A Question about the "Sons of God"

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Old Testament


You seem to uphold the prevailing view that the "sons of God" spoken of in Genesis 6:1-4 are angelic beings, and that they cohabited with human women. I believe this is an error. I believe that Jesus clarified this point for us as recorded in Matthew 22:29-30, "Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven."

Also, in the Creation account in Genesis, God said His creations were to "bring forth" "after his kind." It would be contrary to the laws of genetics for a human to crossbreed with another order of beings, such as angels – even if they (angels) were capable of reproducing among themselves.

From the beginning of this planet's history, we see the human family splitting into two lines – those true to God and those who became idolatrous and wicked. I believe that this passage is simply saying that the descendants of Seth (sons of God) mingled with the women descended from Cain, and the resultant offspring were corrupt and idolatrous like the descendants of Cain had become (a testimony to the influence of wrong associations).

It is true that "sons of God" does sometimes seem to refer to angelic beings, as in the beginning of the story of Job. However, there are several scriptures that use the term "son of God" to denote true followers of God. Does this mean these godly people are angelic beings?? I don't believe so!

I believe the words of Jesus concerning the angels are proof enough that this theory is false.


The questioner is referring to the different possibilities given as potential explanations for the phrase "sons of God" as used in Genesis 6:1-4. (See Genesis 6: The Sons of God and the Daughters of Men) As a person of faith, Jesus' words are definitive and no further explanation is needed. The role of scholars, however, is to look at the bigger picture, including the context, meaning, etiology, or other uses of the phrase, etc. They might come to the same conclusion, but it comes after extensive study and investigation.

In this case, the Hebrew words for the "sons of God" are, literally, sons of the gods, b'nai ha Elohim. Though Elohim is plural and may refer to a plurality of gods or lesser gods, the word, as used in the Old Testament, typically refers to Israel's God. The exact phrase is only found five times in the Old Testament—three in the book of Job, the other two here in Genesis. The references in Job (1:6; 2:1; 38:7) clearly refer to divine beings. Several other scriptural references have slight variations in the phrase, and most of these also refer to spiritual beings. (See Ps. 29:1; 82:6; 89:7; Dan 3:25) There are also similar phrases in Ugaritic and other ancient mythological texts, which refer to divine relationships. Additionally, some of the earliest commentators (Enoch, Jude) and many of the Church Fathers understood the text in this way.

Translating the words, however, doesn't solve the contextual issues that arise. For example, no conclusive explanation has been given as to why these angels left heaven, why they might have been interested in human women, or why this led to the flood. An entire backstory has to be created. So, some scholars have speculated that those women were incredibly beautiful—so beautiful, in fact, that the angels were filled with lust and were willing to leave their spiritual abode and come to earth just so they could mate with them. And while Matthew 22:30 states, "At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven," it does not say anything about angels who have left heaven. While this might seem like twisting semantics, a deliberate reader would find them to be separate issues. Yet, the idea of lusty angels is hard to accept.

Perhaps the biggest red flag in this argument revolves around one's sense of justice. As previously pointed out in the commentary on Genesis 6, scholars have not satisfactorily explained, "…why the humans had to be destroyed if the angels were the ones who had 'fallen.' Obviously, those that were divine dominated the humans, had the upper hand, and should have borne the brunt of the punishment. It is not clear why humans and animals had to be wiped out for a transgression committed by divine beings." Nor does any of this make sense in light of the other biblical teachings and encounters involving angels.

Hence, scholars look for other options, including the second and third alternatives mentioned in the earlier commentary on Genesis 6. The third option was that the "sons of God" could refer to Seth's offspring and the "daughters of men" could refer to Cain's offspring. Yet, this is not without its problems. The interpretation requires that Seth's offspring were totally righteous and Cain's were not. In their joining, Cain's evil offspring won out, and the world needed to be destroyed. Nothing is said about the women from Seth's line or the men from Cain's. Nor does this further the explanation about the Nephilim who were a) offspring of the union, b) "giants," c) "heroes of old, men of renown," or d) some combination of the above. Perhaps, the best that can be said is that scholars are still working on this story.

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