Andrei A. Orlov
The Kavod of Azazel
An excerpt from A. Orlov “‘The Likeness of Heaven’:
Kavod of Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham,” in: With Letters of Light: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Jewish Apocalypticism, Magic and Mysticism (eds. D. Arbel and A. Orlov; Berlin; N.Y.: de Gruyter, 2010)
… Now observe a deep and holy mystery of faith, the symbolism of the male principle and the female principle of the universe … there is the line where the male and female principles join, forming together the rider on the serpent, and symbolized by Azazel.
… Our previous exploration of the features of the text’s infamous antagonist showed that the authors of the Apocalypse of Abraham appear to envision Azazel as the one who possesses theophanic attributes mimicking the attributes of the Deity.
The impressive cluster of enigmatic traditions about the attributes and offices of the fallen angel that closely resemble their divine counterparts reaches its new paradoxal shape in chapter 23, where the hero of the faith receives a vision of the protological scene portraying the demon’s corruption of the Protoplasts.
Before examining this puzzling scene, something must be said about the peculiar arrangement of the patriarch’s vision, during which the exalted hero of the faith literally gazes into the abyss from the heights of his most exalted position near the Throne of the Deity. This enigmatic setting seems to provide further support for the dualistic framework of the text with its repeated parallelism of the lower and upper realms.
In the beginning of this mysterious vision, the Deity orders the seer to look beneath his feet and “contemplate the creation.” The apocalypse then portrays Abraham looking beneath the expanse at his feet and beholding what the text calls the “likeness of heaven.” This reference to the “likeness of heaven” (Slav. подобие неба) has baffled the imagination of many scholars  because of the text authors’ decision to situate under the category of the “resemblance of heaven” the vision of the corrupted domain belonging to Azazel:
And I looked beneath the expanse at my feet and I saw the likeness of heaven (подобие неба) and what was therein. And [I saw] there the earth and its fruits, and its moving ones, and its spiritual ones, and its host of men and their spiritual impieties, and their justifications, <and the pursuits of their works,> and the abyss and its torment, and its lower depths, and the perdition which is in it. And I saw there the sea and its island<s>, and its animals and its fishes, and Leviathan and his domain, and his lair, and his dens, and the world which lies upon him, and his motions and the destruction of the world because of him. (Apoc. Ab. 21:2-4).
In this arcane vision, which the patriarch receives from the highest heaven gazing down into the abyss, the reader encounters another dazzling illustration of the dualistic vision of the Apocalypse of Abraham.
Yet the most puzzling disclosure in the cluster of these mysterious expositions about the “likeness of heaven” follows further along in chapter 23, where the visionary beholds Azazel’s appearance under the paradisal Tree.
Apoc. Ab. 23:4-11 unveils the following enigmatic tradition that draws on peculiar protological imagery:
And I looked at the picture, and my eyes ran to the side of the garden of Eden. And I saw there a man very great in height and terrible in breadth, incomparable in aspect, entwined (съплетшася) with a woman who was also equal to the man in aspect and size. And they were standing under a tree of Eden, and the fruit of the tree was like the appearance of a bunch of grapes of the vine. And behind the tree was standing, as it were, a serpent in form, but having hands and feet like a man, and wings on its shoulders: six on the right side and six on the left. And he was holding in his hands the grapes of the tree and feeding the two whom I saw entwined with each other. And I said, “Who are these two entwined (съплетшася) with each other, or who is this between them, or what is the fruit which they are eating, Mighty Eternal One?” And he said, “This is the reason of men, this is Adam, and this is their desire on earth, this is Eve. And he who is in between them is the Impiety of their pursuits for destruction, Azazel himself.”
In this vision which the patriarch receives while standing at the place of God’s theophany near the divine Throne, Abraham beholds Azazel’s protological manifestation in the lower realm where the demon’s presence is placed in the midst of the protoplasts. The depiction is also interesting in that it renders the abode of Azazel through the primordial imagery of the Tree situated in the Garden of Eden.
There are no doubts that the text offers to its audience the portrayal of the infamous Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil – the arboreal symbol of the protological corruption of the first human couple. The peculiar features of the scene, and the reference to the “grapes of vine” as the fruit of the Tree, bring to memory the cluster of familiar motifs associated in the Jewish lore with the legendary paradisal plant. While some features of the scene look familiar, others are not. One novel detail baffling the reader’s imagination is the portrayal of Azazel between the intertwined protoplasts under the Tree.
This intriguing tradition has long puzzled students of the Slavonic apocalypse. Although the imagery of the intertwined Protoplasts is known from Jewish and Christian lore about the serpentine Eve, the depiction found in the Apocalypse of Abraham appears to unveil some novel, perplexing symbolism. Some scholars have noted an erotic dimension in this portrayal suggesting that the demon and the intertwined protoplasts form here some sort of a ménage à trois. What might be the theological significance of this ominous intercourse involving the demonic spirit and the human couple?
Is it possible that, in this scene depicting an enigmatic union of the arch-demon and the protoplasts, one might have not merely a scandalous illustration of the protological corruption of the first humans, but also the disclosure of one of the most mysterious and controversial epiphanies of Azazel? If it is indeed possible, then here, as in some biblical and pseudepigraphic accounts, the erotic imagery and the symbolism of the conjugal union might be laden with theophanic significance.
Moreover, if the epiphanic angle is indeed present in the protological scene, the arboreal imagery also appears to contribute to this theological dimension. In this respect, the peculiar details of Azazel’s position between the protoplasts under the Tree might be invoking the memory of a peculiar theophanic trend related to another prominent plant of the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life.
In Jewish lore the Tree of Life often has a theophanic significance described as the very special arboreal abode of the Deity. In these traditions God is depicted as resting on the cherub beneath the Tree of Life. These traditions are found in a number of apocalyptic and mystical accounts. Thus, for example, the Greek version of the Life of Adam and Eve 22:3-4 connects the theophany of the Deity with the Tree of Life:
As God entered [the Garden,] the plants of Adam’s portion flowered but all mine were bereft of flowers. And the throne of God was fixed where the Tree of Life was. 
A similar tradition is also found in 2 Enoch 8:3-4 where the Tree of Life again is described as the abode of God:
And in the midst (of them was) the tree of life, at that place where the Lord takes a rest when he goes into paradise. And that tree is indescribable for pleasantness and fine fragrance, and more beautiful than any (other) created thing that exists. And from every direction it has an appearance which is gold-looking and crimson, and with the form of fire. And it covers the whole of Paradise (2 Enoch 8:3-4, the longer recension).
The tradition of the Divinity dwelling on the cherub under the Tree of Life was not forgotten in later Jewish mysticism where God’s very presence, his Shekinah, is portrayed as resting on a cherub beneath the Tree of Life. 3 Enoch 5:1 unveils the following tradition:
R. Ishmael said: Metatron, Prince of the Divine Presence, said to me: From the day that the Holy One, blessed be he, banished the first man from the garden of Eden, the Shekinah resided on a cherub beneath the tree of life.
A striking feature of this account is that here, like in the classic Ezekelian accounts, the cherubic creature represents the “angelic furniture” that functions as the seat of the Deity.
It is also intriguing that in the later Jewish mysticism it is not only the Tree of Life but also the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, that receives similar epiphanic re-interpretation, being envisioned as the symmetrical theophanic locale with its own cherubic servants.
Thus, for example, the Book of Zohar I.237a unveils the following enigmatic tradition about the symmetry of the upper and lower cherubim explicitly associating the former with the Tree of Sin and Corruption:
Adam was punished for his sin, and brought death upon himself and all the world, and caused that tree in regard to which he sinned to be driven out along with him and his descendants for ever. It says further that God “placed the cherubim on the east of the garden of Eden”; these were the lower cherubim, for as there are cherubim above, so there are cherubim below, and he spread this tree over them.
This passage is striking since it brings to memory the Tree of Knowledge found in the Slavonic apocalypse, which provided the shadow for the protological couple holding in their midst the presence of Azazel. It is noteworthy that in the passage from the Zohar the Tree of Knowledge is now unambiguously associated with the angelic servants, designated as the “lower cherubim.”
Keeping in mind this cryptic tradition about the cherubic servants, it is now time to return to the protological scene found in the Slavonic apocalypse. The subtle allusions to the cherubic imagery might also be present in Azazel’s epiphany in Apoc. Ab. 23:4-11, where he is depicted under the Tree of Knowledge in the midst of the protoplasts. What is intriguing in the description of Azazel here is that the presence of the evil spirit is manifested in the connubial union of the intertwined couple.
It should be noted that the imagery of the intertwined primordial couple holding the presence of the spiritual agent is quite unique in the Adamic lore. Yet, it invokes the memory of another important theophanic tradition of the divine presence, where God’s presence is portrayed through the imagery of the intertwined cherubic pair in the Holy of Holies.
The treatise Yoma of the Babylonian Talmud contains two passages that offer striking, if not scandalous, descriptions of the intertwisted cherubim in the Holy of Holies. Thus, b. Yoma 54a reads:
R. Kattina said: Whenever Israel came up to the Festival, the curtain would be removed for them and the Cherubim were shown to them, whose bodies were intertwisted with one another, and they would be thus addressed: Look! You are beloved before God as the love between man and woman.
This arcane passage relates an erotic union of the cherubic angelic servants holding the presence of the Deity. One might see here later rabbinic innovations which are far distant, or maybe even completely divorced, from the early biblical tradition of the Cherubim in the Holy of Holies.
Still scholars have previously noted that already early biblical accounts hint at the ambiguous “proximity” of the famous cherubic pair. Rachel Elior notes that in some biblical materials “descriptions of them usually imply a posture characterized by reciprocity or contact: ‘they faced each other,’ or also ‘their wings touched each other’ or were even joined together.’” While the early traditions about the cherubim found “both in the Bible and elsewhere, imply varying degrees of proximity and contact – later tradition was more explicit, clearly indicating the identity of the cherubim as a mythical symbolization of reproduction and fertility, expressed in the form of intertwined male and female.”
In b. Yoma 54b the tradition of the intertwisted cherubim is repeated again:
Resh Lakish said: When the heathens entered the Temple and saw the Cherubim whose bodies were intertwisted with one another, they carried them out and said: These Israelites, whose blessing is a blessing, and whose curse is a curse, occupy themselves with such things! And immediately they despised them, as it is said: All that honored her, despised her, because they have seen her nakedness.
Rachel Elior argues that the description of the intertwined cherubim found in the Talmud suggests “a cultic, mystical representation of myths of hieros gamos, the sacred union or heavenly matrimony….” It is also apparent that this arcane imagery of the Cherubic union has theophanic significance as it expresses in itself the manifestation of the divine presence – the feature especially evident in b. Yoma 54a with its motifs of the removal of the curtain and the revelation of the Cherubim on Yom Kippur. It is therefore clear that the tradition of the intertwined cherubim is envisioned here as a theophanic symbol.
In view of these developments, it is quite possible that this theophanic dimension of the conjugal union might be also negatively evoked in the depiction of the intertwined protoplasts in chapter 23 of the Apocalypse of Abraham. Could it be possible that the erotic ordeal of the protological couple holding in their midst the presence of Azazel somehow serves as a negative counterpart of the Cherubic Couple holding the divine presence in the Holy of Holies? Can Adam and Eve be understood here as the “lower cherubim” overshadowed by the Tree of Knowledge, the Adamic tradition explicitly articulated in the Zohar 1.237, and maybe already hinted at in the Apocalypse of Abraham?
What is also fascinating in the veiled description in chapter 23 is that the mysterious shape of Azazel situated under the Tree appears in itself to point to the unity of the cherubic couple, as his form combines some attributes of the two cherubim joined together. The passage says that the demon has twelve wings – six on the right side of his body and six on the left side:
And behind the tree was standing, as it were, a serpent in form, but having hands and feet like a man, and wings on its shoulders: six on the right side and six on the left.
It is noteworthy that earlier in the text, when Abraham sees the “Living Creatures of the Cherubim” in the heavenly Throne Room, he reports that each of them has six wings:
And under the throne [I saw] four singing fiery Living Creatures ... and each one had six wings: from their shoulders, <and from their sides,> and from their loins (Apoc. Ab. 18:3-6).
These baffling attributes of the demon are intriguing and, in view of the aforementioned theophanic traditions, it is possible that Azazel here attempts to mimic the divine presence represented by the cherubic couple in the Holy of Holies by offering his own, now corrupted and demonic version of the sacred union. Here the Adversary, who according to the Slavonic apocalypse appears to have his own Kavod, given to him by God, possibly intends to fashion his own presence in a dualistic symmetrical correlation with the divine theophany which takes place between two intertwined angelic creatures.....
 Kulik, Retroverting the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 26.
 Philonenko-Sayar and M. Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 84.
 Cf., for example, H. Lunt’s comment in R. Rubinkiewicz, “The Apocalypse of Abraham,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (2 vols.; ed. J.H. Charlesworth; New York: Doubleday, 1985 ) 1.681-705 at 699.
 Kulik, Retroverting the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 26.
 Kulik, Retroverting the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 27; Philonenko-Sayar and M. Philonenko, L’Apocalypse d’Abraham. Introduction, texte slave, traduction et notes, 88.
 On the traditions of the serpentine Eve in Jewish and Christian literature, see S. Minov, "'Serpentine' Eve in Syriac Literature of IV-V CE: An Exegetical Motif in Context," (forthcoming).
 Thus, for example, reflecting on the imagery found in Apoc. Ab. 23:4-11, Daniel Harlow suggests that “the three of them appear in a ménage à trois, the man and woman entwined in an erotic embrace, the fallen angel in serpentine guise feeding them grapes….” D.S. Harlow, Idolatry and Otherness: Israel and Nations in the Apocalypse of Abraham (forthcoming).
 On various versions of the Life of Adam and Eve, see M.E. Stone, A History of the Literature of Adam and Eve (SBLEJL, 3; Atlanta: Scholars, 1992); M. de Jonge and J. Tromp, The Life of Adam and Eve (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997).
 A Synopsis of the Book of Adam and Eve. Second Revised Edition (eds. G.A. Anderson, M.E. Stone; Early Judaism and its Literature, 17; Atlanta: Scholars, 1999) 62E. The Armenian and Georgian versions of LAE 22:4 also support this tradition: “He set up his throne clos[e] to the Tree of Life” (Armenian); “and thrones were set up near the Tree of Life” (Georgian). A Synopsis of the Book of Adam and Eve. Second Revised Edition, 62E.
 F. Andersen, “2 (Slavonic Apocalypse of) Enoch,” The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (2 vols.; ed. J.H. Charlesworth; New York: Doubleday, 1985 ) 1.114.
 P. Alexander, "3 (Hebrew Apocalypse of) Enoch," The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (2 vols.; ed. J.H. Charlesworth; New York: Doubleday, 1985 ) 1.259.
 The Zohar (5 vols.; eds. H. Sperling and M. Simon; London and New York: Soncino, 1933) 2.355.
 The Babylonian Talmud (ed. I. Epstein; London: Soncino, 1935-52) 3.255.
 Exod 37:9.
 1 Kings 6:27; Ezek 1:9.
 2 Chr 3:12.
 R. Elior, The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism (Oxford: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2004) 67.
 In then later Jewish mysticism the imagery of the Cherubim in the Holy of Holies was interpreted as the conjugal union between male and female. Thus, in Zohar III.59b the following tradition can be found: “R. Simeon was on the point of going to visit R. Pinchas ben Jair, along with his son R. Eleazar. When he saw them he exclaimed: A song of ascents; Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps. CXXXIII, 1). The expression ‘in unity,’ he said, refers to the Cherubim. When their faces were turned to one another, it was well with the world – ‘how good and how pleasant,’ but when the male turned his face from the female, it was ill with the world. Now, too, I see that you are come because the male is not abiding with the female. If you have come only for this, return, because I see that on this day face will once more be turned to face.” The Zohar (5 vols.; eds. H. Sperling and M. Simon; London and New York: Soncino, 1933) 5.41. Another passage from the Zohar III.59a also tells about the conjugal union of the Cherubim: “Then the priest used to hear their voice in the sanctuary, and he put the incense in its place with all devotion in order that all might be blessed. R. Jose said: The word ‘equity’ (mesharim, lit. equities) in the above quoted verse indicates that the Cherubim were male and female. R. Isaac said: From this we learn that where there is no union of male and female men are not worthy to behold the divine presence.” The Zohar (5 vols.; eds. H. Sperling and M. Simon; London and New York: Soncino, 1933) 5.41.
 Elior, The Three Temples: On the Emergence of Jewish Mysticism, 67.
 The Babylonian Talmud (ed. I. Epstein; London: Soncino, 1935-52) 3.257. Zohar III.67a, which describes the actions of the high priest on Yom Kippur, also attests to the same tradition when it portrays the “wrestle” of the Cherubim in the Holy of Holies who are “beating their wings together” The passage then describes the high priest entering the Holy of Holies bringing the incense that “pacifies” or “reconciles” the “wrestling” of the angelic creatures. The Zohar (5 vols.; eds. H. Sperling and M. Simon; London and New York: Soncino, 1933) 5.60. See also: Zohar I.231a “Now at sunset, the Cherubim which stood in that place used to strike their wings together and spread them out, and when the sound of the beating of their wings was heard above, those angels who chanted hymns in the night began to sing, in order that the glory of God might ascend from below on high. The striking of the Cherubim’s wings itself intoned the psalm, ‘Behold, bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord... lift up your hands to the sanctuary, etc.’ (Ps. CXXXIII). This was the signal for the heavenly angels to commence.” The Zohar (5 vols.; eds. H. Sperling and M. Simon; London and New York: Soncino, 1933) 2.340.
Elior, The Three Temples, 158. In relation to this union of the angelic creatures in the Holy of Holies Elior further noticed that “the grammatical relationship between the Hebrew words for the Holy of Holies – kodesh hakodashim – and for betrothal – kidushin – suggests an ancient common ground of heavenly and earthly union.” Elior, The Three Temples, 158.
 Similar to the “Living Creatures of the Cherubim” the demon is also portrayed as a composite being which combines zoomorphic and human features - the body of a serpent with the hands and feet like a man.
 Cf. Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer 13: “Sammael was the great prince in heaven; the Hayyot had four wings and the Seraphim had six wings, and Sammael had twelve wings….” Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer (2nd ed.; tr. G. Friedlander; New York: Hermon Press, 1965) 92. Cf. also Georgian LAE 12:1 "My [Satan's] wings were more numerous than those of the Cherubim, and I concealed myself under them." A Synopsis of the Book of Adam and Eve. Second Revised Edition, 15-15E.
 Kulik, Retroverting the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 27.
 Kulik, Retroverting the Slavonic Pseudepigrapha, 24.
 This imagery of Azazel posited between Adam and Eve might serve also as a profound anthropological symbol which possibly signifies the division of the Protoplast. Azazel might be envisioned here as the primordial knife separating androgynous proto-humanity and dividing it on the male and female sides.
 In this respect it is intriguing that several versions of the Primary Adam Books attest to a tradition about the “glory” of Satan that the antagonist had even before his demotion. Latin LAE 12:1 "... since on account of you I was expelled and alienated from my glory, which I had in heaven in the midst of the angels." Armenian LAE 12:1 "... because of you I went forth from my dwelling; and because of you I was alienated from the throne of the Cherubim who, having spread out a shelter, used to enclose me...." Georgian LAE 12:1 "through you that I fell from my dwellings; (it was) by you that I was alienated from my own throne." A Synopsis of the Book of Adam and Eve. Second Revised Edition, 15-15E.