Sons of God and Daughters of Men in Genesis 6

Sons of God and Daughters of Men in Genesis 6
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 3:43pm

Sons of God and Daughters of Men in Genesis 6

I HAVE RECEIVED this inquiry: “A member of my church has grabbed onto some strange teaching that all centers on the interpretation of Genesis 6, that the ‘sons of God’ are fallen angels and that the giants in the land are half man, half demonic beings basically, and that the ‘seed of Satan’ still exists today. He weaves this together with lots of Scriptures that include in the end a certain view of biblical prophecy. Can you help?”

MY REPLY: Recommended resources are Merrill Unger, “Biblical Demonology,” pp. 45-52 in the edition I have; and C. Fred Dickason, “Angels: Elect and Evil,” pp. 157ff., 222-225 in my edition. I can’t shed any light on the real identity of the nephilim, but I can say with confidence that they are NOT the offspring of angels (alleged to be the “sons of God” in Gen. 6:2, 4), and human women. In the OT this distinction between sons and daughters is sometimes used to refer to the good guys vs. the bad guys (Exod. 34:16; Num. 25:1). Thus many believe that in Gen. 6:2 the writer is saying that the godly descendants of Seth (Gen. 4:25) began to intermarry with the ungodly descendants of Cain. Keil & Delitzsch, in their commentary on this verse, say, “This description applies to the whole human race, and presupposes the intercourse of marriage of the Cainites with the Sethites” (“The Penteteuch,” I:127).

The idea that the “sons of God” are angelic is an old view and was found among the Jews around the time of the NT. A Jewish apocryphal writing called “The Book of Enoch” (some parts as early as the second century b.c.) says, “Wicked spirits came out of the body of them (i.e., of the women), for they were generated out of human beings, and from the holy watchers (angels) flows the beginning of their creation and their primal foundation. The spirits of heaven—in the heaven is their dwelling, and the spirits begotten upon earth—in the earth shall be their dwelling. And the spirits of the giants will devour, oppress, destroy, assault, do battle, and cast upon the earth and cause convulsions” (Merrill Unger’s version of Enoch, “Biblical Demonology,” 46).

I believe this view (that the “sons of God” are angelic and that they impregnated human women with continuing results) cannot be true. First, it is metaphysically impossible for angels to impregnate human women. [We should note that angels do not sexually reproduce among themselves: Matt. 22:30.] The main reason for this is that angels (fallen or unfallen) are composed of non-material spirit, and human women (for reproductive purposes) are composed of material flesh. For a woman to become pregnant, male sperm is necessary. Under no circumstances can angelic beings somehow turn into material stuff or be transformed into a real material body that can produce material sperm. Nor can angelic beings simply create some kind of sperm ex nihilo; creation ex nihilo is something only God can perform. Angels can perform miracles; thus one might say these “sons of God” miraculously caused pregnancies without male sperm (as in Mary’s virgin conception). But the product would be wholly human, not a hybrid or combination of angel and human.

Second consideration: even if such unnatural beings were conceived and born (which I deny), the flood would have destroyed them all, so that none would be surviving today. Indeed, the whole purpose of the flood was to destroy the product of the marriages between “sons of God” and “daughters of men,” whatever this product was. To say that such a “seed of Satan” still exists today would be to say that God’s purpose for the flood failed. That is an attack on God himself.

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