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God’s Divine Names

The name of a person during Old Testament times is significant of the real personality of the person. Various different names are applied to God in Scripture, and these a) reveal an aspect of His character; b) are connected with the message given or the particular divine relation described. These names may be classified under three headings: 1. Basic names; 2. The covenant name; 3. Particular names.

1. The basic names: "El" (singular) and "Elohim" (plural)

The name "El," meaning "might" or "strength," occurs in the Bible about 250 times. Because the word has a general character and refers to any god, true or false, it is usually connected with one of God's attributes when it refers to Him, eg. "I, the Lord (Yahweh - covenant name) your God (Elohim), am a jealous God (El).[1] "Eloah" (Hebrew) and "Elah" (Aramaic) are also singular forms with the same meaning as El, and are chiefly found in poetry, especially in the book of Job. The name "Elohim" is used more than 2000 times in the Old Testament. It means the God of creation and providence, the supreme Deity. The plural form signifies God's omnipotence as the Creator-God and foreshadows the Trinity.

2. The covenant name: YHWH, or Yahweh or Jehovah

When God declared His name to Moses as I AM, it was written in the Hebrew as YHWH, probably pronounced as Yahweh. Strictly speaking, Yahweh is the only "name" of God, because whenever the word "sēm" i.e. "name" is associated with the Divine Being in Genesis, that name is Yahweh. We also read of “Yahweh, the Elohim of Abraham … “[2] Yahweh is therefore a proper noun and presents God as a Person, thus bringing Him into relationship with human personalities.

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The name Yahweh comes from the verb “to be” and include all three tenses of the verb. Thus, because Yahweh reveals Himself to man (as opposed to Elohim, who is above and beyond man), the name means “I have manifested, do manifest, and will yet manifest myself.” The Jews, however, regarded YHWH as too sacred a name to be used, so they combined it with the vowels of Adonai (my Lord) and produced the name Jehovah, which has since 1100 AD become their national name for God. It is used about 7000 times in the Old Testament and “probably” means “the existing, ever-living, absolute, unchangeable One.”[3]

Yahweh is also used in the shortened form of Yah about 49 times. Other forms of Yahweh are Adon (singular) and Adonai (plural), meaning “the sovereign Lord,” and occur respectively 30 and 280 times in the Old Testament.

3. The particular names

Many of the particular names are compounds of either El or Jehovah, with nouns or verbs, as descriptive titles. These are not, strictly speaking, names of God, as they are sometimes names given to places, cities, people or events to remember the particular aspect of God’s personality that had been revealed. Thus they were used where meaning was implied.

3.1 Compounds with El:

El Shaddai – the almighty God [4]
El Olam – the everlasting God [5]
El Rachûwm – the merciful God [6]
El Âman – the faithful God [7]
El Chai – the living God [8]
El Kâbôd – the God of glory [9]
El Jeshua – the God of our salvation [10]
El Elyôwn – the most high God [11]
El Shâmeh – the God of heaven [12]
El Qâdôsh – the one holy God [13]
El Tsaddeck – the just God [14]
El Channûwn – a gracious God [15]

3.2 Compounds with Jehovah:

Jehovah-Jireh – the Lord will provide [16]
Jehovah-Nissi – the Lord is my banner [17]
Jehovah-Tsidkenu – the Lord our righteousness [18]
Jehovah-Shalom – the Lord is peace [19]
Jehovah-Shammah – the Lord is there [20]
Jehovah-Tsebāôt – the Lord of hosts [21]
Jehovah-Rapha – the Lord who heals [22]
Jehovah-Rahi – the Lord is our shepherd [23]
Jehovah-M’Kaddesh – the lord who sanctifies you [24]

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Abbreviations of Jehovah are also used in similar combinations:

Jeho-yakeen – Jehovah will establish
Jeho-yakeem – Jehovah will raise
Jeho-yareeb – Jehovah will contend etc.

3.3 Titles in relation to Israel:

El-Elōhê-Israel – God is the God of Israel [25]
Yahweh-Elōhê-Israel – Lord God of Israel [26]
Qedôs Israel – the Holy One of Israel [27]
Abîr Israel – the Mighty One of Israel [28]
Nēsah Israel – the Glory (victory) of Israel [29]

3.4 Unclassified:

Attîq Yômîn (Aramaic) – Ancient of Days [30]

References:

1. Deuteronomy 5:9
2. Exodus 3:15
3. Hammond, p.51
4. Genesis 17:1
5. Genesis 21:33
6. Deuteronomy 4:31
7. Deuteronomy 7:9
8. Joshua 3:10
9. Psalms 29:3
10. Psalms 69:19
11. Psalms 78:35
12. Psalms 136:26
13. Isaiah 5:16
14. Isaiah 45:21
15. Jonah 4:2
16. Genesis 22:8,14
17. Exodus 17:15
18. Jeremiah 33:16
19. Judges 6:24
20. Ezekiel 48:35
21. 1 Samuel 1:3
22. Exodus 15:26
23. Psalms 23:1
24. Exodus 31:13
25. Genesis 33:20
26. Isaiah 17:6
27. Isaiah 1:4
28. Isaiah 1:24
29. 1 Samuel 15:29
30. Daniel 7:9,13,22

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Berkhof, L. A Summary of Christian Doctrine, London, England: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1938.

2. Douglas, L.D. (ed.) New Bible Dictionary, Illinois, U.S.A.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1962.

3. Finney, C. The Heart of Truth, Minnesota, U.S.A.: Bethany Fellowship Inc., 1976.

4. Green, J.P. (ed.) The Interlinear Bible, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986.

5. Hammond, T.C. In Understanding be Men, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968.

6. Pearlman, M. The Doctrines of the Bible Part 1, Roodepoort, S.A.: Gospel Publishing House, 1937.

7. Strong, J. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Tennessee, U.S.A.: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1990.

8. Thompson, F.C. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible (N.I.V.), Michigan, U.S.A.: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1983.

9. Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: Merriam Co., 1961.

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Posted in: Bible by on August 18, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

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