Review of Andrei Orlov, Dark Mirrors: Azazel and Satanael in Early Jewish Demonology
This paper was given at the SBL meeting in Chicago in November, 2012, in the Saturday afternoon session of the Esotericism and Mysticism in Antiquity Section.
I would like to begin my remarks on Dark Mirrors by thanking Andrei Orlov once again for his contribution to the study of early Jewish and Christian mysticism. This is a fascinating book about the portrayal of two important demonic figures in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic texts: Azazel and Satanael. Andrei traces these two figures to two different ancient mythologies of evil – Adamic and Enochic. Adamic traditions trace the origins of evil to Satan’s transgression and the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden; Satan’s demotion comes about because he refuses to bow down to Adam. The early Enochic tradition explains evil through the story of the fallen Watchers, including their leader Asael. A particular strength of the book is its demonstration of the ways in which these two traditions are reimagined by introducing features of one mythology into another. In 2 Enoch Satanael is depicted as the leader of the fallen angels, while in the Apocalypse of Abraham, Asael, refigured as Azazel and thus equated with the mysterious figure in Leviticus 16, appears as the seducer of Adam and Eve.
Andrei provides an important frame for his book by beginning with a discussion of the symmetrical patterns of good and evil, of creation and end times, in apocalyptic literature. The heroes of the time of creation (Adam, Enoch) will become witnesses at the end of time. Another crucial symmetrical pattern is of the heavenly counterpart of the apocalyptic visionary, alongside the correspondence between the heavenly and earthly sanctuaries. This spatial correspondence influences not only the human abode but also the demonic realms of the underworld which imitate the features of the heavenly world.
This paradoxical correspondence between divine and demonic figures is especially prominent in the Apocalypse of Abraham, where the fallen angel Azazel possesses his own “glory” or kavod. Another type of symmetrical correlation found in this apocalypse is the mirroring of the protagonists and antagonists – each may acquire the attributes and conditions of his counterpart. In some of the apocalypses, the opponents of the heroes may also be transformed in the same way as the heroes are. For example, in the Book of the Watchers, the fallen angels abandon their role in heavenly worship and descend to earth to marry women, while Enoch ascends to heaven to become a servant in the heavenly Temple. In Enoch literature Enoch dons the garments of angels, while the angels taken on human form. The same is true in the Adamic traditions – “the first humans received their unique status, manifested in the luminous garments, as a result of the demotion of an exalted angelic being who fell out of divine favor” (p. 5). In the primary Adam books, Satan is removed from heaven in juxtaposition with the creation and exaltation of Adam. The demotion of the antagonist is accompanied by purification – the demoted figures are often seen as “cosmic scapegoats who take upon themselves the ‘soiled garments’ of their human opponents by carrying their sins into the remote abode of their exile” (pp. 5-6). Such an apocalyptic reinterpretation of Yom Kippur imagery plays an important role in the symmetrical conceptual framework of the Apocalypse of Abraham, when the angel Yehoel informs Abraham that he will “receive the angelic garment of Azazel while the demon will take upon himself the ‘garment’ of the patriarch’s sins” (p. 6).
The first three essays focus on the figure of Azazel, primarily in the Apocalypse of Abraham and the second three on Satanael in 2 Enoch, Matthew, and 3 Baruch, among other apocalyptic works. The first essay, “‘The Likeness of Heaven’: Kavod of Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham” explores Azazel’s attempt to imitate the Kavod situated between the two cherubim in the Holy of Holies. The second essay, “Eschatological Yom Kippur in the Apocalypse of Abraham: the Scapegoat Ritual,” examines Azazel’s role as the cosmic scapegoat. He is depicted as a fallen angelic being who takes upon himself the burden of Abraham’s sins, which allows Abraham to enter the celestial Temple. The third essay, “The Garment of Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham” focuses on the tradition of Azazel’s angelic garment which he loses and is then transferred to Abraham. This bestowal of the garment upon Abraham appears to show distinct priestly connections – being related to the traditions about the clothing of the high priest as he enters into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. There is also a parallel tradition about Satan’s garment in the primary Adam books – his garment of glory is stripped from him and transferred to Adam. The fourth essay, “The Watchers of Satanael: The Fallen Angels Traditions in 2 Enoch” discusses how Satanael acquires some of the roles of Azazel when he is depicted as the leader of the fallen Watchers. “This development shows the remarkable fluidity of the two mythologies of evil in which the features of one antagonist are often emulated by the main character of the rival trend” (p. 8). The fifth essay, “Satan and the Visionary: Apocalyptic Roles of the Visionary in the Temptation Narrative of the Gospel of Matthew” shows that when Satan tempts Jesus he takes on some of the roles of the transporting and interpreting angel. His request for veneration from Jesus is a paradoxical transformation of the command addressed to Satan in the primary Adam books to bow down to Adam. The sixth essay, “The Flooded Arboretums: The Garden Traditions in the Slavonic Version of 3 Baruch and the Book of Giants” also deals with the interaction between the two mythologies of evil.
My discussion now will turn to two chapters of the book – the second and the fourth. The second chapter is particularly interesting because of the concern with the Yom Kippur ritual, and the fourth is important because it demonstrates the remarkable synthesis that 2 Enoch accomplishes in linking the two ancient mythologies of evil. Chapter 2 highlights the priestly imagery of the apocalypse: Abraham’s initiation into priesthood by the angelus interpres Yahoel, himself attired in priestly garments, the apocalyptic refiguring of the covenantal sacrifice of Genesis 15, and Abraham’s entrance into the heavenly sanctuary. The apocalypse reads Abraham through two biblical figures, Moses and Enoch, and is connected to two festivals, Shavuot and Yom Kippur. Like Moses, Abraham keeps a strict fast for 40 days, and then makes a sacrifice on Mt. Horeb. Also like Moses, Abraham’s fast occurs immediately after a struggle with idolatry – in the Bible, Moses ascends the mountain a second time after destroying the first set of tablets in the incident of the Golden Calf, while in the apocalypse Abraham fasts for 40 days and ascends to heaven after destroying the house of his father’s idols. Andrei argues that just as later rabbinic traditions about Moses connect the people’s repentance after the incident of the Golden Calf with the establishment of Yom Kippur, so too Abraham in the apocalypse takes on the role of the high priest in the eschatological Yom Kippur ritual.
One of the difficulties that Andrei notes in asserting that the accounts of Abraham’s sacrifices relate in some way to Yom Kippur rituals is that the apocalypse makes no reference to the two goats who are part of that ritual – the one goat who is slaughtered for YHWH and the other who is sent to Azazel in the wilderness (Leviticus 16:8-10). The apocalypse does, however, introduce Azazel as a demonic figure who threatens Abraham when he sets up the sacrificial animals, saying, (13:4-5), “What are you doing, Abraham, on the holy heights, where no one eats or drinks, nor is there upon them food for men. But these all will be consumed by fire and they will burn you up. Leave the man who is with you and flee! For if you ascend to the height, they will destroy you.” Azazel in this apocalypse is an adaptation of the Enochic figure of Asael who is one of the leaders of the fallen angels. Compare the depiction in b. Yoma 67b – the Azazel of Leviticus is also connected to the story of the rebel angels – “Azazel – because it obtains atonement for the affair of Uza and Aza’el” (p. 37).
Andrei’s formulation is convincing here, but I do not follow him when he says (p. 35) that Azazel is “envisioned now not as a sacrificial animal but as a demoted celestial being.” Azazel in Leviticus is not the sacrificial scapegoat – instead, the goat is sent to him, as it is clearly stated in vs. 10: “And the goat, upon whom fell the lot for Azazel, let him stand alive before the Lord, to atone for him – to send him to Azazel, to the desert/wilderness.” In verses 20-22 Aaron takes this goat, confesses all the sins of the people of Israel over it, and then it was sent to the wilderness “by an appointed man,” and (verse 22) “the goat shall bear on itself all of their sins to a cut-off land, and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.” Verse 10 equates Azazel with the desert/wilderness – it does not equate him with the goat that is sent into the wilderness. Andrei continues to refer to Azazel (of Leviticus 16) as the sacrificial animal, when he writes (p. 37), “It is clear that in the Slavonic apocalypse [ApAb], as in the Enochic and Qumran materials, Azazel is no longer a sacrificial animal but an angelic being.” I agree that Azazel is a (fallen) angelic being in the Apocalypse of Abraham, but in the biblical tradition he was not depicted as the sacrificial animal.
The paradoxical correspondence or even exchange between divine and demonic figures also occurs in this apocalypse when Abraham ascends to heaven and acquires the heavenly garment that Azazel had once possessed, while Azazel descends to the terrestrial world and then to the fiery abyss. Andrei argues that Abraham’s movement into the heavenly sanctuary might also have a sacrificial dimension, because Abraham’s lot is repeatedly juxtaposed with the lot of Azazel. Could Abraham have been understood as the “sacrificial goat for the Lord” (p. 38)? Or, is this part of the eschatological reinterpretation of the lots of the two goats of Leviticus, such that the lots are associated with two celestial figures – in this case, Azazel and Yahoel (or even Abraham)? In this chapter, Andrei has demonstrated very well the indebtedness of the refiguring of the images of Abraham and Azazel to the Yom Kippur ritual as it appears in the Bible and in later rabbinic discussions.
Turning to chapter 4 , Andrei demonstrates how 2 Enoch melds the two mythologies of evil, with Satanael becoming the leader over the fallen angels, instead of Shemihazah or Asael. He argues that the transfer of leadership to Satanael is a deliberate attempt to introduce the Adamic paradigm into the framework of the Enoch story for a certain theological purpose (p. 86). In 1 Enoch, Adam does not have a prominent role, and when Adam and Eve are invoked, the text tries to ignore or soften the story of their transgression. In 2 Enoch, on the other hand, Adamic traditions loom large in order to present Enoch as the Second Adam. Many features of the exalted Adam of the primary Adam books are transferred to Enoch to hint at his status as the “new protoplast, who restores humanity to its original state” (p. 87). The Watchers also take on the qualities of Satan, the heavenly rebel.
In 2 Enoch, Enoch encounters the Watchers at two points in his tour of the heavenly precincts – in the second and in the fifth heaven. In the second heaven they are not specifically identified as the Watchers, but their transgressions point to the identification. In the fifth heaven, the fallen angels are called Grigori – Watchers. “These are the Grigori, who turned aside from the Lord, 200 myriads, together with their prince Satanail. And similar to them are those who went down as prisoners in their train, who are in the second heaven, imprisoned in great darkness.” Notice here that the leader of the Grigori is Satanael, not Shemihazah or Asael – an insertion of the Adamic tradition into the Enochic one. Another appropriation of the Adamic tradition occurs in 2 Enoch 21-22, when God tests the angels surrounding his Throne by asking them to bow down to Enoch, in parallel to the tradition in the Adam books, when the angels are asked to bow down to the glorious Adam, and Satan refuses to do so. In 2 Enoch, on the other hand, the angels surrounding God do bow down to Enoch.
Andrei comments (p. 96) that “In 2 Enoch we can see a progressive movement toward the organic union of the two templates of the mythological origin of evil so that the mutual interaction is able to generate a qualitatively different tradition which is no longer equal to their initial parts – a new coherent ideology. One of the crucial signs of this qualitative transition can be see in the literary destiny of Satanael (Adamic tradition) who is now invited into the new entourage of the Enochic tradition, where he is fashioned as the leader of the rebellious Watchers.” A first possible step towards this melding of the two templates occurs in the last Enochic booklet, the Similitudes, where the “hosts of Azazel” are named as the “servants of Satan” (54:4-6, p. 98).
Andrei sees in 2 Enoch a paradigm shift from Jewish apocalypticism to early Jewish mysticism. Two motifs in 2 Enoch appear to anticipate future Jewish mystical developments – the motif of the Three Watchers and of the liturgical duties of Enoch-Metatron. In 2 Enoch 18, three of the Watchers descend to Ermon (Mt. Hermon), while in 3 Enoch 4-5, three ministering angels, Uzza, Azza, and Azael, lay charges against Enoch as he ascends to the heavens by referring to the advice of the primordial angels who advised God not to create humanity. They are ultimately forced to render homage to Enoch-Metatron. Here we see features of the Adamic story – the angels telling God not to create man and then prostrating themselves before Enoch. Both of the passages about the three fallen angels (in 2 and 3 Enoch) have distinctive features of the mixed template, and it is possible, as Andrei argues, that the developments of 2 Enoch exercised a formative influence on 3 Enoch – or, as I would argue, that 2 Enoch represents an earlier stage of the traditions now found in 3 Enoch. As for Enoch’s liturgical role in 2 and 3 Enoch: in 2 Enoch, he repeatedly urges the imprisoned angels in the second and fifth heavens to engage in worship of God, while in 3 Enoch he has become the leader of the angels praising God. It is therefore incorrect to see 3 Enoch as drawing only on earlier Enochic traditions of the fallen angels – instead, it is indebted to the earlier development that draws the Enochic and Adamic traditions together. I agree with Andrei that 2 Enoch foreshadows several of the themes of 3 Enoch, including, as he notes elsewhere, the title given to the translated Enoch in both works – the Youth.
One of the signal achievements of this book is that it demonstrates how the Apocalypse of Abraham and 2 Enoch creatively combine the two earlier, originally separate, mythologies of evil found in the Adamic and Enochic paradigms. An additional achievement is that he shows how this combination is then taken up by the later mystical work, 3 Enoch. This book offers food for thought for all of us working on the question of the relationship between Jewish apocalypticism and early Jewish mysticism.