Oh the joy of being called sons of God! Man has this special title given by believing in Christ and being born by the will of God (John 1:12-13). The Bible uses different terms both in the Hebrew and Greek for the word “son” or “sons”. One particular Hebrew word, “bane”, designated by Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries “H1121” appears 4924 times in the Old Testament. It is translated in many ways, the majority of which are not “son or sons”. Consider these few: children (Genesis 3:16), old (Genesis 5:32), one born (Genesis 15:3), people (Genesis 29:1), colts (Genesis 32:15), bough (Genesis 49:22), of the first (Exodus 12:5), young (Leviticus 1:14), of the breed (Deuteronomy 32:14), one (I Samuel 13:1), worthy (I Samuel 26:16), soldiers (2 Chronicles 25:13), men (Job 1:3), sparks (Job 5:7), arrow (job 41:28), branch (Psalm 80:15), corn (Isaiah 21:10), ones (Jeremiah 48:45), and robbers (Daniel 11:14). Indeed, a great number of other translations exist and this will be central to the issue about to be examined.
Hebrews 1:5 – “For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?”
The context of the above verse is a contrast between Jesus and angels. The text accomplishes at least two important tasks. First, it confirms Jesus as being the Son of God. This declaration is confirmed throughout the New Testament by men (Matthew 27:54), demons (Luke 4:41), unclean spirits (Mark 3:11), angels (Luke 1:35), John the Baptizer (John 1:34), Apostles (Mark 1:1), Jesus (John 11:4), and God the Father (Matthew 3:17). Second, the Hebrew author eliminates the possibility that Jesus was an angel by noting no angel was ever called God’s Son. However, many individuals declare angels have been called sons. To get to the bottom of this concern, verses used to support the claim angels have been called “sons of God” must be examined.
Utilizing the King James Version of the Bible, forty-seven verses use the term “son of God”: Daniel 3:25; Matthew 4:3,6; 8:29; 14:33; 26:63; 27:40,43,54; Mark 1:1; 3:11; 15:39; Luke 1:35; 3:38; 4:3,9,41; 8:28; 22:70; John 1:34,49; 3:18; 5:25; 9:35; 10:36; 11:4,27; 19:7; 20:31; Acts 8:37; 9:20; Romans 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 4:13; Hebrews 4:14; 6:6; 7:3; 10:29; 1 John 3:8; 4:15; 5:5,10,12,13,20; and Revelation 2:18. All New Testament usages are clear references to Christ. The single Old Testament reference (Daniel 3:25) is a statement by King Nebuchadnezzar about the appearance of a fourth entity in the fiery pit where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been thrown. While the observation about the image was that it appeared like “a Son of God”, it is by no means an inspired confirmation of the entity’s identity. The term as used by the pagan king was common in identifying what he believed to be Deity.
There are nine scriptures using the term “children of God”: Matthew 5:9; Luke 20:36; John 11:52; Romans 8:16, 21; 9:8; Galatians 3:26; and 1 John 3:10; 5:2. Only one involves angels: Luke 20:36. The verse declares Christians will be equal to angels in that they will have eternal life. It then calls the Christians Children of God, not the angels.
There are no verses in the Bible using the terms “a son of God” or “child of God”.
There are eleven verses in scripture using the term “sons of God”. The New Testament contains six of these and each of them represents a reference to Christians: John 1:12; Romans 8:14, 19; Philippians 2:15; and 1 John 3:1, 2. This leaves us with five verses from the Old Testament: Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1; and 38:7. The conflict as to whether or not angels are called sons of God lies within these verses.
Genesis 6:2-4 – “That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were nephilim in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”
The claim that the sons of God in these verses are angels cannot be validated by scripture. Scripture clearly refutes this as an option. How? Mark 12:25 – “For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.” Angels do not marry, but the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 did so. Rather than angels, the sons of God in this passage are followers of God who married those who were not. The result was unrighteous people. Thus, the context of Genesis 6 ends in God’s disgust with sinful mankind and the creation of the Ark by Noah. Please note: Some suggest these “sons of God” were angels who were not from heaven and therefore could marry with men. In simple perspective and rejection of this notion, if the angels were not from heaven, they were not from God. Rather, they would be angels of the devil (Matthew 25:41, Revelation 12:9). However, the concern is moot for the “sons of God” here are men not angels.
Job 1:6-7 – “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.”
Job 2:1-2 – “Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD. And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.”
The great majority of scholars proclaim the sons of God in these verses to be angels in a gathering in heaven. If so, the validity of Hebrews 1:5 would have to be questioned for angels would be called sons of God. Additionally, it must be accepted that Satan, a very corrupt being opposed to the righteousness of God, would be present in heaven. Why would scripture not be consistent and refer to man as sons of God as it did in Genesis 6 and the whole of the New Testament? Why refer to angels as sons when it is man who was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26)? Why refer to angels as sons when it is man who is heir and angels ministers unto them (Hebrews 1:14). Is it too difficult to imagine the faithful of God gathering at an appointed time to present themselves before God? The Patriarchal age does not provide us with much information regarding the worship at that time. However, as early as Genesis 4, Cain and Able came together to present offerings before God. Unless, the final text of scripture mentioning “sons of God” can be determined with certainty to refer to angels, no reason can be ascertained as to why Job 1:6-7 and 2:1-2 would do so.
The final passage of scripture to examine regarding “sons of God” is Job: 38:7. The context of this verse is Job before God and God speaking.
Job 38:1 -12 – “Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick darkness a swaddlingband for it, And brake up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed? Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place;…”
This passage seems to be a lockbox of hope to those who want angels to be sons of God. The context is that of creation. Notably, the time is before the creation of man. Thus, man cannot be the sons of God spoken of here. Yet, this does not certify that the sons are angels. While certain scholars see this as a certainty, the possibility of an alternative eliminates certainty of a solution. Recall the opening paragraph of this article. H1121 is the term “sons” used here in Job 38. Recall also the great number of translations for H1121. Are there any that could be alternative to “sons” in the passage and still fit the context? Consider that both “ones” and “first ones” can easily replace the term son, being thus: “ones of God” and “first ones of God”. What are these “first ones of God”? I submit to you these are other physical elements of creation. That would include planets, moons, and all the heavens. There are a number of inanimate objects that are referred to by H1121. Such a translation would not be out of order. Thus, an alternative removes certainty about translating H1121 “sons” and therefore “sons of God” leading to a belief they are angels.
The text of Job 38:1-12 also stands as a refutation to angels being present. In the above text, it will be noted there are a number of words underlined. They are all physical elements of the creation. All of them are inanimate, that is without life. All of them are surrounded with figurative language. A foundation fastened, a cornerstone laid, morning stars singing, seas needing doors, clouds being a garment, darkness a swaddling band, and dayspring personified as if to know his place fit together well. How do literal angels literally shouting for joy fit the text? It is like a puzzle children are given where they are to point out the one thing that does not belong with the others. In this text, angels or “sons of God” do not belong. Rather, the “first ones of God”, His creation which is inanimate, figuratively shouts for joy. This is text which is sound and in accordance with Hebrews 1:5.
In regard to the thrust of Hebrews 1:5 the following question has arisen: “What if Hebrews 1:5 presents its text only to demonstrate the uniqueness of the Sonship of Jesus as compared to that of angels; not to exclude them as metaphoric sons?” The uniqueness of Jesus can be found by the term “begotten” (monogenes) in John 3:16. However, the term “begotten” in Hebrews 1:5 (gennao) according to Thayer’s Greek definitions is different and can have a metaphoric meaning. It does not ask when the angels were ever considered unique sons like Christ, but rather when they were even considered metaphorically to be sons.” The text means exactly what it says. God has never called angels (uniquely or metaphorically) sons. The designation of son rests only with Jesus. Consider an affirmation of this from Hebrews 2:11-16:
“For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on angels; but he took on the seed of Abraham.”
This text clearly identifies that man is considered brothers to Christ. Here he could have called angels his brothers, but he did not (nor does he elsewhere). He became as man, not as angels. There is a special relationship between God and man that angels do not share. If men are brothers to Christ, they are sons of God. This is born out in scripture. However, it is never seen of angels. Both Revelation 19:10 and 22:9 identify angels as servants of the brotherhood of men, but not brothers. Hebrews 2 strengthens Hebrews 1:5 which stands as a guideline to other scriptures where men mistakenly want to use the term “sons of God” or interpret it as “angels”.
Though scripture does not call angels sons or brothers, there is a desire to argue for them as God’s spiritual family. They are sentient, freewill beings, who live eternally, and dwell in heaven. Should they not be considered family? Christians must use the Bible to determine what has authorization and what does not. Are angel’s family? The verse used in attempt to affirm this belief comes from Ephesians:
Ephesians 3:14-15 – “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,”
Who is this “family”? The context does not discuss angels. Rather, the discussion revolves around the gospel being applicable to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. This is the family being discussed – the Church! How can angels be under a heavenly roof with man and not be considered family? Abraham found himself without an heir in Genesis 15:2-3. He did not consider the steward of his house (Eliezer) family. Did he have a bond of trust with Eleizer? Certainly he had a bond of trust with his house steward; however, that did not make Eleizer family. Unless, God identifies angels as family or sons, man cannot assume to bestow the title upon them with authority. The same is true for other beings in heaven such as Cherubim and Seraphim.
What is the importance of showing “sons of God” are not angels? First, it demonstrates that all scripture is in accordance and does not disagree. Second, it helps bring passages which are misunderstood into the proper light. Finally, understanding that Jesus is the only Son of God, the begotten and unique, who is Deity, enables man to properly direct his worship to the right target. Angels are ministers to God and man and they need to be observed as such. If God does not call them sons, brothers, or family, man should not tread upon that ground.