Sons of God, Daughters of Men
“The craving of demons for a body, evident in the Gospels, offers at least some parallel to this hunger for sexual experience.” -Derek Kidner
In 1947 an Arab boy tending his sheep accidentally discovered an ancient cave near the Dead Sea. In it were found a priceless collection of ancient scrolls which soon became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Qumran Texts. Among these writings was one known as the Genesis Apocryphon. At first it was thought to be the long lost Book of Lamech. Although the scroll consisted of a speech by Lamech and a story about some of the patriarchs from Enoch to Abraham; it was not that book.
According to the Bible, Lamech was the son of Methuselah and the father of Noah. He was the ninth of the ten patriarchs of the antedeluvian world.
It is significant, however, that the Genesis Apocryphon mentions the Nephilim, and makes reference to the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” introduced in Genesis 6. The Apocryphon also elaborates considerably on the succinct statements found in the Bible, and provides valuable insights into the way these ancient stories were interpreted by the ancient Jews.
The copy of the Genesis Apocryphon discovered at Qumran dates back to the 2nd century B.C., but it was obviously based on much older sources. When discovered in 1947, it had been much mutilated from the ravages of time and humidity. The sheets had become so badly stuck together that years passed before the text was deciphered and made known. When scholars finally made public its content, the document confirmed that celestial beings from the skies had landed on planet Earth. More than that, it told how these beings had mated with Earth-women and had begat giants.
Is this story myth or history, fable or fact? Specialized research has revealed that many ancient legends have a basis in fact. But to answer the question, let us consult the most authoritative document known to man–the Bible.
In Genesis 6:1-4 the “sons of God” are captivated by the beauty of the “daughters of men.” They subsequently marry them and produce an offspring of giants known as the Nephilim. Genesis goes on to say that these Nephilim were “mighty men” and “men of renown.”
“Sons of God”? “Daughters of men”? What sort of beings were these? Were they human or did they belong to an alien species from outer space?
There is no problem in identifying the “daughters of men” for this is a familiar method of designating women in the Bible. The problem lies with the “sons of God.” Three major interpretations have been offered to shed light on this cryptic designation.
First, a group within orthodox Judaism theorized that “sons of God” meant “nobles” or “magnates.” Hardly anyone today accepts this view.
Second, some interpret the “sons of God” as fallen angels. These were enticed by the women of Earth and began lusting after them. Many reputable Bible commentators have rejected this theory on psycho-physiological grounds. How can one believe, they ask, that angels from Heaven could engage in sexual relations with women from Earth? Philastrius labeled such an interpretation a down-right heresy.
Third, many famed scholars contend that the “sons of God” are the male descendants of Seth, and that the “daughters of men” are the female descendants of Cain. According to this view, what actually happened in Genesis 6 was an early example of believers marrying unbelievers. The good sons of Seth married the bad daughters of Cain, and the result of these mixed marriages was a mongrel offspring. These later became known for their decadence and corruption; indeed, it reached such a degree that God was forced to intervene and destroy the human race. This comment of Matthew Henry could be taken as representative of those holding this view:
“The sons of Seth (that is the professors of religion) married the daughters of men, that is, those that were profane, and strangers to God and godliness. The posterity of Seth did not keep by themselves, as they ought to have done. They inter- mingled themselves with the excommunicated race of Cain.” (1)
However, in spite of the excellent pedigree of the proponents of this theory, their argument is not convincing. Their interpretation is pure eisegesis–they are guilty of reading into the text what is obviously not there.
Their interpretation fails on other grounds as well. At no time, before the Flood or after, has God destroyed or threatened to destroy the human race for the sin of “mixed marriages.” It is impossible to reconcile this extreme punishment with the mere verbal strictures found elsewhere in the Bible for the same practice. If God is going to be consistent, He should have destroyed the human race many times over!
The contrast made in Genesis 6:2 is not between the descendants of Seth and the descendants of Cain, but between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men.” If by “sons of God” is meant “sons of Seth,” then only the sons of Seth engaged in mixed marriages, and not the daughters. And only the daughters of Cain were involved, and not the sons. And another strange assumption is implied: that only the sons of Seth were godly, and only the daughters of Cain were evil.
The strangeness is compounded when one seeks for evidence that the sons of Seth were godly. We know from Genesis that when the time came for God to destroy the human race, He found only one godly family left among them–that of Noah. Where were all the other supposedly godly sons of Seth? Even Seth’s own son could hardly be called righteous. His name was Enos, meaning “mortal” or “frail.” And he certainly lived up to it! Genesis 4:26 reads, “And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” That statement seems harmless enough, but what does it mean when it says that it was only now that men began to call upon the name of the Lord? Upon whom did Adam call? And Abel? And Seth himself?
Some scholars give us a more literal and exact translation to this verse: “Then men began to call themselves by the name of Jehovah.” Other scholars translate the statement in this manner: “Then men began to call upon their gods (idols) by the name of Jehovah.” If either of these be the correct translation then the evidence for the so-called godly line of Seth is non- existent. The truth of the matter is that Enos and his line, with few noted exceptions, were as ungodly as the other line. The divine record could not be clearer: “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (Genesis 6:12).
In the Old Testament, the designation “sons of God” (bene Elohim) is never used of humans, but always of supernatural beings that are higher than man but lower than God. To fit such a category only one species is known–angels. And the term “sons of God” applies to both good and bad angels. These are the beings of whom Augustine wrote:
“Like the gods they have corporeal immortality, and passions like human beings.” (2)
The designation “sons of God” is used four other times in the Old Testament, each time referring to angels. One example is Daniel 3:25, where king Nebuchadnezzar looks into the fiery furnace and sees four men, “and the form of the fourth is like the son of God.” The translation is different and clearer in our modern versions, “like a son of the gods.” Since Jesus had not yet become the “only begotten son” of God, this “son” would have had to be angelic.
Another example is Job 38:7 which says the sons of God shouted for joy when God laid the foundations of the Earth. Angels are the only entities that fit this designation since man had not been created at that time!
In Job 1:6 and Job 2:1 the “sons of God” came to present themselves before the Lord in Heaven. Among the sons of God is Satan–a further implication that the “sons of God” must have been angels.
Since the designation “sons of God” is consistently used in the Old Testament for angels, it is logical to conclude that the term in Genesis 6:2 also refers to angels.
In the New Testament, born-again believers in Christ are called the children of God or the sons of God (Luke 3:38, John 1:12, Romans 8:14, 1 John 3:1). Dr. Bullinger in the Companion Bible states: “It is only by the divine specific act of creation that any created being can be called ‘a son of God.'” This explains why every born-again believer is a son of God. It explains also why Adam was a son of God. Adam was specifically created by God, “in the likeness of God made He him” (Genesis 5:1). Adam’s descendants, however, were different; they were not made in God’s likeness but in Adam’s. Adam “begat a son in his own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3). Adam was a “son of God,” but Adam’s descendants were “sons of men.”
Lewis Sperry Chafer expresses this in an interesting way when he states:
“In the Old Testament terminology angels are called sons of God while men are called servants of God. In the New Testament this is reversed. Angels are the servants and Christians are the sons of God.” (3)
It is thus clear that the term “sons of God” in the Bible is limited to three categories of beings: angels, Adam and believers. All three are special and specific creations of God. As for the use of the term in Genesis 6, since it cannot possibly refer to Adam nor believers in Christ, we conclude that it has to refer to the angels whom God had created.
Two New Testament passages shed further light on Genesis 6. They are Jude 6-7 and 2 Peter 2:4. These verses indicate that at some point in time a number of angels fell from their pristine state and proceeded to commit a sexual sin that was both unusual and repugnant. Jude 6-7 states:
“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 Gomorrah and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh…”
These angels not only failed to keep their original dominion and authority, but they “left their own habitation.” Habitation is a significant word: it means “dwelling place” or “heaven.” And the addition of the Greek word “idion” (“their own”) means that they left their own private, personal, unique possession. (4) Heaven was the private, personal residence of the angels. It was not made for man but for the angels. This is why the ultimate destination of the saints will not be Heaven but the new and perfect Earth which God will create (Revelation 21:1-3). Heaven is reserved for the angels, but as for the beings referred to in Jude 6-7, they abandoned it.
Not only did these angels leave Heaven, they left it once-for- all. The Greek verb “apoleipo” is in the aorist tense, thus indicating a once-for-all act. By taking the action they did, these angels made a final and irretrievable decision. They crossed the Rubicon. Their action, says Kenneth Wuest, “was apostasy with a vengeance.” (5)
As to the specific sin of these angels, we are given the facts in Jude 7. As in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah it was the sin of “fornication” and it means “going after strange flesh.” “Strange” flesh means flesh of a different kind (Greek “heteros”). To commit this particularly repugnant sin, the angels had to abandon their own domain and invade a realm that was divinely forbidden to them. Says Wuest:
“These angels transgressed the limits of their own natures to invade a realm of created beings of a different nature.” (6)
“It was a departure from the appointed course of nature and seeking after that which is unnatural, to other flesh than that appointed by God for the fulfillment of natural desire.”
The mingling of these two orders of being, was contrary to what God had intended, and summarily led to God’s greatest act of judgment ever enacted upon the human race.
Another New Testament verse may have bearing on Genesis 6. In I Corinthians 11:10, Paul instructs that a woman should cover her head as a sign of subjection to her husband, and also “because of the angels.” This observation has intrigued commentators through the years. Why this sudden reference to angels? Could it be a reference to what happened in Genesis 6 where angels succumbed to the inducements and physical charm of the women of Earth? Obviously, Paul believed that an uncovered woman was a temptation even to angels. William Barclay mentions an old rabbinic tradition which alleges that it was the beauty of the women’s long hair that attracted and tempted the angels in Genesis. (6)
The off-spring of this union between the “sons of God” and the “daughters of men” were so extraordinary that it indicates an unusual parentage. In no way could the progenitors of such beings be ordinary humans. Their mothers possibly could be human, or their fathers, but certainly not both. Either the father or the mother had to be superhuman. Only in such a way can one account for the extraordinary character and prowess of the off-spring.
God’s law of reproduction, according to the biblical account of creation, is “everything after his kind.” God’s law makes it impossible for giants to be produced by normal parentage. To produce such monstrosities as the Nephilim presupposes super- natural parentage.
“Nephilim” is a Hebrew word translated in the Authorized King James version as “giants.” “There were giants in the earth in those days” (Genesis 6:4). It is true that they were giants in more senses than one. However, the word Nephilim does not mean “giants.” It comes from the root “naphal,” meaning “fallen ones,” and most modern versions of the Bible have left the word “Nephilim” untranslated.
When the Greek Septuagint was made, “Nephilim” was translated as “gegenes.” This word suggests “giants” but actually it has little reference to size or strength. “Gegenes” means “earth born.” The same term was used to describe the mythical “Titans” — being partly of celestial and partly of terrestrial origin. (7)
The Hebrew and the Greek words do not exclude the presence of great physical strength. Indeed, a combined supernatural and natural parentage would imply such a characteristic. Angels, according to Scripture, are known for their power. They are often referred to as “sons of the Mighty” (Psalm 103:20). Therefore, if the ones who sired them were strong and mighty, it could be assumed that their offspring were likewise.
No evidence exists in Scripture that the offspring of mixed marriages (believers and unbelievers) were giants, excelling in great strength and might. No evidence can be found anywhere in history for that matter. Such an interpretation poses impossible assumptions.
When the word “Nephilim” is used in Numbers 13:33, the question of size and strength is explicit. Here we are left in no doubt as to their superhuman prowess. When Joshua’s spies reported back from Canaan, they called certain of the inhabitants of Canaan “giants.” “And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, which come of the Nephilim, and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.”
Some commentators have speculated that the Nephilim of Numbers 13 belonged to a second eruption of fallen angels, since the earlier Nephilim had been destroyed in the Flood. And they see an allusion to this in Genesis 6:4, where it states that “there were Nephilim in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men.” Could it be that the “after that” was a reference to the Nephilim found in Canaan during the Israelite entry into the land? If so, it could explain why the Lord commanded the total extermination of the Canaanites, as He had earlier ordered the near annihilation of the human race.
The Book of Isaiah says that the Nephilim and their descendants will not participate in a resurrection as is the portion of ordinary mortals. Isaiah 26:14 reads: “They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise.” The original Hebrew word translated “deceased” here is the word “Rephaim.” It would have saved a lot of misinterpretation if the translators had left the word as it was in the original. The verse actually reads: “Dead, they shall not live; Rephaim, they shall not rise.” The Rephaim are generally understood to be one of the branches of the Nephilim, and God’s Word makes it clear that they are to partake in no resurrection. But with humans it is different: all humans will be resurrected either to life or to damnation (John 5:28-29).
We have already seen that the Greek Version of the Old Testament (The Septuagint) translated “Nephilim” as “gegenes;” we shall now inquire how it translates “sons of God.” In some of the manuscripts it is left as “sons of God,” but in the others– including the Alexandrian text–it is rendered by the word “angelos.” This text was in existence in the time of Christ, but there is no indication that He ever corrected or queried it. Can we not assume from His silence that He agreed with the translation!
Having studied all the arguments in favor of “sons of Seth,” one concludes that the only argument that is valid among them is that of rationality. “Sons of Seth” is an interpretation that is more palatable to human reason. Reason can never subscribe to the incredible notion that fallen angels could have sex relations with women of Earth. Angels have no physical bodies! They do not marry! They belong to an entirely different species of being! The mind revolts against such absurdity. So, what does one do? Settle, of course, for an easy, rational interpretation–sons of Seth and daughters of Cain. But what if the meaning of Scripture is clearly otherwise? There is the rub! Scripture is clearly otherwise! To impose a human interpretation at the expense of the obvious meaning of the divine Word, is a rape of the biblical text. Furthermore, when one deals with the world of the supernatural, rationality is never an argument.
The Jewish Fathers, when interpreting this expression from Genesis 6:2, invariably interpreted it as “angels.” No less an authority than W.F. Allbright tells us that:
“The Israelites who heard this section (Genesis 6.2) recited unquestionably thought of intercourse between angels and women.” (8)
Philo of Alexandria, a deeply religious man, wrote a brief but beautiful treatise on this subject, called “Concerning The Giants.” Basing his exposition on the Greek version of the Bible, he renders it as “Angels of God.” Says Bamberger, “Had he found the phrase ‘sons of God’ in his text, he most certainly would have been inspired to comment on it.” (9)
Philo certainly took the Genesis passage as historical, explaining that just as the word “soul” applies both to good and evil beings, so does the word “angel.” The bad angels, who followed Lucifer, at a later point in time failed to resist the lure of physical desire, and succumbed to it. He goes on to say that the story of the giants is not a myth, but it is there to teach us that some men are earth-born, while others are heaven- born, and the highest are God-born. (10)
The Early Church Fathers believed the same way. Men like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Tertullian, Lactantius, Eusebius, Ambrose…all adopted this interpretation. In the words of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, the angels fell “into impure love of virgins, and were subjugated by the flesh…Of those lovers of virgins therefore, were begotten those who are called giants.” (11) And again, “…the angels transgressed, and were captivated by love of women and begat children.” (12)
Nowhere before the 5th century A.D. do we find any interpretation for “sons of God” other than that of angels. We cannot deny the Jewish Fathers knowledge of their own terminology! They invariably translated “sons of God” as “angels.” The testimony of Josephus, that colorful cosmopolitan and historian, is also of paramount importance. In his monumental volume, “Antiquities of the Jews,” he reveals his acquaintance with the tradition of the fallen angels consorting with women of Earth. He not only knew of the tradition but tells us how the children of such union possessed super human strength, and were known for their extreme wickedness. “For the tradition is that these men did what resembled the acts of those men the Grecians called giants.” Josephus goes on to add that Noah remonstrated with these offspring of the angels for their villainy. (13)
Perhaps the most conclusive argument for interpreting the expression as “angels” is the simplest one of all. If the writer of Genesis wanted to refer to the “sons of Seth” he would have just said so. If God had intended that meaning, then the verse would undoubtedly read, “the sons of Seth saw the daughters of Cain that they were fair…” But the Bible meant something far more sinister–the sexual union between angels from Hell and evil women from Earth. Because of the gravity of such a union, and its dire consequences for the human race, God moved to destroy the race before it could destroy itself–except for one family which had not been contaminated.
God made man in His own image, the highest of all His earthly creations. While God said that everything He made was good, He considered man very good. Man had been made for fellowship with God Himself, but he soon turned his back upon his Maker and worshipped the creature more than the Creator. Before many generations, the human race was being polluted by this abominable union with demons. It seemed that Hell and Earth were in league together against the God of Heaven. God’s righteous anger was such that He regretted having made man.
“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man. …”(Genesis 6:5-6)
It was specifically because of this ultimate sin that God brought about a deluge of such magnitude that man and beast were drowned from the face of the Earth. In the words of old Joseph Hall:
“The world was so grown foul with sin, that God saw it was time to wash it with a flood: and so close did wickedness cleave to the authors of it, that when they were washed to nothing, yet it would not wash off, yea, so deep did it stick in the very grain of the earth, that God saw it meet to let it soak long under the waters.” (14)
Why Noah and his immediate family were the only ones immune from this great judgment is significant. Genesis 6:9 says, “Noah was a just man.” He stood out as an example of righteousness and godliness in a perverse age. Like Enoch before him, Noah also “walked with God.” But there was another reason why Noah was spared, one that seems to have escaped most commentators. Genesis 6:9 says that Noah was “perfect in his generation.” Does this mean moral and spiritual perfection? Hardly. Genesis 9:20-23 disproves any such perfection. What, then, does the Bible mean by calling him “perfect”? The Hebrew word is “tamiym” and comes from the root word “taman.” This means “without blemish” as in Exodus 12:5, 29:1, Leviticus 1:3. Just as the sacrificial lamb had to be without any physical blemish, so Noah’s perfection. In its primary meaning, it refers not to any moral or spiritual quality, but to physical purity. Noah was uncontaminated by the alien invaders.
He alone had preserved their pedigree and kept it pure, in spite of prevailing corruption brought about by the fallen angels. (15)
Noah’s bloodline had remained free of genetic contamination. (16)
This implies, of course, that all the other families on Earth had been contaminated by the Nephilim. It also proves that the assault of Satan on the human race had been far more extensive than realized. It is no wonder that God pronounced such a universal fiat of judgment.
As for the fallen angels who participated in the abomination, God put them in custody “in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6). This is sometimes interpreted as Tartarus or the “nether realms” (2 Peter 2:4). This would also explain why some fallen angels are in custody and why others are free to roam the heavens and torment mankind.
Such a drastic punishment, both for men and angels, presupposed a drastic sin, something infinitely more evil and more sinister than mixed marriages. It was nothing less than the demonic realm attempting to pervert the human world. By genetic control and the production of hybrids, Satan was out to rob God of the people He had made for Himself.
If Satan had succeeded in corrupting the human race, he would have hindered the coming of the perfect Son of God, the promised “seed of the woman,” who would defeat Satan and restore man’s dominion (Genesis 3:15). If Satan had by any means prevented that birth, he would obviously have averted his own doom. Satan did succeed to a large extent. It was for this reason that God drowned mankind in the Deluge.
Interpreting the “sons of God” as fallen angels, the question immediately arises–do angels marry? In Matthew 22:30, Jesus said angels neither marry nor are given in marriage. This seems a clear and emphatic negative. However, it does not preclude the possibility of such a thing happening–obviously contrary to the will of God. And it does not preclude fallen angels, who had rebelled against God already, from cohabiting with women of Earth, as the Scriptures state.
Some interpret the words of Jesus as meaning that angels do not marry among themselves. Is it because they are all male? Or is it because celestial beings are deathless and thus need no offspring. Only terrestrial beings need to find immortality in their children. (17) But if they do not need to marry and procreate, is it still possible that they could engage in sexual acts? If not among themselves then with human spouses? Jude seems quite explicit on the matter: the angels left their own habitation, and gave themselves over to fornication, going after strange flesh. In other words, they were capable of performing human functions–eating, drinking, walking, talking, even sexual activity and fathering children.
The fact that angels do not marry does not in itself prove they are sexless. Throughout the Bible, angels are referred to only as men. Finis Drake writes: “It is logical to say…that the female was created specifically for the human race in order that it could be kept in existence; and that all angels were created males, in as much as their kind is kept in existence without the reproduction process. Angels were created innumerable to start with (Hebrews 12:22) whereas, the human multitudes began with one pair.” (18)
Even in the next world, when the saints will dwell in their resurrection body and live forever, it does not imply that they will be sexless. The Bible teaches that everyone will have his own body in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-38). No suggestion is made that they will be unsexed. Furthermore, Christ remained a man after His resurrection.
One other question has been raised. If the fallen angels who lusted after women of Earth in Genesis 6 have been interred in Tartarus with “everlasting chains,” how does one explain the demons who have been operating since then? They seemed to have been quite active during the ministry of Jesus, and are busy again in our day. Following this reasoning, some share the conclusion of Kent Philpott:
However one might wish to interpret Genesis 6: 1-4 to link this passage with the verses in 2 Peter and Jude seems to post far more problems than it would solve. But 2 Peter 2.4 and Jude 6 clearly assert that the rebellious angels are being kept prisoner in the “nether gloom.” If they are prisoners, they could not very well function as the demons are described as functioning in the New Testament. (19)
But Philpott failed to see that there are two categories of fallen angels: Those cast out of Heaven with Lucifer, and who are still free to torment mankind; and those who fell the second time by committing carnal acts with the daughters of men. The spirits in this second category are those chained in the nether regions.
It seems clear to me that the “sons of God” are none other than fallen angels, and, because of their further sin of lusting after the “daughters of men,” many were imprisoned by God. Both the near annihilation of the human race and the incarceration of the fallen angels in Tartarus indicate the magnitude of the sin they committed. By such drastic judgment, God saved the human race from a calamity worse than the physical death originally imposed upon them.
l. Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961).
2. Aurelius Augustine, The City of God (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1949), Transl. Marcus Dods.
3. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Volume 2. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), p. 23.
4. Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek N.T (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1966), Vol. 4, p. 240.
5. Ibid., p. 240.
6. Ibid., p. 241.
7. Unger, Biblical Demonology (Wheaton: Van Kampen Press, 1957), p. 48.
8 W. F. Allbright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1940), p. 226.
9. Bemard J. Bamberger, Fallen Angels (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1952), p. 53.
10. Philo, DeGigantibus, pp. 58-60.
11. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8, pp. 85 and 273.
12. Ibid., p. 190.
13. Josephus, The Work of Flavius Josephus; Antiquities of the Jews (London: G. G. Rutledge), 1.3.1.
14. Joseph Hall, Contemplations (Otisville, Michigan: Baptist Book Trust, 1976), p. 10.
15. Companion Bible (Oxford University Press). Appendix 26.
16. The Gospel Truth Magazine, Vol. 18, (June 1978), No. 7.
17. Dr. Morgenstem, Hebrew Union College Annual, XIV, 29- 40,114ff.
18. Finis Dake, Annotated R,?ference Bible, p.63.
19. Kent Philpott, A Manual of Demonology and the Occult (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973), pp. 77-78.
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