SONS OF GOD IN GENESIS 6: FALLEN ANGELS?
It is God’s light that dispels the darkness. As part of our spiritual warfare it is important to work through even some of the most controversial and difficult Scriptures, at least to the best of our ability. Otherwise, we can easily be misled and mislead others into superstitions and other false beliefs of spiritual consequence. For example, if we believe that God sends evil spirits to afflict His people in order that they may grow spiritually, then why resist the devil since it is God’s will? If we believe that everything that happens to us is God’s will, then why pray for deliverance since it is God’s will? When we reflect on these ideas we begin to realize the implications and significance of fastening the belt of truth, as we know, the devil’s greatest weapon is deception.
Whatever experiences or theories we may have that are seemingly supported by the belief that fallen angels or devil spirits can or have produced a progeny of giants in the book of Genesis, and we find that these are not supported by the Word of God, than we must seek answers elsewhere in order to resolve the problems or questions at hand. Let’s weigh the evidence and fasten the “belt of truth” which is an integral part of spiritual warfare and examine God’s Word regarding the Doctrine of Angels.
A notion that has repeatedly surfaced over the years suggests that when angels appear as men in Scripture, would have had the ability to join in sexual activity while in human form. Theissen argues against this idea as he notes the angels are described as a company or hosts and not as a race.” In Psalms we read, Praise Him, all His angels; praise Him, all His hosts (Psalm 8:2). Here Theissen notes that the angels are described as a company or hosts and not as a race. The angels may have been called the sons of God in the book of Job, but nowhere in the Bible do we read about the “sons of angels” (Lectures in Systematic Theology).”
Angels are spirits according to Hebrews 1:14, Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? We need to look at what Jesus Himself said when Jesus responded to the question of marriage in heaven in Luke 20:34-36, “And Jesus answering said unto them, The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage: But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.”
Jesus makes it clear in this text that angels are not of this worlds substance or material. We can readily conclude from the words of Jesus that angels are sexless spirits, who do not marry or bear children. Although angels can appear in the likeness of human flesh when they are sent to be messengers of God, deputized to do His bidding, they are still spirit and seemingly were not created with the ability to propagate that spirit in which they were created. Entertaining the idea of a divine-human progeny is not given to us in Scripture and again is left to a great deal of speculation.
Paul tells us that our bodies will be spiritual bodies in eternity, It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body (1Corinthians 15:44). As we have already seen in Luke, these bodies will not be given in marriage. It is safe to assume that the form of an angel appearing as man is restricted in like manner.
Paul: 1Corinthians 15:38-40 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of animals, another of fish, and another of birds. 40 There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
Although angels have the capacity to appear in human form, according to the words of Jesus they cannot reproduce the spirit in which they were created, nor the soul life of humanity. The idea of fallen angels cohabiting with women contradicts God’s natural laws of propagation of bearing seed after its own kind. The entire context of this section of Genesis addresses the wickedness of man and not that of fallen angels, although their influence is understood. In view of the evidence, it is most likely that the sons of God were men, who through the lines of Seth and so forth were the people of God, who having power on the earth fashioned their lives according to the course of this world, rather than the righteous ways of God, except for Noah and his family.
Genesis 6:1-7 (NKJV)
Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. 3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. 5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.
A standard form of interpreting the Genesis 6 passage would address the sons of God as men who were godly in nature and relationship with God prior to the degradation of the race before the flood. This is quite possibly a commentary on the fallen nature of those who had been in right relationship with God but who entered the spirit of the age prior to the deluge, which is not dissimilar to Jesus injunction concerning the state of the faith at the end of this present evil age, where He asked if there would be faith found on earth (Luke 18:8). This would shed light on Jesus words concerning the similarities between the Noetic era and the end of the age, as Paul identifies a great falling away at the end of the age, Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Those who hold to the extraneous teaching of the Nephilim miss the New Testament light that clarifies the passages true meaning. Noah’s era is contrasted with the final days of humanity, where an advanced form of divine judgment is needed to avert the broadening corruption of the godly by the ungodly. Genesis 6 carries the same tone of the Pauline injunction that identifies the corrupted nature of man as Scriptures exposes the depraved wickedness of the fallen race. Identifying the Nephilim as fallen angels is a weak argument that corrupts the nature of men as a hybrid species who include giants that are divine and human (like Jesus), which is contrary to the biblical model of propagation. Identifying the sons of God in Genesis 6 as humans is both logical, theologically based and harmonious concerning biblical revelation.
The Context of Genesis 6: 1-5 is a treatise about Humanity
Contextually, this section of Scripture addresses the condition of fallen humanity during the days of Noah. Humanity continued to expand numerically and the sons of God took wives from the daughters of non-religious families. This seems to be in line with the conditions of Noah’s time. Luke 17: 26-27 says that, and as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Noah and his family were spared the fate of the human race from destruction by flood because of Noah’s righteousness, whereas the summation of the human heart was one that was thoroughly evil.
It is important to remember that the book of Genesis is a revelation about God and His people. It is not about worldly rulers or angels. The passage does not mention angels anywhere which creates a strong basis for supporting the identification of the sons of God as men, not angelic half breeds. The use of the term men is representative of humanity in four of the five instances where it is used in this passage of Scripture. The Hebraic word ‘adam’ is the word that generically means human beings as a species and as an individual. The exception in Genesis is a word variation that is used in verse 5, where the offspring of the sons of God are identified as mighty men (Hebrew gibbor) which can also mean powerful, warrior, tyrant, giant (Strong’s).
The biblical reasoning for the deluge was the way that the people of earth lived their lives as pursuers of the sensate pleasures instead of passionately pursuing lifestyles that were conducive to a righteous expression. The identification of those who were known as “sons of God” is most likely connected to the godly lines that had existed up to this point in time. Whatever positions they may have held culturally prior to the loss of righteous conduct, it is safe to extrapolate that the terminology concerning sons of God addresses humanity alone. The passage addresses the sexual proclivities of man as man follows his desires in opposition to a biblical pattern of relationships.
If we assign fallen angels as the sons of God in Genesis 6, we will face many unrecoverable theological problems. Another point of consideration in this discussion is that we do need to accept that the Bible does refer to angels as sons of God in some passages. We also need to recognize that the same phrase is used to describe godly people. It is theologically untenable to try and rectify a divine-human progeny with the Word of God, as it diminishes the qualitative nature of the incarnation and the Christ. Luke records that, and the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). In the Greek the word for power is dunamis and the word specifically refers to God’s miraculous power displayed, and Scripture relegates the duality to only one person, Christ Jesus.
Land of the Giants
The term “giants” is a descriptive poetic allusion to man and primarily to be used in a figurative sense of possessing extensive characteristics versus inordinately gigantic physical size. This does not negate the possibility of larger than normal stature such as Goliath. Proper diet and genetics can combine and then produce rather extraordinary physical specimens (look at the NBA). However, the only person who possessed both a human as well as a divine nature and substance is the Lord Jesus Christ, and this person was only accomplished through the direct action of God, not angels, fallen or otherwise. Elevating Nephilim to a god-like substance is borderline heresy, or even to attribute them to the angelic realm boarders on a heretical bent.
In Numbers, the Nephilim are identified as the inhabitants of Canaan at the time of the Conquest, There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and (Numbers 13:33).
There is a strong likelihood that the Anakims were prominent warriors with great size, height, weight, muscular development, we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight (Numbers 13:33).
There are two paths that can be taken in interpreting this passage in Numbers. First, we could take the literal route, which by implication indicates that a tremendous size disparity existed when examining the people comparatively. The alternate means would take into consideration that Semitic people used colloquialisms, phrases, and linguistic expressions in order to convey emotion, much like every culture known to man. The comparison between giants and grasshoppers can readily be understood to be “a strong Orientalism, by which the treacherous spies, and those who were faithful to the command gave an exaggerated report of the physical strength of the people of Canaan (Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown). Although it may not be as thrilling or controversial, if the passage is read with common sense objectivity, it is perceptible that the Hebrews were figuratively comparing themselves to Grasshoppers for the dynamic effect, and they were implying that the Giants viewed them similarly.
Giant Origin and Expression: Human and Divine?
The word giant or giants is used throughout Scripture to describe humanity while never being used to describe a race of divine-human origin. The word giants or Nephilim are used in both Genesis6:4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown, and Numbers 13:33, There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.
The word giant(s) in English is translation of four different Hebrew words. One of these words occurs in Job 16:14, with the carried meaning of “mighty man, warrior” in the RSV, and “giant” in the KJV. Another Hebrew word is translated “giants” in the KJV and “Nephilim” (a transliteration of the Hebrew) in the RSV (Genesis 6:4; Numbers 13:33). It is important that the original meaning of this Hebrew term is unknown, as there are no surviving manuscripts or external data that allows us to really understand the true meaning of the word, although it seems to be used of a group or race of people. Since none of the terms translated “giants” has that actual meaning, we cannot be sure that the Nephilim were of unusual physical stature. I want to stress the importance of recognizing that the meaning of the Hebrew is lost in antiquity at this time, which makes the establishment of a doctrinal position or belief based on it absurd at a minimum. A good practice for the creation of biblical doctrine restricts all beliefs to mere speculation without at least three clear references in Scripture. It is foolish to base a belief on a word that we are uncertain as to its meaning.
Additional interpreters suggest that they actually were not distinct racial tribes but were individuals of above average size, possibly due to the result of disease or deformity, who were found among the various races and tribes of the original Palestinian people groups. It is important to note that neither argument can be recognized with absolute certainty. Another Hebrew term is translated “giant” in both the KJV and RSV (2 Samuel 21:16, 22; 1 Chronicles 20:8); (Elwell, WA, & Beitzel, BJ, 1988, Baker encyclopedia of the Bible, 861, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House).
In Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, Nephilim is defined as meaning, “a feller, that is, a bully or tyrant.” Strong’s also tells us that the original meaning of this Hebrew word is unknown and seems to be used in reference to a group of people. The author of the article in Baker also tells us that this term and all the other terms translated giant are not defined as having that actual meaning, “Since none of the terms translated ‘giants’ has that actual meaning, we cannot be sure the Nephilim were of unusual physical stature (Baker’s Encyl. Vol 1, 861).”
Matthews asserts that “Nephilim” is just a transliteration of the Hebrew, not a translation, which thereby indicates a group or class. It is commonly related to nāpal meaning “to fall,” therefore the Nephilim are considered “the Fallen Ones.” If this is the correct meaning does this refer to their expulsion from heaven, their death as “fallen” in battle, or to their moral degeneracy? (Mathews, K. A. (1996). Vol. 1A: Genesis 1-11:26. The New American Commentary (336). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers).
The early division of the human race is only mentioned twice in the Old Testament in Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures (LXX) renders the name “Nephilim” as “giants,” with other versions using this same rendering, including the KJV. Modern translations, however, usually designate them as Nephilim, identifying them with the Anakim (Numbers 13:33; Deuteronomy 2:21) and the Rephaim (Deuteronomy 2:20). The latter two were reputed to be large physically, thus the term “giants.”
Let me state again that the Nephilim are of unknown origin. Some writers have taken the Hebrew verb naphal, “to fall,” to imply that the Nephilim were “fallen ones,” that is, fallen angels who subsequently mated with human women. But Christ taught that angels do not have carnal relationships (Luke 20:34, 35), and therefore this view can only be maintained by assuming that Genesis 6:1–4 reflects Greek mythology, in which such unions occurred. The Genesis passage, however, deals with anthropology, not mythology.
The Nephilim do not appear to be the “sons of God” and seem to be different also from the “daughters of men.” The best classification is with the Anakim and Rephaim as contemporary peoples of unknown origin (Elwell, WA, & Beitzel, BJ, 1988, Baker encyclopedia of the Bible, 1541, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House).
Several passages in the KJV translates “giants” whereas the RSV uses “Rephaim” (Deuteronomy 2:11, 20; 3:11; Joshua 12:4). The word Rephaim usually occurs in plural form and is a generic word that was used to refer to several tribes of people that had inhabited Palestine and who may have been considered large in size when compared to the Hebrews. They included the Anakim of Judah’s coastal region and hill country around Hebron (Deuteronomy 2:11), Emim of Moab (v.10), Zamzummim of Ammon (v.20), and the inhabitants of Bashan (3:11). The word appears multiple times in Joshua (12:4; 13:12; 15:8; 17:15; 18:16). Many interpreters suggest that these people groups were the original inhabitants of Palestine, or may have been Minoan settlers who were distinctly taller people who were possibly conquered and/or absorbed by the Canaanites, Philistines, Hebrews, and other invading peoples.
Hebrews 1:5 is a relevant passage in discussing the Nephilim as half breed angel/humans For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You”? The advocates of Nephilim as a new created order stands in direct contradiction of this passage. Those who are advocating the superhuman nature of the Nephilim are running the risk of denigrating the unique nature of the Christ, as He is the only biblical example of a blending of the two realities concerning the heavenly realm and the terrestrial realm.
Angels according to Scripture are spirit beings, regardless as to whether they are good or evil. Humanity was created with corporal bodies. Scripture also teaches us that angels are a created order that are non-reproductive and do not cohabitate with one another in the spirit realm. The Bible also teaches us that created beings who reproduce, do so after their own kind. The novelty teaching that angels as sons of God comingled with women producing a blended offspring is inconsistent with the Scriptural injunction in Genesis 1:24: Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. In order to accept this teaching, you tacitly acknowledge the theory of evolutionary advancement, as this would make an allowance for one species becoming another species.
Contextual data is our safest way to interpret any passage of Scripture, as context allows us to remain within the original intent of the author as inspired by Holy Spirit. The context of Genesis 6 is the key to interpreting the reference to Nephalim, and the passage makes it apparent that Nephilim took wives for themselves, and their wives produced children. It is the children who became known as “mighty men.” The passage also includes the fact that God will not always strive or contend with “man,” and that God was aware of the “wickedness of man.” Theologically, Genesis 6 is clearly about fallen humanity, and is not a treatise on fallen angels, Genesis 6:5 Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually… Genesis 6:6 And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart… Genesis 6:7 So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
Job and the Sons of God
Another series of Scriptures that some propose concerning the premise of the fallen angelic view revolves around Scriptures in which angels are identified as “sons of God” on three occasions in the book of Job (1:6, 2:1 and 38:7), Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and satan also came among them… 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… When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy? Many who hold the view of angel/human cohabitation propose that all Old Testament Scripture using this phrase is exclusively meant for angels, thereby applicable for all references in Scripture, especially the Genesis account.
I would like to point out that of the three verses in Job 38, verse 7 can be the most convincing reference for identifying angels as “sons of God,” as the reference is placed at the time of creation. However, the other two verses are not as clearly defined, but the probability that angels could be indicated does exist within the text. On the other hand, these verses may also be a reference to the people of God as they presented themselves before the Lord, in which satan, being among them, sought to test Job’s faith in God, which is the more likely meaning when we consider the whole of the biblical references. As has been pointed out previously, other biblical accounts negate the idea that all references to son or sons of God point to angelic beings in the Old Testament.
Other References to the Son or Sons of God in the OT
The sons of God not only refer to the angels of God but also to the people of God.
1) Adam is called a son of God in Luke 3:38 “who was the son of Enoch, who was the son of Seth, who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God.”
2) Israel was the chosen son of God in which God testifies, “Israel is my firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:9).
3) In Deuteronomy 32:8, the Revised Standard Version reads, “according to the number of the sons of God” instead of “sons of Israel” as it is translated in the King James Version. The Revised Standard Version translation is supported by a Dead Sea Scroll text (New Bible Dict. p. 1133).
4) God allocated sonship to those in covenant with Him, you are the sons of the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 14:1).
5) God also proclaims the personal sonship of David, I will proclaim the decree . . . You are my son; today I have become your Father (Ps. 2:7).
6) In the prophecies of the book of Isaiah we read, I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’And to the south, ‘Do not keep them back!’ Bring My sons from afar,And My daughters from the ends of the earth (Isaiah 43:6).
7) In addition, The New Bible Dictionary explains that the son of God in Hebrew means “god” or “god-like” rather than “son of [the] God” or Yahweh. However, the argument that the sons of God is always a reference to angels biblically lacks support as shown in the examples above.
A main reason for publishing this post is to dispel any fear or sensationalism that fallen angels have or ever had the power to cohabitate with women and propagate a freak offspring of part divine and part human entities, as some believe, the fallen angels being labeled as “giants” in the book of Genesis.