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07-30-06-The Names of God-Elohim

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¨      Gen 1:1 (NIV) In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth. 

The very first verse of the Bible establishes the name of God. The Hebrew word that is used is Elohim.  This is the first name of God listed in the Bible.  The word Elohim occurs over 2500 times in the Old Testament.  In Genesis 1:1-2:4 it occurs 35 times. Obviously, this must be an important word in the Bible.  So today we are going to look at what the name Elohim means.

430 אֱלֹהִים [’elohiym /el·o·heem/] n m p. Plural of 433; TWOT 93c; GK 466; 2606 occurrences; AV translates as “God” 2346 times, “god” 244 times, “judge” five times, “GOD” once, “goddess” twice, “great” twice, “mighty” twice, “angels” once, “exceeding” once, “God-ward + 4136” once, and “godly” once. 1 (plural). 1a rulers, judges. 1b divine ones. 1c angels. 1d gods. 2 (plural intensive—singular meaning). 2a god, goddess. 2b godlike one. 2c works or special possessions of God. 2d the (true) God. 2e God.

Elohim is a unique Hebrew word in that it is a plural word.  When you add “im” to end of a word it makes it plural, e.g. seraph and cherubs are angels, but when there is more than one they are called seraphim and cherubim.  As a plural word Elohim reflects the fact that God is a Trinity—three Persons in one being, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of whom is God.  The Bible very clearly tells us that God (Elohim) is one God—this is the primary basis of Jewish faith.

¨      Deut 6:4 (NIV) Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God (Elohim), the Lord is one.

We see this plurality and unity in creation.  Not only was the Father involved in creation, but the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

¨      John 1:2-3 (NIV) He was with God in the beginning.  3 Through Him (Christ) all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.

¨      Colossians 1:16-17 (NIV) For by Him (Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

¨      Gen 1:2 (NIV) Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

We understand who a person is by what they do.  A teacher teaches; a carpenter builds things, etc.  The first thing that we are told Elohim does is that He creates the heavens and the earth.  Now much discussion has been made about how God created the universe—big bang theory, etc.  The fact is the Bible does not state how God created, but that God did create.  So the first thing we learn about Elohim is that He is The Creator.  He is not only a creator, but The Creator because He is the One who made everything out of nothing.

The Creator of the universe must be powerful and this is the primary meaning of the word Elohim.  Elohim is used to express the idea of greatness and glory.  It contains the idea of creative and governing power, of omnipotence and sovereignty.  Elohim is the Almighty Creator.  What Elohim conceived in His mind, He spoke into existence. “Then Elohim said:”

A.  First day: creation of light (1:3–5): “Then God said, ‘Let there be light.’ ” He then divides the light from the darkness.

B.  Second day: creation of space and water (1:6–8): He separates the atmospheric, upper water from the earthly, lower water.

C.  Third day: creation of plant life (1:9–13): First he separates the water from the land. The earth then brings forth green grass, plants, trees, and vegetation of every kind.

D.  Fourth day: creation of sun, moon, and stars (1:14–19)

E.   Fifth day: creation of fish and fowl (1:20–23)

F.   Sixth day: creation of land animals and people (1:24–31; 2:7–20)[ii]

¨      Hebrews 11:3 (NIV) By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Who among us has the ability to simply speak and light comes into existence?  What less than Almighty Power could bring all things out of nothing?!  

It is fitting that God showed Himself to us by His name Elohim as the first revelation of who He is.  Elohim is the one who brought the universe into existence out of nothing.  Elohim planned the design of the universe.  Elohim determined where the stars would be, where the sun and moon would exist in the universe, and where this speck of dust called Earth would be in the vast cosmos.  Elohim brought order out of chaos, light out of the darkness, and life into a lump of clay.  Elohim created the birds, animals, fish, trees, grass, etc.  Everything that we see around us was created by Him.  Elohim established basic laws in this universe which do not change—e.g. gravity—and it is through His power that everything not only exists but continues to work properly.  Elohim created the angels (including Lucifer who fell because of his pride) so there is nothing in the visible and invisible universe that He did not make.

Not only is Elohim The Creator, but the name Elohim gives us other revelations of His nature and character.

“We’ll look at specific titles later but it is helpful now to note various categories of titles by which Elohim is known.

God the Creator.  The title Elohim is itself a Creator name (we just saw that). But Scripture adds to His honor by calling Him “God, who formed the earth” (Is. 45:18) and “God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land” (Jonah 1:9).

God the Sovereign One. A number of titles emphasize God’s sovereignty. He is called “God… of all the kingdoms of the earth” (Is. 37:16), “the Lord, the God of heaven and the God of the earth” (Gen. 24:3), summed up in “God Most High” (Ps. 57:2), “God of all the earth” (Isa. 54:5), the “God of all flesh” (Jer. 32:27), the “God of heaven” (Neh. 2:4), and the “God of gods and the Lord of lords” (Deut. 10:17).

God the Judge. One aspect of Elohim’s sovereignty is seen in His role as “God who judges in the earth” (Ps. 50:6; 58:11) and as “God of justice” (Is. 30:18).

God as Savior. A number of titles emphasize God’s relationship to the human beings He has redeemed and called. Thus Elohim is “the God of your father Abraham” (Gen. 26:24), “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6). In fact, some 100 such titles are found in the Old Testament, including those that link God with Israel, as “God of the armies of Israel” (1 Sam. 17:45). In these titles God is represented as the Savior of His people, truly the “God of our salvation” (1 Chr. 16:35).

God of history. Other titles link God with His acts in history. Moses noted that the Israelites “heard His voice from the midst of the fire.… God speaks with man; yet He still lives” (Deut. 5:24). David declared that “God… went out before [His] people” and “marched through the wilderness” (Ps. 68:7).

God of relationships. There are also titles that convey a sense of God’s intimacy with His own people. Elohim is “a God near at hand” (Jer. 23:23) and “God in whom you trust” (2 Kin. 19:10). He is “my God of mercy” (Ps. 59:17) and “the God who has fed me all my life long to this day” (Gen. 48:15).” [iii]

Elohim is all powerful (Omnipotent) and therefore, the One who rules the universe.  He governs through His power—He is sovereign.  Elohim rules and reigns as the absolute authority as The Creator and Ruler of the universe.  Yet, as the all powerful ruler of the universe, Elohim chooses to make covenant with mankind.  To make a covenant implies the power and right to do so and it establishes the authority of the covenant maker.  Elohim is a covenant maker and covenant keeper (Jehovah is His covenant name which we will look at later).

In Genesis 6:13 Elohim is the one who announces to Noah that He is going to destroy the earth with a flood because of the wickedness of man.  But in verse 18 Elohim says that He will make His covenant with Noah.  It is Elohim who places His rainbow in the sky after the flood as a reminder of the covenant that He made with Noah

¨      Gen 9:16-17.  Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God (Elohim) and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” 17 So God (Elohim) said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between Me and all life on the earth.”

In Genesis 17:3-8 Elohim makes a covenant with Abraham.  He promises to establish him and his seed as a mighty nation.  But then he says “I will be Elohim to you and your descendants.”  He sovereignly chose to be Elohim to Abraham and his children.  Included in this relationship is the idea that God is ever ready to use his power on behalf of those who are in covenant with him. Therefore, Elohim also expresses the concept of God’s faithfulness in regard to the covenant and the promises and blessings involved in it.

“In the book of Deuteronomy the name Elohim is used repeatedly to stress the majestic power of God that was shown in Israel’s release from bondage in Egypt, preservation in the wilderness, and preparation for entrance into the Promised Land. In this context, God (Elohim) is also recognized as the Lawgiver who will powerfully execute judgment on covenant breakers. The psalmists also used this named repeatedly as they acknowledged and praised God the majestic ruler who had demonstrated his omnipotence in many dimensions of life (see Ps 68, in which Elohim appears 26 times.)” [iv]

So how do we respond to the name Elohim?  How does it affect our lives?  First, we need to acknowledge and recognize that as the Almighty Creator and Ruler of the universe, He is sovereign.  We may get mad from time to time and shake our fist at Him since we feel like He is not meeting our needs, but we need to be reminded that He is Elohim.  He created it all and He is the sovereign Ruler.  We must be careful not to think that we have Him figured out.  Although God has revealed much about Himself to us, we can only know what He has shown us.  There are obviously many things about Him that we do not or cannot know on this earth. 

Next, we need to have confidence as His children that He will take care of us because of the covenant that He chose to establish with us.  He did not have to make this covenant because He is the All powerful, sovereign God, but He chose to do so.  He chose to love us enough to send His Son to die for our sins and pay the price that we should have paid.  He had the power to make that choice and chose to do so.  If He chose to make covenant with us, then He will keep that covenant and there is no power on earth or in hell that can stop Him.

We should worship Him because He is worthy of our worship as The Creator.  When I look at pictures in the doctor’s office about the details of the human body I am in awe that we are so fearfully and wonderfully made by Elohim.  Just examine one little item like the eye and you will see hundreds of intricate parts and systems all functioning in harmony to allow us to be able to see the beauty of the world around us.  Our body has literally thousands of such items and systems that function each and every day the way our Creator designed them to function.  Elohim is the one who put the minerals in the earth to make the medicines to bring us healing.  Elohim is the one who gave man the ability to think and discover how the body works so that they can operate on it to fix it when necessary.  Even when we have a problem with a particular area of our body, there is still an intricate order to the design and whether it is through medicine, surgery, or a divine touch, I believe only Elohim (The Creator) can bring healing to our bodies. 

Elohim is the first name of God that we meet in Scripture. Genesis 1 immediately establishes the fact that Elohim is the Creator, the one and only true God.  He is the source of and sovereign over all that exists in the visible and invisible universe.  Knowing that He is All powerful there is nothing too big for Him to handle in our difficulties and trials, therefore we can surrender all to Him.  Let’s take a fresh look at Elohim and His awesome power and submit our lives to Him today.  In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, “God is God and I am Not!” 


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n n: noun

m m: masculine

p p: particle or participle or person or plural

TWOT Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament

GK Goodrick-Kohlenberger

AV Authorized Version

Or The Lord our God is one Lord; or The Lord is our God, the Lord is one; or The Lord is our God, the Lord alone

[i]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.) (Dt 6:4-5). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[ii]Willmington, H. L. (1999). The Outline Bible (Ge 1:24-31). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

[iii]Richards, L. (2001). Every name of God in the Bible. Includes indexes. Everything in the Bible series (21). Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson.

[iv]Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). Tyndale Bible dictionary. Tyndale reference library (539). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

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