The Sons of God and Daughters of Man in Genesis 6

Throughout history, Genesis 6 has puzzled Bible interpreters. Who are the sons of God? Are they human royalty? Angelic beings? Demons? And who are the daughters of men? Did the union of these two produce demigod offspring who would plague the land? Rita F. Cefalu joins us to bring clarity to this discussion. Ms. Cefalu has written an excellent article, “Royal Priestly Heirs to the Restoration Promise of Genesis 3:15: A Biblical Theological Perspective on the Sons of God in Genesis 6” published in the Westminster Theological Journal. Building upon Meredith Kline, but offering her own interpretation on the matter, Ms. Cefalu provides a thorough and compelling treatment of this difficult passage.

Ms. Cefalu is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego. She is a graduate of Westminster Seminary California (MA Theological Studies), Wheaton Graduate School, and a PhD candidate at Queens University Belfast.

6:1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. (Genesis 6:1–4, English Standard Version)

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Rob

4 years ago

Looking forward to checking this out (not least of which being that our pastor Adam York is part of the broadcast… 🙂
I’ve wanted to learn more about this passage, as I’ve heard a number of creative views over the years. One of the more interesting/slightly goofy interpretations I’ve heard is that because the earth had become corrupted with human/angel hybrids, one of the purposes of the flood was a way to preserve true humanity(!) and destroy the hybrids. Then again, I heard this same interpretation from a guy who thought there were hidden number codes in the Bible, so not giving that a lot of credibility…

Camden Bucey

4 years ago

I read yesterday that Amos 2:9 apparently teaches that these giants eventually rose to heights of 24 to 36 feet. That’s an “interesting” hermeneutic. I can’t speak for the veracity of this report, but I also heard that Cotton Mather identified Nephilim bones in North America. It turns out they were mastadon remains.

Uwe

4 years ago

To add to the “wacky” chorus here is none other than Meredith Kline (oh, how confusing!) Basically blowing the subject up in favor of the angelic view:

“It has been a merit of some who have thought that they found in this passage a preternatural intrusion into earthly history, a sort of pseudo-messianic embodiment of demonic spirits in human flesh, that they have sensed more fully than the advocates of the traditional exegesis, the titanic, one might almost say the eschatological, character of the ancient crisis.” 

Uwe

4 years ago

In the Kline quote above he is saying – despite not holding to the angelic view – that it IS a merit of the angelic view [preternatural intrusion] that it poses an interesting parallel between it and the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity – Jesus – into human flesh. I.e. the embodiment of demonic spirits in human flesh is a classic *counterfeit* of the Incarnation of Jesus as human. Satan is all about counterfeit. And Kline goes on to remark that it is seeing *more* into the passage because it brings out the severe degree of the titanic crisis that it was such that it caused God to bring on the Flood to answer it. 

To me this insight cements the angelic reading.

By the way: I suspect wacky means means fearing God alone, and not the world or the world’s opinions.

Camden Bucey

4 years ago

Uwe,

Demon possession is one thing, but the “wacky” views to which I referred are indebted more to Greek mythology than God’s revelation.

Benjamin P. Glaser

4 years ago

I’ve always felt with passages like this that Occam’s Razor is best.

“Sons of God” = Sons of Seth

“Daughters of Men” = Daughters of Cain

Uwe

4 years ago

With due respect, that looks more like Glaser’s Razor.

Brian Hildebran

4 years ago

Do a word search of sons of God in Job. Same “bane elohiym” found in Genesis. Now read this verse cause it debunks without question any other view but that of Angels/Watchers. ok 4 verses.

Job 38:
4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare , if thou hast understanding. 5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest ? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened ? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Yahweh sure does know how to end the argument by clearly stating the Bane elohiym (sons of god) were present AT CREATION! So they cannot be men unless you believe they were created before creation!

Also take a look at Doug Van Dorn’s post below as he’s right on the money with ANE (Ancient Near Eastern) Culture studies. What trips up most all Christians on this view is our English Translations. The ESV did some good stuff by including the texts found in Qumran into the translation. Especially since now we have a complete Deuteronomy thanks to Qumran. I would also recommend reading the Book of Jasher since 60+% of Jasher relates to the Genesis timeframe. Jasher however, is not scripture but a Biblically recommended history book in Joshua and 2 Samuel. However, the 2 Samuel reference is not found in the current book of Jasher, possibly lost to history.

I mallonee

1 year ago

You’re going to cut yourself with that grammatical mishandling of the text.

Baus

4 years ago

Doug Van Dorn

4 years ago

An interesting interview, guys. I’ve spent way too much time on this particular passage in the past half dozen years or so, writing a book called Giants: Sons of the Gods (available at amazon) which is probably the only supernatural (“angelic”) take on the story from a Reformed perspective out there. It is basically a biblical theology of the Nephilim from Genesis – Revelation, climaxing not in some weird future second coming nephilim conspiracy theory, but in the first coming and Christ’s defeat of these beings in his death, resurrection, and ascension.

I was hoping to hear Ms. Cefalu interact with the Divine Council, which is really the theological epicenter of the supernatural view, and is the reason almost all ANE scholars now take this approach. Kline wrote about the Council from time to time, but never focused on it. Though he takes the natural (human) view of the passage, I do find that the dynastic king theory he presents, which is itself his own unique take on a very old Rabbinical view, to be compatible with either a natural or supernatural take on the sons of God. I also know that there are supernatural answers for all of the points brought up in this interview, though your guest actually admitted that her interpretation leaves a few questions (such as, on the reading that there were already giants on the earth when the sons of God took the daughters of men, then why mention them at all)?

At any rate, I highly recommend the work of Dr. Michael Heiser (he works for Logos right now) on this topic, especially his bibsac article on Deuteronomy 32:8-9. It will give a perspective that is, well, pretty different from either the Sethite or Klinian view of this text.

Thanks again for the interview.

Douglas Van Dorn

philspeed

4 years ago

How does one go about using extrinsic material to understand scripture better? Could anyone refer me to resources that discuss this issue?

Uwe

4 years ago

The main thing is whether you see the non-biblical material as having influenced Scripture (which is how liberal scholars see it), or you see the non-biblical material as reflecting biblical revelation to one degree of distortion or another.

Dennis Mullen

4 years ago

Which of Kline’s books goes into most detail on this fascinating, and mysterious subject?

philspeed

4 years ago

Thanks for the reply but I am still not satisfied exactly how to go about using extrinsic materials. In the matter of the Genesis 6 discussion, for Kline, the beliefs of the surrounding peoples was the basis of Kline’s interpretation. Their usage of the phrase “Sons of God”, their non-scriptural understand was Kline’s basis for interpreting that passage in Genesis. Pagan beliefs were the foundation for interpreting scripture, his interpretation turned on that. Does anyone else see a problem with that?
I have not read Kline and all I know about his work on this is only what I heard in the Christ the Center podcast.

Uwe

4 years ago

Google: Meredith Kline Genesis 6:2

and a pdf will come up titled Divine Kingship and Genesis 6:1-4.

Uwe

4 years ago

don bryant

4 years ago

Most excellent. A good model of the biblical theological method that relates a passage to the larger narrative of the history of redemption, both finding its meaning from the larger story and giving to that larger story an episode that carries it farther. The author had done her homework and made her case. Much to learn here.

Name*

4 years ago

Sons of God refers to deified rulers. The original context is Nilo-Saharan. The Anakim and the Nephilim are linked to the giants, that is the great one, the “sons” of God, and the “powerful ones of old” in Genesis 6:1-4. The word npyl (nephil) in Aramaic means giant or great and is equivalent to nfy in Arabic, meaning hunter. It is said concerning Nimrod that he was a mighty hunter or a mighty(great) man before the Lord. They ar connected also to the royal Anakim. Anak was a son of Arba (Arba was Hebron, Sarah’s home). Among the Nilotic Bisa, a small cattle-herding population, light skin cattle are called ánaku, which means “to bleach in the sun.” This is probably the origin of the Biblical term Anakim for Abraham’s Ainu ancestors who had a lighter skin. The singular form of the word is ának. (Eric Ten Raa’s The Couth and the Uncouth: Ethnic, Social, and Linguistic Divisions among the Sandawe of Central Tanzania, p. 148)

Uwe

4 years ago

To see that dead link above just google van gemeren sons of god genesis. A pdf will come up. Worth reading.

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