Who Are the Sons of God and Daughters of Men in Genesis 6:1-5?
“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. The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” — Genesis 6:1-5
There are several competing theories on this admittedly peculiar text, a few of them fantastic, at least one of them rather pedestrian, ordinary. Some suggest, for instance, that what is happening here is that angels, typically fallen angels or demons, are intermarrying with human women. My position is the far more pedestrian one, but one that carries with it an important lesson.
First, why I reject this more fantastic view. Angels, whether fallen or not, and though I am happy to concede they can appear in human form, are spirit beings. They have no bodies. Most of the time most of us remember this, though here some seem to forget. Because angels are spirit beings they are not equipped to consummate a marriage and to sire offspring. Demons can do all sorts of shocking and even frightening things. This, however, is not one of them. They can’t bring forth giants because they simply can’t bring forth.
When we consider the context of this text we can better understand what Moses is explaining. In previous chapters we are given a glimpse of two competing lines, the godly line of Seth and the wicked line of Cain. Having established the antithesis in the garden, after affirming that there would be a constant struggle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent we are given snapshot pictures of each of these armies. We see Seth’s line about the business of exercising dominion, in submission to the Lord. We see Cain’s line dishonoring the law of God and making names for themselves. But the future is not mere co-existence between the two lines. The drama builds toward the great crisis of Noah’s flood right here in chapter 6. The great change, what creates the great downward spiral of humanity on the earth is that the two lines come together as one. That is, the godly line of Seth, the sons of God, seeing how attractive are the daughters of men, the wicked line of Cain, decide to take them as wives. The end result, however, isn’t mere dilution. It’s not that the now joined line becomes morally lukewarm, but that evil spreads, grows, deepens. This shouldn’t surprise as for as Chuck Swindoll reminds us, if you drop a white glove in the mud, the mud doesn’t get all glovey.
What we see is salt losing its savor. We see what becomes of intermarrying not with a different race, but a different covenant, or a different faith. What we see is what happens when we are unequally yoked. Nothing, of course, has changed. When the children of God find the world attractive, when we determine to yoke ourselves to it, calamity comes. The world does not get any better, but the church, no longer a light on the hill, becomes much worse, and darkness falls upon the land. We are no longer useful for anything and find ourselves trampled upon the ground.