Genesis 6:1-5 is one of the most fascinating and troubling passages in the entire Bible. Some people want to make what is conveyed here an entirely human scenario, but that completely misses what’s really going on and the larger Biblical narrative.
The text tells us that the sons of God (bene Elohim – Hebrew) took human wives. Who were the sons of God? In the Old Testament, it speaks exclusively about them as being members of God’s heavenly host; in this case, they were likely high ranking princes in the spiritual realm and members of what is referred to as God’s Divine Council. (Note that in a number of passages in Scripture we see thrones (plural) around God’s throne. Who sits on these exalted chairs? Members of Yahweh’s spiritual family – members of His Divine Council – who have important positions in His kingdom. An example of this is Daniel 7:9: “thrones were placed and the Ancient of Days took his seat.”)
The alternative theory to explain what’s going on in this scene is what’s known as the sons of Seth theory. This theory attempts to explain away the supernatural aspect of these verses. It assumes that Seth’s sons were referred to here as God’s sons, and that they were somehow more holy than other men alive at the time. Moreover, it also assumes that the daughters of men – all human women – were somehow more wicked than Seth’s children. Of course, that makes no sense. In the fall of Adam and Eve, all men and women subsequently inherited a sin nature; none were Godly in the way this theory wishes to portray.
Just as there was an original rebel (the nachash in Genesis 3 that we presume is Satan), there were other rebels. This passage in Genesis 6 tells us that. Confirming verses in the New Testament such as Jude 6-7 and 2 Peter 2:4 speak of the angels “who did not stay within their positions of authority, but left their proper dwelling.” As a result, “God did not spare angels when they sinned.” What was their sin? They rebelled against God; they disobeyed His command that their place was in the heavenlies and not to dwell among humans.
What did these angels – these sons of God – do? They not only came to live on the earth; they also procreated with human women. From this unholy action, giant beings known as Nephilim came forth. This led to further intermarrying and wickedness throughout the earth so that God finally reached a point that He had to act. He does this by destroying all life on earth through the flood.
What was the problem in all this? Satan’s intent has always been to be like God, to replace Him, and to be God. To accomplish this, Satan had to thwart God’s plans for humanity. Thus, he introduced rebellion to Adam and Eve, which led to sin. This resulted in God cursing Satan – the serpent – in Genesis 3:15, which effectively informed Satan that he was on a short leash. A time would come when he would be completely defeated by a human descendant of Eve’s. From that point, Satan was truly on a mission. He would do everything in his power to keep this human descendant from ever being born, or he would kill Him before he could accomplish God’s purpose to finally eliminate Satan.
The fall of the sons of God was part of this larger narrative. It is likely that Satan encouraged their disobedience. (“Look at how beautiful those human women are. Wouldn’t it be pleasurable to be like men on the earth and to lie with those women?”) Regardless how this went down, Satan’s intent was to corrupt the gene pool. If man’s DNA was corrupted and man’s blood no longer purely human, then no human descendant from Eve could be born. Satan could prevent Jesus from ever walking the earth. With this plan, Satan could annul the promises of God and make Him a liar. He could ascend to the throne of God and take over if God lost His divine authority.
Further on in Scripture we’ll come across descendants of Nephilim known as Rephaim. Somehow, the progeny of the wicked, disobedient sons of God would continue to be a problem to mankind that God would have to deal with.