This is the first of a three-part post on Genesis 6:2. This post focuses on the explanation, while the subsequent posts will focus on the argumentation and the application.
Who are the sons of God and the daughters of man in Genesis 6:2?
There are two main interpretations of this text. The first is that the sons of God were angels who married and copulated with attractive women. The women gave birth to Nephilim, supposedly some type of angelic-human hybrid. This understanding seems to be the consensus position of modern scholarship.
Understanding the second interpretation requires a bird’s eye view of Genesis 1 through 6. After Adam and Eve fell, God promised that Eve’s offspring will bruise the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15). When Eve gave birth to her first recorded son, Cain, she expressed thanks to God for the son (Genesis 4:1). In her mind, Cain was the offspring who would save the earth from the serpent’s work. Eve’s hopes were quickly disappointed. Cain killed her second recorded son, Abel, and he moved east with his own progeny to found a godless city. Genesis 4:17-24 records Cain’s genealogy and the city they founded. They were notorious for godlessness, sensuality, pride, and murder. By the end of Cain’s genealogy, it appeared that the promised offspring would never arrive.
Eve’s disappointment turned to hope in Genesis 4:25 when she had her third recorded son, Seth. Her hopes were encouraged even more when a revival broke out at the time of Seth’s son, Enosh, in Genesis 4:26. Chapter 5 records the genealogy of Seth and Enosh. The line of Seth and Enosh is characterized by faith in God, highlighted in the lives of Enoch and Noah. Held in contrast to Cain’s genealogy in chapter 4, Seth’s genealogy is full of hope in the promise of God. Read in light of the promise of offspring in Genesis 3:15, it seems that Eve’s offspring finally bruised the serpent’s head! Not so fast.
According to the second interpretation, Genesis 6 records the defection of Seth’s line to the ranks of Cain’s line. It is a great apostasy. Noah emerged as the only righteous man, the only remnant of the revival from Genesis 4:26. Seduced by the beauty of Cain’s daughters, Seth’s sons corrupted themselves and also their lineage by taking godless women as wives. By this understanding, the daughters of man are the women from Cain’s line while the sons of God are the men from Seth’s line. “The sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose” (Genesis 6:2).