5-3 Sons of God and Daughters of Men

Genesis 6: 2-4: “...the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown”.

Popular Interpretation

It is thought that “the sons of God” are angels who, on being thrown out of heaven for their sin, came down to earth and married attractive women, resulting in them having very large children.


1. There is no mention at all of “the sons of God” coming down from heaven.

2. Why assume these “sons of God” are angels? The phrase is used concerning men, especially those who know the true God (Deut. 14:1 (R.S.V.); Hos. 1:10; Lk. 3:38; Jn 1:12; 1 Jn. 3:1).

3. If believers are to be made equal to angels (Lk. 20:35-36), will they still experience the same carnal desires which then motivated the sons of God, or have the possibility of giving way to them? Of course not!

4. Luke 20:35-36, clearly says that the angels do not marry: “They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage...for they are equal unto the angels”.

5. It is commonly believed that the angels who are thought to have sinned came down to earth at the time of the garden of Eden incidents, but Genesis 6 concerns the time of the flood, which was many years later.

6. The Hebrew word for “giants” in Genesis 6:4, is also used to describe the sons of a man called Anak in Numbers 13:33. Freak human beings of unusual size or strength are sometimes born today, but it does not mean that their parents were angels.

7. We are not specifically told that the giants were the children of the “sons of God”. “There were giants…and also after that…the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men” (:4).

8. If Angels married women, then who were the children, and what were they like? The apocryphal book of 1 Enoch claims that the offspring were "evil spirits" and witches (1 Enoch 15:8-16:1)- but the Bible is utterly silent about this.

Suggested Explanations

1. We have shown that the “sons of God” may refer to those with the true understanding of God. The “sons of God’ of every generation have kept themselves separate from the people of the world, and are warned by God not to marry such people because they will influence them away from following the true God (Ex. 34:12,15,16; Josh. 23:12-13; Ezra 9:12; 1 Cor. 7:39; 2 Cor. 6:14-16). Genesis 3:15 describes how the seed (descendants) of the serpent would be in constant conflict with the seed of the woman (cp. Gal. 4:29). The early chapters of Genesis highlight the fact that there were these two sorts of people; the descendants of Seth called themselves “by the name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26 A.V margin) and comprised the righteous “sons of God”, the seed of the woman. By contrast, the descendants of Cain, are described as being associated with murder and instituting polygamy (Gen. 4:23 & 19), the art of weapon production (Gen. 4:22) and entertainment (Gen. 4:21). The names of these people imply that at this time they started an alternative , apostate, system of worship to replace the true worship of God, which angered God; e.g. Cain named a city after Enoch, whose name means “dedicated”; Irad means “eternal city”; Mehujael means “God combats”; Lamech means “Overthrower” (of the truth ?). The sons of God marrying the daughters of men would therefore describe the inter-marriage of these two lines, so that only Noah and his family were the “seed of the woman” at the time of the flood.

2. Careful reflection on Genesis 6 indicates that the “sons of God” must have been men:-

- They “took them wives of all that they chose”. This process of choosing an appealing woman for marriage is so obviously something experienced by men. Notice how the “sons of God” probably took more than one wife each - “wives of all that they chose”. This was a characteristic of the seed of the serpent (Gen. 4:19), showing us that the two lines had merged; because of the sons of God marrying the daughters of men, God said that in 120 years’ time, He would destroy man (Gen. 6:3) in the flood. Why should God punish and destroy man if the angels had sinned? Seeing that angels cannot die (Lk. 20:35-36), there would have been no point in destroying the earth with a flood to try and destroy them. Things fall into place far better if the “sons of God” were men:- therefore God said, “The end of all flesh(mankind) is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with (from ) the earth” (Gen. 6:13). The violence on the earth which vs. 3-5 associate with the apostasy of the “sons of God” arose through man - man, not angels or the devil, had filled the earth with violence:- another reason God brought the flood was because the earth had become corrupt. Why did this happen? It was corrupt, “for (because) all flesh had corrupted His way upon the earth” (Gen. 6:11 & 12). Man had corrupted the true way of God - due to the sons of God, who understood “the way”, mixing with the people of the flesh. “The way” is a phrase used to describe the true understanding of God (e.g. Gen. 3:24; 18:19; Ps. 27:11; 119:32-33; Acts16:17; 9:2; 18:25; 19: 9 & 23; 2 Pet. 2:2). This corruption of “the way” by the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 is commented on in Jude v. 11, where the apostate Christians of the first century are likened to those men who went “in the way of Cain” - not of the truth. Cain was the father of the seed of the serpent line;

- The actions of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2 , are described in v. 5 as “the wickedness of man”, which “was great in the earth...every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”;

- Jesus said that the world in the last days would be similar to what it was at the time of Noah. He implied that in the same way as men had the wrong attitude to marriage in Noah’s time, so men also would in the last days before His return (Lk. 17:26-27). The only reference to attitudes to marriage at Noah’s time is in Genesis 6:2, thus again implying that the “sons of God” who married wrongfully were men.

3. “There were giants in the earth in those days”. The Hebrew syntax here would suggest that this is a notice that at this time, there were giants in the earth. The giants aren't described as being the offspring of the relationship between the sons of God and daughters of men. The word “giants” has two possible meanings: “fallen ones” (which would be relevant to their being the “sons of God” who had spiritually fallen away) and “assailants, hackers, tyrants”- the definition provided by Martin Luther and H.C. Leupold (1). This is the root of the Hebrew word for “giant”, and is used in 2 Kings 3:19 & 25, to describe a vicious attack on the Moabites by Israel. Thus we get the impression that there were men, perhaps of great physical size and strength, who went around viciously attacking people. They became famous (or infamous) - “men of renown”. Job (22:15-17) comments upon them: “Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden? Which were cut down out of time, whose foundation was overflown with a flood: which said unto God, Depart from us”. Notice that this refers to men, not angels. In passing, it would seem these men may have their latter day counterpart in the gang warfare and its associated mentality of our modern world. We have shown in Digression 3 that the intention of Moses in Genesis was to explain Israel's surrounding world to them, and deconstruct the false ideas they encountered in surrounding myth. The people were frightened by the "giants" they met in the land of Canaan (Num. 13:33). These nephilim [LXX gigantes] had their origin explained by Moses in Genesis 6- the righteous seed intermarried with the wicked, and their offspring were these nephilim, mighty men of the world. Note in passing how Ez. 32:27 LXX uses this same word gigantes to describe pagan warriors who died- no hint that they were superhuman or Angels.

4. The idea of cosmic beings coming to earth and having sexual relations with human women is a classic piece of pagan myth; and the Jews came to adopt these into their interpretations of the Genesis 6 passage, e.g. in the Book of Enoch. Josephus brings out the similarities: "The angels of God united with women... the actions attributed to them by our tradition [note that- "our tradition", not Scripture itself!] resemble the bold exploits which the Greeks recount about the Giants" (2). Clearly, Jewish thinking sought to accommodate the pagan myths.

5. The Israelites were aware of the existence of unusually large people- the Zamzumin, Zumin, Rephaim, Nephilim, Emim, and Anakim (Dt. 1:28, 2:10-11, 20-21, 3:11). The bed of Og, King of Bashan, a Rephaim, was nine cubits long, over 14 feet (Dt. 3:11). In Canaanite mythology these giants came from intermarriage between human beings and the gods; but Moses in Genesis 6 is surely addressing this myth and correcting it. He's saying (by implication) that this didn't happen, but rather the Godly seed and the wicked intermarried; and yes, at that time, there were giants in the earth, but they were judged and destroyed by the flood, and the implication surely was that the Israel who first heard Moses' inspired history could take comfort that the giants they faced in Canaan would likewise be overcome by God.

6. We have elsewhere commented on how apostate Jewish theology sought to minimize human sin and blame it on a Satan figure. It's significant that when the inspired New Testament writers refer to the flood, there is no suggestion by them that they accepted the idea that sinful Angels somehow led humanity into sin. Instead, they repeatedly underscore the fact that it was human sin which led God to punish humanity. The uninspired Book Of Jubilees, written about 150 BC, claims that Noah complained to God about "the unclean demons" leading his grandchildren into sin and asked God to judge these demons, thus resulting in the flood (Jubilees 10:1-7). That is mere fantasy- and quite the opposite of what the Genesis record states- where clearly it is human wickedness which leads God to judge humans. What I find so highly significant is that the Lord Jesus and His apostles stress that it was indeed human sin which led to Divine judgment through the flood. Effectively, they're thus deconstructing these false ideas which were circulating and upholding the Biblical emphasis against the sophistry of the false theology about Satan / demons which was circulating. It's a tragedy that the same false understandings still circulate, and so many still refuse to face up to the clear teaching of Scripture- that human beings sin and must take responsibility and bear judgment for that sin.

7. I commented at some length in Digression 3 how this passage is actively deconstructing false Canaanite myths about sinful gods, giants, demons etc. It could be argued that this passage, along with much of early Genesis, is actually deconstructing the wrong ideas about Angels, demons, Satan etc. which Israel had encountered in Egypt and amongst the Canaanite tribes. It is teaching that the giants which Israel had noticed were in fact only human, and no more. They were "mighty men", "men of renown". Later Scripture does likewise- the Rephaim had children like other human beings (2 Sam. 21:16,18; Dt. 3:11), inhabiting an area known as the valley of Rephaim (Josh. 15:8). Cassuto comments: "The intention of the section is actually to contradict certain folk-tales, and to erase, as far as possible, their mythological features" (3). Elsewhere, Cassuto draws attention to the significance of God's comment upon the sin of the 'sons of God' in Gen. 6:3: "My spirit shall not abide in [or, strive with] man for ever". God comments upon the human condition, not upon anything out in the cosmos. He comments: "[this] implies: Do not believe the heathen tales about human beings of divine origin, who were rendered immortal; this is untrue, for in the end every man must die, "in as much as he, too, is flesh"... the Torah's intention is to counteract the pagan legends and to reduce to a minimum the content of the ancient traditions concerning the giants" (4). The record of the flood which follows that of the mention of the 'giants' can be read as a further deconstruction of the myths about them. The Biblical record states that God opened the "windows of Heaven" (Gen. 7:11). The identical term in Ugaritic occurs in Tablet 2 AB, col. 7 line 17 of the Ras Shamra tablets. Cassuto explains that "The Canaanites used to tell of the god Baal that at one stage he built for himself a palace in the sky and opened therein windows... the Canaanites attributed to Baal the sending down of rain from heaven", but that the giants / offspring of the wicked gods "set down their feet and closed up the deep, and they placed their hands on the windows" (5). The Genesis record stresses that the giants were mere men; and that it was God and not the giants who opened and closed the windows of Heaven and sent the rain of the flood. This would fit in with wider evidence that the flood record, like that of the sons of God and daughters of men, is also purposefully deconstructing pagan myths about the flood. Just one example: Gen. 8:2 states clearly that it was God who caused the flood rains to cease and the waters to subside- whereas the pagan myths claim that it was the sun god who appeared and caused the waters to evaporate. The Biblical record says nothing about the waters disappearing by solar evaporation, but claims they subsided as a result of the work of Israel's God.


(1) H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis, Vol. 1 (Ann Arbor, MI: Wartburg Press, 1942), p. 250.

(2) Antiquities Of The Jews 1.3.1.

(3) Umberto Cassuto, Biblical And Oriental Studies (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1975) Vol. 2 p. 108.

(4) Umberto Cassuto, Commentary On The Book Of Genesis (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1998 ed.) Vol. 1 p. 300.

(5) References in Umberto Cassuto, Commentary On The Book Of Genesis (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1992 ed.) Vol. 2 pp. 86,87.

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