The Fallen Angels of Enoch: Vicious Villains or Virtuous Victims?

The Book of Enoch tells the story of the Watchers, angels that took wives from among men and taught them some science. Were these Watchers vicious villains or virtuous victims?

Nov 28, 2023By Eben De Jager, PhD New Testament, MTh Christian Spirituality

fallen angels enoch


The Book of Enoch tells the story of two hundred Watchers, or angels, sent to watch over humanity. These Watchers conspired to commit sins by taking human women as wives and having children with them. They also taught humans many skills relating to the different disciplines of science we practice today. God condemned these fallen angels for their actions and assigned archangels to confine them to Tartarus until their final judgment.


What Sins Did the Fallen Angels of Enoch Commit?

fallen angel
The Fallen Angel, by Alexandre Cabanel, 1847, via Meisterdrucke


God tasked the Archangels to deal with the rebellious fallen angels. He also instructed the archangels to show Enoch, the main character in the Book of Enoch, what would happen to the Watchers and their offspring. In the process, different archangels show Enoch the workings of creation, especially that of the heavenly bodies and how they impact man.


At first glance, the knowledge the Watchers imparted to humans does not seem that different from what the archangels shared with Enoch. Furthermore, the knowledge that the Watchers shared with humans is considered science by many readers today.  It is the knowledge that falls into various fields of science and art. So, were the actions of the Watchers virtuous and in service of humanity, or were these angels instigators of violence?


the giant
The Giant, by Francisco Goya, 1808, via Museo del Prado


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The Watchers descended to earth in the “days of Jared,” the father of Enoch. Jared was of the sixth generation from Adam. The Watchers conspired to take wives and have children with human women instead of watching over humanity as the Watchers were supposed to do. They also taught humans various sciences and skills (1 Enoch, The Watchers 3:2-7).


The Watchers’ desire for female humans was born from lust. The intermingling of Watchers and human women resulted in the Nephilim. These giants were violent and destructive individuals who had no regard for life. The rebellion of the Watchers resulted in them becoming fallen angels.


Some of the Watchers also taught the humans forbidden skills. Azazel, for instance, “taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all coloring tinctures.”


In modern terms, this is metallurgy and cosmetology. Metallurgy is the art of extracting metals from rock and shaping those metals into various implements and artifacts. Azazel taught humans to shape metal into weapons, ornaments, and bracelets and how to set precious stones in them. Cosmetology is the professional skill or practice of beautifying the body by applying pigmented powder and accessories.


Norandino and Lucina Discovered by the Ogre, by Giovanni Lanfranco, 1624, via Wikimedia Commons


Semjaza, the leader of the two hundred Watchers, taught “enchantments and root−cuttings” while Armaros taught them how to resolve enchantments. Baraqijal taught astrology while Kokabel shared information on the constellations. Ezeqeel shared the knowledge of the clouds, Araqiel instructed on the signs of the earth, Shamsiel on the signs of the sun, and Sariel on the course of the moon.


This science sounds innocent enough and correlates with many modern practices and fields of study. Some scholars have interpreted the cutting of roots as a reference to the practice of herbal medicine or to agricultural production, and the references to the constellations, the sun, and the moon to the study of astronomy. Some people may consider the Watchers’ act of teaching humanity these sciences as virtuous, designed to uplift humanity and increase their knowledge — but was it?


Was it Science or Sorcery?

wickedness before flood
The wickedness of mankind before the flood, by Hieronymus Bosch, 1508 – 1516, via Wikimedia Commons


The early Christian readers of 1 Enoch, most of whom believed the book to be a valid source for theology, had a very different view of what the Watchers were up to. They understood Semjaza’s teaching of enchantments and root cutting as the practice of witchcraft.


Irenaeus, for instance, considered the enchantments and root cutting as “the discovery of rare substances, love-potions, aversions, amours, concupiscence, constraints of love, spells of bewitchment, and all sorcery and idolatry hateful to God.” The other teachings on astrology, the heavenly bodies, and the earth gave rise to soothsayers, augurs, magicians, and other forms of practitioners of the dark arts. It was not the science practiced today.


Irenaeus, Commodianus, Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria are among many early Church Fathers who reflect negatively on the Watchers and their influence on humanity. According to Commodianus, the Watchers were so revered among men that they erected statues to commemorate them once they died. In his understanding, the Watchers were the demons people worshiped and prayed to in his day.


Corrupting Influence

saint iraeneus stained glass
Irenaeus, stained glass from Lyon, France, via Wikimedia Commons


Azazel’s teaching may, at first glance, seem innocuous, an early form of metallurgy and cosmetology, but the proof is in the pudding, as they say. The Watcher Azazel is associated with crafting metal objects such as weapons, bracelets, and jewelry with costly stone inserts and the art of using cosmetics. His teachings had a corrupting influence on humanity and led to much fornication, degradation, and violence.


The information in the Book of Enoch has parallels with Genesis. Azazel’s instruction soon led to industry. Lamech, in the line through Cain, was the seventh generation from Adam and juxtaposes Enoch, a righteous man. Lamech was the first polygamist, taking two wives, Adah and Zillah. Adah means “ornament,” and names in the Old Testament often point to character or nature, implying she may have liked to beautify herself with make-up and accessories like metal bracelets and jewelry with precious stone inserts.


tubal cain fallen angels
Tubal Cain, son of Lamech and Zillah, 14th century fresco, via Wikimedia Commons


The son Lamech had with his other wife, Zillah, was called Tubalcain, which points to him as a character in the likeness of Cain. The Bible describes him as “the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron” (Genesis 4:22). He likely manufactured both ornaments and weapons at scale.


Lamech was a man prone to violence that threatened any challenger with mortal injury (Genesis 4:23-24). His propensity to violence parallels the circumstance described in the book of Enoch where “men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven” (1 Enoch, The Watchers 3:14). It was the bloodshed among men that caused the archangels to call on God for action (1 Enoch, The Watchers 4:1).


It was, however, not only men who were violent. The offspring of the Watchers and human women, the giants, consumed whatever men gathered. When humans could no longer sustain the giants, they started feeding on humans too. The giants then turned on the animal kingdom and, eventually, on one another.


Punishment of the Fallen Angels

lamech and wives fallen angels
Lamech and his two wives. A Part of The Story of the First Men by Jan Sadeler, 1583, via the Jewish Women’s Archive


The Watchers received a severe punishment for leading humanity astray. They would see their offspring, the giants, murdered and destroyed (1 Enoch, The Watchers 4:25). God denied their supplication for mercy. The destruction of the giants happened in two ways. First, many giants turned on one another, devouring each other’s flesh, and drank each other’s blood (1 Enoch, The Watchers 3:14). Secondly, those that remained were destroyed in the flood (1 Enoch, The Book of Noah, 1:15-16).


The punishment of the Watchers did not end there. God instructed a selection of archangels to bind the Watchers and cast them in an allocated part of the underworld that is called Tartarus. The fallen Watchers were to remain there until their final judgment.


The Watchers Versus the Archangels

lamech kills cain
Lamech kills Cain and Tubalcain, baptistry of Florence, restored 1906, via Wikimedia Commons


The Watchers, or fallen angels, shared information regarding the heavenly bodies with humans and were punished for it. The archangels shared information regarding the heavenly bodies with Enoch without punishment for their actions. What were the differences between the two acts?


It was not within the purview of the Watchers to provide knowledge to humans. The Book of Enoch states that Azazel “taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were in heaven, which men were striving to learn.” Azazel and the other fallen angels were not authorized to share their information with humans. The Watchers’ teaching led to unrighteousness, godlessness, and sin.


The results of the knowledge the humans acquired from the fallen angels harmed them and caused them to separate from God and become lawless. They started practicing occultism and used magic, potions, and spells on one another to influence and manipulate one another. The depraved interaction between the fallen angels and humans culminated in the birth of the giants. These giants typified the destructive result of the intermingling of the Watchers and humans and eventually resulted in the almost complete destruction of both.


eve before flood
The Eve of the Deluge, by John Linnell, 1848, via


The knowledge that the archangels shared with Enoch was a different matter altogether. God authorized the archangels to share their knowledge of heavenly bodies and their motion with Enoch. It was not knowledge that would lead to occult practices but science that pertained to cycles, seasons, and systems God created and set in place. The sharing of this knowledge brought Enoch and the few faithful people who remained in a closer relationship with God (1 Enoch, The Watchers, 7:68)


Fallen Angels of Enoch in Conclusion

The Fall of the Rebel Angels, by Charles Le Brun, before 1685, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon


The Watchers became fallen angels because they were more concerned with their desires than doing what they were appointed to do, watching over humanity. They decided to take wives and have children with the daughters of men, resulting in giants as offspring. They also taught humanity how to make weapons, how to make ornaments, and how to use cosmetics. All of these things harmed humanity and eventually led to their destruction.


The Watchers did not have noble intent with the actions they took. On the contrary, they seem to have set themselves on doing what was in their selfish interest. Instead of being watchers, they became abusers. There was nothing virtuous in their deeds, and considering the results of their actions, we should regard them as the villains of this story.

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By Eben De JagerPhD New Testament, MTh Christian SpiritualityEben is a theologian, presenter, author, and public speaker with more than a decade of experience in Christian apologetics. His fields of interest are the gift of tongues and eschatology, especially the books of Daniel and Revelation. He holds a PhD from North-West University, a MTh (Christian Spirituality) from the University of South Africa, a BA(Hons) in Theology from the University of Johannesburg, and a BA in Theology from the Rand Afrikaans University.