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Who Were the ‘Sons of God’?

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The Old Testament refers to “sons of God”, but this has been interpreted in a number of different ways. The most basic text used is Genesis 6:1-4.

  1. “ And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,

  2. That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

  3. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

  4. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

The report is simply this:

As the population grew, many women were taken as brides.

Because the time was still close to the time of creation, these women were beautiful, and so not yet ravaged by sin.

Giants, nĕphiyl (Nephilim) existed at this early stage of mankind.

The Nephilim are not necessarily the same as the “sons of God”... as the sentence construction implies.

There are nine possible meanings for ‘sons’ in this, and in similar, texts. Now, it would be easy to extend the explanation of the real meaning of “sons of God” (as is the practice of so many), but we need not torture it, because the context makes matters clear...

For me, the clue is found in verse three, where God says “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” No mention of angels. One of the nine possible meanings IS a reference to angels. BUT, this meaning cannot apply to the text. The reasons?

God Himself is talking about striving with man, not with angels.

God does not identify the “sons” as angels, whether good or evil.

We are told that there will be no sexuality in Heaven, so it is almost certain that angels, whether good or evil, do not indulge in sexual behaviour... to say they do is sheer speculation, and speculation is not my forte!

“Sons” can otherwise refer to male children (very young or youths), grandsons, young animals, unrighteous men (or righteous), the people of a nation, inanimate objects such as stars, and a member of a particular class of people. Knowing this, how should we look at the text in Genesis? Again, read the clues in the text...

The first three verses do NOT tell us whether the sons of men were good or evil. Nor is their activity (marriage) condemned in those verses. However, the first clue is in verse three where God says He will not strive for much longer with human beings. The fact that the children grew up to be mighty warriors is not really relevant to our argument. Nor do they prove beyond doubt that those children were giants or angels.

The complaint of God continues in verse 5, where He “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth”. This was the beginning of the end for all of mankind, except for Noah, who “found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (verse 8). Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the “sons of God” in this text are simply men who lived wickedly, whether or not they were Nephilim. Indeed, it is obvious from later texts that ALL people, Nephilim included, were destroyed for their evildoing.

The idea that the ‘sons’ were angels is rather fatuous, for angels were created higher than men and animals were made lower than human beings. Just as humans do not procreate with animals, neither do angels procreate with humans. There is a patent absurdity in the suggestion that angels coupled with women and had dual spirit-human children! To put it in modern terms, the DNA simply does not exist for such an event to occur. In Heaven marriage will not occur, so sexual relations are not envisaged, as we read in Matthew 22:30.

It is true, though, that angels can take human form (note the three angels who met Abraham before Sodom was destroyed, one being Christ). This neither confirms nor denies that angels can conduct human relationships such as sex. ‘Sons of God’ can, at times, refer to angels, as in say Job 1:6 and 38:7. Yet, in Galatians 3:26, the same term is used of human males. Context is very important when interpreting.

Then, we come to a dark fact: that many women in history have said they were sexually assaulted by beings they claim were demons. Demons/evil spirits are very powerful persons and, if we are to believe certain reports, they can assume human form. On the other hand the form they take usually seems to be partial or do not last for long, which again questions that the ‘sons’ in Genesis were angels.

Taking all issues into account, I tend to believe that the ‘sons of God’ in the Genesis passage were the ‘wicked side’ of mankind who took righteous women to be their wives, thus further corrupting mankind badly, leading to their destruction in the Flood. To me, all the evidence appears to support this interpretation; I am convinced that if something as powerful as angels taking human wives was a reality, more would have been said of it in scripture, using more explicit language.

© October 2015

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
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