Enoch: The man who walked with God
The genealogy in Genesis 5 repeats the melancholy refrain, “and he died”. While the lifespans recorded are much longer than any person today experiences, the continuation of death is the emphasis. No one in the list makes it to one thousand years old before succumbing to the curse of death—with one startling exception.
Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah, was born in the seventh generation from Adam (Genesis 5:21–24). Like Noah, Enoch is said to have walked with God (Genesis 6:9). The Septuagint elaborates what this means when it says that he “pleased God”. The patriarchs of Israel are said to have walked before the Lord (Genesis 48:15), as David also did (1 Kings 3:6).
Walking with the Lord implies a righteous life, and faith in God. Even though the Mosaic Law had not been given, there would have been some sort of sacrificial system (see Genesis 4:2–5), and some basic moral code. Scripture implies that Enoch lived in line with whatever revelation he had. We also know that he had faith, because “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Enoch’s entry in the genealogy does not end in his death; rather, Scripture says, “and he was not, for God took him”. While non-biblical writings speculate about what Enoch did to make him worthy of this, and how exactly God took him, Scripture does not satisfy our curiosity.
However, we can say that Enoch was not ‘special’; he was a fallen son of Adam and Eve just like all the other people who have ever lived and died. He sinned, and was in need of the salvation that would come through the promised Offspring of the Woman (Genesis 3:15, Matthew 1:18–23). He did not make himself worthy of walking with God by being holy enough on his own—no human can do that. Rather, God was pleased to do something very unusual in Enoch’s life, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear from this narrative on its own.
When we look at the wider context of Scripture, however, perhaps God took Enoch to foreshadow the future defeat of death—to show that “and he died” will not have the final say over the fate of the people of God. God remains sovereign over death, and we see a glimpse of things to come in Enoch.
We see Enoch mentioned three times in the New Testament. He is included in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3, which affirms his historicity. The author of Hebrews says, “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.
And Jude says, “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him’” (Jude 14–15). This is one of very few places where the Bible quotes information from a non-biblical source.
What can we learn from Enoch?
Enoch teaches us that salvation worked essentially the same way for everyone, even before the Mosaic covenant. Trusting God and believing His revelation about Himself was always central. Enoch also points to the reality that death is not the natural order of things, and that God will one day put an end to it. Those who are in Christ are promised the resurrection.
Does the quotation of a source in Scripture make it Scripture?
Some wonder whether Jude’s quotation of the Book of Enoch authenticates it as Scripture. However, this is not the only time when Scripture quotes a non-biblical author. Paul quotes two Greek philosophers in his Areopagus address in Acts 17, and he certainly does not mean to canonize them into Scripture. Also, sometimes when a NT author quotes Scripture, he references specifically the Septuagint translation which is different from the Masoretic text. In these cases, the quote becomes part of Holy Scripture because it is now part of a biblical book, but the source it came from remains non-biblical.