More Studies Into The Identity Of The Sons Of God In Genesis 6

It is written:

Genesis 6:1-4-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.

The Bible here tell us about how the “sons of God” had children with the “daughters of men.” These children were “giants,” the Hebrew word Nephilim. The question arises: who were these “sons of God?”

Some suggest that the “sons of God” were actually the godly descendants of Seth who married with the wicked daughters of Cain.

Of course, there are several problems with this theory.

First, if the descendants of Seth were so godly, why would they all marry the wicked “daughters of men?”

Second, why would human unions bring forth such huge giants that are as large as cedar trees (Amos 2:9)?

Third, if the sons of God here were the godly descendants of Seth, why didn’t the Jewish people understand this for over a thousand years after Genesis was written? Heiser documents:

“Jewish targums (Aramaic translations of the Old Testament) flirt with the human view but do not completely move away from a supernatural view until roughly the same time period as the Christian departure (the third century AD ). Newman writes in this regard: “It is difficult to know where to place the targumim. These Aramaic translations of Scripture (often paraphrases or even commentaries) have an oral background in the synagogue services of pre-Christian times, but their extant written forms seem to be much later. Among these, the Targum Pseudo-Jonathan [ Tg. Ps.-J .] presents at least a partially supernatural interpretation. Although in its extant form this targum is later than the rise of Islam in the 7th century A.D., early materials also appear in it.… [Its translation] ‘sons of the great ones’ may reflect a non-supernatural interpretation, but the reference to Shamhazai and Azael falling from heaven certainly does not. The names given are close to those in 1 Enoch , considering that the latter has gone through two translations to reach its extant Ethiopic version. Notice also that the Nephilim are here identified with the angels rather than their offspring as in Enoch , Jub ., and Josephus.… Targum Neofiti [ Targ. Neof .] is the only complete extant MS of the Palestinian Targum to the Pentateuch. The MS is from the 16th century, but its text has been variously dated from the 1st to the 4th centuries A.D. In place of the Hebrew בני האלהים is the Aramaic בני דייניא , ‘sons of the judges,’ using a cognate noun to the verb ידון appearing in the MT of Gen 6:3. Nephilim is rendered by גיבריה , ‘warriors.’ The text of the targum seems to reflect a nonsupernatural interpretation, unless we press the last sentence of 6:4—‘these are the warriors that (were there) from the beginning of the world, warriors of wondrous renown’—so as to exclude human beings. However, the MS has many marginal notes, which presumably represent one or more other MSS of the Palestinian Targum. One such note occurs at 6:4 and reads: ‘There were warriors dwelling on earth in those days, and also afterwards, after the sons of the angels had joined (in wedlock) the daughters of the sons.’ Thus the text of Targ. Neof . seems to be nonsupernatural while a marginal note is clearly supernatural.… The Targum of Onqelos [ Tg. Onq .] became the official targum to the Pentateuch for Judaism. According to the Babylonian Talmud [ Bab. Talm .] ( Meg. 3a ) it was composed early in the 2nd century A.D., but this seems to be a confusion with the Greek translation of Aquila. Although the relations between the various targumim are complicated by mutual influence in transmission, Onq . was probably completed before A.D. 400 in Babylonia using Palestinian materials as a basis. In our passage Onq . reads בני רברביא , ‘sons of the great ones,’ probably referring to rulers.” See Newman, “The Ancient Jewish Exegesis of Genesis 6:2, 4,” 21 , 23–24 . It should be noted that the first-century writer Philo reflects both views. Newman also notes: “In his treatise On the Giants , the Alexandrian Jewish philosopher Philo (20 B.C.–A.D. 50) quotes the Old Greek version of this passage with the readings ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεοῦ and γίγαντες . Unfortunately Philo is not always a clear writer. Apparently he takes the literal meaning of the verses to refer to angels and women since, immediately after quoting Gen 6:2, he says: ‘It is Moses’ custom to give the name of angels to those whom other philosophers call demons [or spirits], souls that is which fly and hover in the air. And let no one suppose that what is here said is a myth.’ After a lengthy discussion arguing for the existence of non-corporeal spirits, however, Philo proceeds to allegorize the passage: ‘So, then, it is no myth at all of giants that he [Moses] sets before us; rather he wishes to show you that some men are earth-born, some heaven-born, and some God-born.’ ” See Newman, “Ancient Jewish Exegesis,” 19 .” (Michael S. Heiser, Demons: What the Bible Really Says About the Powers of Darkness, 9900-9935 (Kindle Edition); Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press)

Indeed, the Sethite interpretation of Genesis 6:1-4 does not seem to find much endorsement until the critics of the early church tried to use the angel view of Genesis 6:1-4 to try and mock Christianity.

“As highlighted in chapter 10, the “sons of God” of Genesis 6 was understood as referring to (fallen) angels by the ancient rabbinical sources, by the Septuagint translators, and by the Early Church fathers. However, many students of the Bible have been taught that the passage in Genesis 6 refers to a failure to keep the “faithful” lines of Seth separate from the “worldly” line of Cain. The idea has been advanced that after Cain killed Abel, the line of Seth remained separate and faithful, but the line of Cain turned ungodly and rebellious. The “sons of God” are deemed to refer to leadership in the line of Seth; and the “daughters of men” are deemed restricted to the line of Cain. The resulting marriages blurred an inferred separation between them. (Why the resulting offspring are called the “Nephilim” remains without any clear explanation.) ORIGIN OF THE SETHITE VIEW Both the ancient Hebrew scholars and the Early Church fathers understood the text to refer to fallen angels procreating with human women. However, it was in the fifth century A.D. that the “angel” interpretation of Genesis 6 was increasingly viewed as an embarrassment when attacked by critics. (Furthermore, the worship of angels had begun within the church. Celibacy had also become an institution of the church. The “angel” view of Genesis 6 was feared as impacting both of these views.) Celsus and Julian the Apostate used the traditional “angel” belief to attack Christianity. For a more comfortable position, Julius Africanus resorted to the Sethite interpretation. Cyril of Alexandria also repudiated the orthodox “angel” position and accepted the “line of Seth” interpretation. Augustine, too, embraced the Sethite interpretation, and thus it prevailed into the Middle Ages. The Sethite view is still widely taught among churches that find the literal “angel” view a bit disturbing.” (Chuck Missler and Mark Eastman, Alien Encounters, 348-349 (Kindle Edition); Coburn d’Alene, ID; Koinonia House)

Is there any evidence that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are angels?


First, notice how the phrase “sons of God” was used in the time of Moses (as evidenced by the use of this same phrase in the Book of Job, who was contemporary with Moses).

Job 1:6-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-Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.

Job 38:4-7-Where were you when I laid the foundations 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  To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, 7  When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Clearly, Job understood the phrase “sons of God” to have reference to beings that the Bible identifies as “angels.”

Second, the Septuagint translation of these passages is fascinating to consider in this regard. The Old Testament (originally written in the Hebrew language) was translated into the Greek language in about 250 B.C. This translation of the Old Testament is known as the Septuagint, and it is used constantly by the inspired New Testament writers time after time. Interestingly enough, notice how how the Septuagint translation translates the Hebrew phrase “sons of God.”

Job 1:6 (Brenton’s LXX)-And it came to pass on a day, that behold, the angels of God came to stand before the Lord, and the devil came with them.

Job 2:1 (Brenton ‘s LXX)-And it came to pass on a certain day, that the angels of God came to stand before the Lord, and the devil came among them to stand before the Lord.

Job 38:4-7 (Brenton’s LXX)-Where wast thou when I founded the earth? tell me now, if thou hast knowledge, 5  who set the measures of it, if thou knowest? or who stretched a line upon it? 6  On what are its rings fastened? and who is he that laid the corner-stone upon it? 7  When the stars were made, all my angels praised me with a loud voice.

Observe that the translators of the Septuagint clearly understood that the “sons of God” in Job’s (and Moses’) day and age were “angels.” We could also add the following impressive historical testimony of this matter in addition to the Septuagint.

“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 and Mark Eastman, Alien Encounters, 207-208 (Kindle Edition); Coburn d’Alene, ID; Koinonia House)

Finally, the New Testament Scriptures are clear regarding the angelic interpretation of this passage. Both Peter and Jude refer to this event.

2 Peter 2:4-6-For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;

Jude 6-7-And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

The famous linguist, Kenneth Wuest, shows that the sin of the angels was similar in nature to the sins of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah (i.e., sexual sin):

“From the apostasy of Israel, Jude turns to the sin of the angels. He describes them as those who “kept not their first estate.” The word “estate” is the A.V. translation of archē. The word means first of all, “beginning.” Thus does the A.V. understand it. The angels left their first or original status as angels, their original position, to violate the laws of God which kept them separate from the human race, members of which latter race occupy a different category among the created intelligences than that of angels….The second meaning of archē is derived from the first, namely, “sovereignty, dominion, magistracy,” the beginning or first place of power. The word is translated “principalities” in Eph 6:12, and refers to demons there. Thus, this meaning of archē teaches that these angels left their original dignity and high positions. Archē is used, in the Book of Enoch (12:4) of the Watchers (Angels) who have abandoned the high heaven and the holy eternal place and defiled themselves with women (Mayor). This original state of high dignity which these angels possessed, Jude says, they did not keep. The verb is tēreō, “to guard.” The verb expresses the act of watchful care. That is, these angels did not fulfil their obligation of carefully guarding and maintaining their original position in which they were created, but transgressed those limits to invade territory which was foreign to them, namely, the human race. They left their own habitation. “Habitation” is oikētērion, “a dwelling-place,” here, heaven. “Their own” is idion, “one’s own private, personal, unique possession,” indicating here that heaven is the peculiar, private abode of the angels. Heaven was made for the angels, not for man. It is the temporary abode of the departed saints until the new heavens and new earth are brought into being, but man’s eternal dwelling-place will be on the perfect earth (Rev 21:1-3). “Left” is apoleipō. The simple verb leipō means “to leave.” The prefixed preposition apo makes the compound verb mean “to leave behind.” These angels left heaven behind. That is, they had abandoned heaven. They were done with it forever. The verb is aorist in tense which refers to a once-for-all act. This was apostasy with a vengeance. They had, so to speak, burnt their bridges behind them, and had descended to a new sphere, the earth, and into a foreign relationship, that with the human race, foreign, because the latter belongs to a different category of created intelligences than they. These angels are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness. “Reserved” is tēreō, and is in the perfect tense. That is, they have been placed under a complete and careful guard, with the result that they are in a state of being under this complete and careful guard continually. These angels are carefully guarded in everlasting chains. “Chains” is desmos, “a band or bond.” The word does not indicate that the angels are chained, but that they are in custody, detained in a certain place. The custody is everlasting. The Greek word is aidios, “everlasting.” “Darkness” is zophos, “darkness, blackness,” used of the darkness of the nether world…This verse begins with hōs, an adverb of comparison having the meanings of “in the same manner as, after the fashion of, as, just as.” Here it introduces a comparison showing a likeness between the angels of verse 6 and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah of this verse. But the likeness between them lies deep-er than the fact that both were guilty of committing sin. It extends to the fact that both were guilty of the same identical sin. The punctuation of the A.V. is misleading, as an examination of Greek text discloses. The A.V. punctuation gives the reader the impression that Sodom and Gomorrah committed fornication and that the cities about them committed fornication in like manner to the two cities named. The phrase “in like manner” is according to the punctuation construed with the words “the cities about them.” A rule of Greek grammar comes into play here. The word “cities” is in the nominative case. The words “in like manner” are in the accusative case and are classified as an adverbial accusative by Dana and Mantey in their Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (pp. 91, 93). This latter construction is related syntactically, not with a word in the nominative case but with the verbal form in the sentence. All of which means that the words “in like manner” are related to the verbal forms, “giving themselves over to fornication” and “going after strange flesh.” In addition to all this, the Greek text has toutois, “to these.” Thus, the translation should read, “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, in like manner to these, having given themselves over to fornication and having gone after strange flesh.” The sense of the entire passage (vv. 6, 7) is that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, in like manner to these (the angels), have given themselves over to fornication and have gone after strange flesh. That means that the sin of the fallen angels was fornication. This sin on the part of the angels is described in the words, “going after strange flesh.” The word “strange” is heteros, “another of a different kind.” That is, these angels transgressed the limits of their own natures to invade a realm of created beings of a different nature. This invasion took the form of fornication, a cohabitation with beings of a different nature from theirs. This takes us back to Gen 6:1-4 where we have the account of the sons of God (here, fallen angels), cohabiting with women of the human race.” (Kenneth Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies In The Greek New Testament, (E-Sword Edition, emphasis added-M.A.T.))

Allowing the Bible to interpret itself-in light of language, cultural context, and historical consideration-shows that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:1-4 were fallen angels.

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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