Sons of God; Nephilim; Demonic Attack; Gen. 6:1-3
We now come to one of the more interesting episodes in Genesis. Genesis chapter six is the prelude to the flood episode in the Scriptures. This is the introduction to the flood, why there was a need for such a catastrophic world-wide judgment, and verses 1-8 is actually the conclusion of the third division of Genesis. Chapter five merely focuses on the overall details of what took place during this time genealogically from one generation to the next. Chapter six comes in and describes what is happening spiritually during this same period. It begins with an unusual episode which has generated a tremendous amount of controversy as to how to interpret it.
Verse 1, "And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them." This is the first part of the verse which extends down into v.2, but it should be correctly translated "Now it came about when mankind began to multiply on the face of the land." The word translated "men" is actually the singular Hebrew noun adam. It is distinguished from Adam's name because when you look at the last word in this verse this is a third person plural ending on a Hebrew verb, "born to them." Obviously the "them" goes back to a noun which could only be the word adam, and therefore it is a collective noun, singular in form but it refers to a large number. The word for land is the Hebrew word adamah, it is different from eretz which is the word for earth and often translated land when it applies to the promised land, to the land of Israel. Then we have, "and daughters were born unto them." So the emphasis here is not on sons but on daughters. Just a note of observation that we will need to keep in our minds as we go through this chapter, if we go back and examine the genealogy of Cain there is no mention of daughters. It doesn't mean he didn't have any, it is just that the author doesn't mention them, they are not of significance. But in chapter five where we get into the genealogy of Seth there are nine mentions of "sons and daughters." That is just a minor point but it is one of emphasis that will have a significant implication as we get into an interpretation of this passage.
Verse 2, "That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose." This introduces us to the second great attack on the human race by demonic forces. The first was Satan's attack in the garden. The third assault comes during the Tribulation when there will be three different attacks on the human race. There will be an attack in Revelation 9 under the command of a demon called Abaddon [Hebrew] or Apollyon [Greek] meaning destroyer or terminator. Then there will be a demon assault army that attacks from under the Euphrates river. Then there will be a third demon army that attacks in Revelation 12:7-17.
But this phrase "sons of God" is one that has generated a tremendous amount of debate and discussion in terms of just exactly what this word means. The word itself in the Hebrew is the phrase beni-ha-Elohim. The Hebrew word beni is the word for "son." Here it is in the plural but it is also in the construct form, i.e. the noun is placed in construct and that means it is essentially a genitival relationship. The ha is a definite article preceding Elohim, the generic word for God. So it is "the sons of the God" but actually you don't translate the definite article in this particular case, so it is simply "the sons of God." The sons of God look upon the daughters of men and see that they are beautiful and they take wives for themselves. Who are these sons of God?
There are three interpretations that are offered for understanding this episode. The first looks at the terms "sons of God" and "daughters of men" and relates that to two classifications of human beings. The sons of God in this view stands for either the descendants in the Seth line or believers in general, and then they take "the daughters of men" to relate to descendants in the Cain line. So we can summarize it by saying this is the apostate view. It views the sons of God as believers and daughters of men as those who are unregenerate. The reason this view has some support is because of a misunderstanding of Hebrew. Proponents of this view will go to such phrases as "Israel, my son, my firstborn" in Exodus 4:22, and seek support from the phrase "sons of Yahweh" in Deuteronomy 14:1, and the phrase "children of God" in Deuteronomy 32:5, and many other phrases which focus on the idea of the Jews being sons of God. They would argue that we should not use ben-ha-Elohim here as a technical term for angels, and that there are many places where human beings are referred to as sons of God or sons of Yahweh and so this does not necessitate an angelic interpretation. . . .
[Some missing from the recording] In cases cited in Exodus and the Psalms the judge is a representative of God, he is viewed as a righteous judge representing God, but in Genesis 6 the sons of God are made by these same folks to represent the line of Cain, the reprobate rulers, rather than righteous rulers. So in order to get around this they try to make this a genitive of description, the sons of God being a class of people, but then they also want to use Elohim in a positive sense referring to God. So they want to do two different things with it at the same time, and that violate basic rules of hermeneutics.
There is a new view that is coming out that tries to merge this view with the angel interpretation. In other words, what they try to say is that it is talking about these as despotic rulers but they were demon possessed.
There are two basic problems that destroy the interpretations of the above. Neither of these positions addresses these two questions: So what if the believers and the unbelievers are intermarrying, how would that destroy the human race? How would that necessitate God destroying the entire human race? We live in a time today when there are all kinds of believers marrying unbelievers. Same thing with the problem of the despotic rulers. Why would it be necessary to wipe out all the human people in the human race if that is the problem. Then the other problem that neither one of these views addresses is the evidence that comes from the New Testament epistles of Peter and Jude. There is New Testament commentary.
The third view is the view that the term "sons of God" is a technical term for angels, and in this case fallen angels or demons who seduce these young women and married them and produced a genetically defiled offspring. The question that comes up is: How in the world can angels marry? What do you do with Matthew 22:30? "For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." So the emphasis is that there is no marriage among the angels in heaven, according to Jesus. "They took wives for themselves" in Genesis 6 is clear Hebrew terminology for marriage; you can't say that it is rape or simply seduction. It is clear from the language that there was an intermarriage going on between these sons of God and the daughters of men.
We have the term beni-ha-Elohim, or it is sometimes simply beni-Elohim, the definite article is left off in Job 38:7, and we find it in passages such as Job 1:6, "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them." Here Satan is clearly seen as one of the sons of God. So the term "sons of God" clearly includes both the elect and fallen angels. Notice that the sons of God come together and there is some sort of angelic convocation, regular assembly or council that includes all of the angels, even the fallen angels, and that this continued through the Old Testament period. Then again in Job 2:1, "Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD." Then the third reference in Job, Job 38:7 which is talking about creation, "When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" This term, "sons of God," then, includes all of the angels, and at the time of the creation and the laying of the foundations of the earth all the sons of God were united together. In Psalm 89:7, "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him." What we see in Scripture is that there is clear evidence of an angelic council that includes both the fallen angels as well as the elect angels.
It is the New Testament that gives clarification to this episode. Jude 6, 7, "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." This sheds light on Genesis 6.
Some observations: The phrase "who did not keep their own domain." The word "domain" translates the Greek word ARCHE [a)rxh] which can mean "first" or "first principles" but it also means a domain or a sphere of influence or power. It can mean first in order or first in initial position in time. So it could be translated, "angels who did not keep their first position," or, "angels who did not keep their own sphere of influence [or, power]," because of the verb. They abandoned something: "their proper abode." The word translated "proper abode" is the Greek word OIKETERION [oi)khthrion] which means house or habitation, or dwelling place. So these are angels who did not keep their first position or their proper domain, their proper sphere of influence or power, but they abandoned their proper habitation, their correct habitation.
In verse 7 the word translated "darkness" is the Greek ZOPHOS [zofoj] which is not simply a place where there is darkness (that would be SKOTOS [skotoj]), this is a place that is associated with despair, depression, gloom, and misery. It is a deep, miserable, gloomy darkness where these angels are imprisoned. There is a comparison in the verse between the angels who did not keep there domain and Sodom and Gomorrah. The NASB translates, " …in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality…" The problem with that phraseology in the English is that we lose sight of who the "who" the "they" the "these" refer to. This is where a knowledge of the original language clarifies because the pronouns are going to be either feminine, masculine, or neuter, and which they are is going to indicate which nouns they refer to. So we will break it down. "Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them." That is a feminine plural and refers to the cities; "…since they [feminine]," one again referring to the cities. The "they" here isn't a separate pronoun, it is the third person plural ending on the noun "exhibited" that comes later on in the sentence; "…since they in the same way as these"—here is the comparison. In the same way as who? The cities? Or in the same way as the angels? The "these" here refers to the angels; it is a masculine plural pronoun. That means it can't refer to the cities because that would entail a feminine plural pronoun. The comparison is that they, the cities, in the same way as the angels, indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh. So what we see here is a comparison between Sodom and Gomorrah and it is saying that they imitated a sin that occurred previously. If it doesn't refer to that event then we have no idea what it would refer to.
Peter writes (2 Peter 2:4), "…For if God spared not the angels that sinned." What does he means, "when they sinned"? Is he talking about the original sin? If he is then all the fallen angels would be in prison, and there would be no demonic assaults. So he can't be speaking of the original fall of the angels: "…but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment." The place of judgment is not hell, which is what you have in the English. Actually, it is Tartarus which is a different compartment of Hades. In Greek mythology this was the place where the ancient demigods were punished. So in extra-biblical literature such as the book of Enoch, Tartarus is always said to be the place of judgment for fallen angels. It is a temporary place of judgment for these angels from Genesis 6 until their final trial comes. The are committed to pits of darkness. This is the same idea of darkness that is in Jude 6. The sin is connected in verse 5 to the time of Noah, "And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly." So vv.4, 5 connects the timing of this angelic sin to the time of the flood during Noah's life.
The third passage is in 1 Peter 3:18-20, "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: by which also he went and made proclamation unto the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." Here Peter is going to move from the judgment of sin at the cross to show that God always judges sin. That word "judgment" is a key word for understanding the flood. The flood is always associated with judgment and salvation, so it is a picture in the New Testament of salvation. The words "were disobedient" can't refer to the original angelic fall, it has to refer to another disobedience: "when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water"—NASB. When we put these three New Testament passages together with the Old Testament episode in Genesis 6 the only conclusion that we can come to is that the sons of God in Genesis 6:3 is a technical term describing fallen angels who in some way were able to take on a human body and were able to procreate with women that they had taken as wives.
The result of that union is described in verse 4 as Nephilim. This offspring would have been genetically distorted offspring, it would not have been pure humanity. This is the historical reality behind all those odd stories that we run into in various pagan mythologies.