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Yeshua in Context » Background to Gospels, Besorah/Gospel/Good News, Enactments and Symbolic Actions, Miracles » Demons in Galilee

Demons in Galilee

What sort of theology of unclean spirits existed in Yeshua’s time? We have a few hints and texts that can give us a picture. Pagan notions of demonic spirits were no doubt an influence on some, but devout Galileans like Yeshua would have looked to other sources for their beliefs.

A few centuries before Yeshua, some unknown circles of apocalyptic scribes wrote some texts that are now known as part of 1 Enoch (which is really five books written at different times). The early part of 1 Enoch is the Book of the Watchers. Who are the watchers? The answer is found in Daniel 4:10 (4:13 in Christian Bibles; see also 4:14, 20 (4:17, 23)) :

In the vision of my mind in bed, I looked and saw a holy Watcher coming down from heaven.

Watchers are angelic beings who watch the earth, doing God’s bidding. In 1 Enoch 6-10 an elaborate story is told, drawing heavily on Genesis 6:1-4, the account of the “sons of God” who took “daughters of men” as wives. These Watchers saw the beauty of human women and two hundred of them took human wives. They taught their wives sorcery and the children born to them were giants and Nephilim. Eventually God dispatched powerful angelic beings to imprison some of the Watchers.

This interpretation of Genesis 6, and the notion of unclean spirits in Jewish thought, seems to have been common. The New Testament writers speak of the story of the Watchers in 1 Enoch with acceptance:

And the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling have been kept by him in eternal chains in the nether gloom until the judgment of the great day.
-Jude 6

. . . in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison.
-1 Peter 3:19

For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment . . .
-2 Peter 3:4

Unclean spirits are fallen angels, perhaps not the ones who married human women, but others who similarly existed in rebellion against heaven. In Mark 1:23, a demonic spirit is called “unclean.” We are more used to thinking of spirits as evil than unclean, which is a technical category from Leviticus and Numbers. Of all the causes of impurity in the Torah, what association with uncleanness would fall on demonic spirits? Almost certainly they were associated with death, which rendered unclean (Numbers 19).

In Yeshua in Context, chapter 4, I relate a story from Josephus in which Solomon (allegedly) discovered roots and herbs which could draw demons out through a person’s nose. A few stray tales of exorcism in the time of Yeshua involve performers with an audience doing what looks like a “magic show.” Similarly, in the apocryphal book of Tobit, demons are expelled by a sort of magical incantation involving burning fish parts.

There is no precedent for what Yeshua did: expelling demons by verbal command. No biblical figure before Yeshua did this. No demon spoke in the manner of the demons in the gospels. The clash between Son of God and fallen “sons of God” in the gospels is unique.

The theology behind the gospels and their view of demons is that of a hidden conspiracy of evil. Much of the evil that is in the world has been helped along through the influence of these fallen angels or demons. Just enough is said in the Bible about the Serpent in the Garden, about false deities and lying spirits, to make the idea credible.

New Testament writers agree. As John says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). And as Paul said, “We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

And Yeshua said, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course” (Luke 13:32). The resurrection, the defeat of death, is the ultimate victory over unclean spirits and all they represent. Satan is fallen. God’s kingdom is overtaking.

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Filed under: Background to Gospels, Besorah/Gospel/Good News, Enactments and Symbolic Actions, Miracles

3 Responses to "Demons in Galilee"

  1. Angela Bessah says:

    What are Watchers and is the Book of Enoch a reliable source for information? If so, why is it not a part of the first five books of Torah?

    Signed Confused..

  2. yeshuain says:


    1 Enoch is really five different books, written at different times, that were collected into one and which has been considered scripture only by the Ethiopic church.

    The Book of Watchers is one of the 5 books that make up 1 Enoch.

    Watchers is a term used in Daniel 4 to describe some of the angelic beings.

    The story of the Watchers taking human wives, teaching them sorcery, giving them giants as children, and being punished for their crimes against God and humanity, is told in the Book of Watchers.

    Here is how I see it. Genesis 6:1-4 has a very vague and non-specific story which could be interpreted as being about angels cohabiting with women. Some mystical and apocalyptically minded Jews enhanced these stories, adding more details and coming up with a long legend about it all. The Book of Watchers represents one form of the longer legend.

    Jude 6 makes a direct reference to the book of Enoch (citing information from the part known as the Book of Watchers). 1 Peter 3:19 and 2 Peter 3:4 refer to the same idea.

    The fact that apostles read 1 Enoch (specifically the Book of Watchers) does not, in my view, mean we must accept this as scripture. But they agreed with the idea that angels had cohabited with women and that fallen angelic beings exist, some imprisoned and some part of the evil power at work in our world.

    Derek Leman

    1. Angela Bessah says:

      Thanks for the reply however, you never stated if the Book of Enoch was true? My next question comes from the Book of Job “What are the Spirits of Behemoth and Leviathan?

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