The Sons of God and the Daughters of Men in Genesis 6

In this blog post, we explore the Christocentric interpretation of Genesis 6.


Justin Hoke

5/31/20245 min read

a cartoon of Jesus explaining to the Sadducees that angels by nature do not marry.
a cartoon of Jesus explaining to the Sadducees that angels by nature do not marry.

Dear readers, let us embark on a journey through the pages of Genesis, seeking to uncover the truth about the mysterious "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" mentioned in Genesis 6. As we delve into the text, let us be guided by the Holy Spirit, relying on the clarity of Scripture itself, and allowing reason and logic, which are part of God's design, to illuminate our path. Together, we will explore the context, the language, and the broader biblical narrative to understand who these "sons of God" truly are.

Setting the Stage: Context and Background

Genesis 6:1-4 reads, "Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 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. 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.' 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."

At first glance, this passage can seem enigmatic, but let us consider the broader context. Genesis 4 and 5 lay out the genealogies of Cain and Seth, respectively. Cain's line is marked by rebellion and violence, culminating in Lamech's boast of murder. Seth's line, on the other hand, is characterized by a godly heritage, culminating in Enoch, who "walked with God; and he was not, for God took him."

This context is crucial. The genealogies of Genesis 4 and 5 set up a contrast between two lines: one of rebellion and one of faithfulness. This backdrop helps us understand the identities of the "sons of God" and the "daughters of men" in Genesis 6.

Understanding the Terms: Sons of God and Daughters of Men

The term "sons of God" (בְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים, benei ha-elohim) has sparked much debate. Some assert it exclusively refers to angels, drawing from passages like Job 1:6, where the term appears in a heavenly context. However, the usage of terms in Scripture is not always uniform. In Deuteronomy 14:1, God's people are called "sons of the LORD your God," and in Hosea 1:10, it is said, "You are the sons of the living God." These instances refer to humans who have a special relationship with God.

Moreover, consider Luke's genealogy of Christ, which traces His lineage through Seth, culminating in Adam, "the son of God." Here, "son of God" clearly refers to a human lineage. In the context of Genesis, which emphasizes the preservation of the godly line of Seth, it is reasonable to conclude that the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 are the descendants of Seth.

The "daughters of men" are thus understood to be the descendants of Cain, representing those who have turned away from God. This interpretation maintains the contrast established in Genesis 4 and 5 and sets the stage for the events of Genesis 6.

Examining the Text: God's Critique and Punishment

In Genesis 6:3, God declares, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." The critique is directed at humanity, not angels. The focus is on the increasing wickedness of humans, as stated in 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."

If this passage were about angelic beings marrying humans, we would expect some mention of divine judgment upon the angels. Yet, the text is silent on this matter. Instead, the judgment is clearly upon humanity, culminating in the flood, which was intended to cleanse the earth of human wickedness.

The Role of the Nephilim

Genesis 6:4 mentions the Nephilim, stating, "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." It is important to note that the text does not explicitly state that the Nephilim are the offspring of these unions. The Nephilim are mentioned as a contemporaneous group, existing "in those days, and also afterward." This serves as a time marker, providing context for when these events occurred in human history.

Theological Considerations: Jesus' Teaching and the Christocentric Focus

In Matthew 22:30, Jesus teaches, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven." This clear statement underscores the nature of angels as non-marrying beings, which challenges the interpretation that Genesis 6 involves angelic beings engaging in marriage with humans.

Furthermore, Jesus, on the road to Emmaus, asserts that "all Scripture" points to Him (Luke 24:27). If Genesis 6 were about angels intermarrying with humans, it would distract from the Christocentric focus of Scripture. Instead, seeing the "sons of God" as the line of Seth aligns with the narrative's emphasis on God's redemptive plan through the lineage leading to Christ.

Addressing Common Objections: The Sons of God in Job and the Angels Who Left Their Proper Abode

Some argue that "sons of God" always refers to angels, based on passages like Job 1:6. While this is one interpretation, it is not conclusive. The term can also refer to human beings with a special relationship with God, as we have seen in other parts of Scripture. Additionally, the context of Genesis 6 is markedly different from the heavenly court scenes in Job, further supporting the interpretation of "sons of God" as humans in Genesis 6.

Regarding the New Testament references to angels who "left their proper abode" (Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4), these passages can be understood as referring to the broader rebellion of angels who followed Satan. The focus in these passages is on the angels' rebellion and subsequent judgment, aligning with the broader theme of divine justice rather than specifying an event of angelic-human marriages.

Concluding Thoughts: Discovering the Truth Together

As we have journeyed through the text of Genesis 6, we have examined the context, the language, and the broader biblical narrative. By understanding the "sons of God" as the godly line of Seth and the "daughters of men" as the ungodly line of Cain, we preserve the integrity of the Scriptural message. This interpretation highlights the increasing human wickedness and the intermarriage between the godly and ungodly lines, leading to the pervasive corruption that precipitated the flood.

Let us be encouraged by the consistency and clarity of God's Word. As we seek to understand these ancient texts, may we always be guided by the Spirit, relying on Scripture to interpret Scripture. In doing so, we honor the Christocentric focus of the Bible and deepen our appreciation for God's sovereign plan of redemption, fulfilled in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

May this exploration inspire you to delve deeper into the Scriptures, trusting that God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.