Watcher (angel)

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Watching angel on the spire of St Michael's church, Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire, England

Watcher (Aramaic, עִיר, iyr; Theodotian trans: ir; from the verb ur, "to watch"; Heb. er, "being watchful";[1] Gk. ἐγρήγοροι, trans: egrḗgoroi; Slav transliteration, Grigori,[2] "Watchers", "those who are awake"; Chaldean, "guard", "watcher"[3]) is a term used in connection with angels. Watcher occurs in both plural and singular forms in the Book of Daniel, where reference is made to them being holy. The Apocryphal Books of Enoch refer to both good and bad Watchers, with a primary focus on the rebellious ones.



In the Book of Daniel 4:13, 17, 23[4] there are three references to the class of "watcher, holy one" (watcher, Aramaic `iyr; holy one, Aramaic qaddiysh). The term is introduced by Nebuchadnezzar who says he saw "a watcher, a holy one come down (singular verb) from heaven." The singular verb indicates that "a watcher, a holy one" are two titles for the same being or class of beings. Nebuchadnezzar then describes how in his dream the watcher says that Nebuchadnezzar will eat grass and be mad and that this punishment is "by the decree of the watchers, the demand by the word of the holy ones" in order that "the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men." After hearing the king's dream Daniel considers for an hour and then responds:

Daniel 4:23-24 And whereas the king saw a watcher, a holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and [let] his portion [be] with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the kingKJV

Lutheran Protestant reformer Johann Wigand viewed the watcher in Nebuchadnezzar's dream as either God himself, or the Son of God. He promoted Trinitarian thinking by linking verse 17 (This matter is by the decree of the watchers) with verse 24 (this is the decree of the most High).[5]

Secular scholars view these "watchers, holy ones" as perhaps showing an influence of Babylonian religion, that is an attempt by the author of this section of Daniel to present Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian gods recognising the power of the God of Israel as "Most High."[6] The Greek Septuagint version differs from the Aramaic Massoretic Text: for example, the Aramaic text is ambiguous about who is telling the story of verse 14, whether it is Nebuchadnezzar himself, or the watcher in his dream.[7]

Books of Enoch

In the Books of Enoch, the first Book of Enoch devotes much of its attention on the fall of the Watchers. The Second Book of Enoch addresses the Watchers (Gk. Grigori) who are in fifth heaven where the fall took place. The Third Book of Enoch gives attention to the unfallen Watchers.[8]

The use of the term "Watchers" is common in the Book of Enoch. The Book of the Watchers (1 Enoch 6-36) occurs in the Aramaic fragments with the phrase irin we-qadishin, "Watchers and Holy Ones", a reference to Aramaic Daniel.[9] The Aramaic irin "watchers" is rendered as "angel" (Greek angelos, Coptic malah) in the Greek and Ethiopian translations, although the usual Aramaic term for angel malakha does not occur in Aramaic Enoch.[10] The dating of this section of 1 Enoch is around 2nd-1st Century BCE. This book is based on one interpretation of the Sons of God passage in Genesis 6, according to which angels married with human females, giving rise to a race of hybrids known as the Nephilim. The term irin is primarily applied to disobedient Watchers who numbered a total of 200, and of whom their leaders are named, but equally Aramaic iri ("watcher" singular) is also applied to the obedient archangels who chain them, such as Raphael (1 Enoch 22:6).

Book of Enoch

In the Book of Enoch, the Watchers (Aramaic. עִירִין, iyrin), are angels dispatched to Earth to watch over the humans. They soon begin to lust for human women and, at the prodding of their leader Samyaza, defect en masse to illicitly instruct humanity and procreate among them. The offspring of these unions are the Nephilim, savage giants who pillage the earth and endanger humanity. Samyaza and his associates further taught their human charges arts and technologies such as weaponry, cosmetics, mirrors, sorcery, and other techniques that would otherwise be discovered gradually over time by humans, not foisted upon them all at once. Eventually God allows a Great Flood to rid the earth of the Nephilim, but first sends Uriel to warn Noah so as not to eradicate the human race. While Genesis says that the Nephilim remained "on the earth" even after the Great Flood, Jude says that the Watchers themselves are bound "in the valleys of the Earth" until Judgment Day. (See Genesis 6:4 and Jude 1:6, respectively)

The chiefs of tens, listed in the Book of Enoch, are as follows:

7. And these are the names of their leaders: Sêmîazâz, their leader, Arâkîba, Râmêêl, Kôkabîêl, Tâmîêl, Râmîêl, Dânêl, Êzêqêêl, Barâqîjâl, Asâêl, Armârôs, Batârêl, Anânêl, Zaqîêl, Samsâpêêl, Satarêl, Tûrêl, Jômjâêl, Sariêl. 8. These are their chiefs of tens." - R. H. Charles translation, The Book of the Watchers, Chapter VI.

The book of Enoch also lists leaders of the 200 fallen angels who married and commenced in unnatural union with human women, and who taught forbidden knowledge. Some are also listed in Book of Raziel (Sefer Raziel HaMalakh), the Zohar, and Jubilees.

The account of the Book of Enoch has been associated with the passage in Genesis 6:1-4, which speaks of Sons of God instead of Watchers:

When men began to multiply on earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw how beautiful the daughters of man were, and so they took for their wives as many of them as they chose. Then the Lord said: "My spirit shall not remain in man forever, since he is but flesh. His days shall comprise one hundred and twenty years." At that time the Nephilim appeared on earth (as well as later), after the sons of God had intercourse with the daughters of man, who bore them sons. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4)

Second Book of Enoch

The Jewish pseudepigraphon Second Book of Enoch (Slavonic Enoch) refers to the Grigori, who are the same as the Watchers of 1 Enoch.[2] The Slavic word Grigori used in the book is a transcription[11] of the Greek word ἐγρήγοροι egrḗgoroi, pronounced play /ɛˈɡriɡɒri/, meaning "wakeful".[12] The Hebrew equivalent is עירים, meaning "waking", "awake".[13]

Chapter 18 presents the Grigori as countless soldiers of human appearance, "their size being greater than that of great giants". They are located in the fifth heaven and identified as "the Grigori, who with their prince Satanail rejected the Lord of light".[14] One version of 2 Enoch adds that their number was 200 myriads.[15][16][17] Furthermore, some "went down on to earth from the Lord's throne" and there married women and "befouled the earth with their deeds", resulting in confinement under earth.[14][18] The number of those who descended to earth is generally put at three,[19] but Andrei A. Orlov, while quoting the text as saying three,[11] remarks in a footnote that some manuscripts put them at 200 or even 200 myriads.[2]

Chapter 29, referring to the second day of creation, before the creation of human beings, says that "one from out the order of angels"[20] or, according to other versions of 2 Enoch, "one of the order of archangels"[21] or "one of the ranks of the archangels"[22] "conceived an impossible thought, to place his throne higher than the clouds above the earth, that he might become equal in rank to [the Lord's] power. And [the Lord] threw him out from the height with his angels, and he was flying in the air continuously above the bottomless." Although in this chapter the name "Satanail" is mentioned only in a heading added in one manuscript,[17][23] this chapter too is often understood to refer to Satanail and his angels, the Grigori.[17][22]

Mercer Dictionary makes a distinction between the Grigori and the fallen angels by stating that in fifth heaven, Enoch sees "the giants whose brothers were the fallen angels."[24]

The longer recension of 2 Enoch 18:3 identifies the prisoners of second heaven as the angels of Satanail.[25]


According to Philo Byblos, Sanchuniathon described unique beings that had no perception, out of whom intelligent beings came into existence. These beings were formed in the shape of an egg and were called Zophasemin (Heb: sope-sa-mayim, "Watchers of Heaven" (PrEv 1.10.1-2).[8]


The term "Watchers" occurs in the Book of Jubilees (Jub. 4:15, 5:1).

Damascus Document

A reference to the "fall of the watchers from heaven" is found in Hebrew in the Damascus Document 2:18 echoing 1 Enoch 13:10.[18]


The Zohar makes reference to the "watchers" of Nebuchadnezzar's dream.


  1. ^ SDA Commentary on Daniel 1980 reprint, pp. 789, 780
  2. ^ a b c Orlov 2011, p. 164
  3. ^ "Strong's H5894". Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  4. ^ Daniel 4:1-37
  5. ^ Beckwith, edited by Carl L.. Ezekiel, Daniel. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic. p. 285. ISBN 0830829628. 
  6. ^ Porteous 1965, p. 69: "... of the watchers, the decision by the words of the holy ones' may reflect the influence of the Babylonian belief"
  7. ^ Meadowcroft 1995, p. 45: "14 of the MT the reader wonders who is telling the story, the watcher or Nebuchadnezzar. For a brief moment it does not seem to matter because the dream and its reason ('so that the living might know..."
  8. ^ a b Charlesworth 2010, p. 130
  9. ^ Boccaccini 2005, p. 157: "Exceedingly common in 1 Enoch is the term "Watchers," which gives its name to an entire book of Enoch (1 En 6-36). It occurs in the phrase 'irin we-qadishin, "Watchers and Holy Ones,"
  10. ^ Nickelsburg 2004, p. 44
  11. ^ a b Andrei A. Orlov, Dark Mirrors (SUNY Press 2011 ISBN 9781438439518), p. 93
  12. ^ Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940. p. 474
  13. ^ Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Dictionary
  14. ^ a b 2 Enoch 18:1-7 in The Forgotten Books of Eden and in many other editions
  15. ^ Books by Andrei A. Orlov
  16. ^ Julia Cresswell, The Watkins Dictionary of Angels (Duncan Baird 2006 ISBN 9781780283609), entry "Grigori"
  17. ^ a b c Robert Charles Branden, Satanic Conflict and the Plot of Matthew (Peter Lang 2006 ISBN 9780820479163), p. 30
  18. ^ a b DDD 1998, p. 893
  19. ^ Sources using one version of 2 Enoch and sources using a different version
  20. ^ Most sources
  21. ^ Marc Michael Epstein, Dreams of Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature (Penn State University Press 1997 ISBN 9780271016054), p. 141 and other sources
  22. ^ a b James Hastings, A Dictionary of the Bible (1898 edition reproduced 2004 by the University Press of the Pacific ISBN 9781410217288), vol. 4, p. 409
  23. ^ James H. Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha-set (Hendrickson 2010 ISBN 9781598564891), p. 149
  24. ^ Mercer, General editor, Watson E. Mills ; associate editor, Roger Bullard ... [et (1997). Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (3rd and corr. printing. ed.). Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press. p. 253. ISBN 0865543739. 
  25. ^ Orlov, Andrei A. (2005). The Enoch-Metatron tradition. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. p. 221. ISBN 3161485440.