“When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God (Hebrew word Elohim) saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, z“My Spirit shall not abide in1 man forever, afor he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim2 were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.
5 bThe Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every cintention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Gensis 6:1-5
Who were these “sons of God” and who were the “daughters of men”? Some have stated the sons of God were fallen angels who came down and had sex with human women and they bore offspring. Usually, this interpretation refers to the Nephilims (giants) to be the offspring of this angelic and human union. However, the text tells us the Nephilims were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. So, the Nephilims were not the offspring of the sons of God and the daughter of men. This theory doesn't fit the narrative.
Others have interpreted the sons of God as the descendants of Seth and the daughters of men as the descendants of Cain. The idea is the righteous men (Seth’s descendants) saw the beauty of the daughters of Cain, lusted after them, and took them as wives. While I admit this seems more probable than the previous theory, it doesn’t actually fit the narrative of righteous men lusting after, and taking the daughters of men as their wives. This second theory makes the beautiful daughters the villains and Seth’s descendants the victims.
Before, I give you what is the most likely interpretation let's examine the word translated “sons of God”. The Hebrew word is Elohim. It can mean - God, gods, great, mighty ones, judges, rulers, heavenly being. This same word, Elohim is translated “sons of God” in Genesis 6:2, translated “gods” in Exodus 12:12, translated “judges” in Exodus 21:6, translated “angles” in Job 1:6, and translated “heavenly being” in Psalm 29:1.
If we take Genesis 6:1-8 as a whole the context is about the growing wickedness of mankind on the earth. Verse five states that “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Notice God refers to the wickedness of man, humankind; and doesn’t say anything about the wickedness of angels or fallen angels. Which leads me to believe the interpretation of the “sons of God” being angels isn’t correct and doesn’t fix the contextual narrative.
A Better Interpretation
Here is what would fit, and I should mention was the primary view of the Jewish people in the Old Testament. The word “Elohim” in Genesis 6 would better be translated as “mighty ones, or rulers”. These mighty ones or rulers were the heroes of old, men of renown the text tells us. These men had become powerful and were skilled hunters/warriors. They ruled with might and aggression. They were mighty ones.
In their power they took for themselves “as they chose” as many wives as they wanted. Now, here we could have a couple of interpretations. 1) “And they took as their wives any they chose” could mean they raped or forcefully had sex with these women of men for their own pleasure and as a sign of their dominance. 2) “And they took as their wives any they chose” could mean they claimed for themselves as many of these beautiful women they wanted. This second interpretation may be more passive in nature, but the idea is these mighty ones/rulers were using their power to abuse these daughters of men. In their might/power they treated these women as property and had their way with them.
This interpretation best fits the narrative and would be most compatible to verses 5-6: 5 “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” Notice, no mention of God regretting he had made angels.
This interpretation shows a God of justice who comes to the aid and rescue of the oppressed and abused. It also fits into the narrative of God in other texts.
Here are a few:
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. Isaiah 1:17
You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. Exodus 22:22-24
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27