Noah (2): What Were The "Watchers"?

I wanted to elaborate on something I found very interesting in the recently done Noah movie. That is, the concept of the fallen angles referred to as "Watchers" portrayed. As someone who has studied classical Jewish and extra-biblical sources I knew (although only vaguely) what the film was getting at when it used the imagery of the giant rock monsters that it did.

I thought I'd share for everyone else as well as elaborate on some of the thoughts in my previous post.
  
What was the film trying to do? Where do these things come from?:

The concept of the Watchers in the film is an amalgamation idea of the Genesis mention of Nephilim and the extra-biblical accounts of fallen angels. This whole concept originally comes from the Genesis account itself. In Genesis 6:1-4 we read:

When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal: his days will be a hundred and twenty years."
The Nephilim were on the earth in those days - and also afterward - when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

These are some very interesting and contested verses as the story of Genesis goes. Who exactly the "sons of God" and the "Nephilim" described here are, has been discussed and debated for centuries. Many midrash and Jewish classical sources refer to the sons of God here as angels. Keeping that in mind, many Rabbinic Jewish sources reject this tradition and refer to the sons of God that did have relations with women as fallen angels. What we would describe in Judao-Christian terms as demons. These fallen angels according to the Rabbinic sources, had children with women and begot the Nephilim.

Keeping all of that in mind, the film never addresses the fact that these fallen angels had sexual relations with women. Rather, it side-steps that issue and simply has them exist.

This comes to the idea of where the name "Watchers" comes from. The reference to supernatural beings called "Watchers" originates from the Book of Enoch, an extra-biblical Jewish work that is actually mentioned in Jude 1:14. (The book of Enoch is dated earliest at 300BC.) The oldest section of this Jewish religious text is referred to as "the Book of the Watchers".

The book of Enoch (1:5) has reference to angels who come down to earth rather than being cast down from heaven. We then read in chapter 7:1-3, 10:

It happened after the sons of men had multiplied in those days, the daughters were born to them, elegant and beautiful. And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamoured of them, saying to each other, "Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children...

Then they took wives, each choosing for himself; whom they began to approach, and with whom they cohabited; teaching them sorcery, incantations, and the dividing of roots and trees. And the women conceiving brought forth giants, whose stature was each three hundred cubits. These devoured all which the labour of men produced; until it became impossible to feed them.

Here we have the word Grigori used in the Greek translation from the Hebrew, this word literally translates as "The Watchful", we have this mentioned many times in the apocryphal works of Enoch. Some mentions in early Jewish work describe these "Watchful" as being thrown from heaven and fuzed with the earth, which is where we get the rock-monster facade interpretation used in the movie.

The Book of Enoch (supposedly written by the great-grandfather of Noah) was never considered part of the Hebrew cannon of scripture. This was mainly due to its origins being much later than the vast majority of the Hebrew scriptural works, and specifically that of the writing of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). For this the book remains a document of ancient Jewish literature.

What the film didn't do, where they missed the boat (pun intended):

The Watchers in the Noah film have much more behind them than simply a nudge to traditional Jewish writings and Rabbinic midrash. The film starts off with a version of the narrative of the Garden of Eden and the fall of man. After the fall the film portrays a group of angels who decide to enter the world in order to help fallen mankind. The angels are forbidden by God to do so and due to their disobedience against "the Creator", are punished.

Upon arrival on earth these angels are imprisoned in awkward, archaic stone bodies and banished from heaven. The Watchers in the film repent from their rebellion begging their Creator for forgiveness but God remains silent.

Due to all this, the Watchers remain kindhearted and help mankind out until they are once again turned on by men as well as God. These Watchers end up helping Noah and his family build the ark and defend it from outsiders. Due to their selfless act of heroism and sacrifice they are finally forgiven and allowed back into heaven.

Now I realize how strange all that seems, and believe me this had me in an almost comical mood while I watched it in the theater. But all the ridiculous artistic license aside, there is very troubling philosophical baggage that is tagged along.

What do I mean by that? Well the watchers are described as fallen angels, but not as demons. At least, not in the biblical sense of the idea. These "angels" did not seek to rebel against God in order to overthrow his place of power as we see in the Bible, but rather their act of rebellion comes from a place of wanting to help fallen man.

Angels locked into stone for the act of wanting to help broken humans. In other words, they desired to show mercy to God's creation when God did not want to show mercy to them. For this they were banished and imprisoned.

The main problem I have with this? As I stated in my earlier post, it is not simply unbiblical but counter-biblical. The biblical story has God wanting to offer mercy and hope to the fallen race from the moment of the first sinful act. Mercy (not getting what you do deserve) and grace (getting what you don't deserve) are a continual theme through all 66 books of the Bible; from Genesis to Revelation.

I find it no wonder that Aronofsky is an atheist. If that is how he sees the God of the Bible I don't blame him for portraying Him (or not portraying Him, whichever way you look at it) like that in the film.

What message then do we get from the film Noah and the picture of the Watchers? God is a malevolent, cold, dictator. One who will only forgive when our works are enough to impress Him. The God of Aronofsky's Noah demands his creation to meet the standard in order for him to express love and ultimately save them.

The grace of God is not only muffled but completely absent from the film. A hint that there were innocents destroyed in the flood (particularly the women), and God is satisfied with this fact. The impression is presented that God destroyed humanity within their innocence and that they could have been saved from themselves.

The issue? The biblical narrative describes Noah as a "preacher of righteousness", using the word kerux in the Greek, which literally means "herald" or "one who announces". Noah was preaching repentance to the sinful, broken masses during the 100 years it took to build the ark. All of this was flipped on its head.

If Aronofsky wanted to use the Jewish sources he could have easily used the writings of Pirke Eliezer who quotes Noah as saying, "Be ye turned from your evil ways and works, lest the waters of the flood come upon you, and cut off all the seed of the children of men."

The narrative of the Watchers creates a tone and picture of God that is continued right through the film. God is an unapproachable Creator, unloving and distant. As far away from the true God of the Bible as you could get.

Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?" - Ezekiel 18:23


Relate Links:
Noah, Part 1: More Epic Than Biblical in This Biblical-Epic
God of Love: World of Suffering, Part 1
God of Love: World of Suffering, Part 2
God of Love: World of Suffering, Part 3
"No One Comes to the Father but Through Me"
Who Are You to Judge?
God: Using the Force, Part 1
God: Using the Force, Part 2: Rob Bell
A Manifesto to the Thinking Christian, Part 1
A Manifesto to the Thinking Christian, Part 2

Other reviews of Noah:
Mat Slick, Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry's Noah Review
Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, Blogger and Rabbi at the Pacific Jewish Center, and his Noah Review

Relevant Magazine's interview with Noah screenwriter Ari Handel
Pluggedin Online's Noah Review 
Christianity Today, Entertainment Section's Noah Review

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Birmingham Qur'an Discovery and How it Impacts Islam

The Apologetics Books You Should (Already) Have on Your Bookshelf

Why The Gospels Are Embarrassing