In the various churches around the world, there are some bizarre teachings, and some strange interpretations of the Scripture. It is true that some passages require more research and explanation than others. God, however, seems to have designed His written Word to be that way:
But the word of the Lord was to them, "Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little," that they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught. (Isaiah 28:13)
We call the verses that require further research and explanation "difficult scriptures." Although what might be a difficult scripture for one Christian may not be difficult for another, some passages tend to trip up most new Bible students. In addition, although most adults in the church of God today cannot be considered to be new Bible students, humans are forgetful creatures, and we all tend to need reminders every once in a while. Is this not why God has us repeat the observance of His holy days every year?
In the days and years ahead of us, some will come against God's people and attack us with charges that we do not understand the Scriptures properly. Many of us have already suffered through one round of this fight. There will also be those who claim that the Bible is worthless and unreliable because certain passages seem to contradict one another.
But we know that the Bible is God's Word! Despite some mistranslations and spurious additions and deletions, it is true and infallible. Herbert Armstrong used to say that the Holy Bible is God's instruction manual for man, His masterpiece of creation. God wants His children to be familiar with His Word and always to be ready to give an answer—when asked, of course! This is the primary purpose of this monthly column.
The day may come when an enemy of God's church will try to trip you up by confronting you with one of these "difficult scriptures." You will make a good witness for God if you already know the answer and can give an immediate, thorough explanation.
Kind After Kind
Here is our "difficult scripture":
Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the Lord said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (Genesis 6:1-4)
Some maintain that these verses assert that angels married women before the Flood and engendered a race of giants. This idea sounds like the sub-plot of a science fiction story! But can it be the truth?
It is true that verse 2 states that the "sons of God . . . took wives for themselves of all whom they chose." These "sons of God," however, were not angels. The fact is that angels do not marry. Jesus tells us this clearly: "For in the resurrection they [humans] neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven" (Matthew 22:30; see Mark 12:25).
Angels cannot cohabit nor reproduce with women. Angels are spirit beings:
But to which of the angels has He ever said: "Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool"? Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:13-14)
Women are human beings. Angels and women, then, are two different kinds of being. Kind reproduces after kind, and different species cannot breed.
In his modern, perverted science—"falsely called knowledge" (I Timothy 6:20)—Satan encourages men to experiment with the crossing and mixing of the most unlikely creatures. For example, goats have been genetically altered by the insertion of a spider gene to produce silk products that God never intended in His original design. Also, in recent years a sickening photograph of a mouse with a human ear growing out of its back has made the rounds. Right from the beginning, at the re-creation of the world (Psalm 104:30), God says that this is not to be. He establishes a strict law that each kind must reproduce only after its own kind:
Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth"; and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. . . . So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. . . . Then God said, "Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind"; and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:11-12, 21, 24-25)
This rule is also backed up and made clear by the context of our difficult scripture. In Genesis 6:3, God says, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh." He is speaking of fleshly mankind here, not angels. Although it is true that the children of these couples were "mighty," like their parents, they were still only human.
It is true that angels are sometimes called "sons of God":
» Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. (Job 1:6)
» When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:7)
Remember, though, that angels "neither marry, nor are given in marriage." Secondly, the phrase "sons of God" sometimes refers to Christians, regenerated by God's Spirit but still human:
» But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children [sons, KJV] of God, even to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12)
» For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. . . . For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. (Romans 8:14, 19)
» . . . that you may become blameless and harmless, children [sons, KJV] of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world . . . (Philippians 2:15)
» Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children [sons, KJV] of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children [sons, KJV] of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (I John 3:1-2)
A third meaning refers to mankind in general, because all men are sons of God by creation: "I said, 'You are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High. But you shall die like men . . .'" (Psalm 82:6-7). Although the King James and New King James versions have "children of the Most High," many other translations have "sons of the Most High." Additional verses use similar terminology to refer to humans:
» Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another by profaning the covenant of the fathers? (Malachi 2:10)
» . . . the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:38)
Through Adam, then, every human being is a child of God.
Since these "sons of God"—those who are the subjects of our difficult scripture—were obviously not regenerated Christians, and could not have been angels, it is evident that they were simply human members of mankind in general: Men who had forsaken God and were intermarrying in defiance of His law.
We should note one final point. Genesis 6:4 reads, "There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown."
This verse shows that giants and extraordinarily mighty men existed after the sons of God married the daughters of men and implies that they existed beforehand as well. It does not state that such huge and powerful men were the result only of these marriages. Giants have existed throughout recorded history, before and after the Flood and down to modern times.
In his discussion of the well-known biblical giant, Goliath (I Samuel 17:4), Baptist commentator John Gill (1697-1771) writes in his Exposition of the Entire Bible:
. . . taking a cubit after the calculation of Bishop Cumber-land to be twenty one inches, and more, and a span to be half a cubit, the height of this man was eleven feet four inches, and somewhat more; which need not seem incredible, since the coffin of Orestea, the son of Agamemnon, is said to be seven cubits long; and Eleazar, a Jew, who because of his size was called the giant, and was presented by Artabanus, king of the Parthians, to Tiberius Caesar, is said by Josephus to be seven cubits high; and one Gabbara of Arabia, in the times of Claudius Caesar, measured nine feet nine inches, as Pliny relates, and who elsewhere speaks of a people in Ethiopia, called Syrbotae, who were eight cubits high; the Septuagint version makes Goliath to be only four cubits and a span high, and so Josephus; that is, about eight feet.
John Middleton (1578-1613), who lived near Liverpool, England, was said to have been 9 feet 3 inches tall. Middleton was known as "the Childe of Hale," and his huge grave can still be seen in the Hale village churchyard. Giants still walk among us today. Measuring in at almost 7 feet 9 inches, Radhouane Charbib of Tunisia is reputed to be the tallest man alive.
God's holy Word interprets itself. We do not have to believe bizarre, man-made interpretations of these scriptures, even though their meanings may not be initially clear.