Fallen Angels as the Sons of God

fallen angels sons of god (2)

c) Gen 6:1–2 cont.: This chapter opens with, “And it came about, when humanity (adam) began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, and the sons of God/the gods saw the daughters of humanity (adam), that they [were] good (tov). And they took to themselves wives, whomever they chose.”

The term “sons of God” does occasionally refer to angels in the Old Testament (Job 38:4–7; Ps 89:6).[1]

Therefore, a second view of this passage asserts that “the sons of God” consisted of fallen angels or spirits (Job 1:6).[2]

In this case, they sinned by transgressing the boundaries between the material world of humanity and the spiritual arena of the heavenly realm.[3]

Throughout Genesis 3–11, people sought to overstep this boundary to achieve divine status. Here we see the opposite: members of the angelic world illicitly seeking to impose upon humanity.[4]

Until the second century AD, scholars teaching this passage unanimously claimed that fallen angels engaged in sex with women.[5]

According to the second century BC Jewish work the Testament of Reuben:

Women…overcome by the spirit of fornication…allured the Watchers (angels) who were before the Flood; for as these continually beheld them, they lusted after them, and they conceived the act in their mind; for they changed themselves into the shape of men, and appeared to them when they were with their husbands. And the women lusting in their minds after their forms, gave birth to giants).[6]

Early Christians also attributed the fall of Satan’s subordinates to their lust for “the daughters of men.”[7]

For example, Justin Martyr (100–165 AD) wrote:

God, when He had made the whole world, and subjected things earthly to man, and arranged the heavenly elements for the increase of fruits and rotation of the seasons, and appointed this divine law—for these things also He evidently made for man—committed the care of men and of all things under heaven to angels whom He appointed over them.

But the angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons; and besides, they afterwards subdued the human race to themselves, partly by magical writings, and partly by fears and punishments they occasioned, and partly by teaching them to offer sacrifices, and incense, and libations, of which things they stood in need after they enslaved by lustful passions; and among men they sowed murders, wars, adulteries, intemperate needs, and all wickedness.[8]

Some modern scholars, such as Gordon Wenham, hold this view. They contend that unless Moses meant angels, the text says that “the sons of some men” married “the daughters of other men.” Wenham notes that, in Ugaritic texts, the “sons of El” refers to lesser gods in the divine pantheon.[9]

However, the ones serving in El’s Council are not angels but gods.[10]

A frequently cited text says, “The offering which we offer, the sacrifice which we sacrifice, it ascends to the (father of the bn zl [sons of the gods]), it ascends to the dwelling of the bn zl, to the assembly of the bn zl.”

Scholars often cite this text as a parallel to Gen 6:1–4, yet bn zl describes gods.[11]

Hence, a recent translation says, “May it be borne aloft [to the father of the gods, may it be borne aloft to the pantheon of the gods, may it be borne aloft to the assembly of the gods.”[12]

Furthermore, interpreting the “sons of God/the gods” as angels does not fit the context of the flood.[13]

This passage in Gen 6:1–6 focuses upon the intensification of human sin.[14] Accordingly, the Lord judged “flesh” (basar) in Gen 6:3, not spirit beings.[15]

Although angels can eat and drink (Gen 19:1–3),[16] Jesus clarified that they do not marry (Luke 20:34–36).[17]

The conviction that angels could not indulge in sexual activity led second century AD Jewish scholars to reject this explanation in favor of another interpretation.[18]

Christian commentators distanced themselves from it soon afterward but, as we have already seen, took a differing view.[19]

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Read Gen 6:1–2. List the strengths and weaknesses for interpreting the “sons of God” as fallen angels:

strengths–

 

weaknesses–

 

 

Go to Kings as Sons of the Gods

 

[Related posts include Sons of God or Sons of the Gods? (Gen 6:1–2); Descendants of Seth as the Sons of God (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Kings as Sons of the Gods (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Taking Wives for Themselves (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Nephilim in the Land (Gen 6:4); Let Us Make Humanity (Gen 1:26); A World-Altering Conversation (Gen 3:2–5); Succumbing to Temptation (Gen 3:6); Cain Dedicated a City (Gen 4:17); Modern Scholars’ View of 1 Pet 3:19–20; and Rebellious Angels (Jude 6–7)]

[Click here to go to Chapter 5: Groaning and Grieving (Genesis 5:28–6:8)]

 

[1]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 6:2.

[2]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 139.

[3]Walton, Genesis, 291.

[4]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 263.

[5]Walton, Genesis, 291.

[6]R. H. Charles, trans., “Testament of Reuben,” in Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (London: Black, 1908), 5.2–7, 11–2, https://archive.org/stream/testamentsoftwel08char#page/10/mode/2up.

[7]Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1938), 141.

[8]Justin Martyr, “The Second Apology,” in ANF01 (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds.; revised by A. Cleveland Coxe; Buffalo, NY; Edinburgh: Christian Literature, 1884), 363, https://archive.org/stream/TheApostolicFathersWithJustinMartyrAndIrenaeus/apostolic_fathers_with_justin_martyr_and_irenaeus#page/n359/mode/2up.

[9]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 139.

[10]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 262.

[11]H. Haag, “בֵּנ” (ben), TDOT 2:145–59, 2:157–8.

[12]N. Wyatt, Religious Texts from Ugarit, 2nd Ed. (BibSem; New York: Sheffield Academic, 2002), 345.

[13]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 116.

[14]Walton, Genesis, 292.

[15]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 116.

[16]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 116.

[17]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 262.

[18]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 139–40.

[19]Walton, Genesis, 291.