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Relationship With Jesus
The Key To Effective Ministry

Section 10, Chapter 9

More on the Names of God
In the Bible

Page 1 of Pages 2, 3, 4, 5

In the Old Testament names had meaning. For instance, the name Adam (!d;a;, Gen 1:27)204 means "red" or "ruddy" signifying manís origin which was that he was made from the dust (rp;[;, Gen 2:7)413 of the ground. Later Adam named his wife Eve (hW:j', Gen 3:20) meaning "life"1/249 because Eve is the mother of life. Jacob (bqo[}y", Gen 25:26)417, the son of Isaac, means "taking by the heel, supplanter". He was named this prophetically because being the second born he bought his brother's birth right with a pot of stew. God later named him Israel (laer;c]yI, Gen 32:29)429 after he had wrestled with God all night and would not let go until God blessed him. The word Israel means "he who wrestles with God". By studying the hundreds of different names of God in the Old Testament, we come to understand who God is and his character.

Our English word God comes from Old English and Old High German (Got) and dates from before the 12th century AD.426/2

Lord came originally from two Old English roots (hlaford + Weard) meaning, literally, "loaf keeper," or someone who controls the food supply. This means, therefore, a person having authority over others.426/2

Jesus is the anglicized form of the word Iesous that is found in the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. Christ is from the Greek Christos ("Anointed One") and is a translation of the Hebrew word Mashiach ("Messiah").426/2

In Latin, the official language of the Roman Empire, Lord was Dominus and God was Deus. Among the ancient Greeks, the equivalent terms were Kurios and Theos.426/2

Around a thousand years ago, Old Germanic terms applied to God the Father were Dryhlen meaning Lord/Warlord, Metod meaning Measurer, Dema/Demend meaning Judge, Wuldorfaeder meaning Father of Glory, and Heofanrices Weard meaning the Guardian of the Kingdom of Heaven. Names applied to Jesus included: Haelend/Heliand meaning Healer, Frea Mancynnes meaning Lord of Mankind and Geong Haeleth meaning Young Hero.


There are three catagories:

  1. Primary Names.
  2. Compound Names with El.
  3. Compound Names with Yehovah

*The Primary Names of God

  1. El (Short for Elohim), lae (Gen 35:1)
  2. Elohim, !yhila> (Gen 1:1)
  3. Eloah (singular of Elohim), H'/la> (Deut 32:15)
  4. Aramaic Elah, Hl'a; (Ezra 6:10, Matt 27:46)
  5. Yehovah, h/;hy] (Exodus 3:14)
  6. Yah (Short for Yehovah) Hy: (Ps 68:4)
  7. Adonai, yn:doa} (Gen 15:2)

*Compound Names with El or Elohim

  1. El-Shaddai, yD;v'-la,, God Almighty290 (Gen 1:17)
  2. El-Elyon, @/yl][,i lae, God Most-High292 (Gen 14:18)
  3. El-Olam, !l;w[o lae, God Everlasting293 (Gen 21:33)
  4. El-Gibbor, r/BGI lae, Mighty God414 (Isaiah 9:6)
  5. El Hanaíeman, @m;a>N<h' laeh;, the faithful God 286 (Deut 7:9)

There are many more names besides these.

*Compound Names with Yehovah

  1. Yehovah Elohim, !yhila> h/;hy], Yehovah God432 (Gen 2:7)
  2. Adoni Yehovah, h/;hy] yn:doa}, Lord Yehovah295 (Gen 15:5)
  3. Yehovah Tsavaíot, twaob;x] hw:hy, Yehovah of Hosts294 (1 Sam 1:3)


Elohim occurs 33 times in the first 84 verses of Genesis. It is followed by Yehovah Elohim 20 times in the next 45 verses, and finally by Yehovah 10 times in the following 25 verses. This selective usage of divine names was more than coincidental.418/23

Each divine name had a special significance and they were not necessarily synonymous. The author used Yehovah, Elohim, or Yehovah-Elohim according to the context of the passage. Therefore there is a real purpose behind the isolated usage of divine names and not random choosing.

In the 12th century, R. Jehuda Halevi wrote a book called Cosri in which he explained the etymology of each of the divine names.422/216-217 He explains that Elohim is the most general name of God. This name points to Godís unlimited power but not to his personality or moral qualities. This is the name Moses uses in Genesis Chapter 1. In Genesis Chapter 2, however, Moses proceeds to refer to Elohim as Yehovah Elohim. First, because in this chapter he is talking about the creation of man who is created in Godís image. Moses wants us to know that man is a reflection of the God he is talking about: Yehovah Elohim. Second the name Yehovah is peculiar to the people, the Jews, who received His revelation and His covenant. Yehovah is used when God is revealing to man something about his character and His inward heart. Elohim is used exclusively when referring to God in general to all men.

Umberto Cassuto, the Jewish scholar and late professor at the Hebrew University, Further comments in his book, The Documentary Hypothesis,420/18 that while Elohim is a common noun applied to the term god in all nations, Yehovah is used as a proper noun specifically referring to the God of Israel who they claimed was the Sovereign of the universe: "Yehovah, He is Elohim; Yehovah, He is Elohim" (1 Kings 18:39). Umberto then goes on to explain when and how these names are used:

Characteristically Jewish Passages: "those categories that have a purely Israelite character, only the Tetragrammaton [YHWH: Yehovah] occurs, this being the national name of God, expressing the personal conception of the Deity exclusive to Israel."

Ancient Hebrew: Ancient Hebrew letters found at Lachish illustrate the usage of Yehovah in daily life. It is employed not only in greetings and in oaths, but throughout the entire letter. Elohim never appears. A parallel is seen in the consistent use of Yehovah on scriptural greetings (Judges 6:12; Psalms 129:8; Ruth 2:4) and in the actual rabbinical dictum that required use of Yehovah in greeting another.420/24

Modern Hebrew: Even in modern Hebrew, Cassuto says, "We are exact in our choice of words, we employ the tetragrammaton [Yehovah] when we have in mind the traditional Jewish idea of the Deity, and the name Elohim when we wish to express the philosophic or universal concept of the Godhead."420/30

The following is a brief application of these rules to Genesis: In Genesis one, God appears as Creator of the physical universe and as Lord of the world who has dominion over everything. Everything that exists does so because of His authoritative decree alone, without direct contact between Him and nature. Thus the rules apply here that Elohim should be used.420/32

In Genesis Chapter 1 the term Elohim is used for God because Moses is talking to a universal audience familiar with the universal term for God: Elohim. In Chapter two, however, Moses proceeds to tell us which God he is talking about: Yehovah. He brings Godís name Yehovah into the picture now because he is talking about the personal nature and relationship of God to man. He is also describing Godís moral Character in relation to Adam and Eve and wants his audience to know that the moral character he is describing is referring to not just any elohim, but Yehovah Elohim (Gen 2:4). Cassuto further comments that Moses uses Godís name Yehovah exclusively in Genesis 11:1-9 when talking about Godís breaking up the nations. This story is completely Jewish in character. There is no outside gentile influence in this story whatsoever. Moses is describing Israelís complete opposition to the attitude and aspirations of the proud heathen peoples. As a result the Israelite conception of Godís relationship to man is clearly conveyed and therefore requires the use of the name of their God: Yehovah.420/37

Chapter 12 of Genesis is about Elohim seeking a faith relationship with the man Abraham, but it is not just any Elohim, but Yehovah Elohim. Therefore, the name Yehovah for God is used. This principle is also applied to the earlier Chapters of Genesis. Gleason Archer comments in his book, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, that Elohim is used in Genesis Chapter 1 because it is talking about the all powerful Creator of the universe. However, Yehovah is used when referring to Godís covenant relationship with man, thus why Yehovah is used in Genesis Chapter 2 because of Godís covenant relationship with Adam and Eve. In Genesis Chapter 3, however, when Satan appears, the name for God changes back to Elohim because God is in no way related to Satan in a covenant relationship. Both Satan and Eve refer to God as Elohim, but when God calls out to Adam and Eve to reprove them (3:9, 13) the name Yehovah is used. It is also used when God puts the curse on the serpent (3:14).419/112

In criticism of the Documentary Hypothesis, John H. Raven argues in his book, Old Testament Introduction:

Continued on Pages 2, 3, 4, 5
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