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Sons of God

Within the OT there is at least one other way in which “sons of God” is used. That is, a few passages appear to refer to angels (Job.1.6; Job.2.1; Job.38.7; Ps.89.6). Gen.6.1-Gen.6.2 may likewise involve angels (in this case they are fallen ones) or they may be demon-possessed individuals, but others view these “sons of God” as kings/rulers/princes.——PT

SONS OF GOD (בְּנֵי־הָֽאֱלֹהִים; LXX οἱ υἱοί του̂ θεου̂). The meaning of this phrase in Genesis 6:1-4 is the center of one of the difficult exegetical problems of the OT. To whom does this title refer, to pagan deities, to pagan rulers, to angels or to descendants of the lineage of Seth? Among pagans there are mythological stories which go back to the Hurrians (c. 1500 b.c.) which tell of nature deities who engage in illicit relations among themselves and in some instances with humans. Is this passage a small remnant of such a story? Most OT scholars admit that erotic mythology is not a normal feature of the OT lit., yet claim that this is such a story. In this case, the OT writer altered an ancient myth and, with embarrassment, set it forth as a basis for God’s judgment in the form of a flood. If so, this method is contrary to procedure elsewhere in the OT. There is some evidence that pagan rulers were called “sons of God” in ancient times. There is no way to prove or disprove such a meaning was attached to this phrase in Genesis 6:1-4.

In several OT passages, such as Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; and Daniel 3:25, the term seems to denote angels or “heavenly beings.” (Cf. Pss 29:1 KJV; 89:6; where “heavenly beings” refer back to God.) The argument is that fallen angels married women and begat children. Nowhere else in Scripture are heavenly beings depicted as corrupting mankind. Jesus said that a married state did not apply to angels (Matt 22:30).


E. G. Kraeling, “The Significance and Origin of Genesis 6:1-4,” JNES 6 [1947], 193ff.; A. Bustanoby, “The Giants and the Sons of God,” Eternity [Oct. 1964], 19, 20; M. G. Kline, “Divine Kingship and Genesis 6:1-4,” WTJ [1962], 187-204.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

1. Job and Psalms:

This article will deal with this phrase as it is used in the above passages. In the passages from Job and Psalms it is applied to supernatural beings or angels. In Job the "sons of God" are represented as appearing before the throne of Yahweh in heaven, ready to do Him service, and as shouting for joy at the creation of the earth, In the Psalms they are summoned to celebrate the glory of Yahweh, for there is none among them to be compared to Him. The phrase in these passages has no physical or moral reference. These heavenly beings are called "sons of God" or "sons of the ’elohim" simply as belonging to the same class or guild as the ’elohim, just as "sons of the prophets" denotes those who belong to the prophetic order (see A.B. Davidson, Commentary on Job 1:6).

2. Genesis 6:2,4:

Different views, however, are taken of the passage in Ge 6:2,4: "The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose ..... The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men."

See Giants; Nephilim.

(1) "Sons of God" is interpreted as referring to men,

(a) to sons of the nobles, who married daughters of the common people. This is the view of many Jewish authorities, who hold that it is justified by the use of ’elohim in the sense of "judges" (Ex 21:6; 22:8 f, etc.). But this cannot be the meaning of ’elohim here, for when ’adham, "men," is used to denote the lower classes, it is contrasted with ’ish, as in Ps 49:2 (Hebrew 3), not with ’elohim. When contrasted with ’elohim it signifies the human race.

(b) Some commentators hold that by "sons of God" is to be understood the pious race descended from Seth, and by "daughters of men" the daughters of worldly men. These commentators connect the passage with Ge 4:25 f, where the race of Seth is characterized as the worshippers of Yahweh and is designated as a whole, a seed (compare De 14:1; 32:5; Ho 1:10 (Hebrew 2:1)). They consider the restricted meaning they put upon "men" as warranted by the contrast (compare Jer 32:20; Isa 43:4), and that as the term "daughters" expresses actual descent, it is natural to understand "sons" in a similar sense. The phrase "took wives," they contend also, supports the ethical view, being always used to signify real and lasting marriages, and cannot, therefore, be applied to the higher spirits in their unholy desire after flesh. On this view Ge 6:1-4 are an introduction to the reason for the Flood, the great wickedness of man upon the earth (6:5). It is held that nothing is said in 6:4 of a race of giants springing from the union of angels with human wives (see paragraph 2, below), and that the violence which is mentioned along with the corruption of the world (6:11) refers to the sin of the giants.

(2) Most scholars now reject this view and interpret "sons of God" as referring to supernatural beings in accordance with the meaning of the expression in the other passages. They hold that De 14:1, etc., cannot be regarded as supporting the ethical interpretation of the phrase in a historical narrative. The reference to Jer 32:20, etc., too, is considered irrelevant, the contrast in these passages being between Israel and other nations, not, as here, between men and God. Nor can a narrower signification (daughters of worldly men) be attached to "men" in Ge 6:2 than to "men" in 6:1, where the reference is to the human race in general. This passage (Ge 6:1-4), therefore, which is the only one of its kind, is considered to be out of its place and to have been inserted here by the compiler as an introduction to the story of the Flood (6:5-8). The intention of the original writer, however, was to account for the rise of the giant race of antiquity by the union of demigods with human wives. This interpretation accords with Enoch chapters 6-7, etc., and with Jude 1:6 f, where the unnatural sin of the men of Sodom who went after "strange flesh" is compared with that of the angels (compare 2Pe 2:4 ff). (See Havernick, Introduction to the Pentateuch; Hengstenberg on the Pentateuch, I, 325; Oehler, Old Testament Theology, I, 196 f; Schultz, Old Testament Theology, I, 114 ff; Commentary on Genesis by Delitzsch, Dillmann, and Driver.)


1. New Testament Terms:

2. New Testament Doctrine:

Sonship is the present possession of the believer in Christ (1 Joh 3:2). It will be completed at the second coming of our Lord (Ro 8:23), at which time the believer will throw off his incognito, by reason of which the world may not have recognized his sonship (1 Joh 3:1,2), and be fully and gloriously revealed as the son of God (2Co 5:10). It doth not yet appear, it hath not yet appeared, what we shall be; the revelation of the sons of God is reserved for a coming day of manifestation.

Among the evidences of sonship are: being led by the Spirit (Ro 8:14; Ga 5:18); having a childlike confidence in God (Ga 4:5); having liberty of access (Eph 3:12); having love for the brethren (1 Joh 2:9-11; 5:1), and obedience (1 Joh 5:1-3).