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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 3 of Pages 1, 2, 4, 5

There are, however, instances where Elohim does appear with plural pronouns, verbs and adjectives like in Genesis 1:26, 3:22 and 11:7: "Then Elohim said, ‘Let US make man in OUR image and in OUR likeness.’ . . . And Yehovah Elohim said, ‘The man has become like one of US, knowing good and evil. . . . . . . let US go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’"

Plural adjectives are used in phrases like Elohim krovim ("God [so] near," Deut 4:7) and Elohim kedoshim ("a holy God, Josh 24:19). Plural verbs are used with Elohim in Genesis 20:13 and 35:7. This, rather than indicating several gods, indicates the existence of the Trinity.

In an attempt to counter Messianic Christian teaching, some ancient rabbis theorized that the plural forms meant that God was speaking to the angels. However, if that were so, when God said, "Let US make man in OUR image and in OUR likeness," would this not mean that the angels are also our creators? And what about the phrase in "OUR likeness"? Would not this imply that God created us in the image of the angels, and even that He and the angels share the same image and likeness? Such an interpretation is impossible. God shares His glory with no one, not even the angels. "I am Yehovah: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images" (Is 42:8). You see, He is the Creator—not the angels. He alone is God—not the angels. We are created in His image and in His likeness—not in the image and likeness of angels.

The name Elohim, which does suggest plurality, is God indicating that the Godhead is a compound unity consisting of the Father (Heb., Abba), Son (Ben), and Holy Spirit (Ruach Hakodesh). Does this mean there are three Gods? Absolutely not. The Athanasian Creed affirms: "We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance."426/2-3

God is not three. He is One! However, His unity is not exclusive, but inclusive. It is not simple, but complex. That, in fact, is why the Hebrew word dj;a, [echad] appears in Deuteronomy 6:4, where it says, "Yehovah is one" (Yehovah Echad). There are many instances throughout Scripture where echad describes a complex "one" rather than a simple "one."

An example of a compound unity in the Old Testament is what God said about Adam and Eve becoming "one flesh" in Genesis 2:24 in marriage. The Hebrew words here are dj;a, rc;b;, (beser echod) meaning literally, one flesh.260 Here it is not a simple unity, but a compound unity. Adam and Eve became "one" in marriage,but they were still two distinct individuals.

Another example is when Moses sent the twelve spies into Canaan. When they came back, they were carrying a huge cluster of grapes. This huge cluster of grapes is called in Hebrew dj;a, !ybin:[} lwKov]a,, (eshcol anavim echad), or cluster of grapes one (Num 13:23). There was one (dj;a,) cluster, but many grapes. Again, this is an example where the word echad means a composite unity, not a singular unity.

The plural form Elohim, then, does not violate the Jewish tenet of divine oneness (echad). At the same time, however, the singular form, Eloah, occurs some many times in the Hebrew Bible. For instance, Psalm 18:31 asks, "For who is Eloah but Yehovah?"

In Aramaic, an ancient cousin of Hebrew, Eloah appears as Elah. Ezra 6:10, which is in Aramaic, talks about offering sacrifices to "the Elah of Heaven." When Jesus was on the Cross, He cried out in Aramaic, "Eli, Eli, lama shabag tani," or "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46). Shabag in Aramaic means "to forsake," or "to leave alone." Eli is El with the pronominal suffix I, which makes it Eli, or "my God."

The ancient sages of Israel said that the name Elohim denotes God's power, judgment, and severity, while the name Yehovah points to His mercy and leniency.430/XXXIII.3 They noted that these two names—Elohim and Yehovah—often appear together. . . . thus emphasizing both His mercy, love, and leniency (Yehovah), and His power, judgment, and severity (Elohim).

*Elohim: The God of Creation

Isaiah records in Isaiah 42:5,

"Thus says El Yehovah, who created (ar;B;)89 the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and its offspring, who gives breath (tm'v]nI)32 to the people on it, and spirit (j'Wr)412 to those who walk in it."

Here is an indication of the mighty power of Elohim which explains why the Holy Spirit prompted Moses to use Elohim—the name that emphasizes God’s power and majesty—in the opening verse of the Creation account in Genesis.426/6

The name Elohim, being plural, brings out the fact of the Trinities involvement in Creation: The Father’s involvement: Gen 1:1; Ps 33:6, 106:24-26; Is 44:24, 45:12. ". . . yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things" (1 Cor 8:6). The Son’s involvement: John 1:1-3, 10; Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:2. "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him" (Col 1:16). The Holy Spirit’s involvement: Gen 1:2; Job 26:13, 33:4; Ps 33:6. "By His Spirit (j'Wr)412 the heavens are made-brightly-beautiful (hr;p]vi)431" (Job 26:13). The name Elohim, then, prepares the way for the fuller revelation of the Godhead in the rest of Scripture.

During Israel’s annual Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, Jesus made three declarations which made it clear that He was not only claiming to be the prophesied Messiah, but also God in the flesh. First, Jesus associated Himself with the "Good Shepherd" of Israel in the Old Testament. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. . . . My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:11, 27). A thousand years earlier David said in Psalm 23:1, "Yehovah is my shepherd; I shall not want." Therefore, when Jesus identified Himself as The Shepherd, not a shepherd, Israel understood that He was declaring Himself to be Yehovah their Elohim.

Second, Jesus identifies Himself as the One who gives eternal life. "And I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28). The Scribes and Pharisees believed that the Old Testament taught that only Yehovah could give eternal life and salvation. "You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fulness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever" (Ps 16:11). "It is like the dew of Hermon, coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there Yehovah commanded the blessing—life forever" (Ps 133:3, Isaiah 51:6-8).

Third, Jesus made the claim that He and the Father are one. "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). Jesus a Jew was talking to Jews in the context of their understanding of this statement which was probably in the context of Deuteronomy 6:4,

"Hear, O Israel! Yehovah our Elohim, Yehovah is one!"

.dj;a, hw:hy WnyheOla> hw:hy laer;c]yI [m'v]

[Akoue, Israhl, kuvrio" oJ qeo;" hJmw'n kuvrio" ei|" ejstin. (LXX Deut 6:4)

These three statements make it clear that He was not only claiming to be the Messiah, but He was also claiming to be God in the flesh. This explains why Jesus did not go around flaunting the fact that He was the messiah, especially when he knew the scribes, Pharisees, and other representatives of the San hedrin were listening. The leaders of Israel were expecting a human Messiah who would conform to their own traditions and expectations. Their vision of the Messiah was one of a powerful, political figure who would rise up and lead Israel to victory over her Roman oppressors. Even Jesus’ own disciples, just before the Ascension, asked Him, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6).427/3

This was also the understanding of His disciples of the coming Messiah. Like the Pharisees, they also were confused and perplexed by Jesus’ statements that in this dispensation "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20-21)

*The Sanhedrin

The Sanhedrin consisted of: Pharisees: The forerunners of Modern rabbis; Scribes: Torah Teachers; Sadducees: the priestly class who presided over Temple worship; and members of certain prominent families, or clans, in first-century Israel.427

Jesus' claim to deity in John 10:32-38 was drawn from Psalm 82:6-8, where the rulers and judges of Israel are called elohim:427/4

"I said, ‘You are elohims, and all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you will die like men, and fall like any one of the princes.’ Arise, O Elohim, judge the earth! For it is You who do possess all the nations."

In Old Testament times, the rulers and judges of Israel were called elohim to emphasize that they derived their authority from God Himself. That is why the Lord told Israel to listen to the priests and judges, and to obey their decisions, just as though God were speaking (Deut. 17:8-13). But in Psalm 82:7, Asaph says the rulers of Israel need to be reminded that they are elohim in name only. He points out that these elohim—these earthly rulers—will die like any other men, and will fall like any earthly ruler. Then Asaph uses the name Elohim to refer to God. He says "Arise, O Elohim, judge the earth: for You shall inherit all nations." It’s like elohim with a small "e," and then Elohim with a capital "E." Elohim with a small "e" refers to the judges of Israel who ruled on God’s behalf. Elohim with a capital "e" refers to God Himself, the Judge of all the earth. That is the distinction.

Back to Pages 1, 2; Continued on Pages 4, 5
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