The sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.
In yesterday’s Daily Bible Verse Blog post, we explained why the “sons of God” in this scripture cannot be angelic beings. But the question remains—who were the “sons of God”?
Though the text of Genesis 6 does not specifically identify who exactly these men were, there are a number of possibilities that have been proposed by students of the Bible. Here are two possible explanations of this verse:
- Marriages between men and women characterized by idolatry and violence. This explanation views the “sons of God” as generally evil men marrying women of the earth. Genesis 4:26 can be translated “men began to profane the name of the LORD” or “men began to take on themselves the name of the LORD” and can thus describe the growth of idolatry. According to this understanding, the “sons of God” would refer to idolatrous human beings who impregnated human women who then gave birth to children who further defied God. This generation is described as entirely evil—“every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (verse 5). Later in the chapter we read that “violence” was another characteristic of the majority of people at this time (verses 11, 13).
- Marriages between men of the line of Seth and women of the line of Cain. This is the most common explanation that is proposed by Bible scholars. This explanation is largely based on a different interpretation of Genesis 4:26, that of a reference to Seth’s descendants having some form of worship of the true God (though some interpret this verse differently). If there was knowledge and worship of the true God among the descendants of Seth, it is possible that they could have been referred to as the “sons of God.” If the phrase “sons of God” here is a reference to the descendants of Seth, it is possible that the phrase “daughters of men” is a reference to women of Cain’s line, which became totally separated from God (Genesis 4:16-24).
Alfred Edersheim explains, “The corruption of mankind reached its highest point when even the difference between the Sethites and the Cainites became obliterated by intermarriage between the two parties, and that from sensual motives” (Bible History Old Testament, p. 39). The intermarriages between these two previously separated family lines would have been a symptom and a cause of the spiritual degeneration of the descendants of Seth, leading to even greater societal “wickedness” and “evil” (Genesis 6:5).
Though we cannot definitely state the specific identify of the “sons of God” and “daughters of men,” the fact that the “sons of God” do not represent angelic beings is certain.
To learn more about the situation in Genesis 6, read “Sons of God in Genesis 6: Who Are They?”
Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “A Wicked and Evil Humanity.”