Q. Is Genesis 6:1-4 saying that angels married humans? Who are the “sons of God”?

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A. The Old Testament that was commonly known to and quoted by New Testament writers was the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. This Greek translation is known as the Septuagint or LXX. An English translation of the LXX appears in the Apostolic Bible Polyglot. It is a quite literal translation. Below is Genesis 6:1-9 in that translation (verses are numbered):

1 And it came to pass when many men began to become upon the earth, and daughters were born to them. 2 And the sons of God were beholding the daughters of men, that they are good, that they took to themselves women from all of whom they chose. 3 And the lord God said, No way should my spirit stay with these men, on account of their being flesh; and their days will be a hundred twenty years. 4 And the giants were upon the earth in those days. And after that, the sons of God continually entered to the daughters of men, and procreated for themselves. Those were the giants, the ones from the eon, the renowned men. 5 And the lord God beholding that the evils of men were multiplying upon the earth, and all that man considered in his heart was diligently upon the wicked things all the days, 6 and God pondered that he made the man upon the earth, and he considered it. 7 And God said, I will wipe away the man, whom I made, from the face of the earth; from man unto beast, and from the reptiles unto the winged creatures of the heaven; for I repented that I made them. 8 But Noah found favor before the lord God. 9 And these are the origins of Noah. Noah was a just man being perfect in his generation; Noah was well-pleasing to God.

Notice once again that a natural reading of the text does not lead one to conclude that the men whose daughters are referred to are any but all men. If one absolutely had to limit these men to a particular genealogical line, then it would be to the line of Seth, not to the line of Cain as the adherents to explanation 1 would want. The reason for this is that Genesis 6 is immediately preceded in Genesis 5 by a genealogy that runs through the line of Seth, not Cain. But I believe that the language of Genesis 6 is too clearly referring to all men for there to be any possibility of it being limited to any particular line of descent.

I want to point out that in Genesis 6:2, the word that is translated as “wives” in most (but not all) other versions is translated here as “women.” The Hebrew word in verse 2 is ‘iššāh. Its basic meaning is “women,” and it should be translated as “wives” only when justified by the context. In the singular, it is what Adam called Eve: “And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23). The Jews who translated the Hebrew into Greek chose a similar word for the LXX. It is gunaikas. It also means “women,” and it can be translated as “wives” when that is obvious from the context. I do not believe “wives” is a justified translation in Genesis 6:2. This verse does not describe the orderly contracting of marriages. It relates the lusting after and taking of whatever women the “sons of God” chose.

The “giants” of verse 4 were apparently the result of the cross between angels and humans. There is no necessary reason to link these antediluvian giants with the giants after the Flood (e.g. Numbers 13:33), as the giants in Genesis 6 would have been among those destroyed by the Flood. Although the same Hebrew and Greek words are used, the giants after the Flood cannot have a direct link to these.

God chose to spare Noah and his family for more than one reason. Noah was a just man and he pleased God (Genesis 6:9), and he found favor before God (verse 8). The word “favor” is translated from the Hebrew chên and, in the LXX, from the Greek word charin. Both of these words mean “grace.” But Noah is also described as “perfect in his generation.” Yes, this can mean that he was the perfect or unblemished man among the people of his generation. But considering that the context is speaking of the corruption of all flesh (verse 12) because of the illicit mixing of angels with humans, I believe this may mean that Noah’s ancestry was untainted. That is, Noah did not have fallen angels in his genealogy. His genealogical purity, having no angel genes in his ancestry, was thus a factor in God choosing him to survive the Flood and thereby begin again a pure race of humans (I suppose we can also assume that his wife and son’s wives were also pure).

A passage of Scripture used by those who object to “sons of God” being angels is Matthew 22:23-30:

The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.

The objection does not hold up because Jesus gives two qualifiers here that make what He says not apply to the Genesis 6 passage. First, He refers to the “angels of God in heaven.” The “sons of God” in Genesis 6 are fallen angels on earth. And Jesus is speaking of proper marriage, but the events in Genesis 6 describe illicit sex—fornication.

So I believe that the proper understanding of the Genesis 6 passage is that the “sons of men” are all men, and the “sons of God” are fallen angels who manifested themselves in the flesh. These fallen angels illicitly took human daughters and had sexual relations with them. This resulted in a genetic corruption of the human race manifesting itself in gigantism. God decided to destroy this corrupt seed.

Because the focus of the Bible is Jesus Christ, I think it is quite likely that the reason God decided to destroy the corrupt seed was to keep the lineage of the Messiah pure from the corruption of these fallen angels. Of Jesus, we read, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:14-16). Jesus became a human so that He could die for humans. If He were also part fallen angel, there would have been confusion. So God purified the human race, including the line that Jesus would be born into, by killing the corrupt seed and saving pure Noah and his family.

Why is this story important for us today? Jude and Peter thought it important, and we can fully understand their warning only when we have a proper understanding of the Genesis 6 account. Now that we have that, let’s look again at what Jude says. This time I’ll quote The Literal Translation of the Holy Bible:

Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to the ones called in God the Father, having been set apart, and having been kept to Jesus Christ: Mercy and peace, and love be multiplied to you. Having made all haste to write to you about the common salvation, beloved, I had need to write to you to exhort you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Jude here gives us his SPS—his specific purpose statement. He is writing to exhort his readers to contend for the original faith. As we continue, notice that to do this—to exhort us to contend for the faith—Jude is going to remind us of several things, including the Genesis 6 account of the fallen angels:

For certain men stole in, those of old having been written before to this judgment, ungodly ones perverting the grace of our God into unbridled lust, and denying the only Master, God, even our Lord Jesus Christ. But I intend to remind you, you once knowing these things, that the Lord having saved a people out of the land of Egypt, in the second place destroyed the ones not believing. And those angels not having kept their first place, but having deserted their dwelling-place, He has kept in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of a great Day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them, in like manner to these, committing fornication, and going away after other flesh, laid down an example before-times, undergoing vengeance of everlasting fire. Likewise, indeed, also these dreaming ones even defile flesh, and despise rulership, and speak evil of glories.

In other words, like the unbelievers who left Egypt and were destroyed, like the angels who left their proper place and are being held in chains until the judgment, and like Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them who like the angels committed fornication and went after strange flesh, these men who have crept in and teach a perversion of grace that by implication denies the Lord also defile the flesh and despise rulership and speak evil of glories.

But Michael the archangel, when contending with the Devil, he argued about the body of Moses; he dared not bring a judgment of blasphemy, but said, “Let the Lord rebuke you!” But what things they do not know, they speak evil of these. And what things they understand naturally, like the animals without reason, they are corrupted by these. Woe to them, because they went the way of Cain, and gave themselves up to the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the speaking against of Korah!

These men speak evil of what they do not understand (because they are not spiritually minded) but, like animals, they know only what comes naturally and are corrupted by it. Jude then likens them to even more bad examples. They went the way of Cain, who went the way of jealousy, rebellion, and murder. They gave themselves over to the error of Balaam, who was willing to curse Israel for a reward. It is as if they have perished with Korah, who spoke against Moses and Aaron.

These are sunken rocks in your love feasts, feasting together with you, feeding themselves without fear, waterless clouds being carried about by winds, fruitless autumn trees, having died twice, having been plucked up by the roots; wild waves of the sea foaming up their shames, wandering stars for whom blackness of darkness has been kept to the age.

Jude describes these men as empty, fruitless, and without hope. Jude then quotes from the apocryphal book, 1 Enoch:

And “the seventh from Adam,” Enoch, also prophesied to these men, saying, Behold, “the Lord came with” myriads “of His saints,” “to do judgment against all, and to rebuke all” the ungodly of them concerning all their ungodly works which they ungodly did, “and concerning all the hard things ungodly sinners spoke against Him.”

This brings us back round to punishments. God punished the unbelievers who left Egypt. God punished the angels who left their proper place and committed gross sexual sin. God punished Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities around them for their fornication and desire for strange flesh. God punished Cain, Balaam, and Korah. And the Lord will come with His saints to punish these men. Why? We have already learned that they pervert grace and, though they may not say so outrightly, deny God and Jesus. Jude tells us more:

These are murmurers, complainers, going according to their lusts, and their mouth speaks proud things, admiring faces [i.e. flattering people] for the sake of gain. But you, beloved, remember the words spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, because they told you that at the last time there will be mockers following ungodlinesses according to their lusts. These are they setting themselves apart, animal-like ones, not having the Spirit.

In other words, the sin of those who are among us as Christians (even if they are preachers or politicians) who pervert grace as if it allows sexual sin, rebellion, evil doing for reward, flattery for gain, boastful speaking, murmuring, following one’s animalistic lusts and doing what comes naturally will not go unpunished. They are in the same category as the wicked angels, the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, the unbelievers who left Egypt, and Cain, Balaam, and Korah. The Lord will come and He will judge and punish them. As Peter says, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned…. these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness” (2 Peter 2:4, 12-13).

The lesson is that we should see that fleshly corruption is a type of spiritual corruption, and God does not let wickedness go unpunished. He did punish it in the past and He will punish it in the future. We are to contend for the faith by rejecting those who pervert the Gospel of grace. And, as Jude says, “you, beloved, building yourselves up by your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, eagerly awaiting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to everlasting life. And pity some, making a distinction. But save others with fear, snatching them out of the fire, hating even the garment being stained from the flesh. Now to Him being able to keep you without stumbling, and to set you before His glory without blemish, with unspeakable joy; to the only wise God, our Savior, be glory and majesty and might and authority, even now and forever. Amen.”

Peter Ditzel

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