What I’m Not Saying About the Godly Line of Seth

Recently, I posted a four-post argument on my understanding of the identity of the “sons of God” in Genesis 6. Since settling on my view of this passage, I have read several articles from those who hold to the more common view. In these articles there are some misnomers I’d like to address. I think each of these arguments can be reduced down to one very simple assertion: Don’t hear what I’m not saying. Let’s address each one of these misnomers in turn.

I’m not saying that the Sethites were anywhere else referred to in Genesis as ‘sons of God’

Sure, the Sethites are not identified anywhere other than Genesis 6 by Moses as sons of God, but neither are fallen angels. The book of Job alludes to angels being called ‘sons of God,’ but even that assumes a certain interpretation. Think of it this way:

Job was the first book written in the Bible. Hundreds of years later Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Hundreds of years after that the prophets tell us that Satan was actually a guardian cherub in the Garden of Eden. Thus, we must assume that Moses, foreseeing the prophets’ understanding of Satan’s nature, interprets that back into Job and then uses that interpretation to identify fallen angels able to create for themselves bodies capable of procreating with female humans. This hermaneutic is, to say that least, bizarre.

However, for God to designate His remnant people as His children is far from bizarre, even for Moses. In Exodus 4:23 God, through Moses, told Pharaoh, “Let My son go that he may serve Me” (NASB). God is a covenant keeping God, and we with whom He keeps covenant are not His mere subjects. We are His sons (Matthew 5:9; Luke 20:36; Romans 8:14; 9:26; Galatians 3:26; 4:6).

I’m not saying that the Sethites were intrinsically godly

Some call into question the certainty with which we can say that the line of Seth were all godly. I would call that into question as well. In and of himself, no man has ever been completely biblecoffee2_kjekolrighteous. Look at the life of Abraham. He deceived to monarchs and put his wife’s purity on the line to save his own skin, and yet he is called righteous. Look at his nephew Lot. He offered up his daughters to the city, got drunk, and impregnated his daughters, and yet he is called righteous.

By referring to the Sethites as the godly line of Seth, we are not eschewing the fact that we are here referring to sinful men. Beyond any doubt, they were sinful men. However, look at the way that sinful men of God are remembered in the Bible vs. sinful men of the world. The New Testament authors only recall the good in the life of Abraham. They refer to Lot as righteous Lot. They recall only the sins of Balaam, but recall only the faith of Rahab the harlot.

So, what is the difference between the godly and the ungodly in a world where all have sinned and fallen short? The difference is a difference of covenant and perseverance. Those who are in covenant with God, though they may sin (even scandalously), through repentance and perseverance, they will be called godly. They will be called sons of God!

I’m not saying that all who are called ‘sons of God’ persevere

Obviously, not all of the Sethites persevered to the end. There is always a certain level of corruption among God’s people. There will always be wheat among the tares. However, God always has His remnant. For the Sethites, the corruption reached so far that, by the time of the flood, the only remnant left was Noah and his immediate family. There were times in the life of the nation of Israel when there were only 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

To say that a people of God is godly in the Bible is not necessarily to say that all of them do all things with all godliness at all times. That notion is simply preposterous. If that were the case, why in the world would Paul tell Titus that God’s grace enables us to live godly lives (Titus 2:12)? Why on earth would Peter say that God rescues the godly (2Peter 2:9)? None of us is perfect. We all fall short in many ways. So, to say that the Sethites were godly is not to say that they were perfect or that they persevered to the end. It is simply to say that they were God’s people at that time.

By the time of Noah, they obviously had come to be very corrupt, just as did the nation of Israel before the dispersion and Judah before the exile. That is the point, though. Even though men may fail, God always keeps His promises. He promised a Messiah that would crush the serpent’s head and, though men may fail us every time, God will remain faithful to His promises. God preserved His chosen Seed through Noah, even though the line of Seth eventually failed.

I will not concede that the daughters of men are the daughters of all mankind

Some have also pointed out that “daughters of men” seems to be used to refer generally to the female offspring of all men, not just those of the Cainites. When placed in contrast to the sons of God, though, it is not hard to understand that two very distinct groups are being referenced here. It is much like the use of the two Adams in 1Corinthians 15.

The first Adam became a living soul, but the last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving spirit (vs. 45). Therefore, “as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (vs. 22; NASB). Does Paul mean here that every individual in Christ has been or will be made alive? Of course he doesn’t. What he is teaching is that there are two types of men. There are those who are in Adam and, therefore, dead in their trespasses and sins, and there are those who are in Christ, who have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life.

Sometimes the biblical authors used general, universal-sounding terms to designate one group, but then mark them out as not being general and universal by contrasting them with a more specific group. That is what Paul was doing when he wrote 1Corinthians 15, and that is what Moses is doing when he speaks of the daughters of men in Genesis 6. The daughters of men are best understood when contrasted with the sons of God. They are those who follow after the precepts of men rather than the precepts of God. So, when God’s chosen people went after them, they committed a great evil in the sight of the Lord.

Who Were the ‘Sons of God’ in Genesis 6? (Part Three)

In the first two articles I posted on the identity of the sons of God in Genesis 6, I stated the default position of most in the Western church and refuted it with some negative argumentation. In this article, I will now begin to offer a positive argument for the position I hold. As far as I am aware, there are three common positions held on the sons of God in Genesis 6, one of which I will not concern myself for lack of space and time.


Plain and simple, the position I hold is the position commonly called the “godly line of Seth” view. This position has historically been held by many Protestants, but was most famously championed by Augustine in his City of God. In City of God, Augustine spends the first half of the tome arguing in the negative against those who had claimed that Rome had fallen as a direct result of her abandonment of the Roman gods for Christianity. Augustine argued that those who worshiped the Greek and Roman gods worshiped demons, while those who worshiped Christ were worshiping the one, true and living God of the universe.

In the second half of this multi-volume work, Augustine develops a biblical theology of Christ. He traces through each book of the Bible a Christocentric hermeneutic of redemptive history. If you’ve never read City of God before, it is worth it just to see how he understands how God has worked through the different epochs of redemptive history to bring about His purposes.

History according to Augustine, more than anything else, is God’s story. However, it is not merely God’s story. History is more precisely the story of how God brings about His redemptive purposes through providentially directing the activities of the city of God and the city of man. From the dawn of creation, God has always had His people, and His people are distinct from all other people on the face of the earth.

Nehemiah Coxe

coxeowen2Nehemiah Coxe picked up this idea of tracing God’s redemptive activity through the word of God when he wrote Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ. Coxe’s unique contribution was that he demonstrated how God’s redemptive work in redemptive history was uniquely covenantal. Of course, as everyone knows who is familiar with this work, Coxe largely borrowed from Congregationalist John Owen in setting out his framework.

Both Augustine and Coxe subscribe to the “godly line of Seth” view, but we should beware lest we subscribe to a view merely because it is affirmed by a theologian we respect. Our minds and our hearts must be bound to Scripture. We must never elevate a man or a creed on par with Scripture. With that in mind, let us take a look at some Scriptural proof for the “godly line of Seth” view.

Our First Parents

In Genesis 1 and 2, we see that Adam and Eve were made holy and happy. They had never sinned, they were naked, and they were unashamed. God had only given them one rule, and that was that they should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. As we know well, our first parents did eat of that fruit and, doing so, they plunged all of their progeny into sin and misery.

However, in Genesis 3, God offered mankind some hope. After having conducted His trial and found the man, his wife, and their deceiver guilty, God rendered His verdict. Upon the woman, He placed a curse, that she would have pain in child-rearing. Upon the man, he placed a similar curse, that he would no longer have joy in his labors. Before pronouncing these curses, though, God pronounced a curse on the serpent, a curse that came with hope for mankind.

“And I will put enmity

Between you and the woman,

And between your seed and her seed;

He shall bruise you on the head,

And you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15; NASB).

This pronouncement is what many theologians have labeled the proto-euangelion, which basically means the first gospel proclamation. In it, Adam and Eve were given a promise that one of their descendants would eventually set right all that they had destroyed in their rebellious act. Thus, we can imagine the effect that their oldest son’s fratricidal act would have on them.

Cain, Abel, and Seth

CainIn Genesis 4, we witness the murder of one of Adam’s sons at the hand of his other son, likely the one through whom the promised Seed was expected to come. With this act, Cain cast some doubt over the promise God had made on that dismal day in the garden. Through whom was the promised Seed to come? Certainly not Cain!

The second half of Genesis 4 and Genesis 5 serve as a contrast of sorts. After Cain kills Abel, his lineage is detailed for us in the remainder of chapter 4. It is filled with violent, evil men. Chapter Five, however, reestablishes hope for mankind. Adam and Eve have a third son, Seth, and through him come godly men such as Enoch and Noah. On the arrival of Noah, Bible translators provide for us a chapter break. Yet the story is not over.

Do Not Be Unequally Yoked

Just as mankind’s hopes were dashed at the murder of Abel, so too they were dashed just after the godly line of Seth was established. What Moses tells us is that even this godly line was compromised. In fact, it was so corrupted that God saw fit to destroy the earth with a deluge. How was this godly line of Seth compromised? Through marriage.

Throughout the Bible, God forbade His people from intermarrying with pagans and idolaters. He established godly lines (e.g. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David…) through whom He established His covenants and promises, and through whom He would eventually bring the Seed of Abraham: Christ. The “godly line of Seth” argument is that God did not begin this covenantal headship work with Abraham, but with that promise in Genesis 3.

God has always His people, and those people have always had earthly representatives. Today, the Mediator between God and man is the man Jesus Christ. When one is found to be in the people of God under one of these covenant heads, to marry outside of that line is synonymous with apostasy. It simply is not to be done.

To do so will lead to idolatry and sin, as it did for the Israelites in the days of Balaam and still does in the church today. God’s people are not to be unequally yoked. Rather, we are to remain faithful to the God who called us out from among the nations.


Having given my negative and positive arguments for the “godly line of Seth” argument, I plan on giving some applications of these truths in my next article.