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The Sons of God in Genesis 6

There are several passages of Scripture that invite the fertile imaginations of men to be exercised. Genesis 6:1-7 is one such passage.

The text begins simply enough, “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply upon the face of the earth…” Just how rapidly and how extensive the population explosion was that took place is open for conjecture. Mathematically, it was possible for all of planet earth to be inhabited in just a few short years. To support a large worldwide increase of people there is the point to be made that the Flood was universal, and not local. A universal flood would be needed because people lived everywhere.

The passage continues in Genesis 6:1, “…and daughters were born unto them.” The implication here is that females were valued. That situation can be appreciated by present day demographics.

There is a demand for females, especially in China, where they have a one child policy, and a boy is preferred. One study notes that China will face a 24 million bride shortage by 2020.

Beginning in Genesis 6:2 there is the opening of a Biblical controversy. What does it mean that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair “and they took them wives of all which they chose”? Several interpretations have been offered concerning this text.

First, it is suggested that what Genesis 6:2 teaches is nothing less than an angelic infiltration of the human race. The “sons of God” are viewed as angels, while the “daughters of men” refer to normal women. The fallen angels are said to have become enamored with women, and in the course of time, cohabitation with them. It is a sensational theory. Two arguments are set forth in support of this view of an angelic infiltration into the human race.

First, an appeal is made to Scripture. If “the sons of God” refer to angels, then the thought arises that angels were cohabiting with women. The Bible does refer to angels as “the sons of God.”

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

Job 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 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Those who find an angelic infiltration of the human race unite the idea of angels, as “the sons of God” with two passages written by Peter.

1 Peter 3:19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; 20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

2 Peter 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;

The story line is that fallen angels, as “the sons of God”, co-habituated with earthly women and produced a hybrid race, but were judged in the Flood. After Jesus was crucified, the Lord went to where these celestial beings were being held, and made a victorious proclamation to them that the plan of their leader, the Devil, did not succeed in corrupting the seed of the woman, thereby frustrating the coming of the humanity of the Messiah to die at Calvary.

The final Biblical passage appealed to in order to support the idea of an angelic infiltration into the human race, is found in the New Testament book of 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” (Jude 6, 7).

Turning from Scripture, the advocates of an angelic infiltration of the human race, argue for the testimony of time to support their theory. It is argued that the view of an angelic infiltration has the weight of great antiquity, being written about by Josephus in his history of the Jewish people.

In addition to Josephus, some of the early New Testament church fathers embraced this view, such as Justin, Athenagorus, Clemens of Alexandrius, Tertullian, and Lactantus.

In arguing against the idea of angels cohabitating with women, the following points can be made.

First, if the view is old, so is the opposition to it. The idea of men, half human and half god, was strenuously opposed by other early New Testament church fathers, such as Chrysostom, Augustine, and others. Centuries passed, until in the 1800’s it was revived in Dispensational Theology.

Second, in the New Testament passages written by Peter, there is no need to find a reference to angels. It can be argued that the apostle only had in view erring, sinful men.

Third, there is the physical impossibility of sexual intercourse according to Jesus. Angels neither marry, nor are they given in marriage (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25; Luke 20:36).

Fourth, had such an unholy union been attempted, it seems highly unlikely that God would have allowed such perversion to continue for 120 years.

Finally, no judgment was passed upon angels in Genesis 6, as was passed in Genesis 3 upon the serpent, which embodied an angel.

There is another interpretation of Genesis 6:2 which seems to be the most consistent with the context, and presents the least problems. The “sons of God” are merely the godly Sethites. The daughters of men, are the women of Canaanite descent. What is in view is a class of people, called “the sons of God”, who left their own proper situation for the lusts of the flesh. Arguments for this position include the following.

First, Genesis 6:1 should be connected with Genesis 4:26, and all of chapter 5, as a parenthesis. “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” (Gen. 4:26). In Genesis 5, the righteous genealogy of Seth is given. In Genesis 6, it is recorded they intermarried with the wrong women.

Second, normal marriage relations are in view. When a man wanted to marry, he “took” a woman.

Genesis 34:9 And make ye marriages with us, and give your daughters unto us, and take our daughters unto you. 1 Samuel 25:43 David also took Ahinoam of Jezreel; and they were also both of them his wives.

 

Third, the basis for the marriage was not spiritual, but physical attraction. The daughters of men were “fair.” Female beauty has always held a powerful sway over the minds of men in their choice of a wife. There is nothing wrong with desiring beauty, as long as it is not exclusively physical. Untold countless men have been attracted to a woman because of her physical beauty, only to discover too late that her heart was rotten to the core. Matthew Henry notes, “ …the Sethites seem, in their admiration of the external charms to have paid no regard to the will of God respecting religious principles and character.”

Besides the sin of mixed marriages, another sin is in view here, and that is the sin of polygamy. The text says that, “they took them wives of all which they chose.” More than just a freedom of choice is suggested. There was a debauchery of morality. Jesus commented on this. “For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark” (Matt. 24:38).

So grieved was God with the sins of all humanity, He determined to judge the earth with the most severe judgment possible, total annihilation. However, before the judgment of God fell, the principle of God’s grace would be exercised. One hundred and twenty years would be given for repentance. During that period the gospel would be preached. People would be given a chance to repent. For one hundred and twenty years the Holy Spirit of God would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come.

Now, the words of Genesis 6:3 must not be understood as God’s will being frustrated by a rebellious people.

The idea is not that God wants to save man, but man will not let him, no matter how much God strives, or pleads with man. Such a concept of limited sovereignty is unworthy of Almighty God. Numerous passages record that the Lord decrees, and what He decrees comes to pass. Neither Satan, nor man, shall frustrate the Lord when He desires to accomplish His will.

In Genesis 6:3 the will of God is plainly declared. In 120 years mankind was to be destroyed. There would be no turning back. Mankind was doomed to death the day God spoke. It was only a matter of time, and God set the time.

Before physical judgment, God pronounced His charge of guilt against the people. He wanted them to know of His judicial judgment, and so He spoke by the external ministry of His servants. In this sense, His Holy Spirit strove with mankind over sin.

In Genesis 6: 4-5 the basis for Divine judgment is expanded. Not only have the godly become fleshly, through mixed marriages, and polygamous, but violence and cruelty prevailed “for there were giants in the earth in those days.”

The word for giants is “nephilim”, and has the fundamental idea of something huge, something of an extraordinary size. Archaeology has revealed that there were people who lived, and grew to be nine feet tall. Goliath was 9’ 6” tall (1 Sam. 17:4).

The same were “mighty men”, a term descriptive of any superiority, physical or mental. It is not hard to picture men using their physical, brute strength to attack, and dominate others, or their cunning intellect to rule.

These things still happen today. The end result was a world in which “every imaginations of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” It is possible to have a mind saturated with evil. In the morning the soul awakens to new ideas of greed and graft, and at night, falls asleep with perverted passions. External stimuli enhances evil imaginations, and corrupt conversation adds to the moral filth. From this narrative come several practical lessons.

First, even the godly are prone to fleshly sins.

Second, instead of transforming evil, good people are more likely to be transformed by evil.

Third, divine judgment is always certain.

Fourth, the condition of the heart needs to be checked.

Fifth, sin grieves the Lord.

Sixth, if men will not fear God, and will hurt others without cause, they will one day know divine justice.

Seventh, there needs to be a place where evil is afraid to appear. When fear fell on the early church it was a better place. When fear fell on the world of  old, earth became a better place.

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