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The Sons of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
November 20, 2021 12:01 am

The Sons of God

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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November 20, 2021 12:01 am

Genesis 6:2 tells of the "sons of God" who married the "daughters of man." Does this text describe marriages between angels and women, or is something else in view? Today, R.C. Sproul studies this passage in context to reach its true meaning.

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Reformation is needed in almost every day. If Paul, within years of founding the Corinthian congregation, needs to see them reformed, we can't be surprised that churches need reforming regularly in the history of the church. Sometimes that reform is more in the nature of a revitalization, but I think people have, especially in America, been too content to be satisfied with entertainment and with shallowness, and we need a seriousness about God, about Christ, and about His Word, and I think to be drawn again to a passionate interest in the Word is going to take a major reformation of the church today. My hope is that this series will serve the church by causing people to reflect on what the church ought to be according to the Word of God. We're exploring some of the passages in the Bible that are difficult to understand, and there's a real doozy in the book of Genesis. Stay with us.

Renewing Your Mind is next. Genesis chapter 6 tells us that the sons of God married the daughters of men. Some have identified these sons of God as angels, and as we read on, we're led to ask, did they really marry humans and create a race of giants? Let's find out. Here's Dr. R.C.

Sproul. We continue now with our study of some of the hard sayings of Scripture. We remember that in the 20th century, one of the most prominent biblical scholars to come out of Germany was Rudolf Bultmann, who gave a massive critique of the Scriptures, arguing that the Bible is filled with mythological references and for it to have any significant application to our day that the biblical interpreter must first demythologize the text of Scripture.

Of course, Bultmann's major concern was with the New Testament narratives, particularly those that included records of the miraculous, which he deemed impossible to have occurred. But not only did we face that struggle with the charge of myth in the New Testament, but also it has been frequently leveled against the Old Testament Scriptures. But more conservative scholars have examined the genre of material that we find in the Old Testament and have argued that the biblical literature is already demythologized if you compare it with the literature of other ancient religions. The mythological narratives that we're familiar with from the ancient Greeks and Romans have elements in them that are obviously mythological, such as the birth of Athena de Novo from the head of Zeus and so on. And one of the things that we frequently read in those mythological histories are the sins of the gods and goddesses and occasional incidences where they mate with human beings. So that motif in ancient mythology of the mating between heavenly beings or gods and goddesses and human beings is part and parcel of the substance of ancient mythology.

Now we have a text in the Old Testament that some of the critics argue is a clear example of the same sort of mythological narrative that you would find, for example, among the ancient Greeks. And I'm referring, of course, to the highly debatable passage that's found in the sixth chapter of the book of Genesis, beginning at verse 1. Let's look for a moment at the text in question, Genesis 6, verse 1. Now it came to pass when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful, and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh, yet his day shall be one hundred and twenty years. There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came into the daughters of men, and they bore children to them.

Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. And then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and he was grieved in his heart. And so the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them. But not Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Of course, this narrative, as we've read it here in the beginning of chapter 6 of Genesis, is more or less a preface, a preliminary introduction to the more major narrative that follows after it, namely the account of the deluge or the flood by which the Scripture indicates that the human race was eradicated from the face of the earth, save for the family of Noah. Now, it is in this prefatory section, however, where we read of this intermarriage between the sons of God and the daughters of men that the charge of blatant mythology is brought against the Old Testament text. Now, the idea that this involves the intermarriage between heavenly beings and earthly beings is often buttressed by an appeal to a New Testament text that is equally problematic and is also included in another section of the New Testament that remains intensely controversial in our day, and I'm referring to a text in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In the 11th chapter of 1 Corinthians, we have Paul's teaching of the requirement that women cover their heads in the process of worship, a custom that has been almost universally repudiated in the contemporary church, though it was indeed practiced for centuries. Many believe that the instructions that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 11 were not intended to be principial and binding upon Christians of every culture and every age, but were simply referring to local customs.

But that's another story, and we'll look at that another time. But in the context of Paul's giving of those instructions, he makes a somewhat startling statement where he argues in verse 7 of chapter 11, For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman was from man.

Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head because of the angels. Now, what's the link between this reference and the New Testament to Genesis 6? Here Paul makes this enigmatic statement that women ought to cover their heads because of the angels. What does he mean because of the angels? Well, those who believe that Genesis 6 teaches a kind of raping of human women by angels carry that over to this text in 1 Corinthians 11 and say that obviously the reason Paul makes the reference to the women covering their head because of the angels is as a protective device, a safeguarding, lest they experience the same rapacious attack that these daughters of men suffered in Genesis chapter 6. And so the speculative reasoning goes like this, that the woman's hair is a symbol of her glory, it's a symbol of her beauty, and it's one of the things that makes her so singularly attractive not only to men but also to angels. And so as not to disrupt the heavenly host when they gather together with us for worship, women ought to cover their heads out of deference to these poor angels who are so easily enticed to rape. I mean, that's the speculation.

If I've read that once, I've read it a hundred times in speculative accounts of that. Well, the reality is Paul doesn't say why he refers to the angels here in this practice. Presumably it has something to do with the giving of respect to the authority structure that God has established in His presence in which the angels are also there in a subordinate way and so on. The immediate concern here is again with the original text of Genesis 6. The assumption that is made in the mythological interpretation of Genesis 6 is that the phrase, sons of God, refer to angelic beings. We notice that the Old Testament does not say explicitly that there was sexual intercourse between angels and human women. It doesn't say that. It talks about the intercourse between the sons of God and the daughters of men.

And those two phrases are the phrases that are used in the text. Now, why would somebody assume then that this involved the marriage or interaction between angels and human women? Well, the answer to that is obvious because there are times in the Scriptures where angels are called the sons of God. And so, if there are certain places where the Bible refers to angels as the sons of God, and here the text refers to sons of God, the text must obviously be referring to angels. Now, that is certainly a possible inference that could be drawn from this text in Genesis 6.

The question is, is it a necessary inference? And I would say it is not a necessary inference and that the text doesn't necessarily teach the idea of such interactivity between angels and human beings. To understand this, we have to look at the broader application of the phrase sons of God. Now, there are ways in which the term son of God is used, as I said, for an angel.

It is also used in a somewhat different sense for Christ. And in the New Testament when Jesus was engaged with debates with the Pharisees, much of the focus of attention of these debates had to do with Christ's claim to sonship of the Father. And conversely, with Jesus' criticism of the Pharisees by which He called them the sons of the devil. And this argument ensued when Jesus talked about His ability to make men free, and the Pharisees protested and said, Why do you talk about setting us free? We are in bondage to no men because we are the children of Abraham. And Jesus responded by saying, You are the children of the ones whom you obey. And that's when He called them children of Satan, because they were followers and disciples of Satan rather than of God. So the point I'm making is this, that the whole concept of sonship in the Scriptures is not always and everywhere linked to some kind of biological or ontological relationship, but it is often in fact chiefly defined in terms of a relationship of obedience. Christ was uniquely the Son of God in His being, in His divine nature, but even in His human nature, He was uniquely the Son of God in the sense that He was pleasing to the Father because of His perfect obedience.

I've said all that to say this, that the phrase or the title Son of God or Sons of God may refer biblically to those who are in a relationship of obedience to God. Now, is it possible that in Genesis 6 what we're reading here is of the intermarriage between those who were from a pattern of obedience to God with those women who were pagan in their orientation? And what we're reading here is a description of mixed marriages between believers and unbelievers that would pollute the whole society. Now, I don't think it's far-fetched to conclude that that is what the author of Genesis is talking about in light of the immediate context of what is being told us in these early chapters in Genesis. In order to see that immediate context, we have to back up a little bit and realize that after the fall, after the garden experience and the trespass of Adam and Eve, the Bible then records the first example of homicide where Cain kills his brother Abel.

And then what follows is a rapid expansion or broadening of human sinfulness. And what also follows from the narrative of the first homicide is a brief summation of two lines of families, the first being the descendants of Cain and the second being the descendants of Seth. You recall that the first sons of Adam and Eve were Cain and Abel, and after Abel was killed by his brother Cain, they had another son whose name was Seth. But if we look in chapter 4 of Genesis, beginning at verse 16, we get a brief survey of the ancestral history of the family of Cain.

It reads like this, then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch, and he built a city and called the name of the city after the name of his son Enoch. And to Enoch was born Ired, and Ired bore Mehugeel, and Mehugeel begot Methugeel, and Methugeel begot Lamech.

Now here we have one of these genealogies, or begatitudes. And then Lamech took for himself two wives. The name of the one was Ada, and the name of the other was Zillah. And Ada bore Jabel, and he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother's name was Jubal.

He was the father of all who play the harp and the flute. And as for Zillah, she also bore Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron, and the sister of Tubal-Cain was Namah. Then Lamech said to his wives, Ada and Zillah, hear my voice. Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech, for I have killed a man for wounding me, even a young man for hurting me.

If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold. Now what we have with Lamech here is, first of all, that Lamech is recorded in Scripture as the first polygamist, which involves a departure from the ordinance of marriage that God gave in the garden. And in this genealogy of Lamech, we have the building of cities in an arrogant way where Cain names the city he built after his son.

And then we have this dreadful account of what is known as the sword song of Lamech, where Lamech is rejoicing in his murderous, vengeful use of the sword in hatred. And so the idea we get is that this line of people who are the descendants of Cain, the descendants of Cain is a line of proliferation of human wickedness. Then what follows is this record in verse 25 of chapter 4 of Genesis, and Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth. For God had appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed. And as for Seth, to him also a son was born, and his name was Enosh. And then men began to call on the name of the Lord. Now do you hear that? Then in chapter 5, we get further elaborations of the line of Seth, and I'm not going to go through all of these names.

It would take too long. But they include in them Methuselah, Enoch, who was translated because of his obedience, he was not suffered to die, and finally the line of Noah, who was found to be righteous by God. So you have two genealogies here in these early chapters of Genesis. One is the line of Cain, and the other is the line of Seth. And the line of Cain reads like a rogue's gallery of wickedness in the Old Testament, and the line of Seth is a line of amazing godliness, marked by Enoch, Methuselah, and by Noah.

So you have these two lines existing side by side, one being godly, following the Lord, the other one expanding in wickedness and their ungodliness. And chapter 5 of Genesis ends with the statement, And Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And then the very next verse is the introduction of the multiplication of the people on the earth and the daughters that were born to them, and then we hear of the sons of God marrying the daughters of men. So the Hebrew scholars believe that what is being described in chapter 6 is not the intermarriage between angels and human women, but the intermarriage between descendants of Cain and descendants of Seth. So that where one line had been progressing in godliness and the other one expanding in wickedness, suddenly this is disrupted when the two lines come together, and now everybody is caught up in this relentless pursuit of evil where the desires of their heart are only wicked continuously, and only Noah is left from the sons of God, that is, those who are obedient to God, and because of his obedience, God grants him the grace to spare him, and he decides to destroy the rest of mankind. We don't need to look to an invasion of heaven on earth or the rape of angels of human women to make a clear understanding of what is being described here in Genesis 6. Well, I hope you found this helpful. This passage in Genesis chapter 6 is one that causes understandable confusion, but Dr. R.C.

Sproul's careful examination of it helps us put it in proper context. We're glad you've joined us for Renewing Your Mind on this Saturday. I'm Lee Webb, and each week here on the program we're concentrating on hard sayings that we find in the Bible, including what it means when it says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, and how should we view the six days of creation in Genesis. There are 15 messages in the series, and we would like to send all of them to you in a digital download. Just request it today when you give a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. There are a couple of ways you can reach us. One is by phone.

Our number is 800-435-4343, but you can also make your request and give your gift online at Well, there's one more thing to consider from the passage of Scripture that Dr. Sproul addressed today, so let's go back to R.C. now with this final thought. The problem we dealt with today in trying to resolve the difficulty of this phrase in Genesis 6 of the apparent intermarriage between the sons of God and the daughters of men, I think serves a broader purpose for us to alert us to be very careful about the inferences that we draw from Scripture that are not necessarily warranted. Just because Paul makes the offhand reference because of the angels in 1 Corinthians 11 does not give us license to construct a whole theory of intermarriage or rape of angels of human beings. And likewise, the phrase, the descriptive term, sons of God and daughters of men do not give us license to make the assumption here of interaction between heavenly beings and earthly beings. We have to be very careful here when we look at a difficult text like this to see how the same language is used in the broader context of all of Scripture. It's a very important principle of interpretation to interpret the Scripture by the Scripture. We are learning so much from Dr. Sproul's series, and I hope you'll join us again next week as he looks at a question that arises in the very first chapter of the Bible. Was the world created in six literal days? Make plans to join us again next Saturday for Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-20 13:19:30 / 2023-07-20 13:27:39 / 8

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