PMW 2018-036 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In my last article, I presented part 1 of a study on the “sons of God” in Genesis 6. This is an intriguing and much debated portion of Scripture. In the previous article I briefly presented and critiqued the angel view regarding the “sons of God” there. In this article I will present the view that I believe to be the proper one.
The backdrop for Genesis 6
The proper interpretation sees in this episode the inter-marrying of the godly line of Seth with unbelievers, particularly represented by the depraved line of Cain. This fits perfectly with the contextual flow of Genesis to this point. Genesis is structured by toledoths (“genealogies”) showing its interest in genealogical progress (Gen. 2:4; 5:1; 6:9; 10:1, 32; etc.). In fact, the two genealogies surrounding Gen. 6 are found in Gen. 5 and Gen. 10–11. They are specifically designed to link Adam to Noah, then Noah to Abram, whose genealogical offspring will dominate Genesis from ch. 12 to 50.
The Cainite line begins with Cain whom God rejects due to his sinful attitude (Gen. 4:5). He murders his brother (Gen. 4:8), lies to God (Gen. 4:9), then is “cursed from the ground” (Gen. 4:11), and finally “went out from the presence of the LORD” (Gen. 4:16). This line is traced to and concludes with Lamech who boasts of murdering a man (Gen. 4:23–24).
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After introducing Cain’s evil line the context quickly shifts to Seth’s line, which is when “men begin to call upon the name of the LORD” (Gen. 4:25–26). Seth’s godly line (Gen. 5:3ff) not only flows from worshipful men (Gen. 4:25) but includes long-lived men (cp. Gen. 5:5, 8, 11), whereas the ages of Cain’s descendants are not mentioned. Among these godly men we find not only Seth and Enosh, who publicly worship God (Gen. 5:6–9), but also Enoch who “walked with God” and was taken into heaven (Gen. 5:22, 24) and Noah (Gen. 5:29) who “found favor in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen. 6:8).
Genesis is tracing the redemptive line that leads to Abram (Gen. 11:2) from whom will come the Savior of the world Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:1; Acts 3:20–26; Gal. 3:16; Heb. 2:14–16; cp. John 8:56). The Genesis narrative shows the difficulties facing the seed-line, with Abraham (Gen. 17:17–19; 21:5), Isaac (Gen. 24:1–4; 25:12), and Jacob (Gen. 28:1–2; 29:21–25; 30:1) having trouble continuing it.
The interpretation of Genesis 6
Now in Gen. 6 the godly line of Seth (“the sons of God”) begins intermarrying with the godless Cainites. Those women are simply deemed “daughters of men” without any spiritual or ethical traits mentioned. The “sons of God” here speaks of God’s people, as does the concept in Deut. 14:1; 32:5; Psa. 73:15; and Hos. 1:10 (the word “sons” [ben] occur in the Hebrew of these verses).
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Previously in Seth’s line we see “sons and daughters” appearing (Gen. 5:4, 17, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 26). But just as Eve was tempted to take the forbidden fruit in Eden partly because it “was a delight to the eyes” (Gen. 3:6), so here the Sethites begin choosing women simply because they were “beautiful.” They took “whomever they chose” on this external basis (Gen. 6:2). The redemptive line is being corrupted; its final issue hangs in the balance. Ultimately only Noah and his family will remain in the godly seed line, leading God to destroy the world (Gen. 6:5–8, 13–18; 9:1; cp. Heb. 11:7; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5).
In Scripture God wants his people to avoid marrying outside the faith community (Gen. 27:46; 28:1ff; Exo. 34:16; Deut. 7:3–6; Josh. 23:12; 2 Cor. 6:14). This is so serious an obligation that it leads Ezra to command the men of Israel to divorce their non-Jewish wives when they return from exile to the land (Ezra 9:2; 10:3, 10–19).
Tagged: days of Noah, seed-line of Seth, sons of God
Dr. Gentry – Your books and your articles are both a huge blessing in my life. I have spent the last 6 months revisiting my beliefs on end times/millennialism. By default, like many evangelical Christians, I had fallen into the futurist/dispensational camp. After 6 months study of scripture, supplemented by the works of Hank Hanegraaff, Steve Gregg, Jay Adams, and you, my belief (now somewhat educated) in postmillenialism is now securely rooted. I no longer have to exercise all the workarounds necessary to support a dispensational view. I cannot thank you enough for your contribution to this process. God bless you.
Would you consider responding to Kline’s alternate view that “the sons of God” is claimed as a blasphemous name by the line of Cain, boasting like Lamech, who took “daughters of man” as many as they chose (polygamy, like Lamech), which thus leaves Noah’s family as the sole remnant of the line of Seth, not given to polygamy/violent kingship? He details this in the middle section of Kingdom Prologue.
I will see if I can get to it. I have two big projects going on simultaneously. But if Kline said it, it is probably unique to him in all of world history.
Interesting argument. However, how does godly (Seth) men marrying ungodly (Cain) men result in Nephlim? What makes the children of godly men and ungodly women anything special (ie “men of renown” more than other children?).
For me, this is a no-brainer, based on context of previous chapters, plus the silliness of the popular alternative.
I concur with the words of Ed Thompson, written above. Blessings.
The Hebrew for “nephilim” means “fallen ones.” It is translated as “To fall, cast down, dash down, fail, lay down” elsewhere. The children are not giants, but they have become famed rulers and politically powerful men.
Could not agree more with Macauley and Thomson. Thanks Dr. Gentry! ct
Thanks for the commentary. It is good to see some very thought-out argument 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.
Thanks for reading, and for your kind comments, and your question. Brian Godawa is one of my best friends. He and I happen to disagree on this subject. Yet we still remain best friends! Ha.
I can do no better in answering your question than point you to Keil and Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Bible, vol. 1: “The Pentateuch.” Click on this link and read their scholarly analysis of the matter. I think you will find it helpful:
I also recommend reading the following Reformed commentaries (as well as John Calvin and Martin Luther):
Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, pages 59ff.
G. C. Aalders, Genesis (Bible Student’s Commentary), 1:153ff.
John D. Currid, Genesis (EP Study Commentary), 1:176ff.
John Murray, Principles of Conduct, pp. 243-49.
See also: Kenneth A. Matthews, Genesis 1:1-11:26 (NAC), pp. 322ff.
Keep studying! And thanks again for reading my materials.