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  • Michael Filipek

An Exegesis of the “Sons Of God”

Updated: Jan 8

(From the study "The Identity Of The Nephilim")

The correct identification of the "sons of God" is probably the single most critical aspect of correctly understanding the Biblical concept of the Nephilim. Unfortunately, there’s been a massive amount of confusion and disagreement regarding this – not only in recent times, but going all the way back to the centuries following the Apostolic Era in church history. But fortunately, the Bible actually offers us a number of passages that shed light on this issue, allowing us to confidently identify the sons of God. Let’s enter into this exploration by reviewing our perspective of the proper method of Bible interpretation – a discipline called “hermeneutics.”


-Utilizing Proper Hermeneutics:


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” -2 Timothy 2:15

Biblical hermeneutics is the science of properly interpreting the various types of literature found in the Bible in order to determine what the text actually means. Hermeneutics can be called “the laws of sound Biblical interpretation.” Taken out of context, the Bible can be improperly used to justify almost anything. But in order to draw the intended meaning out of the text (the definition of exegesis), we need to hold to proper Biblical hermeneutics. We want to avoid reading outside meanings (our own personal views) into the text (the definition of eisegesis). [1]


The most important law of Biblical hermeneutics is that the Bible should be interpreted literally. Literal Bible interpretation means we understand the Bible in its normal/plain meaning unless there’s a clear indication in the text to do otherwise. The Bible says what it means and means what it says. Many make the mistake of trying to “read between the lines” and come up with meanings that are not truly in the text. [2]


Dr. David L. Cooper described this literal method of interpretation in the following way…


“When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.” [3]

Proper Biblical hermeneutics keeps us faithful to the objective, intended meaning of Scripture and away from allegorizing and symbolizing Biblical text with our own subjective meanings.


One of the most basic concepts of Scripture interpretation is that the Bible is the best interpreter of itself (within context). In other words, to gain understanding as to what a certain word or phrase may mean (such as “sons of God”), you need to study all of the other places in the Bible in which that same word or phrase is used. You then closely analyze and compare them within context to find out what the word or phrase in question refers to or means. [4]


A sound Biblical analysis is one that ensures you don’t create doctrine from a single verse, especially if it doesn’t parallel with supporting Scriptures. You cannot come up with an interpretation of your own choice. You must examine what the text actually says, and discover the meaning without adding to the text and without drawing inferences that are not tied to or implied by the text. So, let’s exercise sound Biblical hermeneutics by conducting a thorough Biblical exegesis of the phrase “sons of God”…


-Exegesis Of The “Sons of God”:

In Hebrew, the phrase “sons of God” is “benei ha elohim.” [5] So, we need to search and examine every other place in the Bible where this exact phrase is used in order to determine its correct meaning and context. Of course, we would only expect to find this Hebrew phrase in the Old Testament, since only the Old Testament is written in Hebrew. When we perform this examination, we find three passages that use this exact phrase “sons of God” (benei ha elohim, or in the case of one of the passages, the similar phrase benei elohim) – and we find that in all three, it is always used to refer to angels. Let’s begin to take a look at these passages…


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

Job 1:6 is one of the clearest and most obvious references to angels in the entire Bible. This passage describes an actual meeting in heaven, in which God oversees an assembly of holy and fallen angels to discuss earthly affairs, grant permission to carry out certain actions in the human realm, or assign various tasks.


“Again there was a day when the sons of God (benei ha elohim) came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.” -Job 2:1

Again, we see the same concept restated, clearly identifying sons of God as being angels who are meeting with God in another “divine council.” A third reference is also found in Job, but with this one using the close phrase “benei elohim”…


“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? Or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God (benei elohim) shouted for joy?” -Job 38:4-7

In this passage, we find God posing questions to Job about the creation of the universe in order to demonstrate to Job how little he actually knew in comparison to God. God implies that the sons of God were created prior to the creation of earth itself, which helps us eliminate basically all of the alternative interpretations of “sons of God.” Of course, only the angels were created at that time.


These three passages are the only ones in the Old Testament that use this phrase (benei ha elohim or benei elohim) – and they are all clear references to angels. So, we can confidently say that since every other usage of benei ha elohim or benei elohim in the Old Testament clearly refers to angels, we should recognize the Genesis 6:4 instance to also mean angels. Any other explanation of the phrase “sons of God” is subjective inference, rather than Biblical exegesis.


To even further establish this position, we can examine other similar phrases to benei ha elohim that also appear in the Old Testament. Again, these phrases always refer to angelic beings, and never to human men. Let’s take a look at some of these additional verses…


“He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” -Daniel 3:25

This passage in Daniel uses a similar phrase in Aramaic, “bar elahin,” and yet still clearly refers to a supernatural being. [6] It speaks in reference to the fourth man walking in the fire, which we know was at minimum an angel, but possibly even an Old Testament theophany of Jesus Christ.


“For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?” -Psalm 89:6

Here is another Old Testament passage that slightly differs even further (“benei elim”), and yet still is a reference to angels. [7] This is obvious as the first part of the verse gives the context: “who in heaven...” Obviously, this refers to angelic beings. And so, we find that other similar Hebrew phrases in the Old Testament also all clearly refer to angelic beings.


But let’s also take a look into the New Testament, where we see the phrase “sons of God” in our English Bibles. The New Testament (which was written in Greek not Hebrew) gives us further information on how this phrase “sons of God” is progressively used. The expansion of its usages in the New Testament reveal to us even more specifically that it’s always used to designate a direct creation of God. This expanded New Testament usage range will include Adam, New Testament saints, and of course, Jesus Christ. Let’s briefly discuss each of these…


-Adam:


Adam, being the first man, was directly created by God. He is called a son of God in Luke 3:38. In this chapter, Jesus’ genealogy is given to us, and Luke traces it all the way back to Adam. Because Adam had no earthly father to speak of, Luke lists him as the “son of God.”


“Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.” -Luke 3:38

-New Testament Saints:


New Testament saints (or Christians) are also called sons of God in the New Testament. Why would this be? Because those who have obeyed the gospel are unlike any other human beings in history. Those who are in Christ, having undergone salvation and received the Holy Spirit and a new nature are considered a direct creation of God! John 1:11-12 explains this…


“He (Jesus) came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” -John 1:11-12

Jesus elaborates on this further in John 3:6...


“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” -John 3:6

Human beings (aside from Adam) are never called “sons of God” unless they are New Testament believers having undergone the gospel plan of salvation. Christian believers who were “born again” have been adopted into sonship. Other humans are not initial direct creations of God in this sense. They are sons (or descendants) of Adam.


This also corresponds to what we just discussed regarding Jesus’ statement in Matthew 22:30 about the future resurrection bodies of believers that will be like the angels. 1 John 3 explains this…


“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” -1 John 3:1-2

In other words, we as Christians are sons of God right now, but the ultimate manifestation of this is future-looking, as in the resurrection we will receive heavenly bodies. When we receive these bodies, we will be able to see Christ in the fullness of His resurrected glory, as we will also have a body similar to His – a body that can interact in the extra-dimensions (like the angels).


Note: Some additional references to the sonship of New Testament Christians include Romans 8:14, 8:19, Galatians 4:6, and Philippians 2:15.


-Jesus Christ:


Lastly, we of course know that Jesus Christ is called the Son of God in the New Testament. Jesus Christ is called the Son of God primarily because the Holy Ghost (referring to God in action towards humanity) caused His conception, rather than it being caused by a human man. In other words, He also in His humanity can be called a direct creation of God. We know that in His divinity, He is God – but the human aspect of Him (the manifestation of the Son) was created at a point in time.


But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,” -Galatians 4:4

At a specific point in time, God caused Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb. And so, of course, Jesus Christ (in His humanity) was also a direct creation of God, rather than being the son of a human father.


So, our exegesis of the usage of “sons of God” in the Bible clearly reveals how this phrase is always used. In the Old Testament, the phrase “sons of God” is always used to refer to angels. In the New Testament the phrase “sons of God” is expanded to mean a direct creation of God – including Adam, saved Christians, and of course, Jesus Christ.


A further interesting revelation is that in the Old Testament, human saints or followers of God were normally referred to as “servants of God,” while the angels were referred to as “sons of God.” This seems to be reversed in the New Testament, where Christian believers now are called “sons of God” and the angels are portrayed as “servants of God”!


Therefore, by a thorough search of the Scriptures, and after analyzing and comparing the usages of “benei ha elohim” and similar phrases, the only conclusion one can come to is that the passage in Genesis 6:4 is clearly referring to angels. To take any other position is to take a position without Scriptural foundation, being found outside of the Biblical usage of the phrase.


Genesis 6 then, is clearly describing something that many find disturbing or difficult to accept. It describes the sons of God (or angels) lusting after human women, coming to earth, apparently taking on a human form, defying God’s natural order by having sex with human women, and producing a hybrid offspring called Nephilim (who were giants). Something about their hybrid genetic makeup made the children of this illicit union larger, more powerful, more wicked, and likely even more intelligent than average humans – and that “something” was the angelic origin of their fathers, the sons of God.


Again, the notion of angels doing this (or even being able to do this) is a hurdle for many to accept – one we specifically address in our study "The Identity Of The Nephilim". However, we should never be troubled about the clear, literal reading of the Word of God. We must leave behind whatever presuppositions we bring to the Bible, and instead, allow the text to speak for itself, no matter how difficult it may be for us to accept. Genesis 6 tells us that angels from heaven took human women and produced children with them – and this, as we find, is a pervasive theme woven throughout the Scriptures.


 

[1] -Alyssa Roat, “What is Biblical Hermeneutics and Is it Still Important Today?” June 22, 2020, Christianity.com. (https://www.christianity.com/wiki/bible/meaning-origin-history-of-biblical-hermeneutics.html - Retrieved 4/10/21)

[2] -Ibid.

[3] -David L. Cooper, “Some Basic Laws Of Interpretation,” Biblical Research Studies Group. (http://www.biblicalresearch.info/page502.html - Retrieved 11/10/20)

[4] -Roat.

[5] -NASB Lexicon, entry “Genesis 6:4,” BibleHub.com. (https://biblehub.com/lexicon/genesis/6-4.htm - Retrieved 4/14/21)

[6] -NASB Lexicon, entry “Daniel 3:25,” BibleHub.com. (https://biblehub.com/lexicon/daniel/3-25.htm - Retrieved 4/14/21)

[7] -NASB Lexicon, entry “Psalm 89:6,” BibleHub.com. (https://biblehub.com/lexicon/psalms/89-6.htm - Retrieved 4/14/21)


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