Andrei A. Orlov


Metatron as God’s Shi(ur Qomah

[an excerpt from A. Orlov, The Enoch-Metatron Tradition (TSAJ, 107; Tuebingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 2005), pp. xii+383. ISBN 3-16-148544-0.]





…. This study has already noted that in his transition to the position of God’s vice-regent and the lesser manifestation of the divine name Enoch-Metatron came to resemble or imitate the Deity when various divine attributes and features were transferred to this exalted angel. One of the important features of this divine dédoublement was Enoch-Metatron’s acquisition of a new celestial body which closely resembles the gigantic extent of the divine form. Although the crucial bulk of the traditions about Metatron’s stature and its correspondence with God’s anthropomorphic extent can be found in the texts associated with the Shi(ur Qomah literature,[1] these materials do not make any explicit connections between Metatron and Enoch.[2] The investigation of the imagery of the divine body therefore must begin with texts in which this association between Metatron and the seventh antediluvian patriarch is unambiguous. One such passage is Synopse §12 (3 Enoch 9), which portrays the metamorphosis of Enoch’s body into a gigantic extent matching the world in length and breath: “I was enlarged and increased in size till I matched the world in length and breath. He made to grow on me 72 wings, 36 on one side and 36 on the other, and each single wing covered the entire world….”[3]

Christopher Morray-Jones suggests that the sudden transformation of the human body of the patriarch into a gigantic extent encompassing the whole world cannot be properly understood without reference to another anthropomorphic corporeality known from the Priestly and Ezekelian traditions of the divine Kavod. Morray-Jones observes that “in his shi(ur qomah, we are told that Metatron’s body, like the Kabod, fills the entire world, though the writer is careful to maintain a distinction between Metatron and the Glory of God Himself.”[4]

It is true that some Enochic materials, including 2 Enoch, underline the difference between the Lord’s anthropomorphic extent and Enoch-Metatron’s transformed body, pointing to the fact that the second corporeality represents a mere “likeness” of the first.[5] This interdependence between the two bodies, already linked together in the Similitudes and 2 Enoch, indicates that the passage in Synopse §12 might represent a long-standing tradition which cannot be divorced from another significant testimony found in Synopse §19 (3 Enoch 15:1–2).[6] This testimony describes the dramatic metamorphosis of Enoch’s body re-created into the likeness of God’s own terrifying extent known as his luminous Face.

Although the two bodies (of Metatron and of the Lord) are linked through an elaborate common imagery, Morray-Jones is correct in emphasizing that the Merkabah writers are cautious about maintaining a careful distinction between the two entities. Martin Cohen observes that in the Shi(ur Qomah materials the comparisons between the two corporealities, the Deity and Metatron, are not particularly favorable for the latter: “whereas the sole of the foot or the pinky-finger of the Deity is said to be one universe-length long, Metatron himself is altogether only that height.”[7] These distinctions, however, should not be overestimated since they do not prevent the Shi(ur Qomah materials from unifying both corporealities through an identical terminology. In the Merkabah materials the divine corporeality is labeled the Stature/Measure of the Body        (hmwq rw(y#).[8]  The same terminology is often applied to Enoch-Metatron’s body. According to one of the Merkabah texts, “the stature (wtmwq) of this youth fills the world.”[9] As we will see a little bit later, the same terminological parallels are observable in Synopse §73 (3 Enoch 48C:5–6), which refers to Metatron’s stature as hmwq while the patriarch’s human body is designated as Pwg. The similarity in terminology, which stresses the proximity of the statures of the Deity and Metatron, also points to the angel’s role as the measurer/measure of the divine Body.

The association of Enoch-Metatron’s body with the divine Face also points to his duties as the Measure of the Lord and the possessor of the body, which serves as the lesser manifestation of the divine corporeality. They are closely connected with Metatron’s other roles since Metatron’s function as God’s Shi(ur Qomah cannot be separated from his mediation in the divine Presence and his activities as the servant of the divine Face, or one of the sar happanim.[10] This shows that Metatron’s connection with the tradition about the colossal divine extent is not an isolated construct foreign to the rest of the Enoch-Metatron story but represents the logical continuation of his other prominent offices and duties in close proximity to the divine Presence. In Synopse §73 the Shi(ur Qomah motif and the motif of Metatron’s face are brought together:

I increased his stature (wtmwq) by seventy thousand parasangs, above every height, among those who are tall of stature (twmwqh ymwr lkb). I magnified his throne from the majesty of my throne. I increased his honor from the glory of my honor. I turned his flesh to fiery torches and all the bones of his body (wpwg) to coals of light. I made the appearance of his eyes like the appearance of lightning, and the light of his eyes like “light unfailing.” I caused his face to shine like the brilliant light of the sun.[11]

Several words must be said about the fashion in which the Shi(ur Qomah tradition appears in 3 Enoch. It is noteworthy that Sefer Hekhalot preserves only one side of the story when it applies the traces of the Shi(ur Qomah tradition solely to Enoch-Metatron. The evidence found in 3 Enoch represents relatively short accounts that differ from the extended descriptions found in the materials associated with the Shi(ur Qomah tradition; there the reader is normally provided with elaborate depictions of God’s limbs and their mystical names. In contrast, Sefer Hekhalot does not say much about the divine body since the depiction of the body of the translated Enoch serves here as the focal point of the presentation. Although the narration refers to God’s hand, by which Enoch’s body appears to be transformed, and to his glorious Presence, according to which the patriarch was changed, Sefer Hekhalot does not supply any information about the dimensions of the limbs of the Deity as the materials associated with the Shi(ur Qomah tradition often do.  Only through the depiction of the new Enoch-Metatron body does the reader get an impression of the possible dimensions of God’s Shi(ur Qomah.[12]

It is interesting that the tradition of Metatron’s body found in Sefer Hekhalot closely resembles the evidence from 2 Enoch 22 and 39, where the passages with a precise Shi(ur Qomah terminology are also introduced and unfolded through reference to the patriarch’s body.[13] Similarly to 3 Enoch the Slavonic apocalypse refers only to the divine Face/Presence, and to the hand of God.[14] Later I will demonstrate that already in 2 Enoch one can uncover the beginning of Enoch-Metatron’s role as God’s Shi(ur Qomah. It occurs in the account found in 2 Enoch 37, in which the patriarch describes his encounters with the divine extent, the fiery and terrifying Face of God…..



[1] For the texts and translations of the Shi(ur Qomah materials, see Schäfer et al., Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur; M. Cohen, The Shi(ur Qomah: Texts and Recensions (TSAJ 9; Tübingen, 1985); P. Schäfer et al., Übersetzung der Hekhalot-Literatur (TSAJ 17, 22, 29, 46; Tübingen, 1987–95).

[2] Martin Cohen observes that the tradition of Metatron as the translated Enoch does not seem to appear in the Shi(ur Qomah texts. Cohen, Liturgy and Theurgy, 126.

[3] Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 263.

[4] Morray-Jones, “Transformational Mysticism in the Apocalyptic-Merkabah Tradition,” 8.

[5] Synopse §73 (3 Enoch 48C:6): “I increased his honor from the glory of my honor.”

[6] Commenting on the scene of Enoch’s metamorphosis into the highest angel Metatron in Synopse §19, Peter Schäfer observes that this theme of transformation has scarce witnesses elsewhere. He argues that one of the clearest parallels to this scene can be found in 2 Enoch 22:8–10. He observes that, despite the similarities, 2 Enoch’s description is nevertheless exceptionally modest in comparison with Sefer Hekhalot’s account. He notes that, while in the Slavonic apocalypse Enoch is anointed with oil and becomes like one of the angels, in 3 Enoch he is actually transfigured into an angel. (P. Schäfer, “Engel und Menschen in der Hekhalot-Literatur,” in: Schäfer, Hekhalot Studien, 274). Schäfer’s remark is important since it further supports the idea that the description found in 2 Enoch represents a very early form of the tradition in comparison with the one found in Sefer Hekhalot.

[7] Cohen, Liturgy and Theurgy, 133.

[8] Gershom Scholem observes that the term qomah was often translated as “height” (“Measurement of the Height”), being used in the biblical sense. He stresses that such translation does not apply to the Merkabah materials where qomah, as in the Aramaic incantation texts, signifies “body.” See, Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, 364.

[9] Schäfer et al., Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur, 162.

[10] Joseph Dan’s research points to a striking resemblance between the Deity and Metatron since the latter, similar to God, “… sits on the throne of glory, he has spread over himself a canopy of radiance, such as the one over the Throne of Glory itself, and his throne is placed at the entrance to the seventh hekhal, in which stands the Throne of Glory of God Himself. Metatron sits on it as God sits on His Throne.” Dan further observes that the author of 3 Enoch wants to portray Metatron “as almost a miniature version of God Himself.” Dan, The Ancient Jewish Mysticism, 115–17.

[11] Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 312; Schäfer et al., Synopse, 36–37.

[12] Philip Alexander indicates that “in Shi(ur Qomah a form is given to the divine glory: it is envisaged as a colossal human figure and the dimensions of its limbs are computed. Of this speculation there is hardly a trace in 3 Enoch.” Alexander, “3 Enoch,” 241.

[13] Gershom Scholem was first to propose that the expression “the extent of the Lord” found in 2 Enoch 39 might reflect the exact terminology found in the Shi(ur Qomah materials. See Scholem’s lecture “The Age of Shi(ur Qomah Speculation and a Passage in Origen,” in: Scholem, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1965); idem, On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah, 29.

[14] According to Synopse §12 (3 Enoch 9:1) during the transformation of Enoch into Metatron God “laid his hand” on Enoch-Metatron. The same situation is observable in 2 Enoch 39:5, which describes the Lord with “the right hand” beckoning the patriarch during his metamorphosis near the Throne of Glory.