Genesis 6:1-4, is a passage of scripture that I have always had difficulty with. Well, I should qualify that, I never had difficulty until I read other people’s commentaries on it. Then it became confusing. I have always read it and just thought to myself, “It means those men who are followers of the God of Creation (The Sons of God) and women who are not. But there are many commentaries that say that the “sons of God” refers to the fallen angels or demons in the time near creation.
Genesis 6:1-4 (NKJV)The reasoning behind their argument goes like this:
6:1 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.
In the Old Testament, the “sons of God” clearly refers to angels.
Job 1:6 (NKJV) 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 (NKJV) 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 38:7 (NKJV) 38:7 When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
So the sons of God are angels. What is interesting is that when the sons of God come together, Satan also came with them. So there is an argument that the sons of God can represent fallen angels, as well. There is also the argument that the offspring of the sons of God and daughters of men became the men of renown in the day: A breed of superhuman men, who can perform great acts. This would cause them to be men of renown within a population. But I think these arguments are not valid for the following reasons:
1. According to the New Testament Angels do not marry or reproduce themselves:
Matthew 22:28-30 (NKJV) 22:28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her." 29 Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.
If, in fact, angels were spirits who did not marry, then there would be no marriage between them and the "daughters of men." This also can be said of fallen angels. There would be no marriage or reproduction.
- Secondly, this is not the only reference to the men renown.
Numbers 16:2 (NKJV) 16:2 and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown.
This is a reference to men in the time of Moses. He refers to them as men of renown. Moses is responsible for writing the first five books of the Bible, including Genesis (the first) and Numbers (the fourth). Therefore, it stands to reason that he would use the phrase in the same way. In fact, the Hebrew word in both cases is the same word, “Shame” (shum) it can be defined according to Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Lexicon as:
A primitive word (perhaps rather from H7760 through the idea of definite and conspicuous position; compare H8064); an appellation, as a mark or memorial of individuality; by implication honor, authority, character: - + base, [in-] fame [-ous], name (-d), renown, report.
So to me it seems unlikely; that defining the "sons of God" as angels is a fallacious argument. It is more likely, in my opinion, that the sons of God refers to men who are followers of the Creator God. It was in the time of Seth that men began call on the name of God.
Genesis 4:26 (NKJV) 4:26 And as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the Lord.
This took place before the time of the text. What seems more likely is that these Godly men began to marry ungodly women and if you think about this, the influence of ungodly wives can turn men from the will of God. It can turn men away from following God. Solomon is an example:
1 Kings 11:1-11 (NKJV) 11:1 But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites-- 2 from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, "You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods." Solomon clung to these in love. 3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. 8 And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. 9 So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.
So the influence of the wives of Solomon turned him away from God and God tore the kingdom away from him. But when we follow God we become the children of God:
John 1:10-12 (NKJV) 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
So here we see that belief in God qualifies you to become a "son of God." So it is a legitimate idea that the sons of God are those that follow and receive God. But that marriage to an unbeliever can turn you a way from God and God considers this to do evil in his sight. Look at verse five:
Genesis 6:5 (NKJV) 6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
What does God consider to be the greatest evil: The worship of false gods? Look at the words of Jesus.
Mark 12:29-30 (NKJV) 12:29 Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.
It then stands to reason that God would see this as a violation in the greatest degree or the greatest evil. So if God saw there was constant worship of false gods then He might remark, “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This would cause Him to judge the world.
Deuteronomy 6:14-15 (NKJV) 6:14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are all around you 15 (for the Lord your God is a jealous God among you), lest the anger of the Lord your God be aroused against you and destroy you from the face of the earth.
God, of course, spoke this after the flood. But an unchanging God would have the same remedy for the same sin. Through all of this, I have come to stand by my original thought that the “sons of God” represent men who have received and followed the God who created the universe. What do you think?
Stream of Thought
1. "Sons of God" refers to angels. In Job it clearly does.
2. Called men of renown, thought to be more than normal men.
3. New Testament: Angels don't marry, renown means famous.
4. The same author uses the same word for renown to mean famous.
5. "Sons of God" must refer to men who believe God. John 1:10-12
6. Unbelieving wives corrupted Solomon to false gods.
7. God considers worshipping false gods to be evil.
*image credit: www.nephilimgiants.com