And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
As we read the genealogy of the antediluvian patriarchs, we come across an interesting person: Enoch. Enoch stands out from this list of patriarchs in Genesis 5 because we are told he “walked with God” (verses 22, 24). This descriptor is absent from the individuals immediately preceding and following Enoch. The only individuals in this chapter who are specifically identified as having a relationship with God after Abel are Enoch and Noah.
Enoch lived in a historical era that was increasingly becoming wicked and violent. He lived just three generations before the time of Noah when “the wickedness of man was great in the earth” (Genesis 6:5) and “the earth [was] filled with violence” (verse 13). It is likely that wickedness already affected society in Enoch’s era. Enoch’s faithfulness to God would have made him stand out and be unpopular.
This helps explain why we read that God did something very unusual with Enoch: “God took him.” In Hebrews 11:5 we get more information: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death” (King James Version). The Greek word “translated” is metatithemi, which means “to transfer, to be carried away or removed” (Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary). The basic meaning is to be transferred from one location to another.
Many mistakenly interpret Genesis 5:24 and Hebrews 11:5 to teach that Enoch was taken to heaven and never died. But this is impossible since Hebrews 11:13 clearly says that “these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off” (emphasis added). Verse 39 clarifies that none of the individuals in this Faith Chapter of the Bible “received the promise,” because all of God’s people will receive the promise together (verse 40).
We also have to remember that Jesus Christ clearly taught that “no one has ascended to heaven” (John 3:13). Since “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35) and Christ is “the truth” (John 14:6), it is impossible that Enoch was taken to heaven.
So what happened to Enoch? Enoch “was taken away so that he did not see death” (Hebrews 11:5), meaning that he was taken from a violent society (Genesis 6:13) where he would likely have been killed (like Abel) by others who were jealous and angry at him for his righteousness and blessings. It seems Enoch, like Elijah, was transferred to another geographical location on earth where he was protected and lived out the rest of his 365 years in safety from the evil that surrounded him.
For a more detailed explanation of what happened to Enoch, read “Enoch and Elijah: Are They in Heaven?”
Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “Noah to Bring Comfort.”