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In the Book of Genesis, the term “sons of God” is used to refer to a group of beings who fathered the Nephilim. The Nephilim are described as a race of giants who lived before the great Flood.
There are several different interpretations of who the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:2, 4 might be. One view is that they were a group of angels who rebelled against God and married human women, producing offspring who were half-human and half-angelic. This interpretation is based on the understanding that the term “sons of God” is often used in the Bible to refer to angels (for example, see Job 1:6 and Job 38:7).
Another interpretation is that the “sons of God” were a group of human descendants of Seth, the son of Adam, who intermarried with the descendants of Cain, the son of Adam, who was banished from the Garden of Eden. According to this interpretation, the term “sons of God” is used to refer to the descendants of Seth, who were seen as being more faithful to God, while the term “daughters of men” refers to the descendants of Cain, who were seen as being more rebellious.
Overall, it is not difficult to be certain about the identity of the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:2, 4, even though different interpretations of this passage have been offered by different biblical scholars and theologians.
Who were the “sons of God” that fathered the Nephilim? Some have suggested that they were worshipers of God, as opposed to the other wicked men. This could hardly be the case if we follow the context. The account says that their marriage to “the daughters of man” caused the wickedness to increase substantially. Noah and his family of a wife, three sons, and their wives were the only ones walking with God at that time.―Genesis 6:9; 8:15, 16; 1Pe 3:20.
Therefore, if we were to suggest that these “sons of God” were merely men, this would beg the question, why would their offspring be referred to as “the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown,” more so than the other wicked men, or especially Noah and his family? Moreover, the question arises as to what would be so special, if they were just men, for the account to mention their marriage to “the daughters of man” as though that was special in some way. Men had been marrying women and having children for some 1,500 years at this point.
The understanding that these “sons of God” were disobedient angels, an interpretation that has been around since the beginning is the best choice. The same expression “sons of God” is found in Job 1:6 and Job 38:7 and is applied to angels. This interpretation is supported by the apostle Peter as well, for he writes, “he [Jesus] went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared.” (1 Pet. 3:19-20) Moreover, Jude adds weight to this position as well, when he writes, “the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day.” (Jude 6)
These rebel angels had the power at one time to materialize in human form, just like the ones that remain faithful to Jehovah God, as they delivered messages for Him. (Gen. 18:1, 2, 8, 20-22; 19:1-11; Josh. 5:13-15) The “proper dwelling” that Jude speaks of is heaven, to which these angels abandoned, to take on human form, and have relations that were contrary to nature with the “the daughters of man.” (Dan. 7:9-10) The Bible intimates that these rebel angels were stripped of their power to take on human form, as you never hear of it taking place again after the flood, only spirit possession after that. These disobedient angels are now “spirits in prison,” who had been thrown into “eternal chains under gloomy darkness,” which is more of a condition of limited powers, not so much a place, like a maximum-security prison.―1 Peter 3:19; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6.
Who Were the Nephilim of Genesis 6:4
Some scholars have argued that the Nephilim are simply wicked men like Cain, but worse, nothing more. They base their argument on the statement of “and also afterward” in verse 4, as they say, the Nephilim “were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them.” In other words, the Nephilim were on the earth before the “sons of God had relations with “the daughters of man.”
This position does not outweigh the correct interpretation that the “sons of God”, who were rebel angels, took on human form, had relations with the “daughters of man,” and produced a mighty offspring of half-man, half-angelic. Some translations have moved the phrase “and also afterward” closer to the beginning of verse 4, which would identify the Nephilim with the “mighty men.” For example: “In those days, as well as afterward, there were giants [Heb., hannephilim] on the earth, who were born to the sons of the gods whenever they had intercourse with the daughters of men; these were the heroes [Heb., haggibborim] who were men of note in days of old.”―Genesis 6:4, AT, NIV, and TEV.
The Greek Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament made between 280 and 150 B.C.E., also agrees that both the “Nephilim” and “mighty men” are one and the same, using the word gigantes (giants) to translate both expressions. If we look at the context, we will see that in verses 1 through 3, the “sons of God” were taking wives for themselves and that God had tired of this rebellious behavior and said of man, “his days shall be 120 years.” Thus, we see in verse 4 that the Nephilim were in the earth “in those days.” “In those days” was obviously referring to when God made the statement. Therefore, it showed that this ongoing situation continued “also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of man, and they bore children to them.”