Please help me. I’m confused about Genesis chapter 6, which refers to sons of God marrying the daughters of men. Were these sons angels?
You’re not the only one who has been baffled by these verses. Theologians have debated them down through the centuries and have come up with at least three or four main views concerning the passage. I will review these views and point out certain facts that might lead you to favor a particular one.
The first view we’ll consider maintains that the sons of God came from Seth’s godly line and that the daughters of men were Cain’s descendants. You probably know that both of these men were sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was evil and cared little for God’s ways. He killed his brother Abel, who obeyed God; then God gave Adam and Eve Seth to take Abel’s place. Seth and his line were also characterized by a love for God and His ways. Thus this view points to an ungodly intermingling of these lines further on in time—the godly line of Seth and the ungodly line of Cain.
This view has several problems. First, it implies that Genesis 6 refers to the descendants of two specific people—Cain and Seth. However, Adam and Eve appear to have had many other sons. The subsequent event of the Flood and God’s reason for it intimate that all of mankind—not a particular line or lines—were ripe for judgment. While we acknowledge Seth’s godly line, we can conclude that the line had long before degenerated spiritually and that few if any of Seth’s descendants (apart from Noah) had any spiritual life.
Second, the context suggests something happening that was far more catastrophic than two unsaved groups beginning to intermarry. We know that God forbids believers to marry unbelievers, but unbelievers have been marrying unbelievers down through time. An unbelieving couple’s marriage is not particularly an object of God’s judgment. In fact, marriage is still a divine institution among unbelievers, as well as believers.
Third, the Old Testament uses the phrase “sons of God” to refer exclusively to angels, not people.
This reference for “sons of God” leads to the next popular view—the position that angels fallen from Heaven (“sons of God”) were enticed by women on earth and cohabited with them. However, Jesus stated in the New Testament that angels neither marry nor are given in marriage (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25). In other words, angels are sexless.
It is interesting that the Apocrypha promulgates this view. The Apocrypha is the collection of 14 books written after the closing of the Old Testament canon, around 425 B.C., and during the 400 silent years before the New Testament. Found in the Roman Catholic versions of the Bible, the Apocrypha has met rejection by fundamental Christianity. Other false writings such as the Book of Enoch and perhaps another book or two lend support to this view by representing angelic beings as cohabiting with earthly females. A number of early church fathers such as Justin, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian also held this view, but more recent Bible scholars have rejected this position. After all, it’s strange that evil angels would be labeled “sons of God.”
A third view states that these “sons of God” were powerful demon-influenced rulers of the time.
This view tends to interpret the phrase “sons of God” as “sons of gods” or “sons of the gods,” referring to their pagan involvement. Pagans worshiped them as gods or offspring of the gods. Ancient literature will bear this out—the recorded rites and legends seem filled with unions of gods and human women; gods were depicted as originating in copulation between a god and humans.
Look at Daniel 10:13. From this passage we get a glimpse of the reality that powerful spirits were behind great kings and kingdoms of the earth.
Ezekiel 28:11–19 reveals that in the prophet’s thinking, a ruler—the king of Tyre—was connected with Satan himself. The apostle Paul also wrote of principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12).
According to this view, we did not have angels cohabiting with humans but rather fallen angels (demons) possessing human men and then also possessing women, as these men and women came together. Their offspring were affected as well. The “sons of God” were not divine at all, as this phrase might otherwise suggest. They were full of lust. They practiced occultic beliefs and were dominated by fallen Satanic angels, or what we refer to as demons.
This view might best harmonize with a passage in Jude in the New Testament: “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. 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” (vv. 6, 7).
This passage indicates that the angels who rebelled and were cast out of Heaven rebelled not only in Heaven but also on earth by going after and indwelling human bodies in this spectacular way. They went after flesh, like the Sodomites. Second Peter 2:4 might denote that God no longer allows these particular demons to roam the earth as do other demons, but rather He impounded them in “chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment,” as all evil forces face in God’s timing.
Whatever happened (and good, Bible-believing scholars hold to each of these views or to variations of them), we can rejoice that God is in control and that He allows man and Satan and his forces only as much “leash” as needed to accomplish His divine will and purposes. We see evidence of Satanic influences in the national and world scene today, just as we see it in the record of other crisis hours throughout history. Look at the widespread preoccupation with witchcraft, astrology, Satanism, and so forth by young and old alike, as one example. But the present-day stirrings may only be a prelude to the next great event we believers should look for with joy—the Rapture of the Church.
Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.