The Sons of God and
(Genesis 6:1-8; 2 Peter 2:4)
by Bob Wilkin
Genesis 6:1-8 is one of the most amazing passages in the entire Bible. This passage touches on issues like fallen angels, demons, Noah’s flood, man’s sinfulness, God’s judgment, hell, and grace. The mythologies of the Greeks and other cultures in which the gods had superhuman children by having sexual relations with humans may be derived from this event.
It is not an exaggeration to say that understanding this passage makes it possible to have a good grasp of many other passages and truths in the Word of God.
The Sons of God Were Fallen Angels
In the OT the expression the sons of God is used of angels and that usage is clearly in view here.
Actually there are two other views of what the sons of God are here, but neither fits this passage or the NT explanation of it.
Alternate view #1: The sons of God were godly humans from the line of Seth. In this view they married ungodly women descendent from Cain.
Alternate view #2: The sons of God were ungodly humans who were indwelt by fallen angels and they married women in an effort to have superhuman offspring.
The very next verse makes it clear that what happened here was a bad thing. View 1 is ruled out on that basis alone. The godly line of Seth would not marry ungodly women, and if they did, then they wouldn’t be godly, they would merely be the line of Seth.
In addition, 2 Pet 2:4 indicates that it is angels who, having stepped out of their normal bounds, committed this sin. Thus, fallen angels clearly were involved.
View #2 might fit the context and 2 Pet 2:4. However, nowhere else in the OT are rebellious men, especially men possessed by fallen angels, called sons of God. In addition, 2 Pet 2:4 indicates the angels left their proper bounds. But if they merely possessed humans, how would that be leaving their bounds?
Those holding to view #2 point to Matt 22:30 as ruling out the possibility that this refers to fallen angels. However, in the first place, Jesus was speaking in Matt 22:30 about unfallen angels, not fallen angels. In the second place, Jesus was speaking about the situation that existed when He spoke, not the situation that existed in the past. It is quite possible that after this incident God made it impossible for fallen angels to have offspring with women.
What happened is that around 1500 years after the creation, fallen angels had sexual relations with willing human women, probably women who desired for their offspring to have immortality. The women probably thought their children would be superhuman and would live forever.
This section is a continuation of the toledot, the history, begun in Gen 5:1, which introduced the theme of death. Because of man’s sin, death reigned.
This section shows how deadly sin really is. Whereas in Chapter 5 we read “and he died” eight times, referring to the deaths of eight men, this section introduces what will become the death of every living human being except Noah and his family. As a result of this incident it is safe to say that a billion or more people died.
120 Years until the Judgment (the Flood)
Some people have wrongly thought that the reference to 120 years here refers to the longest lifespan possible after the flood. However, that is impossible.
In the first place, even today some people live more than 120 years. The oldest person on earth in our lifetimes, according to the Guiness Book of World Records was a French woman named Jeanne Calment who died in 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days. This age has been well document and is considered completely accurate.
There are reports of a woman still alive in Cuba today, Juana Rodriguez, who turned 125 years old in February of 2010, having been born in February of 1885.
In the second place, Noah himself was 600 years old when the flood began (Gen 7:6) and he lived another 350 years after the flood (Gen 9:29). If the flood meant no one would live more than 120 years, how could Noah live an additional 350 years?
Noah’s son Shem lived 502 years after the flood (Gen 11:10-11).
In the third place, children born after the flood lived well beyond 120 years. Arphaxad, the grandson of Noah, was born two years after the flood and he lived 438 years.
Even Abraham lived to be 175 years (Gen 25:7).
The idea that the maximum life expectancy after the flood is 120 years is contradicted by the Bible and even by the ages of the oldest living people in our lifetimes.
So then what does Gen 6:3 mean? It means that the flood would come in 120 years.
God would give Noah 120 years to preach and call people to righteousness so that others might join him and his family in the ark.
The Offspring Were a New Species
While it is possible that the reference to giants is unrelated to the union of the sons of God and daughters of men, that is unlikely.
The giants were the offspring of the fallen angels and women.
In many mythologies the gods had children with humans and the offspring were especially strong and often immortal.
Well, these giants would have been a new species, half human and half fallen angel.
They were not immortal. They could die. Indeed, they all did die in the flood (unless some died in the 120 years before the flood, which is possible).
When a human dies the body stays in the ground but the soul and spirit go to the place of the dead, which at that time was Sheol.
However, what would happen when one of these beings died? Would their souls and spirits go to Sheol?
Actually many believe that when they died, they became spirits without bodies, free to roam the world seeking hosts to live in. Many believe that these spirits without bodies are what demons are.
Demons and Fallen Angels
Let me say that again. It is highly likely that demons are not the same thing as fallen angels, but are the offspring of fallen angels.
It is telling that nowhere in Scripture are fallen angels called demons and nowhere are they equated with demons.
Angels do not need bodies to possess. Thus neither do fallen angels.
Yet in the Gospels Jesus says that when a demon is cast out of a person, he goes to waterless places (though the NKJV reads “dry places,” the Greek is anudroa, which means without water or waterless [so BDAG, p. 91C]) and finds seven more demons, and then goes back to possess the person again (Matt 12:42-43). Note the demons seem to have a strong need to possess a body, and that they go to waterless places, suggesting they fear water, which we would expect from beings that were drowned in Noah’s flood.
This would also help explain the drowning of the pigs in the account of the Gadarene demoniac. Remember that the demons asked Jesus to cast them into the nearby herd of swine. When He did so, the pigs rushed off the cliff and drowned in the sea (Mark 5:13). These beings which first died by drowning are cast into swine and then immediately they drown, certainly something they did not want. This provides a great sense of irony in the incident.
Noah and His Family Would Be
Spared Due to God’s Grace
“Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:8). Some say this refers to unmerited favor. I would say it refers to favor. Clearly Noah was favored by God in part because he was a godly man. While he too was a sinner, he was separated from the ungodly around him and he stood out as a righteous man.
If God had not favored or graced Noah and His family, the whole human race would have been destroyed.
We aren’t told whether Noah’s wife, sons, and daughters-in-law were all godly people. However in 1 Pet 3:20 and 2 Pet 2:5, Peter implies that they were delivered because Noah was righteous. It would appear from what follows in Genesis that his wife and sons and daughters-in-law were following his teachings. But Noah himself was the key. Without his godliness the whole family would have been doomed with the entire world.
A number of applications come to mind:
- Avoid walking away from the Lord. The wages of sin is death. The more we sin, the worse our lives will get and the sooner we are likely to die.
- If away from the Lord, repent and get back in fellowship with Him. God has limited patience with sinful rebellion. When the time runs out, serious judgment, even premature death, will follow.
- Recognize sexual sin as very dangerous. Sexual sin is a sin against the body (1 Cor 6:18) and it often leads people to walk away from the Lord. Flee immorality. It can ruin marriages and families.
- Realize that immortality is not found in mythology or paganism or the new age or in anything other than the promise of God. All humans are immortal. All humans will be resurrected and live forever.
- Believe in Jesus for everlasting life. Only believers will live forever on the new earth in Jesus’ righteous kingdom. Only believers will have a pain-free eternity. Unbelievers will be tormented forever in a place called the lake of fire.
- Live in light of the soon return of Jesus. Just as He destroyed the world by a flood, one day soon He will destroy it by fire. That destruction will lead to a new earth and a new universe.
Wickedness entered our world by means of two types of beings: humans and fallen angels.
A fallen angel, the devil, deceived Eve and got Adam and Eve to sin.
Angels sinned and humans sinned.
Then angels and humans sinned together in having children together, and the result was Noah’s flood.
Realize that we have limited free will. God no longer allows fallen angels to have sexual relations with women. God no longer allows demons to possess humans either, though that is another message.
God rewards obedience and judges disobedience. As believers that is still true of us. We should want His blessing now, and in the life to come.
Allow the message of Gen 6:1-8 to renew your mind (Rom 12:1-2). If you do, your life will be transformed. God’s Word, when received, renews our thinking and our lives are transformed as a result.