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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Who Were the Sons of God and the Daughters of Men?

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Don Stewart
The sixth chapter of the book of Genesis records the following:

When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years. The Nephilim were on the earth in those days - and also afterward - when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown (Genesis 6:1-4).

Who were these sons of God who took wives. Who were the daughters of men (literally daughters of man [singular]) whom they married? Who were the Nephilim? Were they the offspring of these sons of God?

We will examine five different answers to this difficult question as to the identity of the sons of God.

1.Fallen Angels And Humans

There are those who believe these sons of God were divine beings or fallen angels who, for some reason, co-habited with humans. Their offspring produced giants who practiced gross sin in the world. This caused God to send the Flood to destroy all of humanity except for Noah and his family. Therefore, with this view we have a material distinction between supernatural beings (the sons of God) and human beings (the daughters of men).

2.Godly Line Of Seth And The Ungodly Line of Cain

Another interpretation identifies the sons of God with the godly line of Seth who intermarriage promiscuously with the ungodly line of Cain and anyone else. These two groups were human beings-the difference between them was theological. One group was righteous while the other was unrighteous. When the righteous line married the unrighteous line, the result was an unrighteous offspring.

3.Ancient Rulers And Commoners

A third interpretation holds the sons of God were sons of great ones who were rulers at that time. The daughters of men were mere commoners. The union between the two caused a race of people who were in rebellion against God-hence the reason for the Flood. This view holds a social difference between the two groups.

4.Humans who were demon-possessed with human women

Another interpretation identifies the sons of God with humans who were possessed by demons. These demon-possessed men married godly women and the result was a race of people in rebellion against God. Their offspring was not half-human, half angelic, yet they were antagonistic to God. Contrary to the angelic view, this position holds that we are dealing entirely with humans, not angels.

5.Men And Women In General

There is a minority view that sees the distinction between the sons of God and the daughters of men as one simply between men and women. Those holding this view do not see Genesis 6:1-4 as a prologue to the Flood but rather as an Epilogue to chapter 5 which talks about the history of ten great men. The sons of God simply refer to men, and the daughters of men refer to women. Men married women as the Bible commanded. Therefore, there is nothing sinister in this account.

All of these positions have their supporters among Bible believers.

Difficult Issue

This section of Genesis has been a matter of diverse interpretation. Allen Ross explains:

The present section of Genesis has been the subject of debate for centuries, most scholars considering it to be one of the most difficult passages to interpret the Pentateuch. At the center of the discussion is the identity of the sons of God and the daughters of men. Most of the early church fathers interpreted the sons of God to be angels, probably because of certain manuscripts of the Septuagint. But this view was met with resistance from rabbinical circles, for their position was more commonly that the sons of God were human judges. In fact, there was a curse pronounced on anyone taking the angel view (Genesis Rabba 26.5). Later, in the medieval period and especially in the Roman church, there was a preference for the interpretation that the sons of God were Cainites, and the daughters of men, Sethites. Now, in the modern period, critical scholarship is more apt to interpret the sons of God as lesser gods in the heavenly pantheon, taking the passage as a remnant of a Canaanite myth (Allen Ross, Creation and Blessing, Baker, 1988, p. 178)

We will look at each of these views and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

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