The Hebrew word ben and the Greek word hui·osʹ, both meaning “son,” are often used in a sense broader than merely to designate one’s immediate male offspring. “Son” may mean adopted son (Ex 2:10; Joh 1:45), a descendant such as a grandson or great-grandson (Ex 1:7; 2Ch 35:14; Jer 35:16; Mt 12:23), or a son-in-law.
Men were often identified or distinguished by their father’s name or that of a more distant forefather, as, (David) “the son of Jesse.” (1Sa 22:7, 9) The Hebrew and Aramaic words ben and bar, “son,” were frequently attached as prefixes to the father’s name, giving the son a surname, as Bar-Jesus (meaning “Son of Jesus”). (Ac 13:6) Some versions leave the prefix untranslated; others translate it in most cases; some give the translation in the margin. Or the prefix may be attached to the name because of the circumstances surrounding the birth of the child, as Ben-ammi, meaning “Son of My People [that is, relatives],” and not the son of foreigners; or Ben-oni, meaning “Son of My Mourning,” Benjamin being so named by his dying mother Rachel.
Additionally, the word “sons” frequently serves a descriptive purpose, as: Orientals (literally, “sons of the East” [1Ki 4:30; Job 1:3, ftn]); “anointed ones” (literally, “sons of the oil” [Zec 4:14, ftn]); members (“sons”) of occupational classes, as, “sons of the prophets” (1Ki 20:35) or, “a member [“son”] of the ointment mixers” (Ne 3:8); returned exiles (“sons of the Exile”) (Ezr 10:7, 16, ftn); good-for-nothing men, scoundrels (“sons of belial”) (1Sa 2:12, ftn). Those who pursue a certain course of conduct, or who manifest a certain characteristic, are designated by such expressions as “sons of the Most High,” “sons of light and sons of day,” “sons of the kingdom,” “sons of the wicked one,” “son of the Devil,” “sons of disobedience.” (Lu 6:35; 1Th 5:5; Mt 13:38; Ac 13:10; Eph 2:2) So, too, with the judgment or outcome that corresponds to the characteristic, as, “a subject for Gehenna” (literally, a son of Gehenna); “the son of destruction.” (Mt 23:15; Joh 17:12; 2Th 2:3) Isaiah, who prophesied God’s chastisement of Israel called the nation “my threshed ones and the son of my threshing floor.”
Angels, created by God, are sons of God. (Job 1:6; 38:7) Adam as a creation of God was a son of God. (Lu 3:38) Those judges and rulers in Israel against whom God’s word came were called “sons of the Most High,” doubtless because they held office in Israel as representing the divine rule, though they had transgressed. (Ps 82:6) Those whom God selects to be joint heirs with his Son Jesus Christ are called “God’s sons.”
Desire for Male Offspring. In ancient times married couples strongly desired a male offspring. (Ge 4:1, 25; 29:32-35) As the psalmist expressed it: “Sons are an inheritance from Jehovah . . . Happy is the able-bodied man that has filled his quiver with them.” (Ps 127:3-5) With sons the line of descent was made certain, the name of the forefathers was preserved among posterity, and the hereditary possession of land remained in the family. (Nu 27:8) Israelite women desired to have sons, perhaps entertaining hope that one of their sons might prove to be the “seed” through whom blessings from God would come to mankind, as promised to Abraham. (Ge 22:18; 1Sa 1:5-11) In due time the angel Gabriel announced to Mary, a virgin girl of the tribe of Judah, that she was a “highly favored one,” adding: “You will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you are to call his name Jesus. This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father.”