NAMES OF GOD (1944)
by Nathan J. Stone
THE FIRST QUESTION in some of our catechisms is, "What is the
chief end of man?" and the answer is, "Man's chief end is to
glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." But we will experience God
in such fashion - we will glorify Him and enjoy Him - only in
proportion as we know Him. The knowledge of God is more essential
for the Christian, and indeed for all the world, than the
knowledge of anything else - yes, of all things together. The
prayer of the Lord Jesus for His disciples in John 17:3 was: "And
this is life eternal that they should know thee the only true
God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ" (A.S.V.).
And speaking of this, Christ, our Jehovah-Jesus, Paul sums up in
Philippians 3:10 - the great goal of his life: "That I may know
"I suppose if sin had not entered the world," says one
writer, "the acquisition of the knowledge of God would have been
the high occupation of man forever and ever." It is for a lack of
knowledge of God that the prophet Hosea informs his people they
are destroyed. And it is from the lack of knowledge of God that
many are without spiritual power or life. There is little real
knowledge in these days of the one, true God.
There are many ways, of course, in which we may study God.
The God who of old time spoke, "unto the fathers in the prophets
by divers portions and in divers manners, hath at the end of
these days spoken to us in his Son," the epistle to the Hebrews
tells us. And this Son, Jesus Christ, while on earth said in the
great discourse and prayer with God: "I have manifested thy name
unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world ..." (John
17:6). "And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare
it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them,
and I in them" (John 17:26).
True, it is in the face of Jesus Christ we best see the
glory of God; yet while we are in the flesh we can only know in
part at most. And it behooves us to know all we can learn of God.
All the Scriptures are profitable to us for instruction and
edification, but perhaps not very many people know much about the
person of God as revealed in His names. Surely a study of these
names should be a most profitable way of increasing that
When Moses received a commission from God to go to His
oppressed people in Egypt and deliver them from bondage, he said:
"When I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto
them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they
shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?"
Now the word God or even Lord, as we see it in our English
Bibles, conveys little more to us than the designation of the
Supreme Being and Soveregin of the universe. It tells little
about His character and ways. Indeed we cannot say all that the
mysterious word God means to us until we know more about Him. And
we can know little of what the word God means until we go to the
language from which the word God is translated, the language
which is the first written record of the revelation of Himself,
the language in which He spoke to Moses and the prophets.
Missionaries and translators have always had difficulty in
finding a suitable word for the Hebrew word we translate God.
Those who have attempted to translate this word into Chinese, for
instance, have always been divided and still are as to which word
is best. One of the greatest of these translations preferred a
word which means "Lord of Heaven."
Now a name in the Old Testament was often an indication of a
person's character or of some peculiar quality. But what one name
could be adequate to God's greatness? After all, as one writer
declares, a name imposes some limitation. It means that an object
or person is this and not that, is here and not there. And if the
Heaven of heavens cannot contain God, how can a name describe
Him? What a request of Moses, then, that was that the infinite
God should reveal Himself to finite man by any one name! We can
hardly understand or appreciate Moses himself unless we see him
in his manysided character of learned man and shepherd, leader
and legislator, soldier and statesman, impulsive, yet meekest of
men. We can know David, too, not only as shepherd, warrior, and
king, but also as a prophet, a poet, and musician.
Even so, the Old Testament contains a number of names and
compound names for God which reveal Him in some aspect of His
character and dealings with mankind. It is our purpose in this
series of studies to examine these names and their meanings,
their significance for ourselves as well as for those of old.
As one would expect, the opening statement of the
Scriptures contains the name God. "In the beginning God!" The
Hebrew word from which this word God is translated is Elohim.
While not the most frequently occurring word for the Deity, it
occurs 2,570 times. The one which occurs most frequently is the
word in the King James Version translated Lord, and in the
American Standard Version, Jehovah.
Elohim occurs in the first chapter of Genesis thirtytwo
times. After that, the name Jehovah appears as well as Elohim;
and in many places a combination of the two - Jehovah-Elohim. As
far back as the twelfth century students noticed that these
different names were used in the Bible, but thought little of it
until about the eighteenth century when a French physician
thought he discovered the reason for the use of different names
of God. He said that the Book of Genesis (especially) was based
on two other documents, one written by a man who had apparently
known God only as Elohim - this was called the Elohistic document
- and the other written by a man who had known God only by the
name Jehovah - this was called the Jehovistic document.
Scholars pursued this theory until they thought there had
originally been five or six documents, and even many fragments of
documents all pieced and fitted together by a later editor, and
then altered and added to by still later editors so that some of
the stories we now read in Genesis and other books were made up
of parts of stories from various documents and fragments. Moses
was denied authorship of most of the Pentateuch. The theory was
carried to such lengths of absurdity that it was far more
difficult to believe than the simple plain declaration of the
Bible itself that Moses wrote these things. And indeed who, of
all people, could have been in a better position and better able
to write them than he? One can only think of many of these
scholars that much learning hath made them mad.
(And indeed MANY MAD scholars have risen, just as Jesus said
there would inded come in the latter days MANY declaring that He
was indeed the Christ, but would deceive MANY - not the few -
The point is that they could see no other basis, no other
significance for the use of different names for God in the Old
Testament than a literary basis - a literary significance which
is no significance at all for the spiritual mind. There is a
spiritual significance in the use of these different names. It is
much more "rational" to believe that the great and infinite and
eternal God has given us these different names to express
different aspects of His being and the different relationships He
sustains to His creatures.
THE MEANING OF THE WORD
In order to gain some idea of the meaning of this name of
God, Elohim, we must examine its origin and note how, generally,
it is used. There is some difference of opinion as to the root
from which Elohim is derived. Some hold to the view that it is
derived from the shorter word El, which means mighty, strong,
prominent. This word El itself is translated "God" some 250 times
and frequently in circumstances which especially indicate the
great power of God. For instance, in Numbers 23:22 God is spoken
of as the El who brought Israel up out of Egypt "he hath as it
were the strength of an unicorn" (wild ox). The Scriptures make
very much of God's mighty arm in that great deliverance. So in
the next verse follows: "it shall be said of Jacob and Israel,
what hath God [El] wrought."
In Deuteronomy 10:17 we read that "Jehovah your Elohim is
God of gods, and Lord of lords, the God or El who is great,
mighty, and dreadful." It is this word El which is used in that
great name Almighty God, the name under which God made great and
mighty promises to Abraham and to Jacob (Gen. 17:1; 35:11). It is
also one of the names given to that promised Son and Messiah of
Isaiah 9:6,7 - God, the Mighty.
Thus, from this derivation, Elohim may be said to express
the general idea of greatness and glory. In the name Jehovah, as
we shall see more fully, are represented those high moral
attributes of God which are displayed only to rational creatures.
The name Elohim, however, contains the idea of creative and
governing power, of omnipotence and sovereignty. This is clearly
indicated by the fact that from Genesis 1:1 to 2:4 the word
Elohim alone is used, and that thirty-five times. It is the
Elohim who by His mighty power creates the vast universe; who
says, and it is done; who brings into being what was not; by
whose word the worlds were framed so that things which are seen
were not made of the things which do appear (Heb. 11.:3). It is
this Elohim with whose Greek equivalent Paul confronts the
philosophers on Mars' hill saying that He made the world (cosmos)
and all things, and by this very fact is constituted possessor
and ruler of heaven and earth; whose presence cannot be confined
by space; whose power doesn't need man's aid, for through His
great will and power and agency all things and nations have their
It is most appropriate that by this name God should reveal
Himself - bringing cosmos out of chaos, light out of darkness,
habitation out of desolation, and life in His image.
There is another word from which some say Elohim is derived.
It is Alah, which is said to mean to declare or to swear. Thus it
is said to imply a covenant relationship. Before examining this
derivation, however, it may be well to say that in either case,
whether El or Alah, the idea of omnipotence in God is expressed.
To make a covenant implies the power and right to do so, and
it establishes the fact of "absolute authority in the Creator and
Ruler of the universe." So the Elohim is seen making a covenant
with Abraham, and because there is none greater He swears by
Himself. "By myself I have sworn." In Genesis 17 we see perhaps a
combination of both of these derivations. In verse 1 we have: "I
am the Almighty God [El-Shaddai]; walk before me, and be thou
perfect". in verse 7: "I will establish my covenant between me
and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an
everlasting covenant, to be to thee Elohim and to thy seed after
thee" - that is, to be with them in covenant relationship.
It is the Elohim who says to Noah, "The end of all flesh is
come before me." But He cannot completely destroy the work of His
hands concerning which He has made a covenant and so He
continues: "But with thee will I establish my covenant" (Gen.
6:18). "And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon
it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and
every living creature of all flesh ... and the waters shall no
more become a flood to destroy all flesh" (Gen. 9:16,15).
The Elohim remembers Abraham when He destroys the cities of
the plain and for His covenant's sake spares Lot. Joseph on his
deathbed declares to his brethren: "I die; but Elohim will surely
visit you, and bring you up out of this land unto the land which
he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob" (Gen. 50:24). He is
the Elohim who keeps covenant and lovingkindness with His
servants who walk before Him with all their heart (I Kings 8:23).
With regard to Israel, over and over again it is written: "I
shall be unto you for Elohim and ye shall be unto me for a
people." The covenant element in this name is clearly seen
because of God's covenant relationship to Israel, and this is
especially brought out in such a passage as Jeremiah 31:33 and
32:40, where the name Elohim is used in connection with that new
covenant, an everlasting covenant which God will one day make
with His people Israel when He will put His law and His fear
within their hearts.
To Israel in distress comes the word: "Comfort ye, comfort
ye, my people, said your Elohim" (Isa. 40:1). For the eternal God
who covenants for and with them and us will keep His covenant.
THE PLURAL FORM
There is one other striking peculiarity in the name Elohim.
It is in the plural. As the usual Hebrew ending for all masculine
nouns in the plural. A devout saint and Hebrew scholar of two
centuries ago, Dr. Parkhurst, 1 defined the word Elohim as a name
usually given in the Scriptures to the ever blessed Trinity by
which they represent themselves as under the an oath to perform
certain conditions. (The "Trinity" doctrine is false! And there
are different teachings on the Trinity. Some say there is ONE God
who can manifest himself in one, two, or three forms, the Father,
the Son, the Holy Spirit. Many who teach this type Trinity say
you cannot understand God, so do not even try, to them God is a
mystery. Others say the Trinity is THREE individual beings - the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. While this idea of the
Trinity is closer to the truth about the Godhead, it is not THE
truth. The Holy Spirit is NOT a separate person. The Holy Spirit
is the very nature and character and power that comes from both
the Father and the Son. The Godhead is DUAL - make up of the
Father and the Son. All about this part of the Godhead truth is
fully expounded upon in many studies on this website -
1 Parkhurst, Hebrew Lexicon--See Elohim
According to this definition the Elohim covenanted not only
with the creation but, as the Godhead, within itself, concerning
the creation. This is seen from Psalm 110, where David says
concerning his Lord, the coming anointed One or Messiah: "The
Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek." This is, of course, as the Book
of Hebrews confirms, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb slain from
the foundation of the world, the first and the last, the
eternally begotten Son of God, the object of God's love before
the foundation of the world (John 17:24); who shared God's glory
before the world was (John 17:5). Colossians 1:16 tells us that
by Him or in Him were all things created. But creation is the act
of the Elohim. Therefore, Christ is in the Elohim or Godhead.
Then even in Genesis 1:3 we read that the spirit of the
Elohim moved or brooded over the face of the waters. The entire
creation, animate and inanimate, was, then, not only the work of
the Elohim, but the object of a covenant within the Elohim
guaranteeing its redemption and perpetuation. It is quite clear
that the Elohim is a plurality in unity. So, Dr. Parkhurst
continues: "Accordingly Jehovah is at the be beginning of
creation called Elohim, which implies that the divine persons
sworn when they created.." 2
It is significant that although plural in form it is
constantly accompanied by verbs and adjectives in the singular.
In the very first verse of Genesis the verb "create"
is singular, and so all through the chapter and indeed through
the Bible. In many places (as in Deut. 32:39; Isa. 45:5, 22,
etc.) we find singular pronouns. "I am Elohim and there is no
Elohim beside me." Other places
in the Scriptures (2 Kings 19:4, 16; Ps. 7:9; 57:2, etc.) use
adjectives in the singular with Elohim. In contrast with this,
when the word elohim is used of heathen gods, plural adjectives
are used, as in I Samuel 4:8, etc. Then again this one Elohim
speaks of Himself as Us, as as in Genesis 1:26. "Let US make man
in OUR image"; in Genesis 3:22 which speaks of man becoming like
one of US; God says: "Let US go down and confound their
language." In Genesis 35:7 Jacob builds an altar at Bethel,
calling it El Beth-El, the God of the House of God because there
the Elohim revealed themselves to him.
Ecclesiastes 12:1 is rather "Creators" plural, not
The sovereign Lord of the universe, the Jehovah of hosts,
whom Isaiah saw exalted high upon a throne ... and that same One
from the throne calls to the prophet, "Whom shall I send and who
will go for US?" So instances could be multiplied.
There are some who object to the idea of the Trinity (REALLY
DUALITY - Keith Hunt) in the word Elohim, and it is only fair to
say that some conservative scholars as well as liberal and
critical would not agree with it, among them John Calvin. They
say that the plural is only a plural majesty such as used by
rulers and kings. But such use of the plural was not known then.
We find no king of Israel speaking of himself as "we" and "us."
Besides, the singular pronoun is so often used with Elohim. To be
consistent with that view we should always find not "I am your
Elohim," as we do find, but "We are your Elohim." 3
Others call it the plural of intensity and argue that the
Hebrews often expressed a word in the plural to
3 Girdlestone, Old Testament Synonyms, p.39.
give it a stronger meaning--so blood, water, life are ex-
pressed in the plural. But one writer points out, 4 these
arguments only favor the idea of Trinity (DUALITY - Keith Hunt)
in the the Elohim. The use of the plural only implies (even in
the plural of majesty) "that the word in the singular is not full
enough to set forth all that is intended."
With Elohim the, plural form teaches us that no finite word
can adequately convey the idea of the infinite personality or
the unity of persons in the Godhead.
Certainly the use of this word in the plural is won-
derfully conistent with that great and precious doctrine
of the Trinity (DUALITY - Keith Hunt) and its use as already
shown in the Old Testament surely must confirm that view.
There is blessing and comfort in this great name of God
signifying supreme power, sovereignty, and glory on the one hand,
for "thine [Elohim] is the power and the kingdom and the glory";
and on the other hand signifying a covenant relationship which He
is ever faithful to keep. Thus He says to us, "I will be to you a
God" (Elohim), and we may say, "My God [Elohim]; in him will I
trust" (Ps. 91:2).
There can be no denying that Elohim - plural - and the proof of
Ecc.12:1 "Remember thy creatorS" - "creators" in the plural, and
the proof of all the New Testament, about the Father God and the
Son of God, the proof that the Son sits on the right hand of the
God on High, the one we today call Father; the proof that in NO
vision of the heavenly throne can we find an "individual" person
as the Holy Spirit, sitting say on the Father's left hand. All of
this and MUCH more prove beyond doubt that the Godhead is DUAL,
not triple - but hence the Godhead is PLURAL! The reader is
encouraged to study all my studies on the subject of God, the
Godhead, the Holy Spirit, the character and nature of God as
revealed for us in the Holy Scriptures. The study about the truth
of God should be at the top of the list for anyone who seriously
wants to be a child of God.
Then you should study the breathtaking study of mine called "A
Christian's Destiny" - showing and proving to you WHY the Elohim
After all that you are ready to find the true way to SALVATION,
the true way to be born into the very FAMILY or KINGDOM of God,
with my studies on "Saved by Grace" - "Real Repentance" - "Saving
Faith" - "Water Baptism."
With that under your belt I then recommend you purchase Tara
Chapman's book called "God's Law of Love - the Perfect Law of
Liberty" - all about the great Ten Commandments of God. Her book
can be bought at Amazon.com or visit her website at
To be continued