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Who are the “Sons of God”

03 May
Who are the “Sons of God”

In Gen. 6 we are introduced to an interesting race of beings, called the “sons of God”:

Gen. 6:1 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.
 (Emphasis mine)

So who are these “sons of God”? There are several schools of thoughts on this issue:
1. They are Despots.
2. They are the offspring of a union between the Sethites and the Canaanites.
3. They are fallen angels.

Each of these view points can find varying degrees of support within Scripture. But, with anything, we must choose the option that finds the strongest support. This study looks at which of these three theories comes out “on top”.

1. The “Despotic” view

A “despot” is a ruler with absolute power. Therefore some scholars have suggested that the “sons of God” refer those in positions of authority in Old Testament times. It is granted that the term “god” is used extensively throughout the Old Testament, when referring to people of authority:

And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. – Exo. 7:1

Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment. – Deut. 16:18

And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. – Deut. 17:12

If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him: but if a man sin against the LORD, who shall intreat for him? Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because the LORD would slay them. – 1 Sam. 2:25

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods… I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. – Ps. 82:1,6

The Hebrew word used in these verses is elohiym and means: rulers, judges, divine ones, angels, gods, goddess, godlike one, works or special possessions of God, the (true) God, God.
Those, in Old Testament times, who operate on behalf of God (like Moses to Pharaoh), or the judges of Israel, were given the title “god”. God wanted to be the king of Israel, but Israel wanted to be like other nations and have a human king (i.e. a despot) to act as judge over them:

1 Sam. 8:1 Now it came to pass when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel.
2 The name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba.
3 But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice.
4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah,
5 and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.
6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” So Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.
 (Emphasis mine)

So from this point of view, we can see that there is room to read the “sons of God” (in Gen. 6), as being despots (i.e. rulers/kings of cities/nations). In Genesis 4-5 we see the beginning of men building cities:

And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. – Gen. 4:17

The only failure with this point of view is that, even though kings, judges, etc. in Israel, were designated as “gods”, they were never designated as “sons of God”. Therefore we have to conclude that the “sons of God” are someone other than a despot.

This leads us to our next viewpoint:

2. They are the offspring of a union between the Sethites and the Canaanites.

Those who hold this view suggest that the “…mighty men of old, men of renown.” mentioned in Gen. 6:4, are the children of a union between the Sethites and the Cannanites. As one reads Gen. 4 one learns about Cain and how he was ungodly:

Gen. 4:1And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
2 And she again bare his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.
3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD.
4 And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:
5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.
6 And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7 If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
8 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
 (Emphasis mine)

In contrast to ungodly Cain we find godly Seth appearing at the end of Gen. 4:

Gen. 4:25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.
26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.
 (Emphasis mine)

In Gen. 4 we read about Cain’s offspring (Cain was the father of the Canaanites). In Gen. 5 we are presented with the genealogy of Seth (Seth was the father of the Sethites). Therefore it has been suggested that intermarriage occurred between the Canaanoites and the Sethites. From the Sethites, it is suggested, came the “sons of God”; from the Canaanites came the “daughters of men”. It is this union that created the “…mighty men of old, men of renown.” It is this offspring that became so wicked that God had to destroy the earth with a flood.

The failure with this viewpoint is that the terminology used in Gen. 6:1 (i.e. “men”, “sons of God”, “daughters of men”) is generic. There is nothing within Gen. 4-6 that indicates that these terms are used specifically in reference to the Sethites and Canaanites.

3. They are fallen angels

The term “sons of God” is found 5 times in the Old Testament:

Gen. 6:1 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.
 (Emphasis mine)

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. – Gen. 6:4

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, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. – Job 2:1

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? – Job. 38:7

As we follow the interpretational principle of allowing “Scripture to interpret Scripture”, we see that the “sons of God” are angels. How do we know that the “sons of God” are angels? If we look at the references above from Job we see that Satan came with the “sons of God” when they presented themselves to God. Notice Job. 38:7 :

When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? – Job. 38:7

This is a reference to the angels of God rejoicing and praising God. So we see that the “sons of God” in Gen. 6:1 came to earth, that is angels came to earth to cohabit with men and to marry the “daughters of men.” This viewpoint is further emphasised by the following verse in Jude:

Jude 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, 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.

These two Scriptures both look at the same event, but from a slightly different angle. We’ll look at them individually, then collectively and then we’ll see how they refer to Gen 6.

2 Pet. 22 Pet. 2:4 For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;
5 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;

We see here that there were angels that sinned and God cast them down to hell. What was the sin? Could it of been the rebellion in Heaven, when Satan tried to lead a coup against God with a third of the angels? (see Rev. 12; Isa. 14:12-16). If this is the sin that this verse is referring to, then Satan and all his angels are in hell and confined. But Scripture tells us that this is not so (see Eph. 6:10-12; 1 Pet. 5:8). So therefore the sin has to be something else, and we have to conclude that only some of the angels are confined. The Scripture reference from Jude gives us a better understanding of what this sin was.

Jude 6-7Jude 6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, 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.

To get an understanding of this Scripture we need to look at some of the Greek behind vs 6

which kept = Strongs #5083 = tereo; from teros (a watch; perh. akin to G2334); to guard (from loss or injury, prop. by keeping the eye upon; and thus differing from G5442, which is prop. to prevent escaping; and from G2892, which implies a fortress or full military lines of apparatus), i.e. to note (a prophecy; fig. to fulfil a command); by impl. to detain (in custody; fig. to maintain); by extens. to withhold (for personal ends; fig. to keep unmarried):–hold fast, keep (-er), (ob-, pre-, re) serve, watch.

first estate = Strongs #746 = arche; from G756; (prop. abstr.) a commencement, or (concr.) chief (in various applications of order, time, place or rank):–beginning, corner, (at the, the) first (estate), magistrate, power, principality, principle, rule

habitation = Strongs #3613 = oiketerion, oy-kay-tay’-ree-on; neut. of a presumed der. of G3611 (equiv. to G3612); a residence (lit. or fig.):–habitation, house.

What does all that mean in context of Jude 6? What it means is that the angels left their cheif, primary place of habitation/rule (i.e. the heavenlies) and came to earth. For what purpose did they come to earth? In context, if you read Jude 7 it’s talking about sexual immorality, beings going after “strange flesh.” The Greek word for “strange” is heteros and means: (an-, the) other or different:–altered, else, next (day), one, (an-) other, some, strange.

This means that the angels were going committing fornication with some being/flesh that possessed a different in nature than their own angelic nature.

So to sum up Jude 6-7 we see that these angels left their primary area of rule in order to come down to earth to commit an act of sexual immorality. This sinful act is comparative to sin of Sodom and Gomorrha, who committed fornication and perverted sexual practices.

2 Pet. 2 and JudeLooking at these two Scriptures together, we see that they both describe the same event, but from different viewpoints. The sin that 2 Pet. 2:4 talks about is described in Jude 6 and is compared to the sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrha. In 2 Pet. 2:5 we are told when this took place, i.e. before the flood. Does that mean that this refers to the event of Gen. 6?

2 Pet. 2, Jude and Gen. 6In the two references from the New Testament we have seen that angels came down to earth and committed sexual immorality. In Gen 6 we read about the “sons of God” coming to take “daughters of men” to themselves. There would be nothing morally wrong with this if the “sons of God” were men. Therefore it can be implied that the “sons of God” are angels who came down from their primary domain in the heavenlies, to earth for the purpose of procreating with the “daughters of men”. God judged this sin by confining the angels in chains, until the day of judgement (2 Pet. 2:4, Jude 6). God also judged mankind via the Flood (2 Pet. 2: 5 cf Gen. 6:5-7:24)

From this we see that even though the “sons of God” are not explicitly described in Gen. 6 we can, by aloowing Scripture to interpret Scripture, imply that they were angels who tried to cohabit with mankind. Perhaps their motivation for doing so was to corrupt the seed of mankind and, thus, frustrate the plan of God Who promised to send His Son through the seed of man (see Gen. 3:15

Conclusion

We have seen in this study that there are several theories regarding who the “sons of God” are in Gen. 6:1. Even though each view has various Scriptural support, we find that the view that seems to come out on top is the view that they were angels. These angels left their own domain (i.e. the heavenlies), to cohabit with man and committed sexual immorailty with the “daughters of men”. God has reserved these angels in chains of darkness until the day of judgement.

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Posted by on May 3, 2018 in Bible Study

 

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