Everything About Enosh, one of the most mysterious figures in the Jewish Torah
Enosh (not to be confused with Enoch) was born in the year 235 from creation (3526 BCE).1 His father’s name was Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve. He was given the name Enosh, which means “person” or “people,” because it was around that time that the world began to be more heavily inhabited by people.2He lived a total of 905 years, and died in the year 1140 from creation (2621 BCE).3
There is very little mention made of Enosh in the Torah, and most of what we know about him and his times is from Midrashic and Talmudic sources.
Here’s what the Torah itself has to say about Enosh. Mind you, the description is rather ambiguous and leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
Note that the word huchal has been left untranslated. That was done deliberately, because it is not entirely clear what the word means. Many different interpretations have been offered; naturally, the Torah narrative will vary based on the different interpretations.
These are a number of commentaries offered on this verse:
Rashi: Huchal comes from the Hebrew word chol, which means “profaned.”
“Then it became profaned to call by the name of the L‑rd.”
In the times of Enosh, people began associating the name of G‑dwith things other than G‑d, namely idols and other people (more on this later). As a result, the name of G‑d became profaned.
Ibn Ezra: Huchal comes from the Hebrew word hischil, which means “to begin.”
“Then people began to call in the name of the L‑rd.”
It was in the times of Enosh that people began engaging in the practice of prayer, calling out to the name of G‑d.
Sforno: While huchal means begin, it has a negative connotation.
“Then (the righteous) began to preach in the name of the L‑rd.”
Until the times of Enosh, there was no need to preach about G‑d; everyone was already aware of His presence and power. It was in his times that this knowledge diminished, and it became necessary for those in the know to preach about His existence.
That’s it as far as the Torah record goes. From here on is the Midrashic tradition.
The Roots of Idolatry
Although the straight reading of the verse is open to interpretation, the Midrashic tradition is pretty emphatic: Idolatry began in the times of Enosh.
Maimonides, in his introduction to the laws concerning idolatry, details the history of idolatrous thought and practise:
Their mistake was as follows: They said that G‑d created stars and spheres with which to control the world. He placed them on high and treated them with honor, making them servants who minister before Him. Accordingly, it is fitting to praise and glorify them and to treat them with honor. [They perceived] this to be the will of G‑d, Blessed be He, that they magnify and honor those whom He magnified and honored, just as a king desires that the servants who stand before him be honored. Indeed, doing so is an expression of honor to the king.
After conceiving of this notion, they began to construct temples to the stars and offer sacrifices to them. They would praise and glorify them with words, and prostrate themselves before them, because by doing so they would—according to their false conception—be fulfilling the will of G‑d.
Ironically, idolatry originally had holy intentions; people thought that such practices were actually honoring G‑d. Maimonides continues to describe how these mistakes led to all-out idol
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