THE SONS OF GOD IN GENESIS 6 (1)

PMW 2018-035 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

The episode occurring in Gen. 6:1–4 is quite difficult to interpret and has been the subject of much debate. Though there are several interpretations of this passage, historically two views have dominated the debate: (1) the angelic offspring view and (2) the human seed-line view.

Though the seed-line view is the traditional Christian understanding, perhaps the oldest view in extra-biblical antiquity is the angel-human interpretation. It is found as far back as 200 B.C. in the non-biblical book of 1 Enoch (6:11–7:6) as well as in the first-century book by Josephus called Antiquities (1:3:1). This view holds that fallen angels came down to earth and engaged in sexual relations with women who then bore giants as their offspring.

The seed-line view holds that the godly line of Seth (Gen. 4:25) that has been the focus of Genesis since Gen. 5:3 is beginning to intermarry with unbelieving women (“whomever they chose”) without reference to their faith. These women would be largely represented by the Cainite line (Gen. 4:17ff). This appears to be the proper interpretation due to its fitting the context and avoiding bizarre results.


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As It Is Written: The Genesis Account Literal or Literary?
Book by Ken Gentry

Presents the exegetical evidence for Six-day Creation and against the Framework Hypothesis.

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The angel view presented

The angel interpretation is based on the following main lines of evidence:

(1) The “sons of God” is a reference to angels, as we can see in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7. Thus, this designation can easily apply to angels.

(2) The word nephilim (Gen. 6:4) signifies giants, which may be the case in Num. 13:33. This term, though debated, can fit this presentation in Genesis 6.

(3) Passages such as 1 Pet. 3:19–20; 2 Pet. 2:4; and Jude 6–7 support this interpretation. Advocates of the angel-view of the “sons of God,” find what they believe to be confirmation of their view in these three NT passages.

Thus, there is apparent biblical warrant for this interpretation. Nevertheless, the evidence for this angelic interpretation is unpersuasive for the following reasons.

The angel view evaluated

(1) The concept “sons of God” can certainly mean angels, but it can also refer to God’s people (Exo. 13:15; Jer. 3:19; Gal. 3:26; see further discussion below). Besides, Genesis has not mentioned angels to this point, so that their sudden appearance would be surprising. But in the final analysis, the beings in Gen. 6 could not be fallen angels and associates of Satan, for they would not be called “sons of God.”


consider-liliesConsider the Lilies
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See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


(2) The word “Nephilim”(a rare term occurring only three times in Scripture) literally means “fallen ones” and can therefore apply to notorious sinners. Its verbal form (“fall”) occurs scores of times suggesting its ethical meaning.

(3) The New Testament passages do not mention any cohabitation of angels with women, and certainly not their marrying them. 1 Pet. 3:19 does not mention angels, but is referring to the evil men in Noah’s day. The other two New Testament passages refer back to the original fall of angels, not something that occurs later in Gen. 6.

(4) The fact of giants being mentioned in the context of the Nephilim does not help the argument. We see other giants in the Bible, such as the Emim (Deut. 2:10–11), the Zamzummim (Deut. 2:20–21), king Og of Bashan (Deut. 3:11), Goliath (1 Sam. 17:4–7), and more, yet no one claims that they were the offspring of angels. And neither are they called Nephilim.

The following additional problems arise for the angelic view:

(1) Jesus teaches that angels do not marry (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25), though Gen. 6:2 speaks of these “sons of God” taking wives (cp. Gen. 4:19; 11:29; 12:19; 31:50). Gen. 6 is not speaking of fornication, but of settled marriage. Only in this one difficult passage in Scripture do we have anything suggesting angels marrying humans.

(2) Angels are a different order of being in that they are spiritual beings (Heb. 1:14). When they assumed visible, tangible form they would do so only for a time and surely would not possess human DNA allowing for procreation while dwelling on the earth.

(3) In Gen. 6 God’s judgment is directed against men, not the alleged angels (Gen. 6:3, 5–6, 13).

Thus, it appears that the angel-food does not have a sure footing in Scripture. But what about the human seed-line view? I will deal with that in my next article.


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18 thoughts on “THE SONS OF GOD IN GENESIS 6 (1)

  1. David Hillary May 1, 2018 at 5:45 am

    How do you explain the apparent angelic sexual temptation posed by women without proper head covering in 1 Cor. 11:10?

  2. Jason May 1, 2018 at 7:26 am

    Good post! Also, the fallen angels with women argument destroys the creation declaration for all things to bring for after their kind. Arguing for this view actually would give evolution a leg to stand on in scripture, i.e., that 2 different kinds can bring forth a 3rd kind.

  3. ChristianCiv May 1, 2018 at 11:32 am

    There is a third view – that the “sons of God” are rulers, as in Exodus 22:8 and Psalm 82. See http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2011/02/04/Who-Were-the-Sons-of-God-in-Genesis-6.aspx.

  4. mollygriffith2014 May 2, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Dr. Michael S. Heiser has written extensively on the Divine Council in Psalm 82 and the sin of the Watchers.

    When Jesus said that angels do not marry, he refers specifically to “angels in heaven”.

    What did God mean in Genesis 3:15 when he talks about enmity between Eve’s and Satan’s offspring? Eve’s offspring means literal children because Christ is the ultimate seed. The same word – offspring – is used of Satan.

    If the fallen ones could pollute the human bloodline, the Messiah could not save the world.

  5. Kenneth Gentry May 4, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    But: (1) at creation God established kind begetting kind and (2) angels do not reproduce.

  6. Kenneth Gentry May 4, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    This is one of the NT’s most difficult passages, creating numerous interpretive problems. However, I don’t see the context discussing sexual issues. It is dealing with authority issues. I lean towards Augustine’s view that the reference to angels has to do with the angels involved in heavenly worship. The woman in worship must maintain her submission to her male head (1 Cor. 11:3) in order for proper worship to be engaged without offense to the angels.

  7. Robert J. Macauley May 9, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Context is everything. Preceding chapters explain all that is necessary. So much silliness in the exegetical meanderings of minds. Most of it heard from the pulpits. Pastor Gentry’s mind somehow escaped much of what is obvious nonsense – especially in Revelation. Breath of fresh air.

  8. Steve May 20, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    On your exegesis that the Bible teaches that Jesus teaches that angels do not marry (Matt. 22:30; Mark 12:25) you forgot the Luke passage.

    Luke 20:34 (ESV) And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons[g] of the resurrection.

    The Luke passage adds more information that Matthew and Mark do not have. Jesus says that Angels do not die and that is how those that are “worthy to attain to that age” are equal to the Angels.

    I think Jesus is defining the word Marriage in this verse as an Earthly union between a man and a woman that ends when one of them dies.

    Answering the Sadducees and also Mormons today.

  9. Kenneth Gentry May 22, 2018 at 11:56 am

    I believe you are mistaken in two ways:

    First, actually the Luke passage offers less information, being much shorter than Matthew and Mark. Luke lacks the rebuke about being wrong, not understanding Scripture, and not understanding God’s power (Matt. 22:29). Luke also lacks the rebuke introducing Jesus’ statement regarding God as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Luke 20:38 contra Matt. 22:31–32).

    Second, the point of the passage is to affirm the resurrection. The line of evidence Jesus draws out in doing this is to point out that after the resurrection, human relationships change. In fact, they change fundamentally in that the creation ordinance of marriage no longer prevails. This is the key point in the challenge by the Sadducees in their attempt to discredit Jesus and his teaching on the resurrection (Luke 20:27–33; Matt. 22:23–28). Marriage is a creation ordinance, governing life in history; it is not an eternal reality governing man in eternity or angels in the heavenly realm.

    This reality results from the fact that it is no longer necessary for filling the earth by producing offspring (Gen. 1:28). And this is because people, who will then exist in great numbers, no longer suffer death in the resurrection state (Luke 20:36). Since the Fall of man, reproduction has been necessary to insure that human life continues on earth, otherwise the human race would have perished when Adam and Eve died. The levirate marriage legislation (to which the Sadducees refer, e.g., Deut. 25:5), is necessary only in the sphere in which death prevails. This legislation insured the continuance of the family and one’s name.

    Because of the resurrection, however, believers are like the angels in this respect: since resurrected believers no longer die, they are like the angels who do not die and have no need to propagate. Angels have never reproduced in order to insure their ongoing existence. Angels were originally created en masse (Psa. 148:2, 5), whereas man was created as an individual from whom God built another individual to form a couple (Gen. 2:21–24). And this original couple began to reproduce to populate the earth. They reproduced after the Fall (Gen. 3–4), making marriage not only a blessing for companionship but also a necessity for continuing the human race.

    Consequently, both the nuances of Matthew and of Luke are true simultaneously with respect to angelic likeness: As per Luke, we will be like the angels in not dying. As per Matthew’s longer argument, we will also be like the angels in not engaging marriage. Thus, since marriage no longer exists in the resurrection order, the dilemma posed by the Sadducees no longer holds.

  10. Steve May 22, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks for your response, but we will have to agree to disagree. Adam and Eve’s union was before the fall and also the command to fill the earth was before the fall. If Adam and Eve had not fallen, I believe they would have had an eternal union.
    This was God’s original design. He is the creator, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He didn’t make a mistake at the beginning. As a matter of fact He said it was very good. We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
    I would find it very hard to discard so easily God’s original design with 1 account 2 verses (Matt. and Mark) when another verse sheds more light on it (Luke).

    Again, I think Jesus is defining the word Marriage in this verse as an Earthly union between a man and a woman that ends when one of them dies.
    Answering the Sadducees and also Mormons today.

    The Sadducees asked whose wife would she be. If my exegesis is correct Jesus is saying that all those who go to heaven go single. That marriage ends at death. The word “marriage” does not apply in heaven because the redeemed in heaven don’t die. They are like the Angels who don’t die.

    Thanks Again.

  11. Kenneth Gentry May 22, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    It is true that marriage is a pre-fall creation ordinance. But as I stated in my reply: “Marriage is a creation ordinance, governing life in history; it is not an eternal reality governing man in eternity or angels in the heavenly realm.”

    You are correct that God “didn’t make a mistake at the beginning.” However, you are overlooking something. God ordained man’s Fall into sin, even determining Christ’s death (1 Pet. 1:20) and choosing his elect in Christ from before the world began (Matt. 25:34; Eph. 1:4). In light of this, he well knew — even planned — for marriage to spread the human race in the fallen world.

    We really do not know exactly what would have prevailed had Adam not fallen. God has not chosen to reveal that to us: “the secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us” (Deut 29:29). But it is evident that he planned redemption from before the foundation of the world, which required his planning the Fall. As Jonathan Edwards argued long ago (“The End for Which God Created the World”): the world was created ultimately to display God’s glory. And that glory shines most brightly in redemption. A redemption from sin and the Fall.

    But you are correct: We will have to agree to disagree! And I can live with that. At least for a few more years, since I will not live forever in my current estate.

  12. Steve Batty May 22, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks for engaging me. I am exploring post millennialism for the first time and am enjoying your blog and your sense of humor.

    God bless you brother! By His grace!

  13. Kenneth Gentry May 22, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    Keep thinking and studying!

  14. Aaron Viland May 29, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    What do you make of the fact that the phrasing of Jude and 2 Peter is so similar to 1 Enoch?

    “Go, Raphael, and bind Asael hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness… And cover him with darkness, and let him dwell there for an exceedingly long time. Cover up his face, and let him not see the light. And on the day of the great judgment, he will be led away to the burning conflagration” (1 Enoch 10:4, 5-6).

    I do not see how one could deny the reference to this passage in 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6-7. While the passages do not directly state that the sons of God were fallen angels who cohabited with human women, their reference to this passage of the Book of the Watchers implies a belief in such. Additionally, it would not make sense that Peter references an unrecorded judgement on angels, when the rest of his examples refer to historical judgements that are recorded in Genesis. It makes much better sense in the flow of his argument that the mention of a divine transgression is tied to Genesis 6, rather than being a random addition tacked on before two examples from the same book.

    And regarding your claim that angels don’t marry, this argument is based on the immortality of angels. But fallen angels are not immortal. And Jesus only says that angels do not marry. He does not say that they are unable to do so. Since these angels were in rebellion, it does not contradict Jesus’ statement that immortal heavenly angels do not marry.

    Also, what passage says that angels and humans cannot reproduce? I’m unaware of a passage that says this.

    P.S. – Even though I disagree with you on this point, I want to let you know I’m very appreciative of your work! He Shall Have Dominion has helped me see all of life in a far more hopeful (and biblical) light. Just thought I’d let you know!

  15. Kenneth Gentry June 3, 2018 at 6:37 am

    We see very clearly that mankind reproduces. But we have absolutely no biblical reference to the reproduction of angels. Plus God has ordained that life creates after its kind. Men and angels are fundamentally different.

  16. mollygriffith2014 June 5, 2018 at 11:26 am

    Men and “angels” might not be fundamentally different in light of Michael Heiser’s take on the Divine Council passages, especially Psalm 82. “Let us make man in our image” could refer to God and his Divine Council. The Divine Council are the “sons of God” – not angels anyway. Who were the Nephilim and Rephaim, etc.? Why were they giants?

  17. Kenneth Gentry June 5, 2018 at 11:51 am

    They are fundamentally different: angels can appear and disappear at will. The good angels dwell in the spiritual realm of heaven as their normal environment; evil angels can inhabit sinners. Angels are called “spirits.”

    God created man in HIS image, not the image of angels (Gen. 1:27; 9:6).

    Those who are here are called “nephilim,” which in the Hebrew means “fallen ones.” Hence, the translation by the NIV, ESV, NCV, NRSV, and others.

  18. C. Maddy June 22, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    (This post was accidentally placed in your other article but intended for this article.)

    Thanks for the commentary. It is good to see some very thought-out arguments for the Sethite viewpoint, and I am quickly becoming a fan of your texts on Revelation (Before Jerusalem Fell and The Beast of Revelation — ironically resulting from a read of Brian Godawa’s fictional books on the New Testament and his non-fiction book titled End Times Prophecy).

    I come to this discussion late in life after reading Heiser’s book The Unseen Realm. I obviously have a little bias on this debate, but the bias is primarily resulting from first impressions and what has been read first by myself.

    So — please elaborate on why the different meanings of “humankind” within such a short span of one another. Between 6:1 and 6:7, “humankind” is used repeatedly and in a form that appears almost opposite of the “sons of God”. For the Sethite argument to prevail, “humankind” must take on different meanings and different groups of people, and presumably must also evolve in the meaning of groups that God addresses.

    6:1 — “humankind” multiplied on the face of the earth and daughters were born to them; per your argument, this must refer to Cain’s lineage (immediately after a description of Seth’s lineage is made in Ch. 5) as opposed to a viewpoint that “humankind” (Ch. 6) is referring to the combined offspring of Cain (Ch. 4) and Seth (Ch. 5);

    6:2 — “sons of God” saw that “daughters of humankind” were beautiful” and they took wives/women (“ishshaw” — not exactly clear as “wives” as the same term is used for “woman” or “women” earlier in Genesis) for themselves; per your argument, “humankind” again refers to Cain’s lineage;

    6:3 — God’s spirit will not remain in “humankind” indefinitely; per your argument, the meaning of “humankind” has now presumably evolved to include both Seth’s and Cain’s lineage;

    6:4 — “sons of God having sexual relations with the “daughters of humankind” who gave birth to their children; per your argument, this definition of “humankind” is reverting back to prior to 6:3 when Seth’s descendants are “sons of God” while “daughters of humankind” are Cain’s descendants;

    6:5 — the Lord saw the “wickedness of humankind”; the use of “humankind” in this verse is now referring to the commingled children of the Seth and Cain lineages presumably and “humankind” can now be used of Seth’s descendants (rather than “sons” or children of Elohim);

    6:6 — the Lord regretted that he made “humankind on the earth”; per your argument, this use of “humankind” is the now the evolved form used to apply to both the Seth and Cain blended lineages;

    6:7 — the Lord said, “I will wipe humankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth ….”; again — a use of “humankind” to refer to the blended lineages.

    The Sethite argument also presumably presumes that either Cain was to take a wife in the form of a sister from Adam and Eve exclusively (and not from Seth) or that God intended for Cain not to procreate when Genesis 4 does not necessarily go this far in spelling out Cain’s punishment.

    Assuming you have not closed your responses, any response is appreciated. Thanks.

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