Midrash of Shemhazai and Azazel

-Revised English by Jeremy Kapp-

(1) R. Joseph was (once) asked what was the story of Shemhazai and Azazel, and he replied: When the generation of Enosh arose and practiced idolatry and when the generation of the Flood arose and corrupted their actions, the Holy One, Blessed be He, was grieved that He had created man, as it is said, “And God repented that he created man, and He was grieved at his heart. (2) Sometime later, two angels arose, whose names were Shemhazai and Azazel, and said before Him: “O Lord of the universe, did we not say to You when You created Your world, ‘Do not create man?” As it is said, “What is man that You should remember him?” The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to them: “Then what shall become of the world?” They said before Him. ‘‘We will suffice’ (You) instead of it.’ (3) He said, ‘‘It is revealed and (well known to me that if perhaps you had lived in that (earthly) world, the evil inclination would have ruled you just as much as it rules over the sons of man, but you would be more stubborn than they.” They said before Him, “Give us Your sanction and let us descend (and dwell) among the creatures and then You will see how we shall sanctify Your name” He said to them, “Descend and dwell among them.” (4) Immediately, the Holy One allowed the evil inclination to rule over them, as soon as they descended. When they saw the daughters of man that they were beautiful they began to corrupt themselves with them, as it is said, “Then the sons of God saw the daughters of man,” they could not restrain their inclination. (5) Sometime later, Shemhazai saw a girl whose name was ‘Istehar; fixing his eyes at her he said: “Listen to my (request).” But she said to him: “I will not listen to you until you teach me the Name by which you are enabled to ascend to heaven, as soon as You mention it.” He taught her the unspeakable Name. (6) What did she do? She mentioned it and by which ascended to heaven. The Holy One said; “Since she has departed from sin, go and set her among the stars.’’ It is she who shines brightly in the midst of the seven stars of the Pleiades; so that she may always be remembered. Immediately, the Holy One fixed her among the Pleiades. (7) When Shemhazai and Azazel saw this they took for them wives, and fathered children. Shemhazai begat two children, whose names were Ohya and ‘Hahya. And Azazel was appointed chief over all kinds of dyes and over all kinds of women’s ornaments by which they entice men to unclean thoughts of sin. (8) Immediately, Metatron sent a messenger to Shemhazai and said to him: “The Holy One is about to destroy His world, and bring upon it a flood.” Shemhazai stood up and raised his voice and wept aloud, for he was sorely troubled about his sons and (his own) iniquity. And he said: “How shall my children live, and what shall become of them, for each one of them eats daily a
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thousand camels, a thousand horses, a thousand oxen, and all kinds (of other animals)?” (9) One night the sons of Shemhazai, Ohya and ‘Hahya, saw (visions) in (their) dreams, and both of them saw a dream. One saw a great stone spread over the earth like a table, the whole of which was written over with lines (of writing). And an angel (was seen by him) descending from heaven with a knife in his hand and be was erasing and obliterating all the lines, save one line with four words upon it. (10) The other (son) saw a garden, planted whole with (many) kinds of trees and (many) kinds of precious stones. And an angel (was seen by him) descending from heaven with an axe in his hand, and he was cutting down all the trees, so that there remained only one tree containing three branches. (11) When they awoke from their sleep they arose in confusion, and, going to their father, they related to him the dreams. He said to them: “The Holy One is about to bring a flood upon the world, and to destroy it so that there will remain but one man and his three sons,” Upon that, they cried in anguish and wept, saying, “What shall become of us and how shall our names be perpetuated?” He said to them: “Do not trouble yourselves, for your names. Ohya and ‘Hahya, will never cease from the mouths of creatures, because every time that men lift (heavy) stones or boats, or anything similar, they will shout and call your names.” With this, their tempers cooled down. (12) What did Shemhazai do? He repented and suspended himself between heaven and earth head downwards and feet upwards, because he was not allowed to open his mouth before the Holy One, Blessed be He, and he still hangs between heaven and earth. (13) Azazel (however) did not repent. And he is appointed chief over all kinds of dyes which entice man to commit sin and he still continues to corrupt them. (14) Therefore, when the Israelites used to bring sacrifices on the day of atonement, they cast one lot for the Lord that it might atone for the iniquities of the Israelites, and one lot for Azazel that he might bear the burden of Israel’s iniquity. This is the Azazel that is mentioned in the Scriptures.

Leviticus 16:8 (New Living Translation) He is to cast sacred lots to determine which goat will be reserved as an offering to the LORD and which will carry the sins of the people to the wilderness of Azazel.

Leviticus 16:10 (New Living Translation) The other goat, the scapegoat chosen by lot to be sent away, will be kept alive, standing before the LORD. When it is sent away to Azazel in the wilderness, the people will be purified and made right with the LORD. Leviticus 16:26 (New Living Translation) “The man chosen to drive the scapegoat into the wilderness of Azazel must wash his clothes and bathe himself in water. Then he may return to the camp.”

The Angel “Metatron” was the patriarch formerly known as Enoch, seventh from Adam. The angel Sammael, later known as Satan, was a powerful archangel set above the seven highest archangels. When God created Man, Sammael refused to bow to him saying he was created before man and man should bow before him. This refusal began what would eventually have Sammael cast out of heaven. In the three hundred and sixty-fifth year of Enoch’s life, God took Enoch and made him into the angel Metatron, and gave him Sammael’s position as the powerful angel in charge of the seven highest archangels. In the beginning, Sammael refused to bow to a man. In the end, a man replaced him.

Genesis 5:24 (New International Version) Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

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