Names of God – Elohim

In yesterday’s post, I began talking about how using God’s name in any way that isn’t in line with His character is breaking the 3rd commandment, which demands that no one misuse His name. There are many names by which God refers to Himself in His Word, but the very first name attributed to God is elohim (see Genesis 1:1). This Hebrew word is the word we usually see translated into God, with a capital G.  The word is actually a plural form of the Hebrew word el, which refers to a deity, in the general sense (i.e., god). The plurality of elohim does not necessarily imply that the god being spoken of is actually more than one god – when it is used in the Bible, it is mainly used with singular verbs, adjectives and pronouns.  Many people believe that perhaps using the plural elohim implies the presence of plurality in the singular Godhead – being composed of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet still retaining singularity in its being.  So, just as Deuteronomy 6:4 says Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”, yet Christ can still claim to be God, as can the Holy Spirit. Other people suggest that perhaps the plural use of the word, with singular meaning, implies intensity. So, instead of just saying god, which could use the Hebrew word el, the use of elohim means the Supreme God.

Regardless of whether elohim refers to the trinity or just an intense version of el, it’s meaning is more important to our purposes here.  The traditional Jewish sense of the term elohim was of a more distant God, who created the universe and judges His creation (while Yahweh, or Jehovah, referred to God in a more personal way).  This is expressed in the two views of creation in Genesis. In the first view of creation (Genesis 1:1 – 2:3), the word elohim is used as the name for God, and creation is described in very logistic terms.  In the second view (Genesis 2:4-25), it uses Jehovah as the name for God, and describes creation in a more personal way and in direct relation to man, where God actually “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7).

My study suggested a similar meaning that is slightly more applicable to using God’s name in ways that help us to develop our relationship with Him. It said that, if you look at the very first use of elohim, in the very first verse of the Bible (“In the beginning, God…”, Genesis 1:1), you witness God’s creative process at the beginning of time. Elohim, therefore, means that God is the source – the source of matter, the source of energy, the source of everything in the created universe.  As a name, it portrays God as powerful and sovereign over all. It demands reverence and respect, and perhaps a hint of fear (considering the One who brought you into this world can take you out…).

These passages describe how we should relate to this God.

Deuteronomy 10:12-17, 20-21:

12And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?… 20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is your praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes.

Hebrews 12:28-29:

28Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29for our “God is a consuming fire.”

So next time you use the word “God,” whether it be in prayer, like I often use it, or just in conversation about Him, try to remember how perfectly awesome He is, how marvelously powerful He is, and that He truly is sovereign over all.

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