EDITORS COMMENT: This new series is being offered in memoriam of Dr. Michael Heiser who’s truly groundbreaking research on the Divine Council and Enochian Worldview (based on the book of Enoch and its connection to Hebrew theology before and at the time of Jesus) opened the door for a richer understanding of the Life of Christ than previous generations could have imagined. This series reflects content from the leading-edge books published by Defender Publishing for Dr. Heiser—Reversing Hermon: Enoch, the Watchers, and the Forgotten Mission of Jesus Christ as well as his two volume book set titled, A Companion to the Book of Enoch: A Reader’s Commentary, Volume 1: The Book of the Watchers and Vol II: The Parables of Enoch. PLEASE NOTE: ALL PROFITS FROM THE SALE OF DR. MICHAEL HEISER’S BOOKS FROM SKYWATCHTVSTORE.COM WILL BE DONATED TO HIS FAMILY DURING THIS SERIES.
The astronomical context of John’s description of what he saw in the heavens in Revelation 12 puts the birth of Jesus on September 11, 3 B.C. As impressive as the correlation of astronomical events with the description of Revelation 12 is, there are even more points of correlation that bear directly on the astro-theology being communicated.
The literary context of Revelation 12 is of relevance here. Immediately preceding Revelation 12, John described the heavenly appearance of the temple and the Ark of the Covenant (Revelation 11:19). The Ark was the central symbol of God’s presence with Israel. The birth of the child (Jesus) in Revelation 12:1–7 was John’s way of saying that the presence of God had indeed returned to earth in the form of this Child, the Messiah. New Testament scholar Greg Beale notes the significance of this juxtaposition by John:
[A] trumpet was to be blown on Tishri 1, which in the rabbinic period came to be viewed as the beginning of the New Year. God’s eschatological judgment of all people was expected to fall on this day.… The New Year trumpet also proclaimed hope in the ongoing and ultimate kingship of God, in God’s judgment and reward according to people’s deeds, and in Israel’s final restoration.[i]
Incredibly, the astronomical reconstruction of the circumstances of Revelation 12:1–7 that produces a birth date for the Messiah of September 11, 3 B.C., was also the beginning of the Jewish New Year in 3 B.C. (Rosh ha-Shanah)—Tishri 1, the Day of Trumpets. The Feast of Trumpets/Tishri 1 was also the day that many of the ancient kings and rulers of Judah reckoned as their inauguration day of rule. This procedure was followed consistently in the time of Solomon, Jeremiah, and Ezra.[ii] This is a powerful piece of evidence for the astronomical reading of Revelation 12:1–7 as celestial signs of the birth of the messianic king.
Jewish tradition also held that the Day of Trumpets commemorated the beginning of the world—the very first “first day” of the human calendar. As Jewish historian Theodor H. Gaster writes, “Judaism regards New Year’s Day not merely as an anniversary of creation―but more importantly―as a renewal of it. This is when the world is reborn.”[iii] Although it might sound odd, this tradition is part of a matrix of ideas that link Tishri 1 to the sin of the Watchers, the Flood of Noah, and the Nephilim.
The first step toward discerning these connections is to understand the Jewish calendar—at least insofar as it relates to our topic. The ancient Israelite, biblical, and Jewish calendrical circumstances are like our own in that multiple calendars are in play. For example, in modern Western civilization, it is common to have a calendar that maps the seasons, a school-year calendar, and a fiscal-year calendar. All three calendars cover twelve months, but their beginning points frequently differ.
Today, the Jewish New Year (Rosh Ha-Shanah) “occurs on the first and second days of Tishri.”[iv] Anyone who is Jewish or has Jewish friends knows, however, that this New Year’s Day and the New Year’s Day we celebrate according to the modern Gregorian calendar (January 1) are not the same. Jewish Rosh Ha-Shanah occurs in the fall season (September–October).[v] The first month of the year is Tishri and occurs in the fall. Fall was, of course, the season of the harvest—an important idea to which we shall return in a moment.
Exodus 12:1–2, however, suggests that the first month of the Israelite calendar was not Tishri. After the Israelites escaped Egypt, the first month was aligned with the Passover (Exodus 12:3) to commemorate the new beginning of the Israelite nation after the Exodus from Egypt. The calendar of Exodus 12 detached the first season of the calendar from the agricultural harvest and instead attached it to this national rebirth. The first month of this new calendar was Nisan (Esther 3:7).
Of these two calendars, the agricultural calendar that had Tishri as the first month is the oldest in Israelite history, predating the Exodus. The biblical text contains hints of this older calendar in certain passages that describe the ending of the year (Exodus 23:16; 34:22). Whereas Tishri marked the fall harvest, the end of the year was marked by the Feast of Ingathering (ʾāsı̂p).
The important point for our purposes is that the most ancient Israelite calendar began with Tishri, which fell in fall season with a harvest—after the rains had produced the fall crop. This month and this harvest, as Gaster noted, were considered a memorial of creation. Why? The answer is simple: Genesis has Adam and Eve placed in a lush garden, Eden. Because of the availability of food for Adam and Eve, the creation must have begun in the harvest season—and so the earliest Hebrew calendar began the year in the harvest season. Hence, the first month, Tishri, fell in the fall harvest season. This logic produces the idea that the Israelite New Year signaled a renewal of creation.
In her fascinating scholarly essay, “The Pleiades, the Flood, and the Jewish New Year,” Dr. Ellen Robbins, a lecturer at the Johns Hopkins University, details how this ancient calendrical thinking factored into the interpretation of the Flood story—including its preamble about the sons of God and the Nephilim.[vi]
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We must start at the way Genesis 7 describes the onset of the Flood:
6Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. 7And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. 8Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, 9two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. 10And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth. 11In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.
According to this passage, Noah was already 600 when the Flood began. As the waters were subsiding, just after the dove was released from the ark for the last time, Genesis 8 provides this chronological note:
13In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15Then God said to Noah, 16 “Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.”
The math is transparent. Barely over a year after the Flood began, Noah and his family left the ark in the second month of the year. Noah had turned 601 by the time he left the ark.
Why is this noteworthy? Because Jewish tradition took this chronology to mean that Noah’s birthday was Tishri 1. This is the same day as the birth of the Messiah, Jesus, if we take Revelation 12 as indicating the celestial signs present at his birth. A messiah born on Tishri 1 would inevitably have created mental and theological associations between Noah and Jesus.
There are other details about the chronology of the Flood that, given the idea that Jesus and Noah shared a birthday, would have moved ancient Jewish readers to associate the Messiah with the prologue to the Flood story, Genesis 6:1–4. The second month of the year, the month when Noah and his family emerged from the ark after the Flood had swept the earth clean of its wickedness and the awful Nephilim, was marked astronomically by the heliacal appearance of the Pleiades. A star’s heliacal rising “is a phenomenon where a star is first visible in the morning sky. On this day, a star will only be briefly and barely visible, since if you had looked a day earlier, it was too close to the Sun for visibility.”[vii]
The cluster of stars known as the Pleiades (Hebrew term: kima) is mentioned three times in the Old Testament (Amos 5:8; Job 9:9; 38:31). It is always paired with Orion (Hebrew: kesil), since its position in the sky is close to the Orion constellation. Not surprisingly, Orion was considered a giant in the ancient world.[viii] The last reference, Job 38:31, is significant in light of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In one Targum of Job (i.e., an Aramaic translation of Job) discovered at Qumran, Job 38:31 reads, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades (kima) or loose the cords of Orion (naphilaʾ)?”[ix] This last term, the Aramaic word for Orion, is the Aramaic noun from which Nephilim derives.[x]
Recall our discussion in chapter 3 on the importance of the Mesopotamian context for Genesis 6:1–4 and its preservation in 1 Enoch and other Second Temple Jewish literature. In Mesopotamian astronomy, Orion was referred to as “the true shepherd of Anu.”[xi] Anu was the chief god of the heavenly realm, the sky. The shepherd motif was associated in the ancient Near East with kingship. Orion, then, was Anu’s chosen king. But this naphila wasn’t the true shepherd-king for the followers of Yahweh, the true God.
The shepherd imagery, of course, is overtly messianic:
The king took on numerous idealized roles as leader of his people, including the idea of “royal adoption” (i.e., the deity adopts the king as his “son” [2 Samuel 7:14; cf. Psalm 89:26–27]), shepherd of the people (2 Sam[uel] 5:2; 7:7)…. David became the model of the “ideal king” for Israel (cf. 2 Kings 18:3; 22:2) and the prototype of the Messiah as the ultimate “shepherd-king” (Jer[emiah] 33:15; Ezek[iel] 34:23–24; 37:24–25; cf. Rev[elation] 22:16).[xii]
The theological messaging is startling. A messiah whose birth on Tishri 1 was followed in the next month by the rising of the Pleiades-Orion would have signaled the arrival of Yahweh’s shepherd-king. The following month, the second month of the year when Noah and his family emerged from the ark, marked the judgment of God upon the Nephilim. But we know from Genesis 6:4 and other passages that the Flood wasn’t the permanent cure for the Nephilim and the effect of the sin of the Watchers in human history. What was needed was a new Noah. And so on Tishri 1, the traditional birthday of Noah, the heavens telegraphed the identity of the better Noah, Jesus of Nazareth, born as He was from Noah’s own bloodline (Luke 3:36). The permanent reversal of the ancient pact sealed on Mount Hermon had begun.
The Sin of the Watchers and the Genealogy of Jesus
Admit it. You think genealogies are boring. While I wouldn’t claim that all biblical genealogies are filled with theological insights, I can promise you that the genealogy of Jesus is different. As we’ll see, it has some amazing features that link it with the expectation of a messianic reversal of the sin of the Watchers. But you have to know what you’re looking at. By the time you’re finished with this chapter, you will.
The scholarship on the sin of the Watchers and the genealogy of Jesus is recent.[xiii] The connection between these two seemingly disparate topics is related to a question that has confounded interpreters ever since the Gospel of Matthew was written: Why are there four women, possibly all Gentiles, in the bloodline of Jesus?[xiv]
While inclusion of women in biblical genealogies isn’t unusual in itself (there are fourteen such women listed in 1 Chronicles 2, for example), the inclusion of these four women is all the more odd when one realizes that “the great Jewish female figures are missing: Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel.”[xv] One would think that if Matthew thought it important to include women, these women would be more logical candidates. But they aren’t—because of what Matthew wants to telegraph about the Person whose genealogy he is presenting.
Scholars have proposed various explanations for the inclusion of Tamar, Ruth, Bathsheba (“the wife of Uriah”), and Rahab. Some theologize their inclusion as demonstrations of God’s grace to sinners or, specifically, Gentiles. Others have proposed, even more abstractly, that they are present to illustrate how God’s plan is mysterious.
These explanations are overly speculative and, honestly, unsatisfying. The idea put forward in this chapter is not entirely without speculation, but it has two distinct advantages: (1) textual connections back into the Old Testament narrative and Second Temple Jewish thinking, and (2) a thematic logic that not only can explain their inclusion, but correlates each woman with the rest of the women in the genealogy.
The General Thesis: Repairing the Damage Caused by the Watchers
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. She summarizes this template early in her recent study:
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. Some of these consequences come from human use of the skills taught by the watchers, skills for seduction, war-making, sorcery, and astrology.[xvi]
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For ancient readers of Matthew’s Gospel who knew the specifics of Enoch’s story of the sin of the Watchers, the theological strategy of the genealogy would have been evident. Richter notes:
The writer of the Gospel according to Matthew was familiar with themes and traditions about the antediluvian patriarch Enoch, including the story of the fall of the watchers, and shows that Jesus brings about the eschatological repair of the consequences of the watchers’ fall. In Matthew’s Gospel, the foreshadowing of repair and then the repair itself are seen in the evangelist’s genealogy and infancy narrative….
The women of the Hebrew Bible named by Matthew in his genealogy of Jesus foreshadow the reversal of the watchers’ transgression. All four of them are connected with the Enochic watchers’ template. They use the illicit arts, but the use of these skills leads to righteousness rather than evil. The women are also connected with other aspects of the Enochic watchers’ template, including sexual interaction which connects the earthly and heavenly realms, interaction with angels, unusual aspects of their offspring, and connections with giants.
In the birth narrative, Matthew shows the birth of Jesus occurring in a way that reverses the watchers’ transgression and evil in the world as it occurs in the Enochic template. Specifically, the birth of Jesus occurs through the union of a woman and a celestial being, but in contrast to the watchers’ story, no sexual relations are involved. Further, in Matthew’s narrative, the first humans outside of Jesus’ immediate family to interact with the child Jesus are the magi who are practitioners of the illicit arts taught by the watchers and use astrological knowledge to find Jesus. In the Enochic template, the watchers bring idolatry into the world; in Matthew, the magi worship the appropriate object of worship—Jesus.[xvii]
Richter notes an ironic subtext to the fact that Matthew draws attention to the reversal of the sin of the Watchers through the four women: “Jesus completes what Enoch does not. That is, Jesus is able to bring about the eschatological repair of the consequences of the fall of the watchers.”[xviii]
UP NEXT: The Specifics of Reversal Typology in the Four Women
[i] Beale, The Book of Revelation, 620; cp. b. Rosh Hashanah 16.
[ii] Edwin R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Kregel, 1994) 28, 31, 161, 163.
[iii] Theodor Gaster, Festivals of the Jewish Year (4th ed.; William Sloane Associates, 1968) 109.
[v] Sample dates for Rosh Ha-Shanah are as follows: Jewish Year 5778: sunset September 20, 2017 – nightfall September 22, 2017; Jewish Year 5779: sunset September 9, 2018 – nightfall September 11, 2018; Jewish Year 5780: sunset September 29, 2019 – nightfall October 1, 2019. Source: http://www.jewfaq.org/holiday2.htm.
[vi] What follows in the present chapter from this point is a distillation of certain points in Robbins’ essay. The full citation for this source is: Ellen Robbins, “The Pleiades, the Flood, and the Jewish New Year,” in Ki Baruch Hu: Ancient Near Eastern, Biblical, and Judaic Studies in Honor of Baruch A. Levine (ed. Robert Chazan, William W. Hallo, and Lawrence Schiffman; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1999) 329–344.
[vii] See http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~tlaloc/archastro/ae25.html (the archaeoastronomy page of the University of Maryland). Another source notes, “ancient astrologers gave particular emphasis to the heliacal rising and setting of stars since these could be used as reliable indicators to agricultural conditions” (http://www.skyscript.co.uk/gl/heliacal.html).
[ix] See the Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon. Targum Job from Qumran – 11QtgJob; 11Q10. Hebrew Union College, 2005.
[x] Heiser, The Unseen Realm, 105–107.
[xi] Hermann Hunger and David Pingree, Astral Sciences in Mesopotamia (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1999) 67.
[xii] A. E. Hill, “History of Israel 3: United Monarchy: Ideology of Kingship,” ed. Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M. Williamson, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005) 450.
[xiii]The material in this chapter is based primarily on a 2010 dissertation by Amy S. Richter completed at Marquette University: Amy S. Richter, “The Enochic Watchers’ Template and the Gospel of Matthew,” PhD dissertation, Marquette University, 2010. At the time of this writing, Richter’s dissertation was freely accessible in its entirety at: http://epublications.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1044&context=dissertations_mu.
[xiv] The identification of all four women as Gentiles is plausible and, therefore, possible, but the matter is not certain. As Luz notes, “Tamar is usually, but not always, regarded in the Jewish tradition as a proselyte. (Footnote: In Jub. 41.1–2 and T. Jud. 10.1 she is presumably regarded as a member of Abraham’s family. According to Philo [Virt. 221] she is a proselyte [Syrian Palestinian]; likewise according to rabbinic tradition where she becomes the daughter of Melchizedek). Ruth is a Moabitess, Rahab a resident of Canaanite Jericho. There are no reports about Bathsheba. Is that why she is cited not by name but as the wife of Uriah, who, as is well known, was a Hittite (2 Sam. 11:3)? That is conceivable, but it is by no means the most obvious idea that the readers would associate with the name Uriah. Thus, this sense is clear only with Ruth and Rahab. With Tamar it is quite possible, and for Bathsheba it may be possible” (Ulrich Luz, Matthew 1–7: A Commentary on Matthew 1–7 [ed. Helmut Koester; Rev. ed.; Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2007] 84–85.
[xv] Luz, Matthew 1–7, 83.
[xvi] Richter, abstract (p. 3 of the dissertation in PDF form).
[xvii] Ibid., abstract, 25–26.
[xviii] Ibid., 3. The point here is not that Mathew’s Gospel shows literary dependence on 1 Enoch. No scholar would argue that trajectory for a simple reason: There is no clear instance of Matthew quoting 1 Enoch. Rather, the point is that Matthew deliberately utilizes and inverts elements of the Watchers story to show how the circumstances of Jesus’ conception, birth, and bloodline counteract the sin of the Watchers and its effects. Richter (p. 3) comments in a footnote: “I am cautious throughout this dissertation not to make claims that Matthew had access to a text containing the Enochic material. He may have had, but the fact that there is little, if any evidence, of Matthew’s quoting material from 1 Enoch advises against making such a claim. However, I find the volume of material—even in the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel—that can be explained in light of Enochic material to be evidence that Matthew was aware of many of the same traditions as those that would be gathered as 1 Enoch.” Later (p. 22) she adds: This dissertation makes no claims of direct dependency of the Gospel of Matthew on the text of 1 Enoch. However, when examining Matthew chapters 1–2 in light of motifs of the Enoch watchers’ template, evidence of these motifs as background for the Gospel material is apparent. This evidence appears in the frequency with which Enochic motifs can be identified in connection with material in Matthew’s Gospel. The evangelist does not replicate any large sections of 1 Enoch, nor, as mentioned above, does he quote from 1 Enoch, with the possible exception of Sim’s example. However, again and again in Matthew’s genealogy and infancy narrative one finds motifs and allusions to material that one also finds in 1 Enoch. The number of instances in which Enochic motifs occur, even within the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, is too great for Matthew not to have been familiar with the Enochic tradition and for these to appear as background material as the evangelist tells his version of the story of Jesus.”