The 2019 Word Nerd Wednesday list is made up entirely of names for and descriptions of God and Katie Chew kicks us off with Elohim. And her questions are right in line with the theme you’ll find here at My Messy Desk this year.
“It is the reasonable conclusion that the meaning is “might” or “power”; that it is common to Semitic language; that the form is plural to express majesty or “all-mightiness,” and that it is a generic, rather than a specific personal, name for Deity, as is indicated by its application to those who represent the Deity (Judges 5:8; Psalms 82:1) or who are in His presence (1 Samuel 28:13).” (Orr, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).
Allow me to start by saying that this will be an unusual post to start off the New Year. Most often when I get a chance to write, I write on something I have studied, understood and become excited about. Though I am excited with where my research has taken me, I am left with more questions than answers. Today, I plan to present you with my research and pose the question that is burning in my heart. More than anything, I hope this can inspire you to dig a little deeper and ask questions that are a little harder. We serve a God who is beyond all of our questions and He delights in taking us on a journey into knowing him more fully.
Elohim. Every time I heard this name of God, I assumed it meant the Creator. We first see it in the Creation story. The first verse in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible we are introduced to God, the creator, Elohim. In this sense, many actually believe it means Power or Might (Strongs Concordance, 430). In the creation story, Elohim is plural (the singular form being Eloah) when stating that God created the Heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Some have used this to recognize the Trinity from the very beginning, yet many scholars disagree saying that the verb created is singular, therefore making the noun Elohim singular as well (Singer). The word Elohim is used in the Bible 2598 times (search: Elohim, Biblehub.com), but this is where my research became interesting.
It turns out that Elohim is used a few different ways in the Bible and where and how it is used often depend on the context. Elohim is not only used for God, our Creator, but for false gods (Psalm 96:5, 97:7) and the goddess Ashtoreth (1 King 11:5). However, we also see it pointing to the One True God, the God of the Israelites in Genesis 9:17, Psalm 68:1, Isaiah 54:5 and so on.
So here is my question. And allow for one more disclaimer: I am no theologian. I am not a great mind. I have never studied Hebrew. I am simply a seeker and a person who is full of questions and today I would like to invite you into the question on my heart that this research has begged.
What if God allowed for this name Elohim to be the first name we see him as for a reason? The Israelites were no strangers to the idea of gods but they had no knowledge of the One True God. So what if, in the early parts of the Bible, we are seeing God introduce himself to his people in a way that they would understand—as power and might, without showing much difference from the other gods of the time. In this way, he met his people where they were in their limited understanding and then began to pull them away from their misconceptions. Over time, our patient God would continue to introduce more of his character, more of his power, more of who He is in comparison to those false and lesser gods, to show to his people time and again that he is not false. He is no idol or manmade construct, but the Power of powers, the God of gods, the King of kings. He is Supreme, above all and nothing can compare or compete with Him. Therefore, we see many names for the One True God throughout the Bible as he takes us into a deeper understanding of his character and his desire for us as his people. He is Adonai, El Shaddai, El Roi, Jehovah and so on. In fact, He is I AM because even descriptive names fall short of describing Him.
This year, this is what Word Nerd Wednesday seeks to do. We seek to study the many names of Elohim to understand better his character, power and love. So I hope you’ll join the many of us on this journey to better understanding. I hope you’ll ask questions, and I hope mine didn’t offend. I hope you’ll research and work out your faith with fear and trembling before our Almighty God. Before Elohim.
Singer, Tovia. “Did the Doctrine of the Trinity In the Name of God? Why is God’s Name “Elohim” Plural?” <https://outreachjudaism.org/elohim-plural>. December 1, 2018.
Benner, Jeff A. Ancient Hebrew Research Center. “The Nature of God (Elohim).” <http://www.ancient-hebrew.org/m/articles_nature.html>. December 5, 2018.
Strongs Concordance “Entry for Elohim.” <https://biblehub.com/hebrew/430.htm>. November 29, 2018.
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. “Entry for ‘Names of God'”. “International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”. 1915.
Katie is a wife and stay-at-home mom of three preschoolers. Most of her time is spent outside or in imaginary worlds. In rare moments of free time she loves to read, paint and write.