Genesis 6:1-4 - Angels Or Men?

Elder O. B. Mink

Pastor - Sovereign Grace Baptist Church

Texarkana, Texas

 

 

“And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them. That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. 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. 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.” (Genesis 6:1- 4)

 

In this text, to whom or what does the term "sons of God" refer? This question has perplexed the minds of Bible scholars for the last fifteen hundred years, and at this time there is considerable difference of opinion among Bible commentators as to the identity of the "sons of God" referred to in the above text.

 

I am confident that my interpretation of the text will not bring the readers of this article to a consensus of opinion, or for that matter settle the issue for all those who are halted between two opinions regarding the identity of the "sons of God" of Genesis 6.

 

However, being on the theological fence calls for a balancing act I find beyond my ability to perform, and straddling the fence is painfully difficult for me. So, in order to alleviate the irritation of my mind concerning the matter and question before us, I began a prayerful study and investigation into the subject.

 

The following comments are the results of that study. If the reader disagrees with my comments, let him remember that his interpretation of the text, is like mine, the interpretation of a fallible man, and that his disagreement does not necessarily mean I need his yardstick by which to measure the text. I do not claim to have all the information available on the question, but do believe what I have to offer is correct as far as it goes.

 

 

THE TWO MAIN SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT

 

 

There are two main schools of thought as to the interpretation of the text, and as to the answer to the question, "Who are the sons of God?" The most popular view with contemporary Bible students is that, the "sons of God," are sons of Seth, the third son of Adam. Necessity is laid upon those who hold this view to make the "daughters of men," the off springs of ungodly Cain, and that these two spiritually diverse lines developed affinity one for the other, which resulted in God defying marriages and obliteration of the distinct ion between the children of God and the children of the devil.

 

The second most popular view is, the term "sons of God" refers to the fallen angels who were in collusion with Lucifer in his original insurrection against the government of God. Both of these views have a number of things in common:

 

1.  They both allow that whoever or what ever the "sons of God" are, they were used of the devil in his effort to corrupt all of mankind.

2.  Both views further claim that the deluge was God's countermeasure against the devil's diabolic effort to corrupt the human race.

3.  One other thing which both views have in common is, they both have leveled against them very weighty objections. Some of these objections we will mention in further addressing the question.

 

My firm conviction is, the "sons of God" are the angels who left their own habitation, and came down to earth, where they cohabited with the daughters of men. This cohabitation produced a race of beings, that was neither man nor angel, but demi-gods. The objector retorts: "That view is too weird!" Not really, one of the cleverest ruses of the devil is to get people to believe he does not exist, and second to that is, to get those who do believe he exists to deny his power. "And no marvel, for Satan him self is transformed into an angel of light" (II Corinthians 11:14). Does that sound strange?

 

I believe the serpent which Satan used in tempting Eve was a beautiful, shining, flying serpent, which actually talked with Eve. Does that sound weird? It is against the nature of serpents to talk, but the serpent of Genesis 3 talked, and that most convincingly. The supernatural powers of Satan are displayed in the overthrow of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, which by comparison to his use of fallen angels to cohabit with the depraved and fallen daughters of men is seen to be no great feat.

 

In adhering to the view that the "sons of God" are fallen angels, I do not mean to imply that I fully understand all that relates to the subject, or that my dogmatism has deaf ears.

 

Following are a number of reasons which I believe support the contention that the "sons of God" are fallen angels who had illicit intercourse with the daughters of men.

 

1.     FIRST, ANCIENT ISRAEL, AND ISRAEL CONTEMPORARY WITH CHRIST, HELD THAT "THE SONS OF GOD" WERE FALLEN ANGELS.

 

The book of Enoch, dated 200 years before Christ has in Genesis 6:2 & 4, “Angels of God," rather than "Sons of God.”

 

Josephus, the great Jewish historian, wrote, "Many angels accompanied with women, and begat Sons that proved unjust, and despisers of all that was good" (Antiquities of the Jews - 3:1, pg. 28). William Whiston, translator of Josephus, says, “This notion, that the fallen angels, were in some sense, the fathers of the old giants, was the constant opinion of antiquity.” Two hundred years of archeological excavation has proven the reliability of the historical account of Josephus.

 

Philo, who was contemporary with the apostles held that it was angels who cohabited with the daughters of men, rather than sons of Seth. It was the view of the great majority of Rabbinic writers, and it is the prevailing view of present day Orthodox Judaism.

 

2.     SECONDLY, THE COMMON BIBLE OF THE DAYS IN WHICH PETER, JUDE, AND THE OTHER WRITERS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT LIVED, WAS THE SEPTUAGINT.

 

The Septuagint is a pre-christian Greek version of the original Hebrew Scriptures. Several passages of the Old Testament which are quoted in the New Testament, are taken verbatim from the Septuagint. "Several passages of the Old Testament, which are quoted in the New, are taken thence; and, being thus noticed by the writers of the New Testament, from their mode of using it, we may infer that it was in general circulation among the apostolic churches" (History of the Bible, By John Kitto DD. - Pg. 45). The Septuagint was the version in circulation among the New Testament churches, and was read publicly among them. So, when Christ says, "Search the Scriptures" (John 5:39), it is very likely that He referred immediately to the Septuagint, and indirectly to the original Old Testament. It is agreed by reputable scholarship that Jesus quoted more than once from the Septuagint. Now, I want you to note, while the K.J.V. and most modern versions read in Genesis 6:2 & 4 "Sons of God," the Septuagint reads, "Angels of God."

 

When Jude in Vs. 6 speaks of the angels "which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation," he then adds, "Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire," (Jude 7). The language of Jude 7 demands adherence to the Septuagint, and the ancient view of Genesis 6:1-4. It is said by the inspired writer, that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah went after "strange flesh even as," or in like manner as the fallen angels which kept not their first estate (Jude 6). It is said of the angels of Jude 6 and 7, that they are reserved in everlasting chains under darkness ... suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." All fallen angels (Revelation 12:7- 9) are not at this time locked up in Tartarus, some are still on the earth working with their nefarious head, Satan.

 

Alford, commenting on Jude 6 & 7 in his Greek New Testament, says, "In like manner to these ... the angels above mentioned. The manner was similar, because the angels committed fornication with another race than themselves.

 

"The Twentieth Century New Testament (1898), taken from the Greek of Wescott and Hort, of which Philip Schaff said, it is "The purest Greek." Reads in verses 6 & 7 of Jude, "And that even those angels that failed to keep their own station and left their proper home have been kept by Him for black darkness. They are like Sodom and Gomorrah and the towns near them, which, as the angels did, gave themselves up to fornication, and went in search of beings of a different nature, and now stand out as a warning, undergoing as they are, punishment by enduring fire."

 

3.     THE EARLY CHURCH BELIEVED THAT THE "Sons of God" OF GENESIS 6:1-4, WERE FALLEN ANGELS.

 

Justian Martyr, Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, Lactantius, and the great majority of the early church fathers believed that the "Sons of God," of Genesis 6: 1-4, was a reference to reprobate angels. One of the reasons that unanimity prevailed among the early churches as regards this issue, was, no other viewpoint was heard of until the latter part of the fourth century.

 

The Sethite theory, the view that the "Sons of God" were the godly line of Seth was first introduced in the latter part of the fourth century by Juihus Afracanius, a contemporary of Origen. He wrote, "What is meant ... in my opinion, is that the descendants of Seth are called the sons of God" (Ante Nicene Fathers, Vol. 6, Pg. 131). The Sethite theory spread rapidly and widely, and became the prevailing view of the dark ages.

 

Eusebius, the great church Historian took exception to the Sethite theory, and declared his position in the dispute by saying, "The original position of the church is correct" (Jude - The Acts of the Apostates, Pg. 38 - S.M. Coder). The popularity of the Sethite theory has perpetuated itself, and is today the most common view among Bible students. However, many of these students are having doubts as to the correctness of their conclusions in this matter, and a re-study of the problem has led a large number to adopt the position which the early church held.

 

There is nothing in the context which suggests, or infers that the Sethites were distinguished for piety. Neither is there anything in the context which implies that the "daughters of men" were more ungodly than the daughters of Seth. In fact, the term “Daughters of men" is general, and includes the daughters of Seth as well as the daughters of Cain.

 

The Sethites were not exempted from the charge of general wickedness which precipitated the flood.

 

"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5) The terms "man" and "his" in this text are used in the generic sense, and includes both Sethites and Cainites.

 

"And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." (Genesis 6:12 )This text does not say "All flesh has corrupted his way upon the earth, except the Sethites." No, it is "all flesh," and the family of Seth comes under that heading.

 

Josephus, says of the Sethites, "In process of time they were perverted, and foresook the practices of their fathers, and did neither pay those honors to God which were appointed them nor had any concern to do justice towards men. But for what degree of zeal they had formerly shown for virtue, they now showed by their actions a double degree of wickedness" (ANTIQUITIES OF THE JEWS, Pg. 28). All the Sethites, with the exception of one family perished in the flood.

 

It is not denied that the Sethite apostasy was fueled by the unlawful marriages of the godly line with the children of Cain, but what is denied is, that these marriages is what is referred to in Genesis 6: 1-4. The Sethite apostasy did not originate during the days of Noah, but had been long in process, and in league with the children of Cain, corrupted the whole earth. But it was the illicit marriages and intercourse of the aliens of the air, the denizens of devil, with the "daughters of men" that is referred to in Genesis 6: 1-4, and it is this marital action which opened up the judgmental skies of God and immersed the earth in water.

 

4.     THE TERM "SONS OF GOD," IS USED EXCLUSIVELY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT OF ANGELES.

 

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

 

"Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord ... (Job 2:1) The Septuagint renders the term "Sons of God," found in Job 1:6 and 2:1, "angels of God."

 

"Give unto the Lord, 0 ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength." (Psalms 29:1) The Hebrew word for "mighty" in this text is "ben, bane" and means sons of God," or sons of the Mighty One.

 

"Many, in an effort to avoid the force of this argument have equated texts from the New Testament which refer to regenerate persons as "Sons of God," with the Old Testament expression. In order to do this sound rules of exegesis are violated, and men must be introduced into Job 38:7, where "all the sons of God shouted for joy" at the primordial creation of the earth, when as yet, men did not exist. The "Sons of God" of Job 38:7 is clearly a reference to angels.

 

5.     THE HEBREW WORD FOR "GIANTS" IN GENESIS 6:4 IS "NEPHILIM," WHICH MEANS "FALLEN ONES.

 

"Genesis 6:4 could have been correctly translated, "There were fallen ones in the earth in those days." The term "fallen ones" must be distinguished from mankind, for all of mankind was in a fallen state, and exceedingly wicked at this time. The term "fallen ones" has no significance unless it refers to something else other than the fallen ones of Adam, for they were present, not only in "those days," but had been present since the expulsion from Eden.

 

The distinguishing feature in the text ("There were fallen ones in the earth in those days"), is, they were in the earth at this time, rather than in heaven. The words constitute an indirect reference to the angelic apostasy in heaven, but is a direct reference to fallen angels on earth.

 

The Hebrew word "Nephilim" translated "giants" in the King James version and "giantes" in the Septuagint occurs only one other time in Scripture (Numbers 13:33), and has to do with the great size and stature of the sons of Anak. "... And all the people we saw in it are men of a great stature. And there we saw the giants (nephilim - same as Genesis 6:4), the Sons of Anak" (Numbers 13:32 & 33). This is, as no one can honestly deny a reference to the gigantic size of the Sons of Anak, and in no sense speaks of their fame or exploits. As it is here, so it is in Genesis 6:4.It is without doubt that these "fallen ones" did great exploits which made them renown, but from all of these great feats they became exhausted and needed a super king size bed to rest in, thus it is, we read of one of their bedsteads being thirteen feet long (Deuteronomy 3:11).

 

"For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man. (Deuteronomy 3:11 ) The conservative cubit of eighteen inches would have king Og's bed to be thirteen and one half feet long, and six feet wide. It is plain that these dimensions are given to draw attention to the physical size of Og, and unmistakably identifies him as a descendent of the "fallen ones" of Genesis 6:4.At the first appearance of this race of monstrosities, God sent a flood and destroyed them. At their second appearance God orders His people to utterly destroy them, and the prophet Amos in retrospect, quoting God, says, "Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath" (Amos 2:9)."There were giants in the earth in those days." The "giants" spoken of here are literal, not mere men of renown, but men of exceedingly large stature. The question which logically follows, is, seeing that marriages of believers with unbelievers in our day do not produce actual giants, why should such a union beget them in the days of Noah?

 

The Sethite theory does not facilitate Satan's purpose to prevent the entrance of the promised Seed of the woman, which was to bruise his head. Cain was of that wicked one, and was used of his spiritual father to slay Abel, for he knew or thought it was through Abel that Christ would come into the world. In the same way, Pharaoh and Herod were used of Satan in an effort to destroy the seed through whom the promised head bruiser would come. All of Satan's efforts to prevent the coming of Christ into the world, miserably failed, and "when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman ..." (Galatians 4:4). Christ was born of a woman who had a depraved nature, a godly woman, and certainly not as steeped in sin as the antediluvian Sethites, but nevertheless, depraved. Human depravity, even in its most intensified state, is never presented in Scripture as something in itself, perse, that Satan would ever think could be a deterrent to the fulfillment Genesis 3:15, for it was to depraved people the promise of a Redeemer was made. Satan knew that it would take something more than the total and ultimately intensified depravity of the human race to prevent the incarnation of Christ. Satan knew, the cohabitation of fallen angels with the daughters of men could eventually abort the human race, and leave no entrance for the Son of Man. What Satan did not know, was, that God would send an earth wide flood and drown all of his monstrous half brothers and sisters, and that God would make an example of their fallen angelic daddies, by shutting them up to the vengeance of eternal fire (Jude 7). Yet, Satan will try anything to avert his own destruction as spelled out in Genesis 3:15.All that the Sethite theory of Genesis 6:14 does, is teach the doctrine of the intensification of human depravity. The depraved state of the Sethites at the time of the flood was every bit and grain as terrible as that of the Cainites, and only one man among them found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8).

 

6.     THE APOSTLE PETER CONNECTS THE SIN OF ANGELS WITH THE FLOOD.

 

"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell (tar-tarus), and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be r served unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly." (II Peter 2:4-5) In this text, Peter connects the sin of the angels with the flood, therefore it is not the angelic apostasy in heaven which Peter sets before us in this text, but the soul damning work of the "fallen ones" on earth. Peter makes the sin of the angels and the flood to be cause and effect, otherwise the close frame of reference in which they are used is meaning less.

 

Some reputable scholars believe Isaiah's reference to Lucifer in chapter 14, verses 16 & 17 is also an indirect reference to the sin of the fallen angels. The text reads, "... Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?" That this is a reference to the flood is seen in the two clauses, the world made a wilderness, and the cities thereof destroyed. It was the flood that made the earth a veritable waste, it was the flood that destroyed the cities of the earth, not the adamic curse; for at the time of Adam's fall there were no cities to be destroyed. Satan, the deposed archangel is head of the fallen angels, and is by God held responsible for the cohabitation of the "fallen ones" with the "daughters of men." The illicit sexual relationship of the fallen angels with the "daughters of men," resulted in the flood, and it is in this sense, that God holds Satan responsible for the destruction of the earth and the cities thereof.

 

7.     THE OBJECTION, THAT ANGELS ARE NEUTER, AND CANNOT REPRODUCE, IS ANSWERABLE.

 

The text most often cited by those who object to the view that the "sons of God" of Genesis 6:1-4 are fallen angels is, Matthew 22:30, which reads; "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."

 

A.    The term "angels of God" in this text, serves as a clear distinction between angels who remained faithful to God, and the angels who in collusion with Lucifer rebelled against God and were cast out of heaven.

B.    The text uses a clause which is locative, which clause specifies the place where angels do not marry, i.e. "in heaven." If the text read, "In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God" and had left off the last two words ("in heaven"), much the objection sues for could be allowed. But the text includes the qualifying clause, "in heaven," and the object goes pitifully wanting.

 

The last two words of the text makes what at first seems to be an insuperable objection, to be utterly groundless, for it is "in heaven" that angels neither marry nor or given in marriage. The angels of Genesis 6:1-4, referred to as "sons of God" were no longer in heaven, but in the earth, and in the earth, they by marrying the daughters of men gave the conjugal relationship its most infernal nature.

 

C.    Matthew 22:30 speaks of the post resurrection state of believers, wherein they become unmarriageables, and the place of this state is "in heaven." Then too, the text speaks of unmarriageable angels, who reside "in heaven." In this text we see God, His angels, and all the elect of God, and their abode is "in heaven." On the other hand we have a text of Scripture in which we see the devil, his angels, reprobate mankind and the place of their eternal residence: "Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from Me ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). But there are ages of time between the creation and resurrection of the saints and their translation to a heaven where marriage vows are never spoken. It is in this interim of time on earth, saints marry and are given in marriage. It is in the same earth and time that the angels which kept not their first estate marry the daughters of men, and are soon thereafter cast into a marriage less hell.

 

The remonstrant may say: "It is contrary to the nature of angels to marry." What we mere mortals know about the nature of angels is practically nil. We know they have at different times assumed physical bodies, and were referred to as men. Angels in their corporeal form on earth have spoke as men speak, ate the food of men, handled men and were handled by men (Genesis 18:8, 19:3 & 16). What the nature and power of fallen angels consist of, is known only to God. The little we know about them tells us, that sinful angels left their proper habitat, and were granted access to the earth, wherein they had illicit intercourse with the daughters of men, including both, Sethites and Cainites.

 

 (Sovereign Grace Advocate - February, 1983)