Bible Encyclopedias
Sons of God (Old Testament)

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Search for…
Prev Entry
Sons of God (New Testament)
Next Entry
Resource Toolbox

(Old Testament) ( האלהים בּני , benē hā - 'ĕlōhı̄m , "sons of God" ( Genesis 6:2 , Genesis 6:4; Job 1:6; Job 2:1 ); אלהים בּני , benē 'ĕlōhı̄m , "sons of God" (Job 38:7 ); אלים בני , benē 'ēlı̄m , "ye mighty," the King James Version; "ye sons of the mighty," King James Version margin, the Revised Version (British and American); "sons of God" or "sons of the gods," the Revised Version margin (Psalm 29:1 ); "sons of the mighty," the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American); "sons of God" or "sons of the gods," the Revised Version margin (Psalm 89:6 (Hebrew 7)); Septuagint υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ , huioı́ toú theoú , οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεου , hoi ággeloi toú theoú (Genesis 6:2 ); υἱοὶ τοῦ θεοῦ , huioı́ toú theoú (Genesis 6:4 ); οἱ ἄγγελοι τοῦ θεου , hoi ággeloi toú theoú (Job 1:6; Job 2:1 ); ἄγγελοι μου , ággeloı́ mou (Job 38:7 ); υἱοὶ θεοῦ , huioı́ theoú (Psalm 29:1; Psalm 89:6; compare Daniel 3:25 )):

1. Job and Psalms:

This article will deal with this phrase as it is used in the above passages. In the passages from Job and Psalms it is applied to supernatural beings or angels. In Job the "sons of God" are represented as appearing before the throne of Yahweh in heaven, ready to do Him service, and as shouting for joy at the creation of the earth, In the Psalms they are summoned to celebrate the glory of Yahweh, for there is none among them to be compared to Him. The phrase in these passages has no physical or moral reference. These heavenly beings are called "sons of God" or "sons of the 'ĕlohı̄m " simply as belonging to the same class or guild as the 'ĕlohı̄m , just as "sons of the prophets" denotes those who belong to the prophetic order (see A.B. Davidson, Commentary on Job 1:6 ).

2. Genesis 6:2 , Genesis 6:4 :

Different views, however, are taken of the passage in Genesis 6:2 , Genesis 6:4 : "The sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all that they chose .... The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men." See GIANTS; NEPHILIM .

(1) "Sons of God" is interpreted as referring to men, ( a ) to sons of the nobles, who married daughters of the common people. This is the view of many Jewish authorities, who hold that it is justified by the use of 'ĕlohı̄m in the sense of "judges" ( Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8 f, etc.). But this cannot be the meaning of 'ĕlohı̄m here, for when 'ādhām , "men," is used to denote the lower classes, it is contrasted with 'ı̄sh , as in Psalm 49:2 (Hebrew 3), not with 'ĕlohı̄m . When contrasted with 'ĕlohı̄m it signifies the human race. (b ) Some commentators hold that by "sons of God" is to be understood the pious race descended from Seth, and by "daughters of men" the daughters of worldly men. These commentators connect the passage with Genesis 4:25 f, where the race of Seth is characterized as the worshippers of Yahweh and is designated as a whole, a seed (compare Deuteronomy 14:1; Deuteronomy 32:5; Hosea 1:10 (Hebrew 2:1)). They consider the restricted meaning they put upon "men" as warranted by the contrast (compare Jeremiah 32:20; Isaiah 43:4 ), and that as the term "daughters" expresses actual descent, it is natural to understand "sons" in a similar sense. The phrase "took wives," they contend also, supports the ethical view, being always used to signify real and lasting marriages, and cannot, therefore, be applied to the higher spirits in their unholy desire after flesh. On this view Genesis 6:1-4 are an introduction to the reason for the Flood, the great wickedness of man upon the earth ( Genesis 6:5 ). It is held that nothing is said in Genesis 6:4 of a race of giants springing from the union of angels with human wives (see paragraph 2, below), and that the violence which is mentioned along with the corruption of the world ( Genesis 6:11 ) refers to the sin of the giants.

(2) Most scholars now reject this view and interpret "sons of God" as referring to supernatural beings in accordance with the meaning of the expression in the other passages. They hold that Deuteronomy 14:1 , etc., cannot be regarded as supporting the ethical interpretation of the phrase in a historical narrative. The reference to Jeremiah 32:20 , etc., too, is considered irrelevant, the contrast in these passages being between Israel and other nations, not, as here, between men and God. Nor can a narrower signification (daughters of worldly men) be attached to "men" in Genesis 6:2 than to "men" in Genesis 6:1 , where the reference is to the human race in general. This passage (Genesis 6:1-4 ), therefore, which is the only one of its kind, is considered to be out of its place and to have been inserted here by the compiler as an introduction to the story of the Flood (Genesis 6:5-8 ). The intention of the original writer, however, was to account for the rise of the giant race of antiquity by the union of demigods with human wives. This interpretation accords with Enoch chapters 6 through 7, etc., and with Judges 1:6 f, where the unnatural sin of the men of Sodom who went after "strange flesh" is compared with that of the angels (compare 2 Peter 2:4 ff). (See Havernick, Introduction to the Pentateuch; Hengstenberg on the Pentateuch , I, 325; Oehler, Old Testament Theology , I, 196 f; Schultz, Old Testament Theology , I, 114 ff; Commentary on Genesis by Delitzsch, Dillmann, and Driver.)


Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Sons of God (Old Testament)'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.​encyclopedias/​eng/​isb/​s/sons-of-god-old-testament.html. 1915.