Thursday, February 18, 2016

Who are the Sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4?

Both Peter and Jude mention angels who sinned and were judged by God. In both cases, the angel incident is coupled with another sinful situation mentioned in the book of Genesis. Peter mentions the Flood and Sodom and Gomorrah. Jude also mentions the immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah. Because of that, some have linked these sinful angels to an immoral event which happened just before the Flood (Gen. 6:1-4).

"Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” The Nephilim were 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."

Here is a synopsis of what happened:
  1. Daughters were born and the sons of God noticed their beauty.
  2. The sons of God had marital relations with whomever they chose.
  3. God was not pleased with what happened.
  4. God gave them only 120 years until the judgment of The Flood.
  5. Nephilim existed at this time.
  6. The offspring became powerful men.

You now can understand why this passage has been difficult to interpret. But don’t be dismayed. Good men have differed as to how they have interpreted this passage. And some have changed their position back and forth. It is a difficult passage but one that God placed in the Book of Genesis for us to learn from. So, let’s take some time to learn God’s lesson from it.

Question: Who were the sons of God?


The sons of God were fallen angels. 1

The first interpretation says that fallen angels left their God-given role in heaven and chose to have relations with human women. The off-spring of these relationships were the Nephilim, a super-human race of people. What evidence is there for this interpretation?

a. The title “sons of God” refers to angels in other Old Testament books (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Dan 3:25).

While we are used to being called sons of God in the New Testament, “in the Old Testament the phrase ‘sons of God’ always refers to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7).” 2 So, it would be natural to assume that angels are being talked about in Genesis 6.

b. It fits with New Testament usage (2 Pet. 2:4, Jude 6).

It would seem that Peter and Jude had this passage in mind since they both referred to sinful situations recorded in the book of Genesis. “We are told in these epistles, ‘angels when they sinned’ (Peter), and ‘angels who did not keep their domain’ (Jude) were judged by God. In Jude especially, the comparison is drawn between the angels’ improper activity and the gross immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah when they ‘went after strange flesh.’” 3

c. Holy angels do not marry but fallen ones might.

One of the biggest obstacles to this view is that angels are spirits who only occasionally take human form. And consider “that Matthew 22:30 declares, ‘At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.’ However, the text does not say ‘angels are not able to marry.’ Rather, it indicates only that angels do not marry. Second, Matthew 22:30 is referring to the ‘angels in heaven.’ It is not referring to fallen angels, who do not care about God’s created order and actively seek ways to disrupt God’s plan. The fact that God’s holy angels do not marry or engage in sexual relations does not mean the same is true of Satan and his demons.” 2 Satan and his demons seem to actively push humans toward immorality and sexual sins.

“However, while angels are spiritual beings (Hebrews 1:14), they can appear in human, physical form (Mark 16:5). The men of Sodom and Gomorrah wanted to have sex with the two angels who were with Lot (Genesis 19:1-5). It is plausible that angels are capable of taking on human form, even to the point of replicating human sexuality and possibly even reproduction.”2

d. Early Hebrew commentators favored this view.

Commentators say that “earlier Hebrew interpreters and apocryphal and pseudopigraphal writings are unanimous in holding to the view that fallen angels are the 'sons of God' mentioned in Genesis 6:1-4.” 2 This doesn’t guarantee that this is the correct interpretation but does say something.

The sons of God were the descendants of Seth.

This interpretation says that “the sons of God” were descendants of the godly line of Seth and that “the daughters of men” refers to the ungodly descendants of Cain. But what evidence is there to support this interpretation?

a. The previous chapters differentiate the ungodly line of Cain and godly line of Seth.

Genesis 4 records the downward spiral of Cain and his descendants. Genesis 5, however, records the godly line of Adam’s other son, Seth. Since these two groups were just differentiated, it seems that they could be the two groups referred to in Genesis 6. “Moses, having enumerated in order, ten patriarchs, with whom the worship of God remained pure, now relates, that their families also were corrupted.” 5

b. They took wives (normal marriage union).

The Hebrew word for “took wives” is the normal word for the marriage relationship and not an immoral relationship. This would fit better with the normal idea of a human man and woman being in a normal relationship.

c. There is no other reference to angels in the context.

Nowhere else in this passage is there any reference to angels. It seems strange that angels pop up all of a sudden with no other reference to them.

d. The angels in heaven “neither marry or are given in marriage” (Matt. 22:30).

This is probably the strongest argument against them being angels. Jesus told his questioners that in the resurrection, people will be like the angels in heaven who do not marry. Angels in heaven do not get married, so why would we think that fallen angels would do this either? It would seem odd for fallen angels to take human form (which they can) and then be able to father human children.

e. This describes the indiscriminate marriage of godly and ungodly people.

“It is also consistent with and forms the foundation for a principle taught throughout God’s Word, the extreme importance of marrying only within the family of God (Exo 34:11-16; 2nd Cor 6:14-18). The Bible relates many tragic lessons from the lives of those who did not heed God’s prohibition of ‘spiritual intermarriage,’ eg. Esau, Samson, Solomon. ... As God’s people observed the ways of the world, they tragically were lured away from a relationship with God by the riches and beauty of the women of the world, and all that the world offered. And so, equipped with the blessings of a Godly heritage combined with the skillful application of worldly methods—for a while—the unholy alliance of the ‘sons of God’ and ‘the daughters of men’ resulted in greatness for the offspring.” 3

f. Men are punished in this passage not angels.

God’s response to the situation is to point out that man is flash in a negative way. But there is no mention of angels being judged for their part in the problem. This seems to point to both groups being human.

Conclusion

I honestly don’t know which interpretation is correct. There are compelling arguments on either side. The first involving fallen angels seem a bit too fantastical for me. But with how wicked Satan and demons in their opposition to anything godly, it wouldn’t surprise me. The second idea seems to fit the context but doesn’t explain what sin of the angels referred to in 2 Peter and Jude.

In either case, “children of these marriages, despite pagan ideas, were not god-kings. Though heroes and ‘men of renown,’ they were flesh; and they died, in due course, like all members of the human race. When God judges the world—as He was about to—no giant, no deity, no human has any power against Him. God simply allots one's days and brings his end.” 4

This is the main point in both 2 Peter and Jude. God will judge sin and nobody can get away with it no matter how powerful or what his background – even angels can’t get away with sin. God will judge all men and angels one day and we can count on that. So…

Don’t think that wicked men will get away with their sins.

Do you realize that every wicked man of Noah’s day was destroyed by God in the Great Flood? Do you also realize that all of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone? Why then do we think that God is oblivious to what sinful man is doing? Trust God to be who He is -- both compassionate and patient but also fully aware and doing what He deems best for the situation.

Don’t think that you will get away with your sins.

Secondly, consider your own sin. It is easy to think that this is all about someone else. But for those of you who have not repented of your sin and received Jesus, the precedent has been set. You cannot escape God’s judgement no matter how powerful you are or how great your background. The only way you can escape is by repenting of your sin and believing what Jesus has accomplished for you. He, though perfect, took your sins upon himself and died in your place, so that God could justly forgive you for your sins. Your only hope of escaping judgment is to repent of your sin and cry out to God for mercy because of what Jesus has done for you. Don’t wait until your time comes because then it will be too late.


1 The basic outline was taken from a sermon by Gil Rugh, “Wickedness, Flood, and Covenant,” found at http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=21605112327 on 2/18/2016.

2 “Who were the sons of God and daughters of men in Genesis 6:1-4?” as viewed at http://www.gotquestions.org/sons-of-God.html on 2/18/2016.

3 “Sons of God in Genesis 6” as viewed at http://www.scriptureoncreation.org/#/bible-question-answer/sons-of-god-in-gen-6 on 2/18/2016.

4 "Genesis" in Bible Knowledge Commentary Old Testament (PocketBible edition)

5 Calvin, John, "Genesis" in Classic Bible Commentary (PocketBible edition)

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