“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name...” – Psalm 29:2
Why Learn About “Elohim”?
Objects of multiple dimensions are not easily defined in the Hebrew language. Singular nouns such as “water” or “sky” or “life” are actually amplified to the plural, in hopes of portraying a rightful expansiveness of what they truly are. The intensification extends the basic meaning of these words beyond just one idea. The word “face” goes through this grammatical change because of its capacity for ever-shifting expressions. Elohim, a name for God unique to Hebraic thinking, falls under this same category.
We have an immeasurable gift from our Maker – the revealed creation and Word. And the God Who made the entirety of existence has chosen to communicate to us about Himself, His purposes and attributes. Let’s pay attention to the specific names and titles He calls Himself. In them we will learn a fraction more about our God and, inevitably, gain a heart of greater appreciation, marvel, and worship. Let’s start at the very beginning.
Basics of Definition
Genesis 1:1. In this beginning statement the very first identifier for God is revealed, Elohim. Elohim can be Creator God, Strong One, Judge of the universe, and characterized by might, power, creative divinity, sovereignty, and prominence. Essentially, this name is used in referring to God as Creator and when He is interacting with His creation.
El, Elah, and Elo’ah are singular forms of “God.” Elohim’s ending “-im” is the plural, masculine form.
There are several reasons for Elohim’s plurality – the plural of intensity for conveying fullness, as mentioned above, and the plural of majesty. When a singular form of God did not quite present enough honor or reverence, it would be magnified to Elohim, the “Greatest God of All.” Beyond these, linguists point out the very triune nature of God as being reason enough: the Godhead is the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, perfectly unified, three persons in one. So, whether it be plurality of majesty, emphasis, or the doctrine of the Trinity, we can conclude that “no finite word can adequately convey the idea of the infinite personality in the unity of persons in the Godhead.”
Other elohim vs. the One True God
Interestingly, the title of elohim is used not only in regards to God but for false gods, divine beings, and even human rulers. When elohim is used regarding false gods, plural verbs and adjectives are attached, rightfully. However, when referring to God, singular verbs and adjectives can be applied.
The distinction is that although some elohim are supernatural beings, only the true Elohim is holy! “Who is like You among the elim, O YHVH – glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?” – Exodus 15:11. Furthermore, though some elohim represented God to a group of people (e.g. Moses or ancient Israel governor-judges), all human elohim will answer to the supreme Elohim one day (Psalm 82).
Elohim is often paired with other words, making a “construct form” from the base name Elohei, meaning “God of.” El can be placed with another word, creating a compound (El Shaddai meaning God Almighty; El Elyon meaning God Most High, etc.). Proper nouns can also be attached to El, such as Isra-El (God contended for), Beth-El (House of God), Ezeki-El (God strengthens), Jo-El (Yahweh is God), Dani-El (God is my Judge), Samu-El (God has heard).
In my opinion, one of the most fascinating compounds is Immanu-El, which means “With us is El!” (exclamation added for my own excitement). The One True God in all His magnitude met us humans at a relatable, attainable level through the Messiah. We worship with shocking intimacy and familiarity to such magnificence of a Person.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? – Psalm 8:3-4
Many lesser elohim will try to claim our attention, but there’s only One deserving of our worship. Acknowledge our God as the one true Elohim and also Immanuel. Join me this week – try addressing Him intentionally as Elohim.
Recommended Track of the Week: “Wonderful Maker” by Mary Ives
1 Names of God https://www.themeonline.ca/UserFiles/File/Elohim.pdf 2 Hebrew & Aramaic Dictionary (Lexion-Concordance) http://lexiconcordance.com/hebrew/040.html#30 3 Other “El” Compound Names http://www.myredeemerlives.com/namesofgod/el-compound.html