Sons of God or Sons of the Gods?

sons of god or of gods (3)

3) Gen 6:1–2: This passage contains numerous parallels to other documents from the Ancient Near East (ANE). As a result, the original audience understood much of the ambiguity we encounter. However, these similarities do not imply that Moses copied from those sources, as stark differences occur.[1]

The section from Gen 6:1–8 not only recalls the great evil which arose from the line of Cain (Gen 4:17–24), it creates a transition from the genealogy of the godly line of Seth to the account of the flood (Gen 6:9–9:17).[2]

In Gen 3, Moses recounted the fall of humanity; in Gen 4, he depicted the fall of the family; and here he demonstrated the fall of society via institutionalized oppression.[3]

Moses employed wordplay to indicate that people obeyed the mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28).[4]

The chapter opens with, “And it came about, when humanity (adam) began to multiply on the face of the land (adamah), and daughters were born to them….”

This meshes perfectly with the account of life before the flood in the Atrahasis Epic.

It begins by stating, “The land became wide, the peop[le became nu]merous, the land bellowed like wild oxen, the god [Enlil] was disturbed by their uproar.”[5]

While in Gen 5 the focus fell upon men, here the emphasis shifts to women and what happened to them.[6]

“And the sons of the gods saw the daughters of humanity (adam), that they [were] good (tov). And they took to themselves wives, whomever they chose.”

“The sons of the gods” can also be translated as “the sons of God” (Ps 29:1; Ps 89:7).[7]

This occurs because the generic name of God (El) usually appears in the Old Testament (OT) as a plural (Elohim) even though it denotes only one God.[8]

In reference to the God of Israel, “Elohim” appears 2,372 times in the OT; the singular “El” occurs only fifty-seven times, mostly in the book of Job.[9]

Apart from the OT, Elohim never refers to only one god in the ANE. Instead, the singular “El” commonly designates a deity.

In Poems about Baal and Anath, the poet wrote, “Oh, my father Bull El! I have no house [like] the gods [Elohim].[10]

Based upon the Hebrew, we cannot ascertain whether Gen 6:2 refers to the God of Abraham, Noah, and Moses, or to other deities.[11]

This contributes to the difficult task of determining the identity of “the sons of God/the gods.”[12]

Although this issue has been described as “one of the thorniest in the OT,”[13] their appearance without any explanation indicates that Moses’s first readers knew the answer.[14]

Hebrew grammar permits three different interpretations.[15] We shall explore each in turn.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

 

Go to Descendants of Seth as the Sons of God

 

[Related pages include Descendants of Seth as the Sons of God (Gen 6:1–2 cont.); Fallen Angels 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); The Blessing of Fruitfulness (Gen 1:28); Cain Arose against His Brother (Gen 4:8); Cain Dedicated a City (Gen 4:17); Two Wives (Gen 4:18–19); Advancements in Civilization (Gen 4:20–22); Lamech’s Ode to Himself (Gen 4:23–24); Author and Date of GenesisExegesis and Hermeneutics; and Ancient Literature]

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

 

[1]Walton, Genesis, 294.

[2]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 115.

[3]Walton, Genesis, 298.

[4] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 139.

[5]E. A. Speiser, trans., “The Atrahasis Epic (Old Babylonian Version),” in ANET, tablet 2, col i, lines 1–3, 104, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n129/mode/2up.

[6]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 139.

[7] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 139.

[8]Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, 399, https://archive.org/stream/geseniushebrewgr00geseuoft#page/398/mode/2up.

[9]Terence E. Fretheim, “אֱלֹהִים” (elohim), NIDOTTE 1:405.

[10]H. L. Ginsberg, trans., “Poems About Baal and Anath,” in ANET, 18–9, 129, https://archive.org/stream/Pritchard1950ANET_20160815/Pritchard_1950_ANET#page/n153/mode/2up.

[11]Helmer Ringgren, “אֱלֹהִימ” (elohim), TDOT 1:276–84, 276.

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

[13]Walton, Genesis, 291.

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

[15]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 115–6.