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Making Sense of the Optical Punishment of the Watchers in Light of Ancient Ocular Theories

In: Journal of Ancient Judaism
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  • 1 Independent scholar Dallas, TXUSA
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Abstract

The Book of the Watchers (i.e., 1 Enoch 1–36) contains several punishments for the fallen Watchers’ crimes. Interestingly, one of the penalties is optical in nature – God forces the Watchers to observe the eradication of their beloved offspring (10:12; 12:6; 14:6). However, the text itself does not explain why God chose to inflict this form of penalty. The present article seeks to provide a satisfactory explanation in light of the ocular theories contemporaneous with the mentioned literature. This undertaking reveals that the Watchers’ particular offense – voyeurism (6:2) – is critical to understanding their optical sentence because the deities often employed visual penalties to punish improper amorous gazing. In this regard, the Book of the Watchers demonstrates a talionic correspondence between the Watchers’ voyeurism and God’s response to it. Ultimately, the ocular penalty depicts God as the righteous judge who renders fitting retributions to the criminal.

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