Beginnings: The Story Of Flood (3)

The Watchers and the New Testament

My dear readers, let me remind you why we discuss the New Testament on these pages if this whole series – BEGINNINGS – is supposed to be about the first chapters of the book of Genesis. When we entered Genesis 6 and I realized that most of my readers do not agree with the supernatural interpretation of the “sons of God” I presented there, I thought it would be really important to show here how the first century Jewish audience understood these verses. Undoubtedly, my perception of Genesis 6 is largely influenced by the Jewish texts of Second Temple period and that’s why I found necessary to share these texts with my readers. Last time, we spoke about 1 Enoch, a collection of Jewish apocalyptic texts dating from the last centuries before the Common Era. The Book of Watchers, the first part of 1 Enoch, saw in Genesis 6:1-4, not only the story of a supernatural rebellion, but one of the central passages in biblical theology and in understanding God’s plan in history, and this was a typical understanding of the time: “The unanimous testimony of Second Temple Judaism is that the Watchers are to blame for the proliferation of evil on the earth.”[1]

Now we are going to trace this concept on the pages of the New Testament, since the New Testament writers also belonged to Second Temple Judaism. If we are correct, this understanding of the Watchers being responsible for the spread of evil on earth, and the theme of reversing the effects of this evil, had to be part of their theology. “The sin of the Watchers was in the back of their minds as they wrote about what the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth must, did, and would reverse at His coming and return.”[2] The New Testament writers knew that Jesus’ mission was the reversal of evil – and if they believed that the evil was brought and spread by the Watchers, then Jesus had to reverse what the Watchers did. Let us try to find  in the Gospels the allusions to the Watchers and their sin and to the evil they brought,  and you will be surprised to see that these allusions, once discovered, shed light on some quizzical Scriptures and provide answers to questions that you’ve probably had for a long time. Here is an example.

Four Women

The first question we will address here – one that has probably been asked an endless number of times by an endless number of people since the Gospel of Matthew was written – is about the four women in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew’s Gospel. There are four traditional Biblical matriarchs in Israel:  Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah (we even sing a song about Four Mothers); if Matthew decided to include women, and to include four of them, would it not be more logical, to have these four mothers in the genealogy of the Jewish Messiah?  Why aren’t the matriarchs mentioned at all, while these four women – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba – are named explicitly in Jesus’ bloodline?

Let us have a quick look at these women.

Tamar – the story of Tamar is found in Genesis 38.  She is probably a Canaanite woman (although the text doesn’t say so explicitly); she is a widow; after the double tragedy she experienced (the death of her two husbands), it seemed that she would remain childless; however, she disguises herself as a prostitute and deceives Judah, her father-in-law, in order to have a child from him. “When Judah saw her, he thought she was a harlot, because she had covered her face.”[3] From this union, Perez is born, and from him will descend David – and Jesus. Interestingly enough, we find no condemnation of Tamar in the Torah, although it is clear that her desperate deed was not some regular, normative or exemplary action.

Rahab – we find the story of Rahab in the book of Joshua, in chapters 2 and 6. Unlike Tamar, who was disguised as a prostitute, Rahab really was a prostitute. She lives in Jericho and she is certainly a Gentile. The Book of Joshua tells us that “Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.[4]

Ruth (from the book of Ruth) Like Rahab, Ruth is clearly a Gentile, a Moabite. Her background itself is of interest: for Israel, Moabite women were associated with seduction and idolatry. This association comes from the well-known episode in the wilderness in Numbers 25 when the Israelites became involved with women from Moab and followed them into idolatry. However, besides her background, Ruth does something that, as in case of Tamar, should have an “improper” feel to later Jewish readers. In Chapter 3, “she went down to the threshing floor … And after Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was cheerful, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain; and she came softly, uncovered his feet, and lay down[5]. “The Hebrew word translated ‘feet’ (regel) is a well-known euphemism for genitalia in the Hebrew Bible…  By uncovering Boaz’s ‘feet’ (genitalia), Ruth is, in effect, offering herself as a wife to Boaz. Given the patriarchal setting of Israelite culture, this was a transgression of the way things were usually done.”[6]

Bathsheba – everyone would know the story of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite[7] – and clearly, as in all the previous stories, a sexual transgression is also evident here.

Thus, we can see that all four women in Matthew 1 are connected in some way with illicit sexual relations. The New Testament scholar Amy Richter believes that what she calls the “Enochic Watchers Template” is essential for understanding the women in the genealogy of Jesus: “According to the Enochic Watchers’ Template, evil came into the world when the Watchers transgressed their heavenly boundary to engage in illicit sexual contact with women and teach them illicit arts…. The consequences of the Watchers’ transgression are violence, unrighteousness, evil, idolatry, and disease.”[8] She believes that all four women of the Hebrew Bible named by Matthew in his genealogy of Jesus are connected with the Enochic Watchers’ Template – and that they foreshadow the reversal of the Watchers’ transgression that the Messiah would bring.

We can now answer the question why these particular women are included by Matthew in Jesus’ genealogy. An essential part of Jewish tradition is a belief that when the Messiah comes, all things will be repaired (even pigs will become kosher[9])—and if we remember that the sin of the Watchers was sexual in its nature, we would realize that the consequences of the Watchers’ fall are evident in the stories of all the women. This is the main reason for these women to be included in the genealogy of the Messiah who would bring about the reversal and repair of the consequences of the Watchers’ sin.

[1] Heiser, Michael S. Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ (Kindle Locations 107).

[2] Ibid., 928-930

[3] Gen. 38:15

[4] Josh.6:25

[5] Ruth 3:6,7

[6] Heiser, Michael S.. Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ (Kindle Locations 1415-1417).

[7] 2 Samuel 11:1- 27

[8] Amy S. Richter, “The Enochic Watchers’ Template and the Gospel of Matthew,” PhD dissertation, Marquette University, 2010.

[9] Why is the pig called [in Hebrew] chazir? Because in the future, God will return [le-hachazir] it to Israel”.

 

If you like the  articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you can get them here.  Also, if these articles whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, studying in depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insights, or learning more about the Jewish background of Jesus’ teaching, I would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for new students) regarding our amazing courses (juliab@eteachergroup.com). 

 

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Gladys Fox

    Thank you Julia for teaching me many things about the Bible and giving me much to ponder . I have read all three blogs in this series and can’t find anything to disagree about . I have read the ” Complete Books of Enoch” and I find it most fascinating . Since it talks about things that happened in the distant past I haven’t the knowledge to believe it or disbelieve it I simply keep an open mind .I am going to read it again more carefully this time however
    Now about the four women in Jesus’ genealogy . I can’t help but think of a passage in the book of Hosea 4: 14-15 .I believe this is a prophecy because Jesus doesn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery .He writes something in sand and I believe He might have written those words from Hosea . He then says ” Who ever is without sin may cast the first stone “! The men would have known that passage .

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words Gladys! I love reading your comments, I often find some unexpected allusion or learn something new from them! This connection between Hosea 4:14 and John 8 is fascinating, I am very grateful for that. But this connection “works” here only if you agree with the main point of that chapter: all four women in Matthew 1 are connected in some way with illicit sexual relations – and this is the main reason for these women to be included in the genealogy of the Messiah who would bring about the reversal and repair of the consequences of the Watchers’ sin.

  2. James Jonas

    Dear Julia, I enjoy deeply the many insights you relate about the Bible. When I read your comments about the Sons of God referring to angelic beings, I was delighted to find someone that believes similarly to what I do. I can go on to relate in detail why I believe you are spot on. But not right now. Just know I applaud your knowledge. James Jonas

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for your kind words and thank you also for your support, James, it’s wonderful to hear you believe the same. Blessings!

  3. Nick

    Fair enough Julia and thanks! I am all for different ways of looking at Scripture. Judaism has already made more sense of Christianity for me in the last 10 years than Christianity itself. Looking forward to your posts for more insight.
    Nick

    1. Julia Blum

      You are right Nick, it’s absolutely impossible to really understand Christianity without its Jewish Background. That’s exactly what I am trying to do here: to bring these Jewish insights that “will make more sense of Christianity”! I am happy to hear that it “works”. Thank you!