy, Herod, and Agrippa all make use of the myth
of Helel ben Sahar, which also stands behind the description of the "man of
lawlessness" in 2 Thessalonians. In Revelation, of course, the Roman Empire
and its rulers are seen as agents of the Beast and, ultimately, Satan,
whose fall is also described with the imagery of Isaiah
14 and its traditional elaboration.
2) Sickness and "possession" can be evidence of demonic activity.
Here, with the presumable exception of magical spells, the demonic world operates
without human agents different from the previous category.
3) Magical technique was a point of contact with the demonic, whether
or not it was understood as invoking the real presence and activity of demons
or simply making use of the residue of demonically generated knowledge. In this
particular instance, one might not experience the demonic, but simply claim
that others used and experienced it. Nonetheless, 1 Enoch may presume that the
righteous were victimized by spells. The story of Tobit is an odd exception
in its attribution of magical technique to Raphael.
4) Divination provided entree to (pseudo-) information through methods
and skill that originated with the rebel Watchers.
5) Seduction, temptation, or prodding to sin are a major demonic function
according to the broadly construed demonology of the Book of Jubilees. Not only
are the Gentiles and the grossly wicked subject to this, but even the righteous
must guar d against the seductions of Mastema and his army of demons. Individual
life and experience and the history of nations are the arena of demonic and
angelic activity. For Tobit human sin and righteousness are thoroughly human
and in no way functions of the demonic.
The view of Jubilees approximates closely that of the two-ways material in
1QS 3-4 (and in another respect, the Qumran War Scroll), although it is unclear
that Jubilees' aetiology of the demonic world is the one presumed for the Serek's
Prince of Darkness and his army.
In any case, Jubilees provides a possible background for Paul's anthropologically
6) Idolatry is an important realm of the demonic. The point may be that
demonically originated metallurgical technology made possible the fabrication
of idols which represent non-entities. According to another point of view, veneration
of these cult-objects is worship of demonic entities that stand behind them.
In defining my subject matter in this paper, I have looked for those persons,
events, situations, and "things" experienced by these authors in which they
perceived the presence or influence of malevolent transcendent power and activity.
In a way, I am talking about a world-view or a way of looking at reality, and
it can be argued that, in fact, I have smuggled theology into the discussion,
because I am describing a theological interpretation of human experience. My
point is, however, that it is precisely human experiences which are being interpreted.
To take a single example, to feel the conqueror's sword or see one's land devastated
and one's crops and livestock looted is an experience of the senses, to say
nothing of the emotions. To perceive the conqueror as an agent of the demonic
is to make these palpable experiences into experiences of the demonic.
The demonologies that I have attempted to describe involve a delicate interaction
between experience and reflection. In various ways, these authors lived in a
world that they perceived to be threatening often profoundly threatening.
The threat was in different forms: possible annihilation in war, or at least
the extreme misery of oppression; sickness; magical manipulation. A real sense
of victimization runs through large segments of these texts. Of course, neither
this kind of situation nor reflection on it was new in Israelite religious
and intellectual history. Why do the righteous suffer in this way? The answer
given here is the positing of a demonic realm that opposes God's promised reward
for the righteous. Its existence is traced to primordial angelic revolt.
The second side of these demonological speculations is more anthropologically
oriented. The righteous are victims of internal impulses to sin. There is a
speculative element here not really present in earlier Israelite religious tradition.
One does not simply acknowledge and, by appropriate rituals, deal with the anomalies
of one's own sin. One dwells on its status as anomaly and attempts to explain
it. The more one moves toward a "sectarian" mentality or at least a sense
of a distinction between the righteous and the sinners, the more necessary
it is to posit an explanation for the anomaly.
There is, finally, a theological element to all of this speculation which one
must acknowledge, because it is present and constitutive. It is the issue of
theodicy. How does the course of history proceed in opposition to divine justice?
Why are the righteous victimized? And, to make it more difficult, why do the
righteous sin? In both cases, there lurks a real problem for one's understanding
of God's function as Creator. Why does there exist in God's world a realm of
malevolent spirits, and why is the created humanity of the righteous subject
to the impulse to sin? 1 Enoch and Jubilees answer these questions by positing
a factor alien to, and chronologically later than creation an angelic revolt
and by recounting the story in mythic form. Gnosticism takes up similar questions
and answers them with an understanding and a myth of creation that is radically
different. Yet in these Gnostic answers the reader of the apocalyptic texts
sees familiar elements and components.
George W. E. Nickelsburg
"Enoch 97-104: A Study of the Greek and Ethiopic Texts," in
Michael E. Stone, ed., Armenian and Biblical Studies. Jerusalem:
St. James: 90-156.
"Apocalyptic and Myth in 1 Enoch 6-11," JBL 96:383-405.
Jewish Literature Between the Bible and the Mishnah. Philadelphia:
"Enoch, Levi, and Peter: Recipients of Revelation in Upper Galilee,"
JBL 100: 575-600.
"Stories of Biblical and Early Post-Biblical Times," Chapter
2 in Michael E. Stone, ed., Jewish Writings of the Second Temple
Period. Compendia Rerum Iudaicarum ad Novum Testamentum 2.2. Assen/
Philadelphia: van Gorcum/ Fortress: 33-87 (Tobit).
"The Bible Rewritten and Expanded," Chapter 3 in
ibid.: 89-156 (Jubilees).
"Tobit," pp. 791-803 in Harper's Bible Commentary, ed.
James L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper's (with the Society of Biblical Literature).
1 Enoch: A Critical and Exegetical Commentary. Hermeneia
Series. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
For a full bibliography of the writings of George Nickelsburg, see pp.
299-308 in For A Later Generation: the Transformation of Tradition in
Israel, Early Judaism and Early Christianity, ed. by Randall A.
Argall, Beverly A. Bow, and Rodney A. Werline. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity
Press International, 2000.
See also the presentations by Elaine Pagels and
David Utz and the ensuing
Discussion with Nickelsburg, Pagels, and Utz
For related materials,
consult other PSCO presentations and discussions on the topic for
the 1987-1988 seminar,
"Principalities and Powers:
Demons and Angels in the World of Late Antiquity".