Ask Me Anything - Who Are The Sons Of God In Genesis 6?

January 08, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

Ask Me Anything

Who are the “sons of God” in Genesis 6?

There are lots of mysterious things in the Bible, much more than what modern Western Christianity lets on. One very peculiar account in the OT is found in Genesis chapter 6. As mankind multiplied so did wickedness as well…

Genesis 6:1–8 (ESV) — 1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. 5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

The wickedness of man was so bad, so pervasive, God decided to wipe out everyone except the one man who found favor with him: Noah. You know that story. But tucked in here is another story, one we miss if we don’t dig deeper. It’s found when we look at this text and ask ourselves the question begging to be answered here — Who are the “sons of God” and why was it so bad for them to hook up with the “daughters of men”?

This union between “the sons of God” and “the daughters of men” is mentioned as if it were kind of the last straw. When this happened God said, “I’m done.” It’s referred to often as an unholy union. But what exactly is going on here? There are three basic views.

With all the views the daughters of men are human women. You might guess that the views differ on who the sons of God are. I’m going to mention the first two briefly because they have only been around the last few hundred years or so, and only came to be because interpreters believed the most obvious view was impossible. 

The first view is that the sons of God are rulers of early dynasties (nobles) who mated with lowly common women. Their sin was polygamy, the taking on of many wives. Where does this come from? The idea that kings are sometimes referred to as gods in the OT and ancient extra biblical texts, so their sons would be the “sons of God.”

I’m going to be honest. It’s a massive stretch. I don’t get it. Makes no sense to me. 

The second view is that the sons of God are literally the descendants of Seth. Adam and Eve had three sons. They lost one, Abel, to murder. They lost one, Cain, to banishment because he was the murderer. And then Seth was born. The sons of God are the godly, holy descendants of Seth.  The daughters of men are the human daughters of mankind in general, including the ungodly female descendants of Cain.

The sin is indiscriminate marriage of the godly line to any female, particularly those of the line of Cain. I cannot for the life of me understand how they got this.

The most fitting view has been held since ancient times. The sons of God are angels. You come to that conclusion first by looking at the phrase itself which is unusual and specific in the OT. It’s found a number of times. 

First here in Genesis 6. Then in…

Deuteronomy 32:8 (ESV) — 8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God.

Some translations will have “sons of Israel” here. That all depends on what manuscripts they used. The oldest have “God.” 

And then in Job…

Job 1:6 (ESV) — 6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.

Job 2:1 (ESV) — 1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the Lord. 

Job 38:4–7 (ESV) — 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

The sons of God mentioned in Job can only be heavenly beings. Nothing else makes sense. How could mortal men go to heaven and present themselves before God? Mortal men were not present when God laid the foundations of the earth either.

They have to be angels in those texts, but it’s more complicated than that.

Angels play a big role in the OT and NT. They serve as messengers of God. They serve as soldiers in the army of God. And they serve as members of the Divine Assembly or Divine Council of God. That last one is relatively new to me and something I introduced in the Job series.

The heathen people of Job’s day (and by that I mean those who did not follow Yahweh, the one true God) believed the gods (little “g”) would come together regularly and form a “divine council.” That council governed the world and affairs of men. There are a number of ancient Near Eastern writings that mention this.

They say all myths and legends, if you follow them back far enough, lead to actual truth or facts. I’m convinced the ancient legends of the divine council actually point to something real: the assembly of God (big “G”) and his special angels serving on a council as seen here in Job. The difference is, on the heathen gods’ assembly they were all equal, and on God’s divine council, he’s the boss and all the others are subservient to him, having been created by him.

This divine council is alluded to all over the Bible (even in the NT by Paul though we won’t have time to go there tonight!). Look at…

Psalm 89:5–6 (ESV) 5 Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! 6 For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord,

Heavenly beings are literally “sons of God” in Hebrew and there they are referred to also as holy ones in God’s divine assembly. They are heavenly beings but they don’t hold a candle to God (with big “G”).

These “sons of God” were with God before all creation (Job 38:4-7).

These sons of God also, evidently, were assigned responsibilities of overseeing the affairs of men according to the nations (Duet 32:8). Something alluded to in Daniel 10 where the prophet observed in a vision a radiant, angelic being who revealed information about the unseen realm…

Daniel 10:10–14, 1821 (ESV) 10 And behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees. 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.” And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling. 12 Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words. 13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, 14 and came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come.”… 18 Again one having the appearance of a man touched me and strengthened me. 19 And he said, “O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.” And as he spoke to me, I was strengthened and said, “Let my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.” 20 Then he said, “Do you know why I have come to you? But now I will return to fight against the prince of Persia; and when I go out, behold, the prince of Greece will come. 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.”

What a classic biblical text on the spiritual warfare taking place around us every day. But note how, when you connect the dots, the prince of Persia, Michael (the prince of Israel), and the prince of Greece all fit into the idea of a divine council made up of the “sons of God,” a special, high ranking class of angels overseeing their assigned nations. It all makes sense! 

These sons of God couldn't have all been good. Why would the prince of Persia fight against the prince of Israel? Evidently, just like us, they had free will and could rebel against God if they chose. And they did. What better way could rebellious divine assembly members get back at God than messing with his special creations by mating with them? And this certainly fits the sense of this being an unholy, blasphemous union that offended God.

So in this this view the sons of God in Genesis 6 are angels, specific angels who served on the divine council but rebelled against God.

There’s another reason I believe this view is correct. I know for a fact the Jews of Jesus’ day believed they were divine beings, angels. I know that James and Paul and Peter and John believed they were angels. Do you remember me telling you about how many Jews in ancient times couldn’t speak or read Hebrew because they were raised in the Greek culture? A bunch of Jewish scholars (seventy to be exact) got together and made a translation of the OT into Greek. That translation was used by Jews in Jesus’ day. James and Paul and Peter and James and even Jesus quoted from it.

Guess what Greek word the Septuagint translates in Genesis 6 for “sons of God”? Angelos which we know as angels which almost for certain means they saw them as heavenly beings not humans.

If we allow for this view to be right, it connects well with a NT text…

Jude 6–7 (ESV) — 6 And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day— 7 just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

There are two legitimate objections to this view biblically. One is the fact that angels are spirit beings and would not have a physical body capable of mating with humans. Consider the story of Lot and the angels… 

Genesis 19:1–3 (ESV) — 1 The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth 2 and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” 3 But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

If they could eat, is it such a stretch to think they could not marry a human wife?

The other it’s based on the words of Jesus in…

Matthew 22:23–32 (ESV) — 23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no offspring left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.” 29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.”

This is certainly something that must be considered. But it doesn’t settle the matter for rejecting the sons of God as angels view for two reasons.

1.      Where are the angels Jesus talks about? In heaven. And where are the angels in Genesis 6? The earth. There are many different kinds of angels with varying roles. Some angels’ sole job is to stand in the presence of God and worship him. Some have roles on the earth. I think it’s fair to make that distinction.

2.      What kind angels do the sons of God seem to be? A special class serving on the divine council. Is it not possible that their kind could marry humans?

In the end you’ll have to decide.

NEXT WEEK: Pre-Post-A. What will the millennium look like?

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