“sons of God.” The phrase “son of God” is a very specific phrase that refers to the beings that God has directly created, such as angels and cherubim. Here in Genesis 6, the Hebrew is ben ha Elohim (בְנֵי־הָאֱלֹהִים), thus including the Hebrew definite article ha. However, the phrase occurs both with the Hebrew definite article ha (Gen. 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1) and without the definite article simply as ben Elohim (Job 38:7; בְּנֵי אֱלֹהִים). It is also sometimes ben el (“son of God” using El instead of Elohim for God (Ps. 29:1; 89:6). It appears in the Aramaic in Daniel 3:25 as bar Elohim (the Aramaic bar and Hebrew ben both mean “son”). In the New Testament the equivalent phrase, “son of God,” is used of Adam who was a direct creation of God (Luke 3:38), of Jesus Christ who was “the Son of God,” and of Christians, who are “born again” into God’s family when God creates holy spirit in them, which makes them “new creations” (2 Cor. 5:17). Every time the phrase “son of God” appears in the text, it refers to a direct creation of God.
Genesis 6:2 is telling us in very straightforward terms that created beings of God, which we learn in this case are fallen angels (demons), took human women and by an act of genetic manipulation created a race of fallen people, the Nephilim. The fallen angels did not actually have sexual intercourse with the women and by that means produce the Nephilim; instead, the demons manipulated the genetics of the women to produce the fallen race. They had already successfully manipulated the genetics of many things in God’s creation, such as the plants that they changed so they would produce thorns.
Some critics say that these “sons of God” are not divine beings, and that the word “son” is also used of people who are in relation to God and who are not direct creations of God. It is true that the biblical and cultural use of the Hebrew word “son” is very broad, including natural children, disciples, and people who are dear to you. However, the specific phrase “son of God” is very different than simply the word “son,” and it only occurs eight times in the Old Testament and all of them refer to spirit beings—direct creations of God.
We can also see that these “sons of God” are spirit beings by how they show up in the Bible. Here in Genesis 6:2 and 6:4, these “sons of God” took any of the daughters of men they chose. Fathers have always been protective of their daughters, and if these sons of God were humans, they could not have had any woman they chose. They could do so only because they were spirit beings. In Job 1:6 and 2:1, the “sons of God” come into the presence of God in heaven, and in Job 38:7, they were around when the earth was created. This shows they are spirit beings. In Psalm 29:1 is a summons for the divine beings to exalt Yahweh. In Psalm 89:6 the “sons of God” are in heaven, in the sky. In Daniel 3:25, Nebuchadnezzar sees a divine being “like a son of God” (or perhaps to him, “a son of the gods”) walking in the fire. From the scriptural evidence, we conclude that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2 and 6:4 are divine beings, and from the context and scope of Scripture, we can see that the ones mentioned here in Genesis 6 are fallen angels.
[For more on the “sons of God” being spirit beings, see commentary on Genesis 6:4, “Nephilim.” For more on “fallen angels,” see commentary on Revelation 12:9.]
“desirable.” The context in Genesis 6 is fallen angels (who are called “sons of God”) wanting human women so they could produce a fallen race—the Nephilim. The Hebrew word we translate “desirable” is tov (#02896 טוֹב), which has a large semantic range. Generally, it refers to things that are “good,” “pleasant,” “beneficial,” “valuable,” “appropriate,” “right,” “happy,” etc. While it is true that tov is used in some contexts as “beautiful,” that is not its primary meaning here. The fallen angels did not come to the women because they were so beautiful they could not be resisted, but because the demons had an ulterior motive.
Although tov certainly may have overtones of “beautiful” or “attractive” here, its more appropriate contextual meaning is “desirable” [to bring about a specific end]; “beneficial,” or “good” [for the desired purpose]. We see this meaning a few chapters earlier in Genesis in the record of Eve in the Garden of Eden. Eve saw the fruit was “good (tov) for food,” that is, it was beneficial for her purpose. The fruit was also “pleasing to the eye,” or “attractive,” but that is the Hebrew word ta’avah (#08378 תַּאֲוָה), not tov.
Ancient mythologies have stories about gods seeing human women and coming down and seducing or raping them, and that, together with our natural romantic inclination, leads us to want to think that the “sons of God” (God’s created beings) saw that human females were beautiful and sexually attractive, so out of lust they came and took the ones they chose. However, the context and scope of Scripture, and also human history, militate against that interpretation.
It is doubtful that human women are attractive to angels and demons in the way that humans are attracted to each other. For one thing, there does not seem to be any way a spirit being can actually get some kind of what we know as sexual fulfillment by being with a human being. Furthermore, in the thousands of years since the last outbreak of Nephilim after Noah’s Flood, there have not been any more incidents of demons producing Nephilim by human women. This points to the fact that the demons were with the women only for the purpose of producing the Nephilim, not because they were so sexually attracted to them.
In the context we see that the fallen angels had the ulterior motive of producing the “Nephilim,” or “Fallen ones,” a mutant race so evil that in a very short time “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” It would not have taken the Nephilim too long to destroy the genetically pure descendants of Adam and Eve and destroy any hope mankind had of producing the Savior, Jesus Christ, so God saved the human race by destroying the earth, including all the Nephilim, in the Flood. Noah’s Flood did not deter the Devil from his plan to prevent the Savior from coming, and so after the Flood, more demons produced more Nephilim, which is why Genesis 6:4 says, “and also after that,” i.e., after the Flood. But those Nephilim were killed off, and all the demons who produced the Nephilim were imprisoned in Tartarus, the Greek word that refers to a prison for the gods (2 Pet. 2:4; cp. 1 Pet. 3:18-20).
The Devil has continually tried to keep God’s Messiah from saving mankind and destroying him. He tried destroying the Christ-line and Israel many times; he tried having Jesus killed as a baby and stoned as an adult. The Nephilim were just one more plan the Devil tried, but it, too, failed.
This teaching explains who the “sons of God” were in Genesis 6, and that they orchestrated one of the first Satanic attacks on mankind to try to stop the promised “seed” of Genesis 3:15 from being born.
Verses: Gen. 1:11-12, 21, 24-25; 3:17-18; 6:1-5; Lev. 19:19; Num. 13:1-2, 23, 26-33; Deut. 2:9-11, 19-22; 3:10-11; 7:1-2; 9:1-3; 20:10-18; Josh. 11:21-23; 1 Chron. 20:4-8; Job 1:6; 2:1; 26:1-5; 38:4-7; Ps. 88:3-10; Prov. 2:16-18; 21:16; Isa. 14:3-9; 26:14, 19; Dan. 3:25, 28; 2 Cor. 5:1-2; 1 Pet. 3:18-20; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6-7
Teacher: John Schoenheit