Troublesome Topic: Who Were the “Sons of Elohim”?

Genesis 6:1


And it came about that when the adam

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began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them,  (See comment below.)


Now it so happened that, when the population of mankind on the surface of the earth began to multiply, and girls were born to them as well as boys, although the narrative so far has focused on the males,  (See comment below.)

Genesis 6:2



the daughters of men

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that they were desirable

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and they took wives for themselves from all whomever they chose.  (See comment below.)

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THE MIGHTY AMONG THE FOLLOWERS OF GOD noticed that the young women from the rest of humanity were pleasing to look at and also of good physical stock (either giants or geniuses), and they took wives from any and all family units based only on personal choice.  (See comment below.)


This is one of the most disputed passages in the Bible, and it revolves around the question, Who were the “sons of Elohim?” The phrase can refer to one of the following:

I. The descendants of Seth in contrast to the descendants of Cain OR The righteous followers of God in contrast to evil men.

II. The “mighty ones”

III. Angels

IV. A combination of options 1 and 2

First of all it is important to note that giants were very common before the flood. There were people who were very large and strong without having any physical problem associated with their size.

Let’s look at these options in more detail.

I. If this interpretation is to be adopted, Gen 6:2 would read like this: “The male descendants of Seth saw that the female descendants of Cain were desirable, and they took as wives for themselves whomever they chose.”

How did such unions bring about the ruthless giants called Nephilim? The only possible answer is that these men who had previously been good, began to seek power and control and they found it by using extreme size to forcibly get what they wanted. In order to maintain that size in their families they had to seek wives who were also very large, hence they looked outside of their “group” to wherever they could find that size. This is the only way that this interpretation can bring about the Nephilim. The lesson in this case is that their corruption brought about the need for a world-wide flood.

The phrase “sons of Elohim” has usage elsewhere in Scripture with the meaning “followers of God.”

Here the emphasis would be on the heart, not on blood lines. If this interpretation is to be chosen, Genesis 6:2 would be rendered: “The sons of the righteous saw that the daughters of the rest of humanity, i.e. the wicked, were desirable, and they took as wives for themselves whomever they chose.”

Interpretation I. fits the purpose and context better than any other. That is a huge element in its favor. If this is the correct meaning, then the problem arose when followers of God began to want power and control just like they saw others had, and thus became corrupted and began seeing the women that practiced ungodly lifestyles as desirable for their size and likely for their lascivious practices. They may have felt that they had no other choice, they “had to” marry giant women in order to keep up with others and not be pummeled into submission by the wicked giants. But in the process they gave up their godly principles. The lesson is to follow God even if it seems to ruin our chances of gaining an advantage among the humans we live with.

II. The word “Elohim” means “mighty ones.” There are a few times in Scripture when Elohim is used of entities other than God. Because it means “mighty one(s),” the term can refer to any entity that is mighty. God fits that description best, but a few others can, and are called mighty. It is sometimes used of angels, as we shall see under point #4, but it is also used of mighty men. Psalm 82:6 uses the term Elohim of wicked, powerful men whom God will judge, showing himself to be the true judge, the true ruler.

Psalms 82:6


I said, “You are Elohim; you are children of Elyon.”


I said, “You are mighty rulers; you are children of exalted rulers.”

Examples where the word Elohim is translated “judges” are the following:

Exodus 21:6


Then his lord shall approach the elohim and he shall approach the door and his lord shall pierce his ear with an awl and he shall serve him forever.


Then his master will take this slave and present him to the judges and then he will take him to the door jam, and his master will pierce his ear with an awl and in this way the slave will become a slave for life by choice.

Exodus 22:9


And the two of them shall bring their cause to the Elohim, and whoever the Elohim condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.


Then both of them will bring their cause to the judges, and whoever the judges find guilty must pay restitution to his fellow countryman in the form of double was stolen.

Psalms 29:1


Give to YHVH, Oh sons of Elim,

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give to YHVH glory and strength.


Ascribe to YHVH (read Adonai) Oh sons of the mighty ones, ascribe to YHVH (read Adonai) glory and power.

You will notice that in this verse Elohim is translated “mighty ones,” although in this case it is unclear whether the mighty ones are angels or men. I prefer to think of it as men, that is why I have placed this Psalm in this category.

If we take this interpretation, the passage means that powerful, ruthless men, probably among the descendants of Cain, or among the ungodly, liked what they saw among the daughters of Seth, or among the righteous, and they began to take them by force to be their wives. When we read later about their offspring being the Nephilim we realize that it is likely that their power came from their size. There was nothing the righteous men could do to protect their daughters because these men were so powerful. This brought about a mixing of the two groups which previously had remained separate, and the mixing ended up producing a widespread corruption even in those who had been faithful to God.

If this interpretation is chosen, Genesis 6:2 could read like this: “The sons of the mighty ones saw that the daughters of the rest of humanity were good, and they took as wives for themselves whomever they chose.”

Why would the wicked giants want to forcibly take wives from the pious families. Why would the wicked giants want to take wives from others who were not like them, i.e not giants?

If this interpretation is the right one, the spiritual lesson here is that we need to resist evil even if it is a difficult task and even if there is great risk. The mixing by marriage of these two previously separated groups fomented the increase in corruption which necessitated the world-wide flood.

The problem in set 1a & 1b would be that they made choices to corrupt themselves, and in interpretation #2 the problem was that the righteous did not do enough to resist those who were corrupt and violent. I think interpretation 1b fits the purpose of the passage the best.

Another possibility within option #2 is that there were giants present among both the descendants of Seth and the descendants of Cain, but the “mighty ones” (giants) in view here are the giants among the Sethites. See option #4 for a description of this option.

III. The phrase “sons of Elohim” refers to angels. There are several passages of Scripture where the term “Elohim” is used of angels. For instance:

Job 1:6


The sons of Elohim presented themselves before YHVH


The angels presented themselves before YHVH (read Adonai)

Job 38:7


When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of Elohim shouted for joy.


When the morning stars sang together, and all the angels of God shouted for joy.

If this interpretation is followed, Genesis 6:2 would read like this: “The angels saw that the daughters of men were desirable and they took as wives for themselves whomever they chose.”

This method of interpretation is fraught with several serious problems.

  1. This interpretation fails to indicate why God decided to stop striving to “govern” men (Gen 6:3), and it fails to explain how mankind became ungovernable and thus, deserving of punishment. It does not give us an explanation as to why corruption and violence had engulfed the entire world except one man and his family. In fact, if this is referring to angels, it seems to serve no purpose at all.
  2. It violates the principle of reproduction in nature which always occurs “according to its kind;”

Genesis 6:2 clearly indicates that whoever they were, they took as wives whomever they chose. The picture being painted in this passage is one of “the sons of Elohim” marrying, bearing children and raising children, not just getting women pregnant.

Jesus clearly stated that Angels do not participate in marriage: “For in the realm of the resurrected they don’t get married, neither are they given in marriage by a father, rather they are like the angels of God in heaven” (Mt 22:30). He probably meant they do not marry among themselves, which leads us to believe it is even less likely with humans.

It violates John 3:6, “flesh gives birth to flesh and spirit gives birth to spirit”.

It violates I Corinthians 15:39, “All flesh is not the same,” meaning creatures have different DNA which does not allow for reproduction across certain lines. In order for angels to reproduce with human women they would need human DNA, making them humans, not angels. The only way for them to have human DNA is if God altered their make-up to include human DNA because we know they were created as spirit-beings, not as humans with human DNA. If God altered them by giving them our DNA, then He was complicit in wickedness, which is contrary to His character.

3. If the Nephilim were the children of demons and humans, How did they exist both before and after the flood without being on the ark? Genesis 6:4 says that “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days (and also after that),” meaning after the flood. Since they were not on the ark, does that mean that angels came down to marry human women again after the flood? No. The Bible does not even give any hint in that direction. The best answer is that they were humans that were great big bullies.

4. Such an interpretation is based on a highly questionable interpretation of the words “sons of Elohim.” If they came to do something contrary to God’s will, they were no longer angels, but demons, and using the phrase “sons of Elohim” to refer to demons is questionable. Some people on the internet say “Elohim” can refer to any spirit being, including demons, but I don’t see that in any lexica I trust. In the Bible I have never seen “Elohim,” or “sons of Elohim,” used in a way that clearly refers to demons.

5. Whenever a theological position is established that rests solely on one verse of the Bible, there is a huge problem. If the interpretation of that one verse directly or indirectly contradicts the rest of Scripture, there is a huge problem. That is the case with seeing “sons of Elohim” in this passage as a reference to angels and saying that angels married women and had children by them. To the best of our understanding from Scripture, that’s just not the way things work. Therefore, we are obliged to ask ourselves, “Is there a different interpretation that is viable?”

6. If it were possible and true that angels had indeed been the fathers of the Nephilim, there is no spiritual lesson for us in this passage bringing rise to the question, “Why is it included in Scripture?” The other interpretations lend themselves to a spiritual lesson, but this one does not.

IV. Is it possible that the people before the flood and shortly after the flood would have understood the phrase “sons of Elohim” as both the “the followers of God” and “the sons of the mighty ones?” If we asked an ancient Hebrew if this passage refers to the followers of God or to the sons of mighty ones, he might simply say “Yes.”

The next lesson is: Everyone Sought the Advantage


1: "the adam":

This word means “red” and “man.” When used with the article as it is here, “the adam”, it is referring to “mankind.” When used without the article, it referred to the man named “Adam.”


Once again “adam” is the root word used here, but the context demands that the meaning must be more narrow than the use of “Adam/man” above.

3: “desirable”

Most translations render this word as “beautiful,” but the basic meaning of the word is “good, or pleasant.” While beautiful is a logical option in this context, I feel it is too limiting, it places the emphasis solely on physical beauty, but they may have been considering other physical traits as well, such as size.

4: “whomever they chose”

The first indication of a problem was that these men who had whole-heartedly followed God, began to compromise their principles by taking multiple wives, some of whom were women who were committed to something different. I see two reasons why they were attracted to these women:

The first reason they saw them as “good” is probably that they may have seen that they had a large bone structure, tall and strong. The text does not tell us, but it does imply that the men in question here were large men who wanted to create offspring that would be able to lord it over others because of their size and strength.

Secondly, the women among the followers of God were more likely to cover up and not show much skin or shape, whereas the women who were followers of sinful mankind were calling attention to themselves by showing much more skin and shape. The text says that they “took for themselves all whomever they chose.” This means they did not stop at noticing, or even lusting for these lascivious women, they went on to take them as wives. While the text is not perfectly clear on the matter, it implies that they took more than one of these women as wives.



Elim is a form of El, from which Elohim is derived.