Okay, this is what I know. I know that the Bible sometimes gives us peeks into the supernatural while not making a huge deal of the event. Like, when an angel appears to Mary and tells her that God has chosen her for a specific role, the story doesn’t become a parable for angel worship. The announcement if anything stirs Mary to eventually proclaim an awesome praise of God. The angel (as Mary, by the way) fade into the background as Mary’s Son becomes exceedingly prominent (surely an understatement but I’m trying to highlight the emphasis). The angel has a comparitively minor role in the whole story.
The thoughtflow progression of Genesis 6 — 9 is that A) Mankind is corrupt followed by B) Mankind is willingly wicked which causes God to C) repent of creating man then D) God decides to blot man out based on C) but selects to E) preserve humanity in Noah. The rest of the section (chapters 7 and 8) work as an execution of D) followed by God’s “remembrance” of Noah which is a fulfillment of E). The fact that this section has an early reference to the Sons of God and the Daughters of Men really has no major impact on the thought flow of the passage: so if you take it as Angelic Beings or as the Sethite Line or as Something Else, it still doesn’t impact the thought-flow of the section.
Let me restate that: the flood was caused by God’s decision based on Man’s wickedness and corruptionâ€”not upon what X group did.
So here are three views of the Sons of God, Biblical support for each of these positions, potential problems with each of the positions plus a possible response to the problems. The reason I want to document this is to show, just like with Genesis 1, that there are some things we may not technically understand but it’s not the point of the passage to make us understand. The story documents this event of the Sons of God and the Daughters of Men but it doesn’t further flesh it out.
The Sons of God = Fallen Angels; Daughters of Men = Human women
Fallen Angels took physical form and copulated with women. One view is that these Fallen Angels forced these women (although the language of the passage doesn’t seem to justify that) and another view is that there was a willing union.
Pro: (a) It was the popular view (ie: the LXX translates sons of God as angels) (b) the expression “Sons of God” is used elsewhere in the OT for Angels (ie: Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Ps 29:1; 82:6; 89:7; Dan 3:25) (c) Angels take corporal formâ€”and that of a menâ€”in other places in Scripture (Gen 18) (d) Possible New Testament support (alluded to in 2 Pet 2:4 and mentioned in Jude 6 which is seemingly quoting an apocryphal source: Book of Enoch 6:1, Book of Jubilees 5:1)
Con: (a) Seemingly conflicts with Matt 22:29-30; Mk 12:24-25; Lk 20:34-36 which talks about Angels not marrying (b) seemingly makes Man culpable for the sins of angels (c) borders on the mythological (sometimes by making the spiritual beings give birth to giants).
Defense: (a) Jesus says that Angel’s don’t marryâ€”not that they can’t marry (b) Creation groans due to the sin of Man so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that something Angels did can affect Man’s fate but be that as it may, the Genesis passage makes it a point to underscore man’s personal chosen corruption (Gen 6:5, 11-13; 8:21) and (c) Because the word Nephalim is translated Giants in some versions doesn’t mean that they actually gave birth to mythological Giants. The Giants can be a name for Giant Men or Great Men. In fact, the text’s ambiguity can support that in addition to there being unnatural relations with spiritual beings in physical form, there were also these Nephalimâ€”not necessarily the offspring of the unnatural union although that point can be argued. Besides, if there are echoes of the Bible in mythology that doesn’t necessarily negate that the Biblical account is false.
The Sons of God = The Sethites; The Daughters of Men = Cainites
The Cainites of chapter 4 were ungodly and the Sethites of chapter 5 worshipped the Lord. The problems arose when the Sons of Seth began to marry the daughters of Cain, mingling of believers with unbelievers.
Pro: (a) It is currently a popular view (b) It grounds the text in the “real” instead of the seemingly mythological (c) it puts the blame solely on man (d) Children of Israel are referred to the Sons of God in other passages of Scripture (Deut 14:1; Isaiah 41:23; 43:6; Psalms 82:6) (d) Believers are called Heirs of God, Children of God and Sons of God throughout the New Testament (one example since there are so many references: Gal 3:26)
Cons: (a) Very allegorical use of the words in context with no textual clue that Daughters of Men refers specifically to the Cainites (b) the Sethites aren’t very Godly if only Noah’s family is spared (c) the passages that refer to the Sons of God is not the exact same word usage as used in this passage (d) New Testament appropriation of language does not negate the actual usage in the Genesis passage (e) Peter and Jude seem to be talking about the Genesis passage
Defense: (a) The entire early section of Genesis seems steeped in allegory and poetryâ€”why be surprised by its use in this passage (b) Sons of God as a title for the Sethite line does not negate the present state of the Sethite line in Genesis 6. Israel was still called that even when God said “No-Ami” (Not My People) (c) the Hebrew language only has a certain amount of words and the later uses from those other passages are in a poetic format illustrating effectually the same thing (d) New Testament usage reiterates Old Testament usage which would lean towards a physical people with a Spiritual calling (e) Peter and Jude may not be talking about angels marrying at allâ€”just about angels falling.
The Sons of God = Sons of Kings, Daughters of Men = any woman.
The sin is tied to those of Lamech (from Cain’s side) who was in a polygamous relationship. These men who were renowned set an evil precedence by also being polygamous.
Pros: (a) It grounds the text in the “real” instead of the seemingly mythological (b) it puts the blame solely on man (c) Kings used to refer to themselves of Sons of a god (d) There are places in Scripture that refer to the Sons of God translated as judge or authorities as so (Exodus 21:6; Ps 82:1) (e) the later use of the Nephilim refers to them being mighty men of powerâ€”not hybrid Titans or merely common people
Cons: (a) Israelites never referred to kings as Sons of God (b) the passages like Exo 21:6 refer To God not the Sons of God (c) Granted the Nephalim aren’t necessarily giants that still doesn’t support that the Sons of God are Kings
Defense: (a) The Israelites came from a culture (Egypt) whose Kings did do this sort of thing: to them the evil would be immediately obvious (b) the point of To God does not mean that the people are bringing their complaints to the Invisible, Omnipresent God but they were bringing the complaint to the official in place by God for presiding over such matters. He stands in the place of God in that matter (c) Nor does the Nephalim being heroes not deny the Sons of God being Kings either.
So there you go, three solid reasons to believe either but like I said earlier, taking either view doesn’t negate the main thrust of the passage nor does it affect our major theological positions though it may affect our view of Angels or of God’s people.
The rest of the Genesis series.