By Spencer D Gear
Genesis 6:2 reads:
- ‘the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose’ (NIV);
- ‘the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose’ (ESV);
- ‘The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives’ (NLT);
- ‘the sons of God saw that they were fair; and they took wives for themselves of all that they chose’ (NRSV);
- ‘the sons of God saw that the daughters of humankind were beautiful. Thus they took wives for themselves from any they chose’ (NET).
Who are ‘the sons of God’ and the ‘daughters of men’?
1. The sons of God
Let’s canvas a few commentaries. H. C. Leupold wrote:
But who are these “sons of God”? Without a shadow of doubt, the Sethites – the ones just described in chapter five as having in their midst men who walked with God, like Enoch (v. 22), men who looked to higher comfort in the midst of life’s miseries, like Lamech (v. 29), men who publicly worshipped God and confessed His name (4:26). Such men merit to be called the “sons of God” (benê ‘elohim), a title applied to true followers of God elsewhere in the Old Testament Scriptures (Leupold 1942:250).
John H. Sailhamer stated that ‘historically there have been primary interpretations of vv. 1-4’. These understandings of the meaning of the ‘sons of God’ are: (1) Angels, which is the oldest view; (2) Royalty, also very old, meaning ‘sons of lords’, sons of judges, kings; and (3) Pious men from the ‘line of Seth’. He rejects the ‘angels’ interpretation as it conflicts with Matthew 22:30 [‘For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven’ (ESV)]. ‘The commonly accepted view is that the “sons of God” refer to the godly, pious line of Seth’ [Calvin, Scofield Bible]. His preferred understanding is that it is a summary of chapter 5 and
there is little to arouse our suspicion that the events recounted are anything out of the ordinary. As a summary of the preceding chapter, this little narrative is a reminder that the sons and daughters of Adam had greatly increased in number, had married and had continued to have children. The impression it gives is that of an interlude, a calm before the storm. For a brief moment we see a picture of man in the midst of his everyday affairs: “marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away” (Matt 24:38-39) (Sailhamer 1990:76).
Harold Stigers is adamant: ‘The “sons of God” of v. 2 cannot be angels, not even fallen angels, for that matter, for their fall would not change their physical character or any other limitations that would prevent their marrying. The emphasis is one of contrast: the “sons of God” stand opposed to the “daughters of men”…. It is a contrast of the followers of God and the followers of the ways of sinful men. Out of the marriages of those opposing groups arose the final corruption’ (Stigers 1976:98)
Stigers’ assessment seems reasonable that the ‘sons of God’ represent the followers of God and Sailhamer’s understanding that it refers to everyday marrying of people that led to the Flood.
2. The daughters of men
Some understanding of this is in the above description. So, briefly, Stiger’s understanding of ‘daughters of men’ is a referral to ‘the followers of the ways of sinful men’ (Stiger 1976:98). For Sailhaimer, ‘this little narrative is a reminder that the sons and daughters of Adam had greatly increased in number, had married, and had continued to have children’ (Sailhamer 1990:76). I do not find this a very adequate explanation.
As for Leupold, ‘”daughters of men” refers indiscriminately to all “daughters of mankind,” which were unfortunately lumped together by the sons of God without regard to their classification, whether Sethite or Cainite. When God’s children lose sight of such basic distinctions and look about only for the pretty faces and the shapely forms, then, surely, degeneracy has set in’ (Leupold 1942:252).
While there are differences in understanding the meaning, there seems to be a thread of the godly intermarrying with the ungodly and this ultimately led to the pollution (degeneracy) of the human race that led to the destruction of Noah’s flood.
Leupold, H C 1942. Exposition of Genesis, vol 1 (chapters 1-19). London: Evangelical Press.
Sailhamer, J H 1990. Genesis, in The expositor’s Bible commentary, 1-284, F E. Gaebelein (gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
Stigers, H G 1976. A commentary on Genesis. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.
Copyright © 2013 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 May 2017.