Sunday, 14 November 2010

Grammar from Jeremiah 42

Jeremiah 42:1-6 details an event taking place after the majority of Judah was taken into captivity in Babylon. The remnant of the people appealed to the prophet Jeremiah for help in choosing what to do next: to stay in Jerusalem while the army of the king of Babylon approached, or to flee to Egypt.

1 Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near,
2 And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the Lord thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:)
3 That the Lord thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do. (Jeremiah 42:1-3)

I see in their words a people completely despondent: they saw themselves as forsaken by all earthly allies, and even by God. Perhaps they believed that their sinfulness was so great that God Himself would give them no heed. Either way, they begged Jeremiah to pray to the Lord his God. They would not even claim Him as their God any more.

4 Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the Lord your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you. (Jeremiah 42:4)

Jeremiah understood the people's feelings and their fears, but didn't share them. In a cutting response to their request that he "pray for us unto the Lord thy God", he said, "behold, I will pray unto the Lord your God". The prophet wasn't going to allow his people to abandon their God, even if they felt (wrongly) that He no longer cared for them.

5 Then they said to Jeremiah, The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the Lord thy God shall send thee to us.
6 Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God. (Jeremiah 42:5-6)

The people heard Jeremiah's words (and how could they not?). They refered to "the Lord thy God" when referring to Jeremiah's calling (and I can hear his groan as he thinks they've completely rejected the Lord), but finally make the glorious statement: "We will obey the voice of the Lord our God."

... it's a shame they didn't.

21 And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you.
22 Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn. (Jeremiah 42:21-22)

Sunday, 5 September 2010

"Am I my brother's keeper?"

Throughout history, there have been famous sets of twins and near-twins. Many of these appear in various mythologies, and are therefore used to make various points. When telling a story - fictional or factual - it is always important to tell it in a way that makes your point or serves your purpose. For example, the story of Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 37-46) is tailored to show God's love for his people, and how He will help those who are faithful. To that end, some details are highlighted (Joseph's prayers, for instance), while others are sidelined (his actual journey to Egypt) or completely left out (no examples here, naturally). If we wanted to, we could take the same facts and turn the story into a warning about illegal immigrants.

So the fact that a story is true (and we could play the same games with any tale, right down to the present day) doesn't preclude it drawing on mythological archetypes. To that end, I'm going to examine four sets of mythological twins from different cultures, and see how similar they are to the scriptural twins Jacob and Esau.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu (Akkidan/Babylonian, c. 2500 BC)

The main characters of the Akkidan Epic of Gilgamesh are not, in fact, twins or even brothers. But they're close enough. The story goes that Gilgamesh, king of Uruk, was oppressing his people (and raping newly-married women), so the gods created Enkidu to be an equal to him. Enkidu is sent to Uruk and fights Gilgamesh in the street, and they become friends. As you would.

The two friends/brothers set out on a quest to become famous by killing a giant monster. They succeeded, and returned home to great renown. Unfortunately, Gilgamesh then ticked off the goddess Ishtar (by refusing her advances), which starts a series of events which ended with Enkidu cursing the gods, getting struck down with a wasting disease, and dying ignobly.

Gilgamesh mourned Enkidu, and went off on a quest to discover the secret of eternal life. He sought out Utnapishtim, the Akkidan equivalent of Noah, who was granted immortality after the great flood. Utnapishtim told Gilgamesh of a plant which grows on the sea-bed which could restore his youth. Gilgamesh managed to get hold of some of the plant, but proceeded to lose it when he put it down and a serpent took it.

Castor and Pollux (Greek/Roman)

These brothers are more accurately half-twins, the sons of Leda by her husband Tyndareus and by Zeus in the form of a swan, respectively. In Greek Pollux should technically be Polydeuces, but his Latin name is much better known. They are the Gemini twins, who eventually became the constellation. In life they were adventurers - they joined the crew of the Argo under Jason, and Pollux defeated King Amycus in a boxing match. Later in life they desired Phoebe and Hilaeira, the betrothed wives of their cousins Lynceus and Idas, so in true Greek style they abducted the women and took them to Sparta.

The four cousins pretended to get along after that, but they were always fighting. They went on a cattle-raid together, and Lynceus and Idas tricked Castor and Pollux out of their share of the cows. In revenge, Castor and Pollux later tried to steal their cousins' entire herds. Lynceus and Idas left their feast (and left Helen alone with Paris, thus causing the Trojan War) and fought their cousins. They were killed, but mortally wounded Castor in the process. Rather than watch his brother go down to the underworld, Pollux, as the son of Zeus, shared his immortality: each of the twins would spend half his time in the underworld, and half on Mount Olympus with the gods.

Romulus and Remus (Roman, c. 770 BC)

Romulus and Remus were the sons of Rhea Silvia by either her brother Amulicus, king of Alba Longa, or by the god Mars (Greek Ares). Either way, Amulicus wasn't too keen on there being other claimants to his throne, so he ordered the twins killed by exposure on a hilltop. They were suckled by a she-wolf, rescued by a shepherd, and raised as shepherds.

When they grew up they fought against the shepherds of Amulicus. Remus was taken captive, and Romulus raised an army to rescue him. In the fighting, Amulicus was killed, and the boys placed their grandfather back on his throne before leaving to found their own city. They proceeded to argue over which hill to centre it on. Romulus won the debate, but Remus kept trying to interfere with the construction, so Romulus had him killed.

In his life alone after the death of his brother, Romulus reigned over Roma and was responsible for the abduction of a large number of women from the neighbouring Sabine people. He also did a great many other things (he was a king, after all), but since Remus never really entered into things again, I won't delve into the subject.

Hunahpu and Xbalanque (Mayan Hero Twins)

The Maya Hero Twins were born (and, indeed, conceived) after their father's death, so were raised by their grandmother. They had a strong rivalry with their half-brothers, which resulted eventually in the older children being turned into monkeys. The twins were asked by a god to deal with the arrogant deity Seven Macaw and his two sons, who were claiming far more power than they actually had. They dealt with the three by using their wits more than their strength or any magical powers, and left the three gods dead.

The twins' father and uncle had been ball players. The noise of their playing had disturbed the Lords of Xibalba, the Mayan Underworld, so the Lords had put them through a number of trials which led to their demise. The twins started to play ball on the same court, and were also summoned before the Lords of Xibalba, but using their wits and the help of a number of animals were able to pass most of the trials. In the last test, Hunahpu was decapitated by a killer bat, but Xbalanque devised a scheme to retrieve his head (which the Lords decided to use to play ball) and reattached it.

The Lords of Xibalba gave up on subtlety and simply burnt the boys to dust. When the ashes were dumped in a river, however, the two regenerated themselves and set themselves up as magicians in Xibalba. Unrecognised, they performed their tricks, such as burning houses down and raising them from the ashes, and were invited to entertain the Lords. After their grand finale, in which Xbalanque sacrificed Hunahpu and raised him from the dead, the two highest Lords asked for the same miracle to be performed on them. One Death and Seven Death were certainly sacrificed, but the twins did not bring them back. The Xibalbans were defeated, and the twins declared that they would no longer receive worship or sacrifices from the world above. Eventually, the twins ascended into the heavens, one becoming the sun, the other the moon.

Common Themes

There are, of course, a lot of themes in each of the myths described above, but there are some which are common to all. For example:

  • Death: Each set of twins has a connection with death. Hunahpu was raised to life again by Xbalanque, Castor was given partial immortality by Pollux, and Gilgamesh went to seek his own immortality after Enkidu died. Romulus is the only one to have permanently killed his brother, but Xbalanque did sacrifice Hunahpu. In some versions of the myth, Enkidu is said to have had a vision of the underworld, and both the Mayan and Greek twins visited the underworld in some fashion.
  • Women: Other than the Mayan twins, each pair has some connection with the rape (literal or figurative) of women. Enkidu was created to put an end to Gilgamesh's actions, while both Romulus, Castor and Pollux all kidnapped their wives.
  • Family: The Greek, Roman and Mayan myths all include strife between close relatives. The cousins of Castor and Pollux, the half-brothers of Hunahpu and Xbalanque, and of course the troubles between Romulus and Remus, all are part of this theme. In fact, the only pair who weren't born together - Gilgamesh and Enkidu - became friends through fighting each other.
  • Victory: Specifically, victory over those in power. The Akkidan and Mayan twins are all tied to the defeat of gods - Gilgamesh and Enkidu kill the Bull of Heaven and snub Ishtar, while Hunahpu and Xbalanque are pretty much the last thing a Mayan god wants to see. Romulus and Remus took down their uncle/father. Even Pollux defeated a king hand-to-hand.
  • Inequality: The pairs of twins are not equal. Enkidu is a wild man while Gilgamesh is a king, and it's Enkidu who dies while Gilgamesh seeks immortality. Castor was mortal, Pollux immortal. Romulus always led the way (note how it was Remus who was captured, Romulus who rescued him), and of course eventually became king. Hunahpu was always the one killed, while Xbalanque brought him back.
Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25-33)

Jacob and Esau, born to Isaac and Rebekah, quarrelled from the very first. They struggled in Rebekah's womb, and when they were born, Jacob grasped at Esau's heel on the way out. Esau became a hunter, while Jacob was "a plain man, dwelling in tents". The first recorded event in their lives is when Jacob convinced Esau to sell him his birthright in exchange for some food. Later Jacob was guided by his mother in receiving his father's first blessing, which ought to have been Esau's, and Esau planned to kill him.

Esau took local wives, Hittite women. Jacob, however, was sent to his uncle's house and told to marry one of his cousins (at which point Esau, hearing how upset his father was with his choice of wives, took another who was a daughter of Ishmael). Jacob ended up being Laban's servant for fourteen years and received not one, but two wives, Leah and Rachel. These sisters fought for Jacob's attentions and the chance to bear his sons, and both gave him their handmaids to be his wives and bear proxy children for them.

When most of Jacob's twelve children had been born, he left his father-in-law's house and started back for Isaac's lands. Along the way he stole Laban's best cattle through a trick (along with his household gods) and fled the scene. When Laban caught up with him he demanded to know why he had "... carried away my daughters, as captives taken with the sword?". Laban still laid claim to pretty much everything Jacob had taken (daughters, children, slaves, cattle), but apparently forgave him anyway and sent him on his way in friendship.

Jacob heard that Esau was coming to meet him and was afraid, so he sent a gift of livestock to his brother. That night he wrestled with God or an angel all night and held him captive until he received a blessing and a new name - Israel. The next day he prepared for Esau's coming, placing his wives and children in the forefront of his party. Esau, however, wasn't angry - he ran to Jacob and embraced him, and the brothers were reconciled.


Now it's time to analyse how well the Biblical brothers fit the mythic archetypes. Remember, this isn't claiming that anything in their story is made up - rather that the facts we are given were chosen to fill a specific purpose and tell a specific story. The similarities and differences with our mythological twins can help us realise what that story might be.
  • Death: Jacob and Esau have no real links to death.
  • Women: Both Jacob and Esau marry, but Jacob is by far the most connected to the myths. The key is Laban's accusation that he had carried away his daughters like captives. I'm sure Laban said a lot of things at that meeting, but one of the few highlighted is a direct match for our mythological twins.
  • Family: Jacob didn't really get on with his relatives. He squabbled with both his uncle Laban and his brother Esau. He doesn't actually kill anyone, but like the Maya Hero Twins, tricks them into letting him get away with things.
  • Victory: Jacob achieves at least two major victories over those in power over him. First, he robs his father-in-law, whose subject he has been for twenty years. Then he wrestles with a divine messenger and actually appears to win, or at least not lose. Like the Roman and Mayan twins, he is the victor over those in power.
  • Inequality: Rather surprisingly, Jacob is the Biblical twin with less power. Although he is set up to be the greater of the two - he is the civilised, settled man, unlike his hunter brother, and is actually prophesied to rule over Esau - he nevertheless has to constantly work around Esau. His birthright and blessing he steals, and it's Jacob who is sent away when Esau gets angry, and Jacob who keeps giving his brother gifts.

One very important way in which Jacob and Esau differ from their mythological counterparts is that they almost never work together. Three of the four matches above are actually Jacob alone, rather than the twins. However, it seems at least plausible that the Genesis account was sculpted in such a way that it highlighted these similarities and differences, linking Jacob - and thus the people of Israel - to the archetypical twins of mythology.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Ezekiel 37 and the Book of Mormon

Ezekiel 37 is one of the most cited instances of Old Testament prophecy of the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. It talks of a Stick of Judah and a Stick of Joseph, which will be brought together - these are taken by Mormons to represent the Bible and the Book of Mormon. Unfortunately, it's never that simple. Ezekiel actually explains his own image - he says that it's a representation of how the Lord will reunite the kingdoms of Judah and Israel.

That said, there is more to this chapter than meets the eye. It's all a matter of context.

First we need to establish whether the chapter breaks are in the right place. It's no good looking at internal connections if chapter 36 has just as much bearing on it. So:

  • Ezekiel 36 describes the scattering and forthcoming gathering of Israel.
  • Ezekiel 38 describes the war in the last days.
Given the nature of 37, chapter 36 sets the scene, but doesn't actually affect it significantly. It clarifies that we're talking about the time of the gathering of Israel, but we knew that already. Chapter 38 shows roughly the same thing. Now let's look at 37 itself.

The chapter starts by describing a vision had by Ezekiel, wherein the Lord showed him a valley of dry bones. Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy to the bones - to tell them that God will bring them back together and raise them again to life. As he does so, the bones reassemble themselves into bodies, and flesh and skin appears on them. Ezekiel then prophesies to the winds, commanding them to bring breath to the restored people, and they come to life.

Now God explains the vision: the bones are the house of Israel, who consider that "our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts" (Ezekiel 37:11). The vision was a dramatic way of instructing Ezekiel to prophesy that they will be restored to their own lands, and returned to the grace of the Lord. (For the record, Ezekiel prophesied both before and after the fall of Jerusalem; this prophecy was given at the start of the Babylonian captivity)

Now comes the part we're interested in: the Lord commands Ezekiel to take two sticks, and to write on one "For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions," and on the other, "For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions". He is instructed to join them together in his hand and make them as one as a demonstration to the children of Judah.

After the demonstration, he is to offer an explanation: the Lord will gather the children of Israel from wherever they have gone, and bring them back to their own country. They will have one king, and give up their idolatry. God states that "David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd" (Ezekiel 37:24).

In the concluding verses, we read that "Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them" (Ezekiel 37:26). It is to be an everlasting covenant, and the Lord's sanctuary will be with them forever. He also states that "My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people." (Ezekiel 37:27). Even the heathen will know this.

To a Jew at the time it was given, the meaning of this chapter would be clear: the whole thing is a clear prophecy that they would be freed from Babylon, restored to their land, have the Ten Tribes returned to them, and live in peace forever under a divinely-ordained king. Of course, it didn't happen like that, so we need to look a little deeper.

In my opinion, there are five sections to this chapter:
  1. Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones.
  2. God's explanation of the vision.
  3. Ezekiel's demonstration of the two sticks.
  4. God's explanation of the demonstration.
  5. The new covenant.

There are obvious contextual links between some of these: 2 and 4 are explicit explanations of 1 and 3, while 5 is a continuation of 4. However, I believe there are also less obvious connections.

Take section 1, the dry bones. In context of 2, this is a simple prophecy of the Jews' return from captivity. This prophecy was fulfilled under Cyrus the great. However, it also has echoes of something that is yet to come: the resurrection of the dead at the beginning of the Millennium, the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ in peace over the earth. We understand from other scriptures that the gathering of Israel will take place in this same period - the same gathering as is referenced in sections 3 and 4. Thus, if we take section 4 as a context for the vision in section 1, we can find a deeper meaning: that in the last days, the Lord will literally raise the faithful from their graves to live with him in peace.

Now we come to section 3, the parable of the two sticks. Again, the simple context is section 4: in the last days Judah and Israel will be brought together again under one ruler. However, if we use the same principle of extended context, we can apply section 5 to section 3. The sticks are in some way connected to a "covenant of peace" which is to be made with the reunited Israel.

Remember that the first vision had an allegorical meaning from its first context, but a literal meaning from the second. The same rules should apply here: the two sticks represent the tribes of Israel, but they also, in context of the new covenant, represent two pieces of writing, one for Judah, one for Joseph, which will be brought together. There is, of course, a book that is distinctly tied to Judah: the Old Testament, or Hebrew Bible. If we take this to be the Stick of Judah, what can be the Stick of Joseph?

It could be the New Testament. The idea of a new covenant is there, and it has a long history of being bound together with the Old Testament. However, what it lacks is any real association with Joseph and Ephraim. Jesus Christ was a descendant of David, and of the tribe of Judah. The Ten Tribes didn't make their reappearance at the time the New Testament was written. While it is probably the most important book ever written, the New Testament is not the Stick of Joseph. If anything, it's part of the Stick of Ephraim.

There is a book with distinctive ties to the tribe of Joseph, and of Ephraim in particular. It was written by prophets descended from the tribe of Manasseh, brother to Ephraim and son of Joseph, and covers a thousand years from the fall of Jerusalem (the time at which Ezekiel was writing) to four hundred years after the death and resurrection of Christ. It tells of the trials and tribulations of the faithful in a distant land, where they strove to follow God despite the threat of destruction. It describes in glorious detail the visit of the resurrected Jesus Christ to this people, His establishment of a new and everlasting covenant with them, and the righteous society which they built upon His principles. It details their fall from faithfulness to apostasy, and their final destruction at the hands of their brethren. It is the Book of Mormon, translated by the power of God through the hand of Joseph Smith, jr., himself a descendant of the tribe of Ephraim. It is the Stick of Joseph, and is bound together with the Stick of Judah in millions of homes worldwide.

As a final note: section 5 also claims that both the sanctuary and tabernacle of God will be with Israel in the Millennium. If the sanctuary is taken to be the temple, what is the tabernacle? Could it be that Ezekiel is using language similar to that of the Book of Mormon prophet-king Benjamin, who told of a time when "the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth, who was, and is from all eternity to all eternity, shall come down from heaven among the children of men, and shall dwell in a tabernacle of clay" (Mosiah 3:5)? I don't know. But it could just be.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Top Five Messages of the Restored Gospel

The following are my candidates for the five most important messages of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are my opinion only, and I make no claim that they are exclusive to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

5. There is a purpose to life. This world we live in was created for a reason, and that reason is us. We - each and every member of the human race, collectively and individually - are living here in order to learn and grow. God didn't create us out of nothing so He had someone to worship Him, or so He could have people to condemn - He sent us here because we need to develop our understanding and faith, and learn our own strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, we need to learn whether we will ever be comfortable living with our Heavenly Father.

4. The family is eternal. We will not be separated from our loved once in the resurrection. We won't all be sitting on separate clouds with harps and wings. We will be together, our families sealed together through all their generations. Husbands and wives, parents and children (and children's children, and so on down)... all will be family, forever. Families are an important part of Heavenly Father's plan, and he isn't going to split them up once we're all immortal.

3. The heavens are open. God speaks today! Each and every one of us, whatever church we belong to, or even if we don't, can hear the words Heavenly Father would have us hear. The Holy Ghost can, will and does speak to everyone, and if you ask for it, Heavenly Father will give you comfort and guidance, if you but listen. Further, God's will for the human race as a whole is being constantly made known through His prophet on the earth today.

2. Jesus atoned for our sins. Everyone has done something wrong in their life. Because our Heavenly Father is perfect, He cannot abide the sins of humanity - we could not communicate with Him or ever return to His presence if we were unable to repent of our wrongdoing. Through the atoning sacrifice of our Saviour Jesus Christ, we can repent - each and every one of us. As we do so, our sins are forgotten - we are made clean once again. Through repentance, and by the Atonement, we can hear the Holy Ghost's whispers today - and we can prepare to return to our Heavenly Father's side in eternity.

1. God loves you. He loves everyone. He loves us because He is our Heavenly Father - the literal father of our spirits. We are not animals created on a whim - we are His children. Because of this, He has given us all the blessings of life on earth, and all the blessings of the Gospel. Because of His love for us - for you, whoever you may be - our Father sent his firstborn and most-beloved son, even Jesus Christ, to suffer and die for you - and to be raised up again for your sake, that you might overcome both sin and death through His sacrifice. All of your Father's gifts are freely extended to you - all you have to do is take them.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Purpose of Life

There's a question I've been thinking about for a while now - since I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, actually. Why are we here on earth at all?

Our Heavenly Father is all-knowing and all-powerful. He can literally do anything. He knows everything that ever has or will happen. And yet our purpose on this earth is apparently to demonstrate our obedience to Him. Why? He already knows whether we'll do what He says or not. Why not simply send us all to the degree of glory we would prove ourselves worthy of without the whole earth thing?

Often, people will answer that we're "here to get a body", "here to be baptised and receive the ordinances of salvation", or "here to learn". However, this is the creator of the entire universe we're talking about. He could give us bodies by snapping his fingers. He could just make it so the ordinances were done. He could implant knowledge straight in our brains. So why doesn't He?

My dear brothers and sisters - my fellow children of the Father - He doesn't because He loves us. We are all His literal spirit children, and He loves us unconditionally and without limit. Because He loves us, He wants us to understand. Yes, He could easily - more than easily - give us everything we'd deserve, He could tell us why some of us were being seemingly-arbitrarily assigned to the Telestial Kingdom rather than the Celestial, but could He simply make us understand?

He could, of course, but like I said - He loves us. The greatest gift our Father gave us is our agency - our ability to choose for ourselves whether to do good or evil. To simply shove understanding into our brains would violate that agency. What good is the ability to choose if the reasons behind everything can just be planted in your head?

The scriptures tell us the reason for our being assigned to different eternal kingdoms:

For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory. And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:22-24)

The three kingdoms of glory don't exist because Heavenly Father doesn't like the spiritual smell of those who live in the terrestrial and telestial kingdoms. They exist because, quite simply, if you can't handle the laws of a kingdom, you wouldn't be able to live there. You couldn't handle it. Heavenly Father lives in the Celestial Kingdom - those who are too weak to live His Gospel in this life are too weak to stand his presence in the next. That could only be changed by changing what makes us who we are - by taking away that precious agency.

Because we experience the trials of this life and our reactions to them, we will understand why -when we are called before the judgement bar - we are given a particular kingdom of glory. Yes, we are here to gain a body, and yes, we are here to prove ourselves worthy or not. But we're not proving it to Heavenly Father. We're proving it to ourselves.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Analysis of the Book of Enoch: Part 5 - The Book of the Watchers, Chapters 9-11

In the last installment of my analysis of the Book of Enoch we saw how the Watchers of Enoch - corrupted angels who taught mankind the ways of war, among other things - are distorted reflections of the wicked men of Enoch's and Noah's days. In Enoch 8 we read how their teachings led to 'much godlessness, and [mankind] committed fornication, and they were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways' (Enoch 8:2). Now we move on to chapter 9.

1. And then Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel looked down from heaven and saw much blood being shed upon the earth, and all lawlessness being wrought upon the earth.

2. And they said one to another: 'The earth made without inhabitant cries the voice of their crying up to the gates of heaven.

3 And now to you, the holy ones of heaven, the souls of men make their suit, saying, "Bring our cause before the Most High.".'
(Enoch 9:1-3)

As a result of the evil which is afflicting their world - evil which they themselves accepted when they listened to the Watchers - the people of the earth are appealing for divine aid, here through the four chief angels (or archangels). Michael and Gabriel we know from the Bible. Raphael is mentioned in LDS scriptures (D&C 128:21, which verse also identified Michael as our first father, Adam), and is also named elsewhere in the Apocrypha, specifically the Book of Tobit. Uriel, the fourth archangel, is the most common name used for this person in apocryphal sources, but he does have others.

I said that 'the people of the earth' were crying to heaven, but that was inaccurate. The archangels go to the throne of God and inform Him that the Watchers have defiled both themselves and mankind, and that the earth is (basically) a mess. Then they say this: 'And now, behold, the souls of those who have died are crying and making their suit to the gates of heaven, and their lamentations have ascended: and cannot cease because of the lawless deeds which are wrought on the earth.' (Enoch 9:10) It isn't the living who are seeking redress: it's the dead. Because of their unrighteousness, they are unable to enter heaven (hence their suit is 'to the gates of heaven', rather than to the angels or God directly). Like the rich man in the Saviour's parable (Luke 16:19-31) they are praying to heaven for leniency, not for themselves, but for their friends and family.

At the end of Enoch 9, the angels ask God what they should do. Chapters 10-11 consist of His reply. Rather than quoting it in full, I will summarise it in bullet form, and then analyse each point after.
  • Uriel is sent to visit Noah, to tell him to hide himself. Noah is to be informed that a flood is coming to destroy the whole earth, but that he can escape, and 'his seed be preserved for all the generations of the world'. (Enoch 10:1-3)
  • Raphael is sent to bind Azazel and imprison him. The Watcher is to be cast into a pit and hidden from the light. On the 'day of the great judgement' he will be 'cast into the fire' (Enoch 10:4-6)
  • Raphael is also told to heal the earth, and to 'proclaim the healing of the earth', so that the things the Watchers had taught wouldn't lead the children of men to destruction. God also adds that Azazel brought the corruption about, and says 'to him ascribe all sin'. (Enoch 10:6-8)
  • Gabriel is sent to destroy the children of the Watchers by setting them against each other while their fathers, appropriately, watch. (Enoch 10:9-10)
  • Michael is told to bind the rest of the Watchers and, after letting them watch their sons die, to 'bind them fast for seventy generations in the valleys of the earth, till the day of their judgement and of their consummation, till the judgement that is for ever and ever is consummated.' (Enoch 10:11-12)
  • Now the Lord goes into an explanation of His long-term plan. At the 'judgement that is for ever and ever' the Watchers will be cast into the 'abyss of fire' and be held in that torment for ever. Furthermore, 'whosoever shall be condemned and destroyed' - men, presumably, since the Watchers are all bound already - will be thrown in there with them. Then God talks at length about how evil will be destroyed from the earth and righteousness reign: all nations will worship God, good plants will grow in abundance, and there will be no more sin or pain 'from generation to generation and for ever'. He concludes by saying that 'truth and peace shall be associated together throughout all the days of the world and throughout all the generations of men'. (Enoch 10:13-11:2)

Instructions to Noah

The message Uriel is given to bring to Noah is a close match to the one found in the scriptures:

And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Genesis 6:13, see Moses 8:30)

The details are given through the Biblical story, but they are the same as those in Enoch. There isn't really much to add here.

Imprisoning Azazel and his angels

As the ascription of 'all sin' to Azazel shows, this is Satan we're talking about, described in Moses 4:4 as 'the father of all lies'. In Moses 7:37, when God is describing the state of the wicked, he states that 'their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father'. Here is the same idea, in the account of Enoch, that Satan is the reason for all sin, and that he shall be held accountable for it. As the leader of the Watchers in Enoch, he taught mankind secrets which led to their downfall, and this is his role in Moses as well (not to mention throughout history).

'And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain.' (Moses 5:31)

Satan also directly instructed Lamech, the father of Tubal Cain who we discussed in the last installment, and was the architect of all the wickedness in the world in those days, even as he is today. In the Enoch account we see him (and, once Michael gets his orders, his fellow fallen angels) being cast out - into a pit, as the symbolism goes. The phrasing here is suspiciously reminiscent of the writings of John:

7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,
8 And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
(Revelation 12:7-9)

Is it straining a point to note that in Revelation, Satan and his angels were cast out into the earth, while in Enoch they were thrown into a pit in the desert? Perhaps. But it is at least proof that the casting-out of the Devil was an idea present in pre-Christian times. It's interesting that Michael is the one said to have cast out Satan and his angels, which matches what we are told in Enoch: the only difference is that one of Michael's angels, Raphael, is named as taking a major part.

Raphael's and Michael's instructions also reveal something about the end of days: there is to be a final judgement, at which Satan (and, jumping ahead a little, his angels and mortal followers) are to be cast into the fiery abyss. This judgement will be 'for ever and ever' - it's not one they can get out of later. These are events which weren't shown to Enoch in the Book of Moses, and aren't that well referenced in the Old Testament, but are described in detail in both the New Testament and latter-day scriptures. Since I haven't yet written a post about the LDS understanding of the resurrection, I'll just direct you to the following scriptures. They're all from the book of Doctrine and Covenants, and specifically D&C 76.

  • The 'abyss of fire' is what we tend to call the outer darkness, and is described in verses 28-38.
  • There are also the three degrees of glory, specifically:
  • The Celestial Kingdom, where the righteous and faithful go, also called heaven. (D&C 76:51-70)
  • The Terrestrial Kingdom, for those who 'received not the testimony of Jesus in the flesh, but afterwards received it' - those honourable people who 'were blinded by the craftiness of men'. (D&C 76:71-80)
  • The Telestial Kingdom, for those who never accepted Jesus until the final judgement (when they have no choice), but also never denied the Holy Ghost and doomed themselves to the abyss. (D&C 76:81-88)

The Redeemed Earth

After the judgement, God dwells on the subject of the redeemed, paradisiacal earth.

And then shall all the righteous escape,
And shall live till they beget thousands of children,
And all the days of their youth and their old age
Shall they complete in peace.
(Enoch 10:17)

In the Book of Moses we read that:

And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth... (Moses 7:62)

The same ideas are present in both books, but are completely absent from the corresponding section of Genesis. After the judgement of the wicked, God will sweep the earth with righteousness; 'the earth shall be cleansed from all defilement', as Enoch 10:21 puts it. Indeed, both sets of writing include the concept that there will be a direct flood of blessings from God: 'I will open the store chambers of blessing which are in the heaven, so as to send them down upon the earth over the work and labour of the children of men.' (Enoch 11:1)

The concept of a time of righteousness and peace is, of course, a common one throughout Judaic scriptures: the prophet Micah told of a time when 'they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid'. (Micah 4:3-4) I am not claiming otherwise. However, the presence of descriptions of this time in both the Book of Enoch and the Moses account of Enoch's ministry is at least circumstantial evidence for the genuine inspired quality of at least parts of Enoch.