Who are the “sons of God” in Genesis

Allen Ross has an interesting interpretation in the Bible Knowledge Commentary. He states that the “sons of God” are rulers who were controlled by the fallen angels. They strived for fertility and fame and were considered powerful. He theorizes that the fallen angels left their home and took over the bodies of the mighty ones of the earth such as warriors. The only scripture reference he gives is that of Ezekiel 28:11-19 and Daniel 10:13, where he suggests that the kings of the earth have powerful demonic princes pulling their strings, as if they were puppets. He also uses Ugaritic literature, as well as other nations’ literature, as references. Their kings were describes as divine, half-divine, or even demigods. Their kings have also been known to be children of gods themselves. The legend goes for the Ugaritic is the chief god of pantheon, El, seduced two human women. Therefore, the pagans had an origin for their gods and humans.[1]

Robert James Utley gives evidence suggesting that the phrase “sons of God” refers to kings or tyrants in the commentary, How It All Began. He begins by listing several ancient translations that support this view. Targum of Onkelos translates “sons of God” as “sons of nobles,” and likewise Symmachus translated it as the “sons of kings.” In the NIV and NET translations, “Elohim” is used of the Israelite leaders. (cf. Ex. 21:6; 28:8; Ps. 82:1, 6) The last thing mentioned is the Nephilim is linked to Gibborim in Gen. 6:4. Gibborim is from Gibbor meaning a mighty man of valor, strength, wealth, or power.[2]

K. A. Matthews makes his case theorizing that the “sons of God” is a reference to the righteous lineage of Seth. Keeping with context, Genesis chapter four and five contrast the lineage of Cain and Seth. Chapter 6:1-8 tells how the two lineages intermarry. Bene ha Elohim is translated as human referents; therefore, Elohim is rendered as “godly sons” referring to Seth’s lineage. He also states throughout the Pentateuch, it identifies the Israelites as the children of God. (e.g. Deut. 14:1; 32:5-6; cf. Ex. 4:2; Ps 73:15; 80:15) Further scripture references in Genesis shows how intermarriage between the godly and ungodly resulted in trouble for the righteous, therefore, there was a need to have the Mosaic Law prohibiting marriage outside the covenant community. (e.g. Gen 28:1; 34; 38)[3]

After careful study of scripture and prayer, it has to be seen that “sons of God” is a reference to the godly lineage of Seth. In the first example, fallen angels have been the traditional meaning to the “sons of God.” As far-fetched as it may seem, the references are only two sources from the Bible, taken out of context and have been elaborated to fit the need for his explanation. Using Ugaritic literature to propose truth is not a positive direction since there is myth fueling it. Believing “sons of God” was kings and tyrants is logical to a point. The Bible should translate the Bible and this is done with the use of the NIV and NET with the word “elohim.” Scripture references given to translate “elohim” as the Israelite leaders are given, but there are very few. The most important rule in reading the Bible is context, context, and more context. The phrase “sons of God” refers to the righteous lineage of Seth and this is proven through the context of Genesis chapters 4-6. Throughout the Pentateuch, warnings are given not to intermarry, due to the temptation to lead the godly down an ungodly road. This does not end in the Old Testament as Paul warns in the New Testament; not be yoked, with unbelievers. (e.g. 2 Corinthians 6:14–18)

Bibliography

Mathews, K. A. The New American Commentary. 1A. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1996.

Ross, Allen P. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Vol. 1. Edited by J. F Walvoord, & R. B. Zuck. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Utley, Robert J. How It All Began: Genesis 1-11, Study Guide Commentary Series. Vol. 1A. Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International, 2001.


[1] Allen P. Ross, “Genesis” In , in , vol. 1, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 36.

[2] Robert James Utley, vol. Vol. 1A, How It All Began: Genesis 1–11, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International, 2001), 85.

[3] K. A. Mathews, vol. 1A, Genesis 1-11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 329.

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