Thursday, October 20, 2011

Enoch: Gone Without a Trace (Genesis 5:24)

Of whom is it said, “He walked with God and he was not?” Enoch (Genesis 5:24)

In the genealogy of Seth, a character named Enoch breaks up the monotonous formulae (Genesis 5:21-24). Enoch appears in Genesis as the seventh of the ten pre-flood patriarchs, the great grandfather of Noah. His father Jared is the second oldest man in the Bible (962, Genesis 5:20) and his son Methuselah is the oldest (969, Genesis 5:27). Instead of announcing Enoch’s death, instead the text mysteriously reads that “he was not” (Genesis 5:24 NASB):

Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:21-24 NASB)
Enoch’s absence is described in two ways: 1. He was not. 2. God took him. Claus Westermann (1909-2000) surmised that the second clause “is certainly a later statement, an attempt to ‘rationalize’ (Westermann, 358).” The anomaly of his earthly exit elevates Enoch among the ten descendants of Noah and makes him one of only two Biblical characters to not experience natural death (Genesis 5:23-24; II Kings 2:1-14).

Kenneth A. Mathews (b. 1950) speculates that “Enoch’s age corresponds to the 365 days in a solar year, suggesting completeness (Mathews, The New American Commentary: Genesis 1- 11:26, 315).” The key is that Enoch’s shortened life is not indicative of punishment but is rather honorific.

In the genealogical prescription, where his predecessors were said to have “lived”, Enoch instead “walked with God”. Some commentators emphasize that the only other character the Bible explicitly says walked with God is Noah (Genesis 6:9) though Abraham walked “before” God (Genesis 17:1, 24:40). For the psalmist to walk before God indicated life and prosperity (Psalms 56:13-14, 116:9). The expression to walk with God is reminiscent of Adam’s initial state of being (Genesis 3:8).

Given the rarity of Enoch’s departure from the earth, it would seem that it is significant.

Why do you think Enoch did not need die? What does it mean to “walk with God”? Are you walking with God or are you just living? What is the connection between sin and death?

Enoch is remembered as an exemplar of righteousness (Sirach 44:16, 49:14; Wisdom of Solomon 4:10; I Clement 9:3). Sirach states, “Enoch pleased the Lord and was taken up, an example of repentance to all generations. (Sirach 44:16 NRSV).”

After Christianity and Judaism had separated, the prevailing view regarding Enoch was that Enoch had such close communion with God that he received a reprieve from death. He appears three times in the New Testament (Luke 3:37; Hebrews 11:5; Jude 1:14-15) including being listed in the “hall of faith” (Hebrews 11:5). In contrast, a Jewish view of Enoch claims that he was he was the only pious man of his time and was taken away before he could become corrupted.

An entire mythology sprang from Enoch’s brief account in Genesis. Gerhard Von Rad (1901-1971) stated, “The passage, to be sure, gives the impression of being only a brief reference to a much more extensive tradition (Von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 71).”

Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933) adds:

The main reading in tradition does not concern obedience (which is presumed) but privileged entry into the secrets of God. Thus, Enoch subsequently became a clustering point for apocalyptic traditions. (Brueggemann, Genesis (Interpretation : A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching), 68).
Enoch is nothing if not mysterious. Brueggeman concludes, “Even in this terse form, it reflects that Enoch represents some role in overcoming the utter discontinuity of God and humankind (Brueggemann, 69).”

Enoch is a glimpse of the future restored relationship between God and huamnity.

Where do you think Enoch was taken? Why? Would you want to be taken by God? Which is scarier to you a “natural” or “unnatural” exit from the earth?

“And like that, poof. He’s gone.” - Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey [b. 1959]), The Usual Suspects (1995)

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