The Sons of God in Job 38


In Envy and the Sons of God, I wrote:

…those with the title “the sons of God” in Job were not angels but priestly, mediatorial men (an observation I have heard from Gary DeMar). Satan envied them, accused them, as he always does. They are Adams in the garden, Covenant heads, and he hates them. Job was a priest-king.

DeMar has also just published an article on Job in the last few days that deals with the crazy angel/human hybrid Nephilim theory, and of necessity covers the identity of the sons of God.

Part of the problem in interpreting the Bible is that while it has the marks of ordinary writing, it is much more than literature. Jesus sat down with His disciples after His resurrection and poured over the OT to showed them how all of the books—designated as “Scripture” or “the Scriptures”—applied to Him (Luke 24). We have to assume that the book of Job was included in the survey. In what way is the book of Job a sign post that points to Jesus Christ? I believe it’s found in the use of “sons of God” (Job 1:6; 2:1). Many commentaries have posited that “sons of God” is a reference to angels rather than human beings. In the instance of the phrase’s use in Genesis 6:2, they are said to be fallen angels who cohabitated with humans and created a super race of giants called the Nephilim. While this is a popular interpretation, I believe it’s mistaken. “Sons of God” never refers to fallen angels. The only place where “sons of God” could refer to angels (not fallen angels) is in the highly poetic passage in Job 38:7: “When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” But this also may be a reference to earthly rulers (Judges 5:19–20). Elsewhere in the Bible, “sons of God” always refers to humans.

Job is described as “the greatest of all the sons [bene] of the east” (Job 1:3). Most translations have “men of the east.” We read in Job 1:6 that “there was a day when the sons [bene] of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.” Many assume that this is a description of a heavenly court of angelic beings. To present oneself before the Lord is a common biblical phrase designating judgment (ethical evaluation): Do I meet God’s standards? We know this divine evaluation was always on Job’s mind because he offered “burnt offerings” according to the number of his children. “Perhaps,” Job reasoned, “my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5). To flee from the presence of God—as Cain (Gen. 4:16) and Jonah did (Jonah 1:3, 6)—is an attempt to avoid God’s evaluation of our deeds. Of course, there is no place where we can flee from God’s presence (Ps. 139:7).

Satan was present when Adam (“the son of God”: Luke 3:38) and Eve broke their fellowship with God and came under God’s negative sanctions. He was there when Jesus, as the Second Adam and “the Son of God” (Matt. 4:6; Luke 4:3), was in the presence of His Father in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–13; Luke 4:3). Jesus, as the Second Adam, was enduring a time of testing and moral judgment. Satan’s goal was to separate Jesus from the will of His Father. We can assume that he was there when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane.

What about Satan’s role? He is described in the Bible as “the accuser of our brethren . . . who accuses them before our God day and night” (Rev. 12:10). In the case of Job, Satan interjects himself among the godly rulers—“sons of God”—and accuses Job before God by using God’s own standards. He’s always trying to tweak God’s Word just enough to spoil its meaning. According to Martin Luther, “the Devil is ever God’s ape.” [1]

But that one verse in Job is still a problem. Drew commented:

I’ve heard this explanation of Job, based largely on Hebrews 2 where it says that God didn’t refer to any angel as a “son of God.” But I still haven’t heard a good explanation for Job 38:7.

The verse is found within a “Bible matrix” poem. Verses 1-13 follow the Creation/Feast pattern.

The Lord talks about the foundation of the Land, the mediatorial territory “raised up” out of the sea between heaven and the abyss.

At the centre of this poetic cycle (Day 4) are the stars, and the “sons of God” are the “swarms” of Day 5. These are usually military, but they could still be either angels or men. Revelation puts both kinds of armies at this step, angelic and human, in its uses of this pattern, but it concerns the judgment of the earthly mediators (“men” or “Adams”, ie. the Jewish rulers) by the heavenly ones.

However, these “sons” in Job 38 are definitely in reference to the Land. The stars, the heavenly rulers, sing (praise from heaven) and the earthly rulers give a military shout in response (praise from earth). We do see this pattern in the Revelation as well, not to mention the armies of Israel arranged in 12 tribes under the 12 constellations in the book of Numbers (the “Day 4″ of the first seven books of the Bible). [2]

There were angels who stood before God, the 24 elders. Joshua the High Priest was promised access among them depending upon obedience. But it is men who are truly mediators between heaven and earth, prefiguring the ascension of Christ, dust made clay made precious “Tabernacle” metal.

So I think it is most likely that this verse is a reference to mediatorial men, a holy army. The question is which “Land” is being referred to. The original physical Land; the new Land of Noah; or the Land founded by Abraham’s faith, when the Lord divided the “Sea” of nations into Jew and Gentile? All of these “new earths” follow the same pattern. (We also see it in the baptism of Christ, who became the new Land of Israel in which we must be “buried” to obtain resurrection.)

According to Jordan, Job was most likely an Edomite king, and would thus be familiar with this structure. So, nothing conclusive, but the verse is a part of a “Creation-matrix” speech, and the ubiquitous use of this pattern in the rest of the Scriptures would make human “sons” the much more likely contender.

[1] Gary DeMar, Is Job a Type of Christ? Toby Sumpter also has some interesting comments here.
[2] Totus Christus provides a helpful survey of the pattern throughout Scripture.

Share Button

6 Responses to “The Sons of God in Job 38”

  • hiram Says:

    Amen. I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that theologians have dealt with Job’s use of the phrase sons of God a little carelessly.

    Job 1 is a chiasm, the center of which is this heavenly court scene. The subject? The righteousness of Job’s children, the righteousness of Job, the role of the accuser of the brethren that Satan plays.

    Great Post!

    btw, I wrote a two part blog entry on the narratival impossibility of the “sons of God” of Genesis 6 being angels. Here’s the link, if you’re interested :)

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Thanks Hiram. That is excellent – and easy to follow! Highly recommended, folks.

  • Drew Says:

    I think equating the land and sea with Jews and Gentiles here seems far-fetched, especially given that it’s quite possible Job predated Abraham. The whole book talks about God’s power and miracles, such as his ability to create monsters and even create the earth itself. God’s calling of Abraham involved divine intervention but wasn’t a terribly spectacular miracle.

    Noah’s new earth seems possible, I guess. Imo, that’s the best explanation for how the sons of God could refer to godly humans (alive or dead). I still have a lingering suspicion, though, that the passage refers to the original creation because the whole point of the book is to bring out God’s magnificence. God seems to be asking, “Were you there when no other humans were around?” If it is talking about creation, then I think it pretty much has to mean that the sons of God are angels. The only non-angelic sons of God around near the time of Creation would be Adam and Christ.

    Overall, I do still suspect that the phrase meant angels, although I’m not absolutely committed to the idea and don’t think it’s terribly important either way. If your interpretation of Job were correct, it would actually help me out in one sense: I believe the doctrine of the Harrowing of Hell is probably unbiblical, and if the OT showed that believers were in heaven then that would settle the matter. Regarding your own theology, I remember you’ve argued that the 24 elders in Revelation are angels so I doubt that interpreting these sons of God as angels would really undermine your position either.

    Supposedly the other Middle Eastern cultures often used the term “sons of God” to refer to lesser deities, and the Bible even seems to give us an example of this use in Daniel 3:25 (granted, it’s in Aramaic rather than Hebrew). Although it’s possible that Nebuchanezzar was making a Christian confession as the KJV translates the verse, in my opinion Nebuchanezzar didn’t actually get saved until later in Chapter 3 or perhaps in Chapter 4. Therefore, he was probably just using the term to reference a supernatural being/spirit.

    Regarding the Hebrews 1 passage, I don’t think it’s actually denying that angels are God’s sons. Rather, it’s just saying that they aren’t begotten from the dead like Christ was. Specifically, the line about “Today have I begotten thee” refers to Christ’s resurrection (see Acts 13:33), and does not refer to his incarnation or Trinitarian emanation from the Father or whatever else.

  • Mike Bull Says:


    Good points.

    I guess I was trying to point out that this position in the structure is the “Trumpets” army. At Creation, it would no doubt have been angels. Later, it is men. After Jesus’ resurrection, it was the saints who rose from the graves who testified in Jerusalem. After Pentecost (stars/lights) it was the apostolic witness. And after the “death” of the firstfruits church in the Judaic “wilderness”, it was the final Trumpet, the two witnesses, hence John’s reference to the saints as “the sons of God.”

    Of course, this means that in Noah’s pattern, there was no “swarms” witness. All were corrupt. There was no “Deuteronomic” generation under Noah (as Moses) to cross into the new Land—only animal substitutes.

  • Darrel Bollen Says:

    Good article. Even if the Sons of God in all three verses of Job refer to angels it could not be used to justify the goofy angels co-habiting with women interpretation of Genesis 6. They were shouting for joy and that indicates elect angels. The fall of angels had already taken place and no way would Moses(moved by the Spirit) identify fallen angels as sons of God. A few chapters later he used the word angel and if he wanted it to mean angels of God he would have used the word angels.
    Son of man is used over and over in Ezekiel to identify him. But, the same expression is used over and over in the new testament to identify Christ.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Good points, Darrel. It is basic logic.