The Attack from the Angelic Realm

Who are the Sons of God?

What sin would be so hideous that it would motivate a merciful God to wipe out the entire human race? Following the Cain and Abel incident of Genesis 4, the human population grew rapidly and also grew extremely evil.  Then something very strange happened.

“Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves, whomever they chose. Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” (Gen. 6:1-4)

The Hebrew words “daughters were born unto them” is in the emphatic position. Evidently an unusual number of daughters were born. Who were these people, and what does this all mean?

Who are the Sons of God?

Whatever happened was motivated by physical attraction.  The sons of God “saw” and “chose” wives based upon the physical beauty of the daughters of men. The physical attraction led to a choice being made.

But who were the sons of God? A common interpretation is that the sons of God were a continuation of the family of Seth and the daughters of men were of the family of Cain. If that is the case, then what happened was the result of the intermarriage of the two physical earthy families.

A second view is that the sons of God were fallen angels possibly operating under the command of Satan to physically corrupt the genealogical line of man. This was to prevent the “seed of the woman from coming into the world.”  This view argues that angelic beings left their God-assigned position and in some sadistic way sexually molested the women.

There are two major problems with the sons of God being the physical line of Seth. Sons of God, “bane ha Elohim,” is only used one way in the entire Old Testament.  It is used for angels.

“Now there was a day when the sons of God (bane ha Elohim) came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.” (Job 1:6)

“Again there was a day when the sons of God (bane ha Elohim) came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said to Satan, ‘From where do you come?’” (Job 2:1)

Secondly, the “Sethite” view would be hard pressed to explain the strange appearance of the Nephilim.  The Hebrew word for “to fall” is “nephal.”  So Nephilim is translated “fallen ones.” In verse four, the Hebrew could indicate that these “fallen ones” had come on the scene “when” this union occurred.  The Sethite view argues that the “fallen ones” were already on the earth before the attack.

A possible explanation is this. When God’s most beautiful angelic creature (Satan) fell, he persuaded one third of the angels to follow suit (Rev. 12:4).  These became the fallen angels.  There could be two categories of fallen angels, fallen angels who are free and those that are incarcerated.  God may have assigned a place of incarceration for these angels. Some fallen angels had committed a sin outside of their God-assigned sphere.

“For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell to be reserved for judgment and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly.” (2 Pet. 2:4-5)

This is the only time this word translated “hell” is used in the entire New Testament.  It is not the word hades, or gehenna.  It is tartarus. Whoever these angels were and whatever they had done, God immediately judged them and assigned them to this special place. The “angels who sinned” could refer to the incident in Genesis 6.

This angelic sin was somehow connected with Noah and the flood. If we accept the “angelic attack view,” then these corrupt angels somehow sexually molested the women. The result was a corrupt race.

“And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness (evidently in tartarus) for the judgment of the great day; as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, (flesh of a different kind; homosexuality) are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 6-7)

This passage seems to indicate that angels were indeed involved in some sort of sexual perversion similar to the perversion of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Matthew says that angels do not marry (Matt. 22:30).  However, the incident in Genesis is not speaking of good angels, and we do not know what angels were capable of before the fall.

This invasion would have been a masterstroke for Satan. This humanoid race of the Nephilim could not produce the human beings necessary for the seed of the woman to come through.  Notice God’s response to these inordinate relationships.

“Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’” (Gen. 6:3)

The Hebrew Lexicon does not interpret “bin” as “strive.”  According to Brown, Driver, and Briggs, the word means to judge or to rule.  “My Spirit is not going to rule man in the sense of on the one hand sustaining life and on the other hand restraining sin any more.”

The time was going to come when God’s Spirit would not retain life on the earth.  In fact, God says that man’s days on the earth were to be 120 more years. The Hebrew word “because” should better be translated “in his going away.” So it should be translated of fallen man that  “in his going away, he is flesh.”  Man is often lulled into a false view of God’s justice.  God appears to be silent for years!  It seems as though He turned His back on dealing with sin!  But God is faithful.  He must always adjust that which is not right to His righteousness.

God Restrains Judgment

“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness; forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4)

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering (makromutheo; patient endurance) toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9)

God would give the population of the earth 120 years to respond to God’s grace through the voice and work of Noah. After that, destruction would come.  Every member of the human race was born physically alive but spiritually dead. To be spiritually dead is to be totally depraved. Total depravity does not mean that all men live as badly as they can live.  There are shades of evil throughout the earth and throughout history.

What it does mean is this: All men are as bad off as they can be. The entire human race is spiritually dead.  Those who die without adjusting to the righteousness of God through Christ, God’s righteousness will be adjusted to them. Man, just prior to the Flood, was approaching the height of the wickedness.

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.” (Gen. 6:5-6)

Does God feel sorry in the sense that we feel sorry?  No! But this is how the writer of Genesis expressed in human words an infinite God’s response to the evil in the earth. The Lord was sorry, the Lord saw, the Lord was grieved in His heart. These are all human characteristics. It is just a way to communicate to man that we worship a personal God.

The word “intent” signals secret motive and is placed in the emphatic position. Literally, “every motive of man’s mind is continuously evil all the day long.” Only God could know that.  Here is the expression of God’s response to man’s sinfulness in an anthropomorphic term. It is the word “nahem,” to pant. If you are shocked, you take a quick breath, you gasp. If you jump into a cold lake, you gasp. This is the word here. God gasped!  It is a hithpael stem. It is a form that reveals intensity. The word “gasp” also carries a reflexive idea. It takes the action back to the one who feels it. God gasped.

God responds in judgment. His judgment is designed to balance the scales of His divine righteousness. The punishment always fits the crime perfectly. There is no injustice with God. God never judges any more or less than is necessary (Rom. 11:33).

“The LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen. 6:7)

“I made them” is “yatzar,” like the potter made the vessel.  Many question God’s right to judge His creation. But if He made them, then like the potter and the vessel, He owns them, and He, as the divine potter, has the right to do with them whatever He will.

“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’  Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor.” (Rom. 9:20-21)

Who is man, limited as he is, to question an infinite God?  God has all the facts! At the time that God responded in judgment, He also responded in grace. This is a foundation truth for the rest of the Bible.

And Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord!



New American Standard Bible

Donald G. Barnhouse

Dr. Lewis Johnson

Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew Definitions

Basic Theology: Charles Ryrie