A modern book titled Sex After Sixty Five was written to encourage older
people to realize their is still sexual life after retirement. This would have
sounded like a joke to the people before the flood. In Gen. 5:21 we are told that
Enoch was 65 when he had his first son Methusalah. Then in chapter 5 we see
it ending by telling us that Noah after he was 500 had his three sons. Men had
an enormously long span of life in which they could father children, and so we
can understand why their was a rapid growth in the population, as it states in
verse one. After stating that there was a population explosion, this chapter tells of a
problem that resulted from it. The sons of God saw the daughters of men, and
they desired to have them as their wives. This does not sound too unlike the
world of today where women watchers finally see one they feel they can't live
without, and so they ask her to marry them. The problem here is in trying to
determine just who these sons of God are. It is not any easy task, for Bible
scholars of equal love for the Word of God, and equally skilled in interpreting
it have come to 3 different conclusions. Either they are angels, the line of Seth,
or the upper class of nobles.
When scholars disagree the best thing we can do is examine the evidence
for each view and see which case is the strongest. So lets look first at the view
that they are angels.
This view goes way back into the centuries before Christ. The book of
Enoch, which was written in the second century B. C. Says these sons of God
were wicked angels who lusted after the daughters of men. Josephus and
Philo, and most of the Jewish writers held this view. The oldest church fathers
like Justin, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Ambrose also held this view. The
arguments for it are very strong.
A. The expression sons of God is used in the Old Testament of angels. I Job 1:6
we read, "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present
themselves before the Lord."
B. This takes place just before the flood, and Peter in II Pet. 2:4-5 pictures the
angels being judged just before the flood. This seems to indicate they had
something to do with the flood. In Jude 6-7 we read of the angels again being
judged just before Sodom and Gomorah for their immorality, suggesting the
angels may also have been judged for sexual sins.
What appears to have happened according to this view is that the angels took
upon themselves the bodies of men in order to cohabit with human women.
C. This view explains the many legends and myths about divine beings
producing children on earth who were giants and great men. Greek mythology
is full of this type of thing.
Those who hold this view see this account as a strictly human affair of the
pure line of Seth (called sons of God), and the corrupt line of Cain (called the
daughters of men). They point out that there is no other reference to angels,
either before or after, and their is no reason to drag them in here. Leupold
points out that there is no reference to angels in the first 5 chapter of Genesis
and there is no basis for to suddenly introduce them here, when the whole
history is dealing with men only.
A. The view that they could be angels has to be rejected on the basis of words
of Jesus in Matt. 22:30 where he says, "At the resurrection people will neither
marry or be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." We
have no reason to believe that angels would ever have any desire to marry
human women. The text in Gen. 6 makes it clear that these were not just one
night stands and affairs. These were marriages that led to settling down and
raising families. If these were angels who had defied the laws of God, there
would have been judgment on them long before they raised families from these
B. The flood was the result of the wickedness of men, and there is no hint that
it was a punishment for fallen angels. Angels were judged by being sent to
hell, and not by being drowned in a flood. These sons of God were the pure
line of Seth who departed from the will of God and married the ungodly
women from the line of Cain. These intermarriages led to the complete
breakdown of the godly chain. Noah only was left.
C. The people of God are often called the sons of God. God said to Pharaoh in
Ex. 4:22-23, "Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, 'let my son go, so he
may worship me.'" In Deut. 32:19 we read, "The Lord saw this and rejected
them because He was angered by His sons and daughters." There is no need
to introduce angels here, for God's people were called sons of God. Warnings
about the marriage of believers and unbelievers are a common theme in the
Old Testament. There are no warnings about intermarriage with angels.
D. The idea of daughters being born was nothing new. There had been
daughters all along born to men, and the angels could have come down
anytime if that were the case. But the point here is that the population was
getting so great that the two lines of descent could no longer be kept isolated.
The population explosion forced the sons of God to be exposed to these
daughters of godless Cainites. If you mix any two classes of people together,
you will have marriages of these two classes. We see it all through history, and
it happens everywhere yet today. This is a typical human issue, and there is
no need to introduce angels. The preceding chapter deals with the Sethite line
of godly men like Enoch, Methuselah, and Noah, and there is no reason why
chapter 6 would drop that line and pick up on a line of angels that has never
E. It is true that the angels were judged, but no where is there any reference to
it being due to marriage with women, or to any sexual activity. The New
Testament passages that the angel theory refers to do not say anything about
angels and immorality as they do humans. The fact that they are in the same
context cannot be used to imply they were guilty of the same sins. Angels fell
long before men even existed, and so if you bring angels into this text, you
have a second fall of the angels, which the Bible does not support.
F. If this text deals with angels, it has no lesson for the rest of history, but if it
deals with the godly marrying the ungodly, it has a lesson for all of the history
of God's people. This has always been a major problem. In Ex. 34:15-16 we
read God's warning to His people, "Be careful not to make a treaty with those
who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and
sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And
when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those
daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead our sons to do the
same." In Deut. 7:3-4 we read, "Do not intermarry with them. Do not give
your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they
will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the
Lord's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you." These and
others like them are parallel with the text in Gen. 6. And the N.T. says also,
"Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers." This is the age old and universal
problem, and not the danger of intermarriage with angels.
G. Take note of the judgement in this passage. In verse 3 God says, "My spirit
will not contend with man forever,..." In verse 5 it says, "The Lord saw how
great man's wickedness on the earth had become,..." In verse 6 we read, "The
Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth..." Verse 7 says, "So the
Lord said, 'I will wipe mankind, whom I have created from the face of the
earth-men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds
of the air-for I am grieved that I have made them.'" You will note that there is
no judgment on angels, and no reference to God's regret that He had made
angels. They do not appear at all in God's expression of anger and judgment.
All of this evidence lead the great Christian scholars of the early church like
Chrysostom, Augustine, and Jerome, and the reformers like Luther and
Calvin, and the majority of modern commentators to reject the angel theory in
favor of this Sethite view.
There are some miner views that are held by very few, but most will choose
one or the other of these major views. No one could know for sure which is
correct, and so one must keep an open mind. Whatever the case, the children
born to these marriages were men of great stature. Verse 4 calls them
Nephilim. This might seem to support the angel theory because these giant
men seem to be supernatural products, but this is not the case. This same
word is used in Num. 13:33 to describe the big men that the spies saw in the
Promise Land which made them fear to invade it. It says, "We saw the
Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We
seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."
This was long after the flood, and unless we are to assume that different
groups of angels kept coming down and taking wives, these giants were clearly
products of human marriage. There is no need for angels to be involved in
producing these giant men.
This is not a vital issue at all, and godly Bible scholars disagree, but if I had
to choose, this is why I would choose the Sethite theory. I would do so for two
1. The angel theory gets us involved in a strange mixture of the heavenly and
earthly, and it sounds too much like mythology. If we are not compelled to get
into such a strange and awkward realm of angels marrying earthly wives, and
settling down to raise families, why do it? If the entire account fits humans
only, then we should leave it at that and not turn it into a mystery that reveals
no special meaning with value.
2. The whole context stresses the fact of the wickedness of men. The flood was
a judgment upon man and not angels. God was angry because the godly line
of Seth intermarried with the ungodly line of Cain, and except for Noah, there
was no one left to produce a godly line heading for the Messiah. It all makes
perfect sense without angels. On the basis of God's attitude an anger toward
men I choose to believe that the sons of God were the descendants of Seth, and
not angelic beings.