Q&A

Sons of God | Q&A

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Question:

My understanding of Scripture is that angels are unique from humans as asexual beings (Mt. 22:30; Mk. 12:25). I’ve heard the argument that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:1–2 are angels. Where do we see Scripture supporting this view?

Answer:

Two very different interpretations have been offered by expositors to the question, “Who were the ‘sons of God’ in Genesis 6:2?” Some have argued that the “sons of God” were angels that had sexual relations with the “daughters of men” and that this may have lead to the Nephilim of verse 4. Support for this view comes mainly from Job 1:6 where angels appeared before the Lord and are referred to as “sons of God.” The second view holds that the phrase “sons of God” in Genesis 6 refers to the godly among the race of men. In this case, the significant error illustrated by this passage is that of intermarriage between those devoted to God and those who were not. I hold this latter view, so here I will give my interpretation and will give references below for those who wish to explore this issue further.

One of the most basic lessons taught in Scripture, from beginning to end, is the distinction between good and evil, truth and error. This distinction seems even to be reflected in the first day of Creation (Gen 1:3–5) where light is distinguished from darkness. Then, the ancestral lines of Cain and Seth are distinguished. The distinction between good and evil continues to the end of the Bible. It has a most notable application in 2 Corinthians 6:14, where Paul writes, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (my emphasis). It almost seems as though the great apostle had the incident of Genesis 6 in mind as he wrote.

I believe the “sons of God” are those who honor God. They are, at least typically, of the line of Seth. I say “typically” because there may have been literal children of Cain who disowned their lineage and chose to follow God. But the “sons of God” gave up their responsibility to God, pursued their fleshly desires, and united with those called “daughters of men.” The contrast is striking. The contrast between “sons of God” and “daughters of men” invites us to characterize this as “sons of God” in contrast to “mere daughters of men.” How often this compromise has played out among God’s people! The histories of the Old Testament from Samson to Solomon to the captivity, and, in the New Testament, to Pergamos and beyond.

So the lesson of this first history culminating in the flood is absolutely foundational. The view that the “sons of God” are positionally the witnesses for God is essential to this lesson. The consequence of the compromise is disaster. It was then, it was for Israel, and it will be for the Church. So the lesson is solemn indeed.

Further reading:

Archer, Gleason L., Jr. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, s.v. “Genesis: Does ‘sons of God’ in Genesis 6:2 refer to angels?” New York: Zondervan, 1982.
– Archer gives the most complete explanation of the Genesis passage that I have seen.

Grant, F. W. “The Epistle of Jude” and “The Second Epistle of Peter.” In The Numerical Bible: Hebrews to Revelation, 4th ed. New York: Loizeaux, 1903. 

– Grant argues that the verses in 2 Peter and Jude do not support Kelly’s interpretation.

Grant, Leslie M. “Chapter 6.” In Comments on the Book of Genesis. Believers Bookshelf Canada, 2009.

– Grant is a very able expositor who comments directly on this passage arguing that the “sons of God” are not angels.

Kelly, William. Lectures on the Epistle of Jude, 2nd ed. Believers Bookshelf, 1972. 

– Kelly gives an extensive argument here for the view that “sons of God” were angels.

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