Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Enoch and Enoch

Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. (Genesis 5.24)

A Mismatched Set

Genesis gives us two men named Enoch, making it easy to confuse them and possibly even conflate them into a single person. It’s important to keep them separate, though, by getting to know both. They’re a mismatched set and distinguishing between them uncovers nuances we’d otherwise miss. The first Enoch is only remarkable for his background, while the second one definitely qualifies as a “seminal figure”—the academician’s pet name for someone who instinctively revolutionizes how future generations think and live.

Enoch 1: Never to Be Mentioned Again

Enoch 1 shows up in Genesis 4.17-18 and vanishes, never to be mentioned again: “Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad,” after which three subsequent father-son pairs are listed.

Mining this information yields much gold. 1.) He’s Adam’s first grandson, the earliest offspring of a mortally conceived man, and thus the primary link in humanity’s self-perpetuating chain. 2.) He comes from bad stock. His father’s an exiled murderer. To say his mother’s background is sketchy amounts to gross understatement; we have no idea where she and everyone else in Nod, Cain’s chosen abode, come from. 3.) In keeping with Jewish tradition, she’s a “foreigner,” making Enoch 1 a half-breed. Then, since Judaism defines ethnicity by maternal origins, Enoch 1 effectively is a “nobody” without any claim as Adam and Eve’s heir. 4.) The text hints that Cain names a city for his son to compensate for deficits passed down to him. Alas, Enoch 1 doesn’t accomplish anything worthy of a namesake city. Notable achievements don’t surface on this branch of Adam’s family until five generations later, when the first farmer appears, followed by his son’s musical talent, and the next son’s invention of metalworking. By then, nine generations down the line, Enoch 1 is a faded entry in the record.

Enoch 2: Mentioned Repeatedly and Often

While Cain struggles to establish his family, Adam and Eve have a new son, Seth, who becomes the de facto patriarch of the Jewish race. Ironically, Genesis 5 documents his lineage with no mention of anything inventive or productive. For six generations, all we’re told of each is: “He lived so long. He fathered an heir and other children. And then he died.” Then Enoch 2 appears seventh in line on Seth’s side and does something too spectacular to be ignored. He walks with God.

Like Enoch 1, his story briefly unfolds (four sentences) and then he vanishes. But he’s mentioned repeatedly and often because he vanishes. Genesis 5.24 reports, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” He disappears never to return. While Enoch 1 and the city named for him turn to dust, Enoch 2 is forever remembered because not a speck of him exists on the planet. He breaks the then-he-died mold. He defies convention with something so simple it’s impossible to fathom: He walks with God and is no more. And in doing that, he radically alters humankind’s understanding of how it relates to God and what happens when He’s pleased. To this day, his instinctive drive to build a relationship with his Maker—not a city or a name for himself—influences all we believe God to be and all we hope to gain from Him.


As with much in Genesis, the writer drops this bombshell about Enoch without answering many questions. Here’s all we know. When he’s 65, Enoch has his first son, Methuselah. (Yes, that Methuselah—the oldest human on record.) After his son’s birth, Enoch starts to walk with God. We’re not told what prompts his decision. But it's plainly suggested it's somehow tied to fatherhood. We do know engaging a close relationship with God doesn’t disrupt his life, because the writer tells us he continues to father children during the 300 years they walk together. So Enoch isn’t an ascetic who abandons his family to commune only with God in a cave or under a tree. Walking with God implies he moves in constant awareness he’s not alone. He remains present in God’s presence. He welcomes Him into every area of his life. This pleases God so much, when the time’s right, He skips the death process and assumes Enoch directly into His keeping.

Of course, we want to know how it works, particularly since the Bible’s other two assumptions—Elijah’s and Christ’s—include logistical details that go missing with Enoch. (A heavenly chariot whisks Elijah away, while Christ bodily ascends into Heaven.) The walking aspect invites us to imagine the day comes when Enoch defies gravity and climbs into eternal bliss. However we envision his transition, we don’t see him looking back, deeply conflicted about leaving. The devotion captured in three centuries of divine fellowship infers supreme detachment from relationships and possessions. Long before Enoch’s physical transformation, an inner change overtakes his heart and alters his views. He measures life in moments, not popularity and wealth (though we’re wise to suspect he’s well loved and well off, as that’s often typical of those who walk with God.) For Enoch, being lifted into God’s presence is simply the next step. He has no qualms about letting go. The letting-go happened so long ago, it’s possible he’s forgot how to hold on.

The Enoch Principle

What we might call “The Enoch Principle” permeates Christ’s ministry. Nearly everything He says in some shape or form points back to forging a constant, present relationship with God and detaching from people and possessions that hinder our walk with Him. It’s in the stories about risking great loss to achieve greater gain. It underpins the parables that warn against compromising our commitment out of fear of failure, as well as those about overvaluing what we own. Again and again, Jesus calls us to walk with God, from the tender beckoning of “Follow Me,” to the harsh demands we forsake family and fields for Him. And when we take to His road, He’s emphatically clear it doesn’t end. We turn a soft corner and, like Enoch, we are no more, because God takes us away. Walking with God leads to life.

We have a choice, it seems. Are we Enoch 1’s, daunted by circumstances beyond our control—misguided families, social stigmas, and anomalies no one can explain? Are we content to be associated with institutions constructed for our benefit without accomplishing anything of eternal value on our own? Are we OK with showing up, hanging around, and vanishing, never to be mentioned again? Or are we Enoch 2’s? Do we answer life’s challenges by seeking inner change? Do we walk with God? Are we present in His presence? Have we learned to honor our responsibilities without being hostages to them? Can we do the letting-go and train ourselves to forget how to hold on? Will it also be said of us, “They walked with God; then they were no more, because God took them away?”

What we do with what we've been given will determine whether we vanish, never be mentioned again, or vanish, never to return, always to be remembered. It’s our choice.

Walk with God.

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