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The Names of God

March 17, 2004

The Names of God

Dear John:

You asked me why there are so many different names of God in the Bible. There are many names of God in the Bible because each name tells us something else about who God is and His character and attributes.

The first name of God given to us in the Bible is in Genesis 1:1. It states "In-the-beginning Elohim created the heavens and the-earth." The term "Elohim" (!yhla) is actually not a name but the Hebrew term for God, the Hebrew term referring to the Supreme Being. Elohim is a compound term: "El" and "him". "El" is the word "God" and "him" is the masculine plural suffix meaning "they." Together they mean "These-are-God", God singular because Elohim is followed by a singular verb "Bara" (arB) which is 3rd masculine singular meaning "He-created". This makes Elohim a singular plural which means it does not mean "These-are-gods" but rather "These-are-God", thus indicating the Triune Nature of God in the very first verse of the Bible. God is not three individiual persons who make up a Godhead like a counsel, but rather God is Father and Son and Holy Spirit of one essence in eternal relations. God is of one essence manifested in three individual persons.

When God appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai and told him he wanted to use him to deliver the Israelites out of slavery, Moses asked God what his name was so he could tell Israel who had sent him to them? Exodus 3:14-15 states,

"Then Moses said to Elohim, ‘Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I shall say to them, "The Elohim of your fathers has sent me to you." Now they may say to me, "What is His name?" What shall I say to them?’ And Elohim said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM;’ and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, "Yehovah has sent me to you."’"

The name God gave to Moses was "Yehovah". God not only tells him this is His name but is His name to all generations forever (Exodus 3:15). Yehovah is a form of the Hebrew verb "to be" meaning "I Am that I Am". God told Moses to tell the Israelites that "I Am" has sent you. As a result you will find the form "Yehovah-Elohim" appearing often in the Old Testament. It first appears in Genesis 2:4 right after Moses has shared how Elohim Created the earth, heavens and man:

"These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in-the-day that Yehovah-Elohim made the earth and the heavens."

Here Moses tells us which God He is referring to in Creation: Yehovah-Elohim.

Later Yehovah-Elohim talking to Israel tells us about Himself in Isaiah 43:10-11,

"‘You are My witnesses,’ declares Yehovah, ‘And My servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and believe Me, and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no El formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I, am Yehovah; and there is no Savior besides Me.’"

In this passage God tells us several things about Himself: first, that He and He alone is God. Second, that there was never a God before Him nor will there be one after Him, that He and He alone is God. Finally, that He and He alone is Savior and that there is no Savior besides Him. There is only one God: Yehovah-Elohim.

God also prophesied through the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 7:14 "Therefore Yehovah Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel;" and in Isaiah 9:6 "For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty-El, Father-of-Eternity, Prince-of-Peace." God in His Word in these passages tell us that in time He Himself would take on a human nature by Holy Spirit conception of a virgin. Isaiah 9:6 tells us something about what His character and role will be, that He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, God Almighty, the Father of Eternity and a Prince of Peace.

Matthew, in the Gospel of Matthew tells us that these prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ of Nazareth. When Joseph considered putting Mary, his fiancé, away because she was pregnant with child not by him, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him that Mary was not pregnant by a man but by the Holy Spirit of God. Then he said to Joseph,

"‘And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.’ Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, "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)

He tells Joseph that the baby is to be named "Jesus." Why? The name Jesus (Ihsou") in Hebrew is "Yeshua" ([Wvwhy) which is a compound word: "Yah" (Hy) which is short for "Yehovah" (h/hy) and "yesha" ([vy) meaning "to save". Together they mean "Yehovah-is-Savior". The angel told Joseph to name the baby Jesus, because He the baby would save us from our sins. Since Yehovah already stated in Isaiah 43:10-11 that He and he alone is Savior, the angel is letting us know that Jesus is not just any ordinary baby, but that He is Yehovah-Elohim, our Creator who is in time taking on a human nature also to save us from our sins.

Matthew then goes on to tell us us that God taking on a human nature through the virgin Mary is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 that a virgin would be with child and bear a son who would be God in the flesh, and that because He is that He will be called "Immanuel". "Immanuel" (laWnM[) is a compound adjective: "Immanu" (WnM[) meaning "with us" and "El" (la) meaning "God". Together they mean "God-with-us". No where in the New Testament is Jesus referred to as Immanuel. That is because it is a predicate adjective telling us who Jesus is: God in the flesh. God through Isaiah and the angel and Matthew tell us that Jesus Christ of Nazareth is Yehovah-Elohim our Creator in the flesh who came to save us from our sins.

Now you understand why there are so many different names for God in the Bible. Each name of God in the Bible describes a different aspect of God's character and attributes and tells us who God is. They are not so much different names as they are adjectives revealing to us something more about God’s attributes and character and also His literally taking on a human nature and walking among us to then save us from our sins.

Colossians 2:9 "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form."

1 Peter 2:24 "And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed."

2 Corinthians 5:21 "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

Sincerely in Jesus,

Dale P. Kruse
Pastor Evangelist
__________

References

Lockyer, Herbert. All the Divine Names and Titles in the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, Copyright © 1975 by Herbert Lockyer.
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For Further Reading:

The Names of God 2
The Names of God 3
The Nature of God
A More Intense Look at Jesus' Deity
Why God Took on a Human Nature
How is One God of One Essence Manifested in Three Persons?

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