The Names of God – Elohim

Photo by Michelle Pearson

Names of God – Elohim

Have you ever noticed all the different names for God in the Bible? If you’re old enough to remember Amy Grant’s song, El Shaddai, you might remember that this song alone used several of His names; El Shaddai, El Elyon, Adonai. We’ve probably all heard the name Yahweh, that’s the name that the Jewish people called the unspeakable name and would write it with no vowels.

Looking at the Hebrew language in the Bible, we see that there are many different names for God. Of course, they are all talking about the same God…the one true God, but each of these names describes a different attribute of Him. This isn’t an unusual phenomenon, we do it all the time. My parents call me son, my sons call me dad, in high school I was called “Little Moose”…I don’t want to talk about it, my wife calls me honey, and the guy behind me on the freeway giving me the one-way sign calls me…well, you get the idea. The point is, we all, no matter what our culture or language, use names that describe a person. God is no different, and He has so many truly awesome attributes that we need a lot of names to describe Him. Today I want to start looking at some of the names the Hebrews used for God and what they mean.

The first name we want to look at is Elohim which simply means God. This is the most commonly used names of God because it just means God. It’s used 200 times in the book of Genesis alone. In fact, the first time it is used is in the first verse in the Bible, Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.” If we break down the word to its origin we find that it comes from words that mean “Power” and “Might”. It is a name of power, a name of majesty.

There is a great song from the late 70’s, written by Rich Mullins called “Awesome God”. The song says:

When He rolls up His sleeves
He ain’t just putting on the Ritz (Our God Is An Awesome God)
There’s thunder in His footsteps
And lightning in His fists (Our God Is An Awesome God)
The Lord wasn’t joking
When He kicked ’em out of Eden
It wasn’t for no reason
That He shed His blood
His return is very close
And so you better be believing that
Our God is an awesome God

There are songs all through the history of the Church that expresses the power and majesty of God. Songs like, “How Great Thou Art”, and “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, as well as new worship songs like, “How Great is Our God”, and “Whom Shall I Fear”.

What’s interesting about the name Elohim is that, with this one word, God describes the Trinity. You see, Elohim is a plural word used as a singular word, and in the Hebrew language, plural means 3 or more, unlike English where plural, of course, means 2 or more. This is obviously a case of Moses trying to emphasize the Trinity. Rabbi Simeon ben Joachi had this to say about the name Elohim: “Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet notwithstanding they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other.” Clarke adds: “He must be strangely prejudiced indeed who cannot see that the doctrine of a Trinity, and of a Trinity in unity, is expressed in the above words.” Leupold quoting Luther on Elohim said: “But we have clear testimony that Moses aimed to indicate the Trinity or the three persons in the one divine nature.” Interestingly, it is never used in this way when speaking of heathen gods. It will talk about a group of them plurally, or one of them singularly, but never one of them plurally.

You don’t see the singular form of the word, Eloah, very much. It’s almost exclusively used in poetry and poetic expression. Interestingly, we see it most frequently used in the book of Job, which is believed to be the oldest book, chronologically.

Another root word of Elohim is El, and as with Eloah, it is mostly found in Job and the Psalms. The name El means “to be strong” or “to be in front”, and it is often combined with nouns or adjectives to other names for God that refer to some of His various attributes. We see this in names like El Shaddai and El Elyon.

Over the next few installments, we are going to look at many different names for God. I have compiled a list of 18 names, which isn’t by any means an exhaustive list, but it gives a good understanding of the attributes of God. The idea of this is not to be a fact dump, but to help us all understand who God really is. You see, the world has a different idea of who God is. If you doubt that, just watch a night of TV. The world sees Him as angry and they see us as ignorant, and that’s on us. We Must portray Him in the right way, and we must portray his Church in the right way. We have allowed this perception to go on for far too long. Sadly, we have allowed others, claiming the name of Christ, to perpetuate it. We’ve all seen them holding a sign on the street corner saying “God hates this” or “God hates that”, but here’s the thing…God doesn’t hate anyone. Don’t get me wrong, God does hate the sin, but He loves every sinner. The Apostle Paul called himself the worst of all sinners, but Christ died for him, just like He died for you and me.

But, you see, the early church wasn’t looked at as stupid or ignorant, they were a force to be reckoned with. Just look at Acts 4:13, “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” They realized that they were uneducated, but didn’t look at them as being stupid, they were amazed at their boldness and could tell that they had been with Jesus. That’s how we need to be. Ask yourself, “When people see me, can they see that I’ve been with Jesus?”

See you next time.

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