The Sons of God of Genesis 6, in “The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan”

In Genesis 6:1-4, the sons of God see that the daughters of men are beautiful.  The sons of God then take wives from the daughters of men.  V 4 states that, when this happened, there  were Nephilim—-often translated as “giants.”  These Nephilim were mighty and renowned.

Who were the sons of God in Genesis 6:1-4?  Who were the daughters of men?  Some say that the sons of God were angels or deities, and that the daughters of men were human females.  Another view is that the sons of God were descendants of Seth, a righteous son of Adam, whereas the daughters of men were descendants of Cain, Adam’s wicked son.

The fifth-ninth century C.E. Christian document, “The Conflict of Adam of Eve with Satan,” appears to go with the latter view: that Genesis 6:1-4 is about the Sethites intermarrying with the Cainites.

In “Conflict,” the Sethites are on a mountain, whereas the Cainites are on the low ground.  The Sethites are not supposed to go down from the mountain to be with the Cainites, lest the Cainites corrupt the Sethites.  Satan tries to get the Sethites to descend.  He and his angels appear as Adam and other past figures and lead the Sethites to the low ground. There, the Sethites are tempted by the sights.  Satan instigates the Cainites to invent enticing music that inflames lust: that reminds me of Rock and Roll, or what some fundamentalist pastors have said about it!

“The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan” calls the Sethites children of God (II.11. 4; 20.27).  This is on account of their purity and their worship of God.  They are also called angels (II.20.15).  This is because, in worshiping God, they are replacements for the angels who fell with Satan.

In II.20, the Sethites see that the daughters of Cain are beautiful and descend the mountain, even though righteous Enoch warns them that, in doing so, they will cease being children of God and will become children of the devil.

“The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan” does not say that the intermarriage results in giants.  Still, it is most likely interpreting Genesis 6:1-4, for it talks about children of God seeing beautiful women and intermarrying with them.  By saying that the Sethites were angels, could “Conflict” be responding, in some manner, to the view that the sons of God of Genesis 6:1-4 were angels?  Its point, in that scenario, would be that the sons of God were angels, but not in the sense that the angelic interpretation assumed.  The Sethites, because they worshiped God, were functionally angels, even though they were human.

I am hesitant to refer to wikipedia, but its article on the Nephilim contains leads on who interpreted the sons of God as Sethites within Judaism and Christianity.  Such an interpretation probably resonated with the writer of “Conflict” because he was ascetic.  Adam and Eve fast for long periods of time, and sex is practically treated as a necessary evil in “Conflict.”  The writer of “Conflict” may have wanted his Christian community to stay away from a world that he considered corrupt, a world symbolized by the Cainites on the low ground.

God in “Conflict” is often merciful and patient with Adam, Eve, and Cain, staying with them even though they make mistakes.  The Sethites are not to exercise that same patience towards the Cainites, however, probably because the Cainites are believed to be too far gone.  The Cainites would corrupt the Sethites, rather than the Sethites having a positive influence on the Cainites!

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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