Who Were The “Sons Of God” In Genesis 6?

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

In Genesis 6, we are told about the continuing sin and corruption of the antediluvian world. In particular, we read:

Genesis 6:1-4-1    Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2    that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. 3    And the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4    There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.  

Through the years, there have been two competing viewpoints of who these “sons of God” were.

One view states that they were fallen angels who came to Earth and sinned against God by taking wives among the daughters of men and having children with them.

The other view states that these “sons of God” were the ungodly descendants of Cain who intermarried with the godly descendants of Seth.

While this matter is clearly not a matter of salvation, it is an intriguing matter which is worthy of our deepest study. Moses clearly understood this, for he is the one who included it in Genesis!

The linguistics of the passage are actually very straightforward. The phrase used here “sons of God” was only used prior to this time to refer to angels of God (cf. Job 1:1-6; 2:1-2; 38:7). This was clearly understood by the ancient Jews and early Christians. In fact, the evidence in this regard is very clear:

“This strange passage describes the bizarre circumstances that led to the cataclysmic disaster of the famous Flood of Noah. The Hebrew term translated “sons of God” is , B’nai HaElohim, a term consistently used in the Old Testament for angels.224 When the Hebrew Torah, which of course includes the book of Genesis, was translated into Greek in the third century before Christ (giving us what is known as the Septuagint translation), this expression was translated angels.225 With the benefit of the best experts at that time behind it, this translation carries great weight and it was the one most widely quoted by the writers of the New Testament. The Book of Enoch also clearly treats these strange events as involving angels.226 Although this book was not considered a part of the “inspired” canon, the Book of Enoch was venerated by both rabbinical and early Christian authorities from about 200 B.C. through about A.D. 200 and is useful to authenticate the lexicological usage and confirm the accepted beliefs of the period. The Biblical passage refers to supernatural beings intruding upon the planet Earth….The “angel” view of this classic Genesis text is well documented in both ancient Jewish rabbinical literature and Early Church writings. In addition to the Septuagint translation, the venerated (although non-canonical) Book of Enoch, the Syriac Version of the Old Testament, as well as the Testimony of the 12 Patriarchs234 and the Little Genesis,235 confirm the lexicological usage and the extant beliefs of ancient Jewish scholars. Clearly the learned Philo Judaeus understood the passage as relating to angels.236 Josephus Flavius also represents this view: “They made God their enemy; for many angels of God accompanied with women, and begat sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good, on account of the confidence they had in their own strength, for the tradition is that these men did what resembled the acts of those whom the Grecians call giants.”237 In accordance with the ancient interpretation, the Early Church fathers understood the expression “sons of God” as designating angels. These included Justin Martyr,238 Irenaeus,239 Athenagoras,240 Pseudo-Clementine,241 Clement of Alexandria,242 Tertullian,243 Commodianus,244 and Lactantius,245 to list a few. This interpretation was also espoused by Luther and many more modern exegetes including Koppen, Twesten, Dreschler, Hofmann, Baumgarten, Delitzsch, W Kelly, A. C. Gaebelein, and others.” (Chuck Missler & Mark Eastman, Alien Encounters: The Secret Behind The UFO Phenomenon, 205-208 (Kindle Edition); Coeur d’Alene, ID; Koinonia House)

The alternative view was not adopted until a few centuries AFTER the time of Christ, by some “church fathers” who were undoubtedly embarrassed by these accounts in the “modern” circles of their times. Clearly, the evidence favors the view that these “sons of God” were fallen angels.

Some have rejected these facts because of the words of Jesus in Matthew:

Matthew 22:30-For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.

Some interpret these words to mean that angels are not capable of having sexual relations, and that therefore, the “some of God” in Genesis 6 could not have reference to fallen angels having sexual relations with humans).

Is this true?

Let’s study.

First, notice that Jesus teaches in Matthew 22 that He is referencing Godly angels; whereas in Genesis 6, we are being told about rebellious angels.

Second, the angels Jesus references in Matthew 22 are angels “in Heaven.” However, the beings referenced in Genesis 6 were on earth.

Third, the Scriptures are clear that angels can take the physical form of humans.

Speaking of these facts in consideration of Jesus’ words in Matthew 22, researcher Michael Heiser has written:

“Jewish thinkers in the Second Temple Period understood that original Mesopotamian context, which is why they overwhelmingly viewed the Nephilim of divine sons of God as giants. This perspective includes the translation of the Hebrew term with gigas (“giant”) in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament….In reality, it doesn’t matter whether “fallen ones” is the translation. The Nephilim and the Anakim/Rephaim who descend from them (Numbers 13:33; Deuteronomy 2:20–21; 3:1–11) are still described as unusually tall. Consequently, insisting that the name means “fallen” produces no escape from a supernaturalist interpretation….The primary objection to this approach is the sexual component. The modern enlightened mind simply can’t tolerate it. Appeal is usually made to Matthew 22:23–33 in this regard, under the assumption that verse 30 teaches that angels cannot engage in sexual intercourse:…The text does not say angels cannot have sexual intercourse; it says they don’t . The reason ought to be obvious. The context for the statement is the resurrection, which refers either broadly to the afterlife or, more precisely, to the final, renewed global Eden. The point is clear in either option. In the spiritual world, the realm of divine beings, there is no need for procreation. Procreation is a necessity for perpetuating the human population. Life in the perfected Edenic world also does not require maintaining the human species by having children—everyone has an immortal resurrection body. Consequently, there is no need for sex in the resurrection, just as there is no need for it in the nonhuman spiritual realm. Genesis 6 doesn’t have the spiritual realm or the final Edenic world as its context. The analogy breaks down completely. The passage in Matthew is therefore useless as a commentary on Genesis 6:1–4….That angels—and even God—can have true corporeality is evident in the Bible. For example, Genesis 18–19 is quite clear that Yahweh Himself and two other divine beings met with Abraham in physical flesh. They ate a meal together (Genesis 18:1–8). Genesis 19:10 informs us that the two angels had to physically grab Lot and pull him back into his house to avoid harm in Sodom, something that would be hard to do if the two beings were not truly physical. Another example is Genesis 32:22–31, where we read that Jacob wrestled with a “man” (32:24), whom the text also describes as elohim twice (32:30–31). Hosea 12:3–4 refers to this incident and describes the being who wrestled with Jacob as elohim and mal’ak (“angel”). This was a physical struggle, and one that left Jacob injured (32:31–32). While visual appearances in human form are more common, the New Testament also describes episodes in which angels are best understood as corporeal. In Matthew 4:11, angels came to Jesus after He was tempted by the devil and “ministered” to Him (cf. Mark 1:13). Surely this means more than floating around before Jesus’ face. Angels appear and speak (Matthew 28:5; Luke 1:11–21, 30–38), instances that presume actual sound waves being created. If a merely auditory experience was meant, one would expect the communication to be described as a dream-vision (Acts 10:3). Angels open doors (Acts 5:19) and hit disciples to wake them up (Acts 12:7). This particular episode is especially interesting, because the text has Peter mistakenly thinking the angel was only a vision.” (Michael Heiser, Reversing Hermon: Enoch, The Watchers, And The Forgotten Mission Of Jesus Christ, 302-379 (Kindle Edition))

Conclusion

This passage teaches us important lessons.

First, the fallen angels here left their proper domain (Jude 1:6). Angels-like all accountable beings-have the capacity of freewill (cf. 2 Peter 2:4).

Second, this passage teaches us about the dangers of sexual immorality. Indeed, this is the point that Jude makes of this account (Jude 1:6-7).

Third, the discovery of many giant skeletons around the world, as well as the historical accounts of many nations throughout history, further confirms the Bible narrative of these matters (cf. Luke 1:1-4).

Finally, this reminds us that there is a Day of Judgment coming (Acts 17:30-31). God’s Son has made it possible for us to be saved (please read 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Believers who repent of their sins and are baptized are promised forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).

Why not today accept God’s gracious invitation?

The grace of The Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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