Married, With Children?
If angels couldn't fall in love with women on earth, where did the Nephilim of the Bible come from?
Reading Genesis 6:2-4, I always thought angels not only loved human women, but they also married and had children with them. God’s disapproval of this became one of the major reasons he decided to flood the earth. Would you clarify this issue?
If angels are genderless, then why or how could they have mated with the daughters of men and created the Nephilim?
v. 2: The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose.
v. 3: Then the Lord said, "My spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."
v. 4: The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.
You aren’t the only ones who have wondered about these verses. Through thousands of years, Jewish rabbis and church fathers alike have debated the meaning of this text. The problem is that what is said here about angels seems to contradict what we learn about angels and heavenly hosts in later verses of the Bible (over 200 of them!). Three main explanations have been given to clarify this text.
1. These verses may not have been a part of the original book of Genesis. In the dim, distant past some well-meaning scribe may have added this ancient legend (similar to the Greek legends of the gods having children by human women) to help readers understand what prompted God to send the great flood.
2. In the Bible, the term sons of God sometimes refer to the angels. Some newer versions of the Bible translate the Hebrew (b’nai ha-Elohim) sons of God as angels, as found in Job 1:6; 2:1; and 38:7. If sons of God refers to angels in Genesis 6, it would mean that angels did live on earth, marry humans, and father children before Noah’s flood. Even though Jesus taught that angels in heaven did not marry (Mattahew 22:30), it could still be possible that when angels assumed a human body, they took on the ability to procreate. If this were the case, Genesis 6 would be the only place in the Bible where angels lived fully as humans on earth.
However, even though they are called sons of God, it is clear that these are evil angels, for what they did was wrong. Their offspring, described as Nephilim, a word that means one who causes another to fall, are given as examples of how great man’s wickedness on earth had become (Genesis 6:5). God’s judgment for their evil was that the Nephilim, along with the rest of mankind on earth except Noah’s family, perished in the flood.
Still, other places in the Bible indicate that angels are unseen spirits who temporarily take on human form as a necessary means to carry out God’s assignments on earth. When their tasks are completed, the angels return to being unseen spirits.
3. Another view that has been held by many church fathers and theologians states that the phrase sons of God does not always refer to angels. It is also a term used to indicate powerful human rulers or the godly descendants of Seth (Genesis 5) who intermarried with the wicked descendants of Cain. This indicates that powerful human rulers had become hopelessly wicked, and that even the godly people had compromised themselves so much that they had to be punished.