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Don Stewart :: What Does the Hebrew Term Elohim Mean?

Don Stewart

The name commonly used for God in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word Elohim. It is also found in the singular form El and Elah. Whenever we find the English word "God" used in the Old Testament, it is a translation of this Hebrew word Elohim or one of its forms.

The exact meaning of Elohim is not known though it seems to contain the idea of strength and power. The word is used in the first verse of the Bible:

In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).

The noun Elohim is plural but it is always used with a singular verb when it speaks of the true God. This indicates a unity and diversity within the nature of God. This unity and diversity is revealed in Scripture as the doctrine of the Trinity.

Elohim Is Used Of False Gods

Elohim is used not only for the true God but also for false gods.

Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold (Exodus 20:23).

The Term Is Also Used Of Angels

The term Elohim is also used of angels.

You made humanity little lower than the heavenly beings [Elohim] (Psalm 8:6)

There Are Instances Of Elohim Referring To Human Beings

On some occasions, Elohim refers to human beings.

I said, 'You are "gods" [Elohim] you are all sons of the Most High' (Psalm 82:6).

The Singular El Is Used Of All The Members Of The Trinity

The singular form of Elohim is El. It has the idea of strength, power, and might. El is used in the Old Testament of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

God The Father is El.

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God [El} Most High (Genesis 14:18).

The Son is El.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (El) (Isaiah 7:14).

This verse was cited by Matthew to refer to Jesus. The angel of the Lord said to Joseph.

She will bear a Son; and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us" (Matthew 1:21-23).

The Holy Spirit is called El.

The Spirit of God [El} has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life (Job 33:4).

We also read in Job.

From the breath of God [El] ice is made, and the expanse of the waters is frozen (Job 37:10)

Consequently we have the three Persons of the Trinity all designated with the singular El.

The Name Eloah

Eloah refers to the one God.

Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God [Eloah] who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior (Deuteronomy 32:15).

It can also refer to false gods.

Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods [Eloah], whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh. (Daniel 2:11)

El Is Used In Combination With Other Words

El is used in combination with other words in the Old Testament. They include the following.

El-Elyon

El-Elyon is the, "God most high," or the "most high God."

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High. He blessed him and said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand." He gave him a tenth of all (Genesis 14:18-20).

This seems to be the name of God that was known by the Gentile nations.

When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:8).

Daniel wrote.

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" (Daniel 3:26).

Isaiah records the King of Babylon saying.

I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High (Isaiah 14:14).

El-Shaddai

As El-Shaddai, He is God Almighty.

And I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name, Lord, I did not make myself known to them (Exodus 6:3).

In the Book of Ruth we read.

She said to them, Call me no longer Naomi, (That is Pleasant) call me Mara, (That is Bitter) for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me (Ruth 1:20).

El-Olam

El-Olam means that God is the everlasting God.

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God [El-Olam] (Genesis 21:33).

Olam expresses the eternal duration of God. The psalmist wrote.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90:2).

El Gibbor

El Gibbor means, "the mighty God."

For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God [El Gibbor], Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Jeremiah wrote.

You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the fathers' sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God, whose name is the LORD Almighty (Jeremiah 32:18).

Elohim In Combination With Other Words

The word Elohim is used in combination with other words.

Elohim-Elyon

This term means God, the Most High

But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High [Elohim-Elyon]; they did not keep his statutes (Psalm 78:56)

Elohim-Sabaoth

Elohim-Sabaoth means the God of hosts.

O God of hosts [Elohim-Sabaoth], restore us and cause Your face to shine upon us,, and we will be saved. . . Return to us, O God of Hosts [Elohim-Sabaoth]! Look down from heaven and see! Watch over this vine (Psalm 80:7,14).

Summary

The name Elohim means strength and might. It is the common Hebrew term for God. It is also used of false gods. El the singular form of Elohim is used for the three members of the Trinity. Both El and Elohim are used in combination with other words. These terms give us further understanding of the attributes of God.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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