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The Error of Balaam and the Book of Enoch

The Error of Balaam and the Book of Enoch
By
James Scott Trimm



Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
(Jude 1:11)

What is the “error of Balaam”?

To begin with let us look at the reference to “the error of Balaam” (Jude 1:11) in context.  

6  And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7  Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
8  Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.
9  Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
11 Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.
12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
13  Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
14  And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
15  To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
(Jude 1:14-15)

The phrase “the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation” (1:6) recalls events from the Book of Enoch:

1 And it came to pass when the children of men had multiplied that in those days were born unto them beautiful and comely daughters.  
2 And the angels, the children of the heaven, saw and lusted after them, and said to one another: 'Come, let us choose us wives from among the children of men and beget us children.'  
3 And Shemikhazah, who was their leader, said unto them: 'I fear you will not indeed agree to do this deed, and I alone shall have to pay the penalty of a great sin.'
4 And they all answered him and said: 'Let us all swear an oath, and all bind ourselves by imprecations not to abandon this plan but to do this thing.'
5 Then they all swore together and bound themselves by imprecations upon it.
6 And they were in all two hundred; who descended in the days of Yared on the summit of Mount Hermon, and they called it Mount Hermon, because they had sworn and bound themselves by imprecations upon it.
(1Enoch 6:1-6)

And all the others together with them took unto themselves wives from all, and each chose for himself one, and they began to go in unto them and to defile themselves with them, and they taught them sorcery  and spellbinding,  and the cutting of roots, and made them acquainted with plants.
(1Enoch 7:1)

The phrase “he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (1:6) also refers to the events recorded in the Book of Enoch:

4 And again YHWH said to Rafa’el: 'Bind Azaz’el hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him therein.
5 And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there for ever, and cover his face that he may not see light.
6 And on the day of the great judgment he shall be cast into the fire.
7 And heal the earth, which the angels have corrupted, and proclaim the healing of the earth, that they may heal the plague, and that all the children of men may not perish through all the secret things that the Watchers have disclosed and have taught their sons.
8 And the whole earth has been corrupted through the works that were taught by Azazel: to him ascribe all sins.'
(1Enoch 10:4-8)

11 And YHWH said unto Mikha’el: 'Go, make known to Shemikhazah and his associates who have united themselves with women so as to have defiled themselves with them in all their uncleanness.
12 And when their sons shall die, and they have seen the destruction of their beloved ones, bind them fast  for seventy generations  in the valleys of the earth, till the great day of their judgment and of their consummation, till the judgment that is for ever and ever is consummated.
13 In those days they shall be led off to the abyss of fire:  and to the torment and the prison in which they shall be confined for ever.
(1Enoch 10:11-13)

4 And I asked the angel of shalom who went with me, saying: ' For whom are these chains being prepared? '
5 And he said unto me: ' These are being prepared for the hosts of Azazel, so that they may take them and cast them into the abyss of complete condemnation, and they shall cover their jaws with rough stones as YHWH Tzva’ot commanded.  
6 And Mikha’el, and Gavri’el, and Rafa’el, and P’nuel  shall take hold of them on that great day, and cast them on that day into the burning furnace, that YHWH Tzva’ot may take vengeance on them for their unrighteousness in becoming subject to Satan and leading astray those who dwell on the earth.'
(1Enoch 54:3-6)

The phrase “wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” (1:13) is also a reference to the fallen angels of the Book of Enoch:

14 The angel said: 'This place is the end of heaven and earth: this has become a prison for the stars and the host of heaven.
15 And the stars which roll over the fire are they which have transgressed the commandment of YHWH in the beginning of their rising, because they did not come forth at their appointed times.
16 And He was wroth with them, and bound them till the time when their guilt should be consummated (even) for ten thousand years.'
(1En. 18:14-16)

And then Jude 1:14-15 is actually quoting from the Book of Enoch:

And behold! He comes with myriads of His set-apart ones  
To execute judgment upon all,
And to destroy all the ungodly:
And to convict all flesh concerning all the works  of their ungodliness, which they have, ungodly committed,
And of all the proud and hard  things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.  
(1Enoch 1:9)

So the phrase “error of Balaam” (1:11) in context is tied to these “fallen angels” spoken of in the Book of Enoch.  

There is a parallel to this passage (Jude 1:11) in 2Kefa which reads:

Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;
(2Kefa 2:15)

This portion of 2Kefa is expanding upon this corresponding portion of Jude.

But Balaam lived in the days of Moses.  How could he possibly be tied to the fallen angels from before the flood?  What in the world does Jude (and Kefa) mean here?

In fact according to a Jewish tradition recorded in the Zohar, Balam knew where Uzza (Shemikhazah) and Azael were kept in chains, and went to them to learn sorcery, just as those before the flood had learned sorcery from them:

…after God cast Uzza and Azael down from their holy place, they went astray after the women folk and seduced the world also. It may seem strange that being angels they were able to abide upon the earth. The truth is, however, that when they were cast down the celestial light which used to sustain them left them and they were changed to
another grade through the influence of the air of this world.  Similarly the manna which came down for the Israelites in the wilderness originated in the celestial dew from the most recondite spot, and at first its light would radiate to all worlds and the “field of apples”, and the heavenly angels drew sustenance from it, but when it approached the earth it became materialized through the influence of the air of this world and lost its brightness, becoming only like “coriander seed”. Now when God saw that these fallen angels were seducing the world, He bound them in chains of iron to a mountain of darkness. Uzza He bound at the bottom of the mountain and covered his face with darkness because he struggled and resisted, but Azael, who did not resist, He set by the side of a mountain where a little light penetrated.  Men who know where they are located seek them out, and they teach them enchantments and sorceries and divinations. These mountains of darkness are called the “mountains of the East”, and therefore Balaam said:
“From Aram has Balak brought me, from the mountains of the East”. Because they both learnt their sorceries there. Now Uzza and Azael used to tell those men who came to them some of the notable things which they knew in former times when they were on high, and to speak about the holy world in which they used to be.
(Zohar 3:208a)

In which place and from whom did Balaam derive all his Magical practices and knowledge? Rabbi Isaac replied: “He learned it first from his father, but it was in the "mountains of the East”, which are in an eastern country, that he obtained a mastery of all the arts of magic and divination. For those mountains are the abode of the [fallen] angels Uzza and Azael whom the Holy One cast down from heaven, and who were chained there in fetters. It is they who impart to the sons of men a knowledge of magic.
(Zohar 1:126a)

In fact the early Second Century “Church Father,” apologist and Bishop of Lyons, Irenaeus accused a Second Century Gnostic apostate of deriving magical knowledge and powers form Azazel, saying:

…wonders of power that is utterly severed from God and apostate, which Satan, your true father, enables you still to accomplish by means of Azazel, that fallen and yet mighty angel.
(Adv. Haereses; Ante-Nicean Fathers 1:340)

However the error of Balaam is more than just witchcraft.  If return to Jude.  In Jude 1:14-15 Jude quotes 1Enoch 1:9 regarding those that follow the “error of Balaam” saying:

And behold! He comes with myriads of His set-apart ones  
To execute judgment upon all,
And to destroy all the ungodly:
And to convict all flesh concerning all the works  of their ungodliness, which they have, ungodly committed,
And of all the proud and hard  things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.  
(1Enoch 1:9)

The Book of Enoch goes on to say of these “ungodly sinners”:

But you have changed your works and have not done the commandments of YHWH, but you sin against him with great and hard words with your impure mouths against His greatness, Oh, you hard-hearted, you shall find no shalom.
(1Enoch 5:4)  

Thus the error of Balaam entails following the doctrine of the fallen angels by rejecting “the commandments of YHWH” just as did the fallen angels.

 

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