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The Bene Elohim (Hebrew: בני האלהים, Benei HaʼElōhīm; Greek: ϒἱοὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ, Huioi toū Theoū; "Sons of God") are a group of beings mentioned in passing in the Old Testament book of Genesis 6:4 . It is unclear what the Sons of God were, but they are distinguished from the daughters of men. There are at least three schools of thought regarding these beings.
The different interpretations of the Benei Ha'Elohim stem from the use of different definitions.
The Hebrew word Benei has several definitions:
- a) Child or grandchild;
- b) A characterization, as in the case of "Sons of injustice"
- c) A member of a guild, order, or class;
The Hebrew word Elohim is the plural of El, or god.
Schools of Thought
Prior to Augustine of Hippo
The older view, held nearly unanimously by ancient writers prior to Augustine of Hippo, is that the Benei Ha'Elohim (Sons of God) or The Watchers were fallen angels in extra-Biblical traditions. While there has always been a minority of churchmen who followed this view, it has been promoted recently by popular writers such as Stephen Quayle. 
The more recent view which has been the majority position in the church since St. Augustine in the fourth century is that the Sons of God refers to the god-fearing line of Seth; and the daughters of men refers to the daughters of the unbelieving line of Cain. Variations on this theme include the idea, proposed by Meredith Kline, that the Sons of God were kings or priests who took any woman they chose to be their wife.
Still others hold that the Sons of God were other created men. It is argued that the Bible does not describe every person that was created, but only key individuals or situations are included within the text. Those holding to this position call into question the origin of Cain's wife or those whom he feared would kill him Genesis 4:14-17 .
Some argue that the Sons of God could not be angels because:
- Angels are not biological beings, and therefore not reproductively compatible with human women.
- A major theme of the Old Testament is the negative outcome of believers intermarrying with unbelievers.
Advocates of the Angel position hold that:
- Angels are recorded on two occasions in Scripture as eating food, therefore they have some ability to interact with the material world.
- We really don't know what angels can and cannot do, as we lack the ability to capture and study them, and Scripture says little about them.
- The question should be decided by the context and evidence rather than a preconceived idea about the nature of angels.
- The Augustinian position fails to explain the production of gigantic offspring from the union of believers and unbelievers.
- The unanimous position of Jewish and heathen authors prior to Philo of Alexandria is that the angels came down and sired children with women.
Those opposing the view that the Sons of God were other created men point to:
- Genesis 3:20 , which states that Eve is the mother of all the living.
This definition, generally taught by early Church theologians and many today, holds that the "Sons of God" refers to the line of Seth, which were believed to be the chosen line.
Problems with this view:
- The children of the Benei Ha'Elohim and the "daughters of men" are described as giants in Genesis, indicating some genetic difference between the sons of God and the daughters of men which is not consistent with their merely being two lines of descent from Adam;
- The phrase Benei Ha'Elohim is not mentioned anywhere else in the Old Testament except for Job (as described below), and Job clearly does not refer to the children of Seth.
- The Book of Jubilees and Book of Enoch, which are factually consistent with Genesis and with each other, describe the 'Bene Elohim as angelic beings lower in rank than Jehovah Elohim;
This interpretation uses the "Member of a guild or class" definition of Benei, and reads Elohim as literally plural, rather than the "majestic plural" of the Hebrew language (which has a plural structure but, a singular meaning) or the "Royal we."
First and second chapters of Genesis
Those holding to this interpretation note that the first section of Genesis, from 1:1 to 2:4 uses the plural Elohim exclusively to describe the six days of creation; the sections following use the phrase Jehovah Elohim ("Lord of the gods") exclusively to describe the creation of the garden, Adam, and Eve. They infer that "the gods" created the Earth generally, and the "Lord God" created Adam and Eve.
Other Old Testament references
The phrase Benei Ha'Elohim appears in one other place in the Old Testament, Job:
- "Now there was a day when the Benei Ha'Elohim came to present themselves before Jehovah, and Satan came also among them." - Job 1:6
- "Again there was a day when the Benei Ha'Elohim came to present themselves before the Jehovah, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Jehovah." - Job 2:1
In both of these cases, the Benei Ha'Elohim are described as separate from Jehovah, and presenting themselves before Him, as in a conference or royal court.
The syllable El, which literally means "god" and is the root of Elohim, is at the end of the names of all the angels:
- The four Biblical archangels, Raphael, Gabriel, Michael, Uriel
- Theologians have debated for centuries about the names of the other three archangels, proposing names such as Raziel, Remiel, Sariel, Anael, Raguil, Barakiel, Barbiel, Chamael, Jophiel, Zadkiel, Jeduhiel, Simael, Zaphiel, and Aniel.
The Islamic Qur'an mentions four archangels: Jibril (Gabriel, who is said to have revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad), Mika'il (Michael), Azrael (another form of Raphael, Angel of Death), and Israfel, the Angel of Music.
The Book of Enoch names the following archangels: Uriel, who rules the world and Tartarus; Raguel, who takes vengeance on the world of the luminaries; Michael, who is set over the most part of mankind and over chaos; Saraquael, who is set over the spirits; Gabriel, ruler of paradise, the serpents and the cherubim; Ramiel, whom God set over those who rise; and Raphael, who rules the spirits of men.
The Book of Enoch states that 200 of the Benei Ha'Elohim decided to marry human women. They were divided into groups of ten, and the leader of each of the ten is named. Notable Watchers include:
- Kasdeja, who "Taught the children of men all the wicked smitings of spirits and demons, and the smitings of the embryo in the womb, that it may pass away )(abortion)."
- Azazel, who "Taught men to make swords, knives, shields, breastplates, the fabrication of mirrors and the workmanship of bracelets and ornaments, the use of paint, the beautifying of the eyebrows, the use of stones of every valuable and select kind, and of all sorts of dyes, so that the world became altered."
- Barkayal, who "Taught the observers of the stars."
- Penemue, who "Taught the bitter and the sweet, the use of ink and paper."
- Gadreel, who "Introduced weapons of war."
- Steve Quayle.com
- Deuteronomistic theology as an interpretive model for the ‘Sons of God’ in Genesis 6:1-4 Biblaridion magazine