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Sons of God (Genesis 6:1-4) Part 2 of 3

July 19, 2021 | by: Gregg Hunter | 0 comments

Posted in: Genesis 6

Please read “Sons of God (Genesis 6:1-4) Part 1 of 3” before continuing to read this blog post (or you’ll be lost!). Today, we will look at the 2nd and 3rd steps of our interpretive journey to answer the question, “who are the sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4?”

(2) It is always best to read a passage of Scripture in context, so we need to make sure that our solution fits the immediate context of Genesis 5-6 and the larger narrative of Genesis 1-11 as a whole. This provides the most helpful information.

The progression in the early chapters of Genesis could be used to support any of the solutions offered. There is a pattern of sin that grows from:  INDIVIDUALS (Adam and Eve) --> FAMILY (Cain) --> either (1) ANGELS, (2) THE RELIGIOUSLY ELITE, or (3) RULERS OF SOCIETY --> EVERYONE (Flood).

In the immediate context, the emphasis is on the sin of man and not the rebellion of angels. In fact, angels are only mentioned once in the first five chapters in Genesis (3:24… Unless one interprets 1:26, and 3:22 as referring to angels instead of the Trinity). The word “man” is used nine times in verses 1-7. God regretted that He made man (6:6) and God sent the flood to wipe out man (6:7). There is no (other) reference to angels in the context. It is difficult to believe that God would not punish the angels in any way if they were the instigators of sin in this passage. For instance, when Adam first sinned, God punished him, Eve, and the serpent.

God would punish the godly line of Seth, if they are responsible, and He could punish all of mankind if the godly line of Seth was to be their spiritual representative, similar to the Levitical priests of Israel. This godly line has been established in 4:26, but some disagree as to whether the statement “at that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord,” refers exclusively to those in the line of Seth. After all, Seth’s descendants were not all perfect. This could just refer to select people from all lineages who call on the Lord, but only descendants of Seth can be given as examples (i.e. Enoch, and Noah).

Finally, the context does not say that the Nephilim were the offspring of the sons of God and the daughters of men. The offspring in 6:4 are described as “mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.” They are simply described as being born while “the Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward.” To say this another way: ‘This all happened during the time of the Nephilim,” just like we would say “during the Victorian Age,” or “during the time of cowboys,” or “back when there were real men,” to describe a certain time period.

The immediate context therefore seems to support the 3rd solution more than anything else, although the 2nd solution is still a strong possibility. Looking at the immediate context makes it difficult to believe in the 1st solution. However, there is still more Scripture to look at. Feel free to move on to the 3rd step in our interpretive process, or…


*FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO GO DEEPER: The sin of the “sons of God” was taking any daughters of men that they chose as their wives. This causes issues with each one of our possible solutions:

  • The combination of laqah (“take”) and issa (“wife”) is an expression used throughout the Old Testament for marriage, and Jesus told us that angels in heaven cannot marry (Matthew 22:30). It is difficult to believe that this only applies to angels in heaven, and not to those fallen angels on the earth. Why would God even give the angels the ability to procreate if they cannot marry? But proponents of the first solution would argue that Jesus never said the angels were asexual, only that they do not marry. Maybe they could reproduce, but were forbidden from doing so, and those who fell no longer obey God in anything that they do.
  • It would be difficult to see the line of Seth intermarrying with the line of Cain as a sin in this context, as nowhere in Scripture are they commanded not to do so. It’s difficult to believe that God would send a worldwide flood to wipe out everyone because a group of people did something that they didn’t even know was wrong! But proponents of the second solution would argue that Moses was writing to the Israelites who knew from many other commands in the Pentateuch that marrying outside of God’s chosen line was wrong, so the command is implied.
  • Finally, many who suggest that the sons of God are rulers of the people explain this sin as that of “polygamy” or “the right of first night,” but are required to read into the text something that is not there in order to do so. A simple reading of the text with this solution would imply that these men simply took whatever wives they want without regard to God. This doesn’t seem that grave on the surface, certainly not cause for a global flood. But proponents of the third solution would argue that this sin exemplifies how deep societies disregard was for God—even their kings didn’t acknowledge Him when they wed!


(3) Other Scriptures that do not use the exact phrase, but use similar topics or words, may be able to shed light on the issue.

The most necessary texts to consider are 2 Peter 2:4-5, Jude 6-7, and Numbers 13:33. Please take a moment to read them.

Some have interpreted 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 as referring to the angels in Genesis 6, especially because 2 Peter 2:5 deals with the flood of Noah, and in Jude the sin of the angels is immediately followed by the sexual sins of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 7). According to tradition, these two passages are referring to the sin of the angels (sons of God) who left their heavenly abode in order to have sexual relations with the daughters of men. Others interpret it as referring to the fall of Satan and some of his fallen angels. Both offer reasonable explanations, depending on which solution to Genesis 6:1-4 you prefer.

Numbers 13:33 is significant because it is the only other passage of Scripture in which the Nephilim are mentioned. In it, the spies speak of the descendants of Anak, who were giants. These descendants somehow “come from the Nephilim,” which has led many to conclude that the Nephilim must be giants, and this giant-ness comes from the fact that they were descended from fallen angels. There are a lot of leaps of logic here. First of all, there is no indication anywhere in Scripture that a fallen angel could have a child, or that their potential children would be giants. Second, Numbers 13 takes place many years after the great flood that wiped out all life on earth. So, either the Nephilim somehow survived the flood (contrary to Genesis 7:23), or the fallen angels had more sexual relations with women after the great flood, that simply isn’t recorded in Scripture. Thirdly, the sons of Anak are described as giants, but the Nephilim are not necessarily described as such. An alternate solution, identifying the Nephilim as “renowned warrior heroes” or “great heroes of old,” would satisfactorily explain why these giants are likened to them and why the events in Genesis 6 take place while “the Nephilim were on the earth in those days.” This alternative view supports both the 2nd and 3rd solutions, while the traditional view obviously supports the 1st.

Essentially, none of the texts that are often used to support an interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 do so conclusively, which means that you’ll have to come back tomorrow to look at steps 4 and 5 and our conclusion on the matter. Until then… God bless!