Watcher (angel)

"Irin" redirects here. For the United Nations news service, see IRIN. For the village in Iran, see Irin, Iran.
"Iyr" redirects here. For other uses, see IYR.
Watching angel on the spire of St Michael's church, Clifton Hampden, Oxfordshire, England

Watcher (Aramaic עִיר iyr, plural עִירִין iyrin, IPA ʕiːr(iːn); Theodotian trans: ir; from the root of Heb. `er, "awake, watchful";[1] Greek: ἐγρήγοροι, transl.: egrḗgoroi; Slav transliteration, Grigori,[2] "Watchers", "those who are awake"; "guard", "watcher"[3]) is a term used in connection with biblical angels. Watcher occurs in both plural and singular forms in the Book of Daniel (4th-2nd century BC), where reference is made to their holiness. The apocryphal Books of Enoch (2nd-1st centuries BC) refer to both good and bad Watchers, with a primary focus on the rebellious ones.


In the Book of Daniel 4:13, 17, 23 (ESV)[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." He 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" ... "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:

"And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’ this is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will."[5]

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").[6]

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 recognizing the power of the god of Israel as "Most High."[7] 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, or the watcher in his dream.[8]

Books of Enoch

In the Books of Enoch, the first Book of Enoch devotes much of its attention to the fall of the Watchers. The Second Book of Enoch addresses the Watchers (Gk. egrḗgoroi) who are in fifth heaven where the fall took place. The Third Book of Enoch gives attention to the unfallen Watchers.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] The dating of this section of 1 Enoch is around 2nd-1st Century BC. 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. The Watchers are bound "in the valleys of the Earth" until Judgment Day. (Jude verse 6 says that these fallen angels are kept "in everlasting chains under darkness" until Judgement Day.)

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.

Second Book of Enoch

For the masculine given name, see Grigori (given name) and Grigory

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[12] of the Greek word ἐγρήγοροι egrḗgoroi, pronounced /ɛˈɡriɡɒri/ in post-classical times, meaning "wakeful".[13] The Hebrew equivalent is עירים, meaning "waking", "awake".[14]

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".,[15][16] One version of 2 Enoch adds that their number was 200 myriads.[17][18][19] 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 underground.[15][20] The number of those who descended to earth is generally put at three,[21][22] but Andrei A. Orlov, while quoting the text as saying three,[12] 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"[23] or, according to other versions of 2 Enoch, "one of the order of archangels"[24][25] or "one of the ranks of the archangels"[26] "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,[19][27] this chapter too is often understood to refer to Satanail and his angels, the Grigori.[19][26]

The Mercer Dictionary of the Bible 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."[28]

The longer recension of 2 Enoch 18:3 identifies the prisoners of second heaven as the angels of Satanail.[29]


According to PrEv 1.10.1-2 of Philo of Byblos, Sanchuniathon mentioned "some living beings who had no perception, out of whom intelligent beings came into existence, and they were called Zophasemin (Heb. șōpē-šāmayim, that is, 'Watchers of Heaven'). And they were formed like the shape of an egg."[9]


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.[20]


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

Possible Babylonian/Aramaic origin

According to Jonathan Ben-Dov of the University of Haifa, the myth of the watchers began in Lebanon when Aramaic writers tried to interpret the imagery on Mesopotamian stone monuments without being able to read their Akkadian text.[30]

Depictions in popular culture

There have been many different depictions of the Grigori in fiction and wider popular culture.

"The Watcher" is a recurring character in multiple Marvel Comics, making his first appearance in "Fantastic Four #13" in 1963. He is eventually identified as "Uatu", a member of an advanced race tasked with watching over the human race but not interfering with human history. Uatu violates this mandate by occasionally involving himself in human affairs due to the fondness he has acquired for humans over the many millennia of watching them.[31]

In the television series "The Highlander" a group called "The Watchers" was introduced. Their task was to observe the immortal "Highlanders", but again without direct interference.

The film Wings of Desire depicts the city of Berlin, Germany being watched over by angels.

In Kevin Smith's 1999 religious satire Dogma, the character Bartleby (played by Ben Affleck) is mentioned to have formerly been a Watcher.

In Darren Aronofsky's 2014 Biblical epic Noah, there are a large number of Watchers and they are depicted as having been cast out of Heaven after deciding to help mankind. They are depicted as gigantic stone creatures having become trapped and encased in the soil of Earth after falling to it. In their time on Earth they taught humankind what they knew and gave them great knowledge, but humanity turned on them, and only Methuselah, Noah's grandfather, was willing and able to protect them. They assist Noah in building his ark. As the rains begin, Tubal-Cain leads a violent army to seize the ark and the dozens of Watchers surround and defend the ark from the invaders. One Watcher is overcome by Tubal-Cain's weapon, looks to the sky and moans "My Creator, forgive me!" and instantly his stone exterior shatters and his bright angelic form ascends to heaven. Another Watcher shouts to his fellows, "The Creator brings him home!" and the Watchers redouble their efforts to defend the ark. As each completely defeats the mob in his section his outward form shatters and his angelic interior speeds to the sky, having been forgiven by the Creator. The last Watcher blocks the remaining mob with his body as he closes the hatch of the ark, and says gently to Noah, "Goodbye, son of Adam", and then he too leaves his rocky body behind and returns to heaven. As the last of them ascends, enormous water spouts burst from the spots where they last stood to begin the Deluge.

In Traci Harding's book The Cosmic Logos the Grigori are a group of fallen spiritual beings who watched over and assisted human spiritual evolution thus gaining the title the 'Watchers".

In The Watchers, Knight of Light by Deirdra Eden a young girl, Auriella, flees her village after being accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death. Pursued by creatures of darkness, she struggles to accept the truth about her identity and choose what side of an eternal war she will fight.[32]

In the Supernatural season 10 episode Angel Heart mentions the Grigori with one, Tamiel (under the name "Peter Holloway") appearing as the main enemy of the episode. At one point in this episode, a picture is shown that is implied to be a painting of a grigori—it is, in fact, a classic depiction of Michael the archangel besting Satan.[33]

In the popular The Black Tapes podcast, Grigori are mentioned in Episode 105 titled "The Devil You Know".


  1. SDA Commentary on Daniel 1980 reprint, pp. 789, 780
  2. 1 2 3 Orlov 2011
  3. "Strong's H5894". Retrieved 2012-07-03.
  4. Daniel 4:1-37
  5. Daniel 4:23-25
  6. Beckwith, edited by Carl L. Ezekiel, Daniel. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic. p. 285. ISBN 0830829628.
  7. Porteous 1965, p. 69: "... of the watchers, the decision by the words of the holy ones' may reflect the influence of the Babylonian belief"
  8. 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..."
  9. 1 2 Charlesworth 2010, p. 130
  10. 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,"
  11. Nickelsburg 2004, p. 44
  12. 1 2 Andrei A. Orlov (2011). Dark Mirrors. SUNY Press. p. 93. ISBN 9781438439518.
  13. 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
  14. "Strong's Hebrew: 5894. עִיר (ir) - waking or wakeful one". Retrieved 2016-12-01.
  15. 1 2 "The Forgotten Books of Eden: The Book of the Secrets of Enoch: Chapter XVIII". Retrieved 2016-12-01.
  16. Julia Cresswell (2006). The Watkins Dictionary of Angels. Duncan Baird. ISBN 9781780283609.
  17. 1 2 3 Robert Charles Branden (2006). Satanic Conflict and the Plot of Matthew. Peter Lang. p. 30. ISBN 9780820479163.
  18. 1 2 DDD 1998, p. 893
  19. Marc Michael Epstein (1997). Dreams of Subversion in Medieval Jewish Art and Literature. Penn State University Press. p. 141. ISBN 9780271016054.
  20. 1 2 James Hastings (1898). A Dictionary of the Bible. 4. University Press of the Pacific. p. 409. ISBN 9781410217288.
  21. James H. Charlesworth (2010). Old Testament Pseudepigrapha-set. Hendrickson. p. 149. ISBN 9781598564891.
  22. Mercer (1997). Mills, Watson E.; Bullard, Roger, eds. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible (3rd and corr. printing. ed.). Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press. p. 253. ISBN 0865543739.
  23. Orlov, Andrei A. (2005). The Enoch-Metatron tradition. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. p. 221. ISBN 3161485440.
  24. Jonathan Ben-Dov (October 18, 2013). "Turning to the angels to save Jewish mythology". Haaretz.
  25. "Uatu the Watcher - Marvel Universe Wiki: The definitive online source for Marvel super hero bios". 2008-01-10. Retrieved 2016-12-01.
  26. "Home". Retrieved 2016-12-01.
  27. "Episode 20: Angel Heart - 1020 28321 - Supernatural High Quality HD Screencaps". 2015-05-07. Retrieved 2016-12-01.


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