The mystery of Enoch’s disappearance, and its relevance to missing persons today

  • Question 197, from Julian, UK

    Why did God take Enoch? Does God take people today, for example missing persons who are never found?

    Enoch is a bit of a mystery figure in the Old Testament. The text of Genesis refers cryptically to Enoch ‘walking with God’ and “then he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis Chapter 5, verse 24). ‘Took’ in that verse is the Hebrew ‘lakach’, which can mean ‘received’ him.

    Enoch is not the only person to disappear in the Old Testament. Moses is said to have walked with God at the end of his life and died alone, buried by God in a secret place (Deuteronomy chapter 34, verse 5-6). Elijah was transported to heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings chapter 2, verses 11-12).

    Why did God choose Enoch in this way? There have been plenty of embellishments to the basic text. In the Jewish ‘midrash’ – a commentary on the Hebrew Bible – it says Enoch spent years hidden with angels before eventually being taken up to heaven.

    To ‘walk with God’ is a euphemism for obeying God, so it may be that Enoch was particularly obedient. Enoch was the seventh generation since Adam, and the number seven was considered perfect in Jewish thought, so it may be that implied a kind of perfection in Enoch’s life. However, the early chapters of Genesis are full of throwaway references to events and people like Enoch and perhaps it is best not to read too much into it.

    In terms of modern day disappearances being like Enoch, that would be very hard to prove. There have been many traditions of Christian mystics having visions where they felt they have been transported to heaven. However, the reason we know about them is because they came back (if they ever truly went in the first place).

    Sadly, it usually turns out that many missing people are the victim of misfortune or malicious intent. While the idea that they have been taken bodily to be with God may seem comforting, it may in fact be inappropriate to suggest that and possibly build up a false hope in a missing person’s whereabouts.

    More about Enoch on freelance theology

    The book of Enoch 

    A second question on the book of Enoch 

    Apocryphal literature

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