The Sons Of God Genesis 6:2

We are informed in the beginning of the sixth chapter of Genesis, that when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, “the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.” And again, “there were giants (nephilim) on the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them the same became mighty men that were of old, men of renown.” It is to be regretted that a passage, calculated, if rightly apprehended, to throw considerable light upon this obscure period, is in itself very difficult to comprehend. One broad fact, which is perhaps the only one that is really important for us to know, stands out, however, with sufficient distinctness—that much evil, much irreligion, apostasy, violence, and wrong-doing, resulted from incongruous unions between two classes, distinguished as “the sons of God,” and “the daughters of men,” from whom spring “giants,” who became “mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

The question at once presents itself, What were the two classes whose union produced this powerful and mighty race,  distinguished as the Nehphilim or “giants,” who acquired such bad eminence in the primeval world?

The first impression of the reader would seem to be, that the “sons of God” were angels, and “the daughters of men” human females; and this is the view of the subject which has been entertained by many, both in ancient and modern times.

But against this it is urged, there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage among the inhabitants of heaven, with whose spiritual nature earthly pleasures are incompatible.

If these “sons of God” are not angels, who then are they? One set of expositors, observing that in the Old Testament the children of Israel are sometimes called the children of the Lord, and the Moabites, the people of Chemosh, and strange women, the daughters of a strange god, conclude that the expression “sons of God,” is but a figurative expression for the worshippers of God, Note: Deu_14:1; Num_21:29; Mal_2:11.] the Sethites, who are thus placed in opposition to those who worshipped no God whatever (“the daughters of men”), the descendants of Cain. Another body of commentators, however, look to the genius and idiom of the Hebrew language for an explanation. They call to mind that a great rushing wind is called “a wind of God;” a lofty mountain, “a mountain of God;” kings and mighty men, “sons of God;” and they urge the words which are translated “sons of God,” should be rendered “sons of the mighty;” Note: So actually rendered in De Sola’s recent Jewish translation of Genesis.] and that the passage then means, that the antediluvian chiefs and nobles took wives of all the handsome inferior women that they chose.

We must not conceal that these explanations appear to us far from clear of difficulties. They have the forced aspect of being framed for a purpose—the purpose of avoiding the view which lets in the angels; and they do not account—neither of them account, for the giants and mighty men of old, who are said to have been the issue of these marriages;  or they account for them irrationally, by assuming that a race, whose physical and mental (though not moral or spiritual) superiority is very emphatically denoted in the text, was obtained by grafting a pure or noble, on an impure or inferior stock.

To the interpretation which makes the “sons of God” the family of Seth, it may be further objected, that although the Israelites are called the children of God, they are not called the sons of God, and that hence the alleged analogy does not exactly apply. If, also, the Cainite females were intended by the “daughters of men,” and the Sethites by “the sons of God,” we might expect the terms to have been more general, probably “children,” as intermarriages would in all likelihood have taken place, as well between daughters and sons, as between sons and daughters. Again, it is said at the outset, that “men began to multiply on the face of the earth;” and this, doubtless, applies to all the race of mankind; and it may therefore be urged, that the “daughters of men,” in the immediate context, are the daughters of the same men, that is, mankind without distinction.

As to the other explanation, which makes the “sons of God” to be chiefs espousing inferior women—besides being open to the general objections which apply to both interpretations—it may be remarked, that no such stigma as is here assumed, is attached in the Bible to the marriages of exalted men with women of inferior rank and position; nor does it consist with the ideas and usages of the East, where the great are not held to disgrace themselves, if they do sometimes honor the poor, by taking their wives from among them.

The fault of this age lies in too strong a disposition to bring all ancient and remote things, existing under unknown conditions, down to the square and level of present ideas and known conditions. Taking the text as it stands, and trying to comprehend what it means to state, without any wish to extort from it a meaning which might consist better with our own ideas, we are bound to that the intrinsic evidence appears to us to be in favor of the opinion—that the sacred  record means to tell us, that beings not of mortal race attached themselves to the daughters of men. The way to reach the meaning of terms of uncertain interpretation, is to see what sense the same terms bear in books of the same or nearly the same age. Now very general consent ascribe the book of Job to the same age, and even to the same pen as the book of Genesis—and in the introduction of that book we have these remarkable words—“There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” There the sons of God are various non-human beings, angels in their various degrees fallen and unfallen; and it is manifest that they are called “sons of God” in the same sense in which Adam is in the genealogy of Luke (Luk_3:38), called the “son of God”—namely, because he had no human father, but was created directly by God. In the same book of Job, which is more important than any other for the interpretation of Genesis, the same phrase once more occurs, and is again unmistakably applied to angels: “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job_38:7).

The objection drawn from the nature of angels is scarcely valid—for we know not what the nature of angels is. They may have, and probably they have, bodies of some kind; there may be, and probably are, various degrees of them, more or less spiritual. We know that angels are capable of evil, and have committed it; are capable of falling, and have fallen. If these “sons of God” were angels, there is no evidence whether they were fallen or unfallen angels—for, in the passage to which we have referred, the term seems to be applied to both with regard to their higher nature derived directly from God.
Although it would not be wise positively to assert this to be the only possible interpretation of this obscure transaction, it certainly has the advantage of simplicity, and of taking the text in its obvious meaning. The interpretation is also ancient. It is embodied In the apocryphal book of Enoch, which is ascribed to the first century before Christ, and is  supposed to comprise fragments of ancient truth, and certainly indicates the notions in such matters of the age to which it belongs. The “sons of God” are there expressly said to have been angels, the inhabitants of heaven. It accords well, also, as might be largely shown, with the views of all ancient nations, which are full of legends of such intercourse of higher natures with the daughters of men—notions which doubtless had their origin in many colored traditions of the same fact which Genesis 6 records.

Let us not overlook the fact that this interpretation throws a clearer light upon the history of the deluge. The earth, which received its present goodly frame for man’s use, becomes occupied by an intrusive race more powerful than man, and oppressing and destroying him—a race essentially wicked; whose evil nature no time can change, no circumstances ameliorate, and whose very existence counteracts the designs of the Creator, and one which, therefore, in order that man may again replenish the earth, it became necessary to destroy utterly, while yet one family of pure race existed. In connection with this point, it is well worthy of notice that Noah, who had no children at the time that God declared (120 years before the event) his intention to destroy the world, although then nearly five hundred years old, soon after had his eldest son, and then the others—suggesting that he had contracted marriage, perhaps under Divine direction—with some special view to the preservation of a race of unmixed blood.

This subject is undoubtedly difficult, and will perhaps never be clearly understood; but there is no safer or wiser course than to strive to understand what the Scripture means to teach, apart from all our notions of the probable, the possible, or the proper. In this record lies our only information of things and times so remote; and, receiving it as the word of God, our only thought must be to grasp the simple meaning of its communications.