Who Were the ‘Sons of God’ in Genesis?

Renewalists believe angels are real and have a ministry today. But who were the “sons of God” mentioned in that ancient book of the Bible?

This post argues, tentatively, that they were not angels. This post is exploratory.

Here’s the evidence, as I see things.

In Gen. 6:2, the “sons of God” saw that the “daughters of humans” were beautiful and married them. Because of the sharp contrast in the phrasing—sons of God v. daughters of humans—many Bible teachers say that these sons were angels. Some of these interpreters even speculate that the angels had male body parts by which to procreate. One TV preacher claimed that their angelic bodies were somehow transformed or reconstituted, so they could breed!

However, Matt. 22:30 says that humans in heaven will not marry or be given in marriage, but will be like the angels, with the natural implication that angels don’t marry or are given in marriage, either.  It is convoluted reasoning to say their bodies were transformed once they hit the earth.

Some interpreters speculate that these sons of God are fallen or disobedient angels in some way. If so, then why are they called by the honorific “sons of God”? That speculation does not fit.

The most likely explanation is that in the biblical worldview these are the sons of Seth, the godly line descending from Adam and Eve’s named son. And the daughters of humans were the ungodly line descending from Cain.

The “sons of God” have a special relationship with God, though this relationship is not clarified beyond just their title. They might have been mighty warriors of sorts, to maintain peace on earth, though they could not hold back all the ungodliness, so the flood was sent in judgment. Maybe it can be surmised that this marital intermixing was a strong factor in God’s judgment through the flood. Human degradation.

Most likely, as noted, the honorific simply signifies Seth’s godly descendants. Note that Luke in his genealogy calls Adam “the son of God” (Luke 3:38). And Adam was no angel!

So what is the moral lesson for later Israelite and Jewish readers? The holy nation of Israel should not marry pagan women, mixing their religions and customs, which was a factor in God’s judgment (Ezr. 10:2; Neh. 13:27; Mal. 2:11).

Conclusion

For these reasons, the sons of God in Genesis were not angels, but mighty men who had a special relationship with God, hence their name “sons of God.” Perhaps they were specially appointed leaders of their days, much like the leaders in later Israel. Most likely, they were the descendants of Seth, the godly line from Adam, who was also called the “son of God” (Luke 3:38).

How does this post help me know God better?

This post is for specialists. It does not affect your salvation and your guarantee of heaven by remaining in Christ. It does reveal, however, that Bible interpreters can have differences and still remain in Christ. You are allowed to come up with your own interpretation or are free to accept the standard one that the sons of God were angels or specially called men. God uses angels to do his will.

Addendum no. 1

It could be objected that if the sons of God were humans, and the flood wiped out all of humanity except seven, then how did they appear in Job? The evidence says that the flood was local. In the world of the author of Genesis, the flood happened in their whole world, but his knowledge of the whole world did not and could not include Australia and North and South Americas. In comparison, Paul said the faith of Romans was being reported around the “whole world” (Rom. 1:8). Paul’s knowledge of the “whole world” was limited. It could not or did not include those other continents. How could it? We should not put a ton of modern geography on Genesis (and other biblical authors) when it can carry only fifty pounds. For the author of Genesis, it was the whole world; for us it was local. The cause of the different perspectives? We now know how big the world was; he did not. Or else how did the kangaroos and slow koalas get on the ark? And there are other reasons for concluding that the flood was local.

See my post 4. Save Our Ship! Rescuing Noah’s Ark from Flood of Science.

And we don’t know when Job was written. It was probably written long after the flood.

Addendum no. 2

Please note. Job 38:4-7 says, God speaking:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
    Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set,
    or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
    and all the angels shouted for joy?

The word angels in v. 7 could be translated as “sons of God.” So this means that the sons of God in Job 1-2 were probably angels. But in Job they did not breed with women, so they are of a different class than the sons of God in Genesis.

Written by James Malcolm

SOURCES

Works Cited at Renewal Theology

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