Biblical Studies, Old Testament

Sons of God, Daughters of Men

In our discipleship time we have been studying Genesis. I used to teach this class (discipleship, not Genesis), but gave it up as it became too much to prepare any given week. So today, after our morning service was over, our current teacher came to me and asked if I would be willing to lead the discussion in tonight’s study. I said “Sure.” We have not been studying Genesis verse by verse, but have followed the narrative sequentially and discussed certain accounts (i.e. the Fall, Cain and Abel, etc). So, as the post title indicates, tonight’s passage (actually, now, it would be last night’s passage) was Genesis 6, and I was asked to lead discussion of the ever-difficult Genesis 6:1-4–the sons of God and daughters of men.

Certainly not one to shy away from teaching opportunities, I grabbed the few helpful resources I had and plodded away on the laptop to throw together a quick discussion. Basically I presented the three primary interpretations of these verses and discussed them for about 30 minutes. I made clear from the beginning that I am undecided which interpretation I believe to be the right one, and was open to whichever one made the most sense in its context and whose evidence was most compelling. We had a good discussion and I am still undecided.

In case you’re curious and don’t want to drag out your favorite Genesis commentary, the three primary interpretations we discussed were:

  1. The sons of God were angels.
  2. The sons of God were members of Seth’s line.
  3. The sons of God were tyrants, perhaps demon-possessed.

There is also the question of the identity of the Nephilim.

Αυτω η δοξα,



15 thoughts on “Sons of God, Daughters of Men”

  1. It’s a very ugly doctrine which essentially comes down to this – the sons of God are the good guys (White people) while daughters of men are everyone else.

    Generally, they start with interpretation 1 and backtrack to Adam, Eve, and Satan, where the fruit is really relations of an intimate kind. Then, they forward to the Gospels where Christ speaks of the Jewish leaders who has the devil as their father.

    And end with an ugly doctrine of racism.

  2. Jason, I’m still undecided. My reason: never really devoted much time to studying the matter. Now I think I need to, to at least sound intelligent on the matter. 😀

  3. Polycarp: When and where did this particular train of thought originate?

    TC: No need–there’s plenty of other biblical discussion out there for you to display your intelligence! I am undecided also and don’t plan on investing much more time on it, at least not now.

    1. Jason, if you look at Enoch, it makes use of the no. 1 interpretation. I cannot remind the man’s name, but in the 1700’s, someone picked it up and began to divide the races according to this doctrine. In modern times, you have William Branham and Arnold Murray.

      If you click on my page, under the Arnold Murray category, you will see some posts – but I warn you, this doctrine gets my dander up, so my comments were not always the most representative of what I should be. Further, there was a comment train on another post where the person was trying to use Enoch as canonical, and thus prove angelic/human copulation.

  4. Polycarp: I am familiar with the 1 Enoch use (the watchers), just not with those who used it as a platform for hate-mongering. I’ll check out your posts on the subject.

    TC: If you can flesh out that discussion with your kids, you’ll be doing well. Reminds me of Nick’s post recently about going through Pentateuch authorship options with his daughter! Seriously, though, I share your conviction that we ought to be able to discuss intelligently questions on the hard passages of Scripture, whether they come from our kids or elsewhere.

  5. When it comes to explaining these things to my kids, I take the approach of the Fathers – everything points to Christ. It understanding the ‘Sons of God’ I use John’s prologue to say that through Christ we all become the Sons of God, just as those that followed Him through Seth.

  6. Jason, yeah, I think we should make a little investment in the end, though not on a seriously scholarly level. The poor kids are not going to get it, anyway.

    Polycarp, I like your approach. Hey kids, “Everything points to Christ!”

  7. I lean toward #3, as it seems to make the most sense in the context of the ancient near east.

    At least that’s what I got from Meredith Kline somewhere along the line, and it seemed to make sense.

    I’ve heard that Sailhamer takes the view in his Genesis commentary that that not only does it simply refer to the line of Seth, but also that there was no offense involved at all. I’d be interested to see how he came to that conclusion.

    1. From what I know of Sailhamer, it would be an interesting read following his exegesis. It’s one of the reasons I want to read his commentary.

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