Names Of God In The Old Testament

I love my Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible! I found this gem while reading in the Psalms.

יהוה (yhwh)

The name יהוה (yhwh) is known as the Tetragrammaton, and was probably pronounced as Yahweh. In the Old Testament, it is the proper name of God and is the most common term used to refer to Him (e.g., Gen 4:1). Exodus 3:13–15 connects this name with the verb הָיָה (hayah) “to be”; in this passage, God uses two related names for Himself that are not used elsewhere in the Bible: אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה (ehyeh asher ehyeh, “I am who I am”) and the abbreviated אֶהְיֶה (ehyeh, “I am”), and declares that יהוה (yhwh) is His name. By the time that the Septuagint version of the Torah was translated in the third century bc, Jews avoided pronouncing the Tetragrammaton to avoid committing blasphemy; in reading the Scriptures, the name אֲדֹנָי (adonay, “Lord”) was substituted, and the Septuagint translated this with the Greek word κύριος (kyrios, “Lord”). In English translations of the Bible, יהוה (yhwh) is usually represented as “the Lord,” using capital or small-capital letters to distinguish it from “Lord” as a translation for other Hebrew words. The English representation of this name as “Jehovah” is based on a misunderstanding of a scribal convention that combined the consonants of יהוה (yhwh) with the vowels of אֲדֹנָי(adonay) to remind the reader to pronounce Adonai in place of the Tetragrammaton.

For further details, see these articles: YHWH; Tetragrammaton; Tetragrammaton in the New Testament; Jehovah; I Am Who I Am.

Compound names with יהוה (yhwh)

Sometimes the name יהוה (yhwh) was combined with other terms characterizing God to produce a compound name. The most important of these is יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת (yhwh tseva’oth, “YHWH of Hosts”; e.g., 1 Sam 1:11), which expresses God’s position as the leader of the armies of heaven. Some compound names involving יהוה (yhwh) are translated in the King James Version or in other English translations using the erroneous representation “Jehovah.”

For further details, see these articles: Lord of Hosts; Jehovah-Jireh; Jehovah-Tsidkenu; Jehovah-Nissi.

אֱלֹהִים (elohim) and Related Words

Hebrew אֱלֹהִים (elohim) is by far the most common member of a small group of Hebrew and Aramaic words used to refer to God and other deities. This word is plural in form, but is most often used with singular meaning as a name for the one God of Israel; in this meaning, it occurs with singular verbs (e.g., Gen 1:1). It can also be used with plural meaning to refer to deities of polytheistic belief; in this case, any verbs and adjectives that go with it are plural (e.g., Deut 13:13).

The other words in this family also refer either to the one God or to a polytheistic deity. These are Hebrew אֵל (el, “god”; e.g., Num 12:13; Deut 32:12), Hebrew אֱלוֹהַּ (eloha, “god”; e.g., Job 11:7; Dan 11:38), and Aramaic אֱלָהּ (elah, “god”; e.g., Ezra 6:3; Dan 6:7).

For further details, see these articles: Elohim; Eloah.

Compound Names with El

Hebrew El (“God”) sometimes occurs with other terms in compound names for God. These compound names differ from one another in several ways. For example, the name אֵל שַׁדַּי (el shadday) combines El with the word שַׁדַּי (shadday), which also occurs by itself as a name for God—often translated “Almighty.” The compound name El Shaddai is not frequent, but does occur in several passages (e.g., Gen 17:1; Ezek 10:5). By contrast, the name אֵל רֳאִי (el ro’iy) “God of seeing, God who sees me” occurs only in Gen 16:13, and רֳאִי (ro’iy) does not occur independently as a name of God.

For further details, see these articles: El Roi; El Elohe Israel; El Shaddai; El Elyon.

אָדוֹן (adon) and אֲדֹנָי (adonay)

The Hebrew word אָדוֹן (adon, “master, lord”) is not specifically a divine title. It can be used of humans, indicating a person who has authority (e.g., Judg 19:11; Gen 45:8). It is sometimes used to describe God, emphasizing His authority (e.g., Josh 3:13).

The divine title אֲדֹנָי (adonay) is related to אָדוֹן (adon) and is used only of God (e.g., Psa 2:4). Its form is very close to and may be derived from אֲדֹנַי (adonay, “my lords”), which is simply the plural of אָדוֹן(adon) followed by a first-person singular suffix (e.g., Gen 19:2); but it has a short a vowel in the suffix while the divine title אֲדֹנָי (adonay) has a long a vowel. The divine title may have originated as a respectful title used to address God (e.g., Exod 4:10), using a plural form to express extra respect. However, in the Old Testament it is used not merely to address God, but also to talk about Him (e.g., 2 Kgs 7:6).

For further details, see this article: Adonai.

שַׁדַּי (shadday)

The origin of the name שַׁדַּי (shadday) is uncertain, but it is used as a title for God, especially in the book of Job (e.g., Job 13:3). Its original meaning is debated, but it is often translated “Almighty.” It is sometimes combined with אֵל (el, “god”) in the compound name אֵל שַׁדַּי (el shadday) (e.g., Gen 17:1), but more often occurs alone.

For further details, see these articles: Shaddai; El Shaddai.

עֶלְיוֹן (elyon)

The word עֶלְיוֹן (elyon) means “high, highest”; as a title for God, it is commonly translated “Most High.” It most often occurs alone (e.g., Psa 91:1), but also occurs in compounds with other names of God, including El(e.g., Gen 14:18–22), YHWH (e.g., Psa 7:17), and Elohim (e.g., Psa 57:2).

For further details, see this article: El Elyon.

Other Names

A variety of other names and titles are used for God. A few examples include צוּר (tsur, “Rock”; e.g., Isa 17:10), רֹעֵה (ro’eh) (“Shepherd“; e.g., Gen 49:24), and בּוֹרֵא (bore’, “Creator”; e.g., Isa 40:28). In Psalm 68:4, the Masoretic Text refers to him as “Rider through the Desert”; this is sometimes taken to be a modification of an expression “Rider on the Clouds” which was applied to Ba’al in Ugaritic. In Hosea 2:16, God declares that Israel will no longer call Him בַּעֲלִי (ba’aliy) “my master, my Ba’al” but will instead call him אִישִׁי (ishiy, “my husband”); these names are not used elsewhere in the Old Testament.

Please check out my review of the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible and pick up a copy for yourself.

The Power Of God’s Name

“God’s name marks Him out; by it will we address Him; it embodies His character. … This name that is written all over the Bible, but specially exhibited in Christ Jesus, Who came to declare to us the Father’s name, is a name—

  1. Of greatness. Jehovah, God, Creator, El-Shaddai; all expressive of majesty and power and glory. The Lord God omnipotent.
  2. Of grace. It is the declaration of free love. Merciful and gracious. He to whom it belongs must be the fountain-head of love. God is love. In Him is infinity of compassion and longsuffering.
  3. Of forgiveness. He pardons iniquity, transgression, and sin; all sin, great and small; there is forgiveness with Him, that He may be feared; forgiveness to the uttermost.
  4. Of righteousness and holiness. It is holy love that is to be found in Him; righteous grace to the unrighteous; righteous pardon to the guilty.” —Horatius Bonar, in Light & Truth—The Old Testament

Loving Obedience

Love and obeySuppose you had to do a secret project on a remote island. In fact, the island is so remote that it doesn’t even have a name or show up on a map. I am your only point of contact, and the only one with the latitude and longitude coordinates to come get you. You have a satellite phone to use. If I truly cared about you, I would give you the precise sequence of digits to reach me. If I didn’t care about you, I’d let you call any number you wanted to call: perhaps you would eventually reach someone who could help you.

The most loving thing I could do for you is to make sure you knew the one number to call in order to get the help you needed. 

This is exactly how God starts the Ten CommandmentsAnd God spoke all these words: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.”

How confusing and utterly unloving it would be if God said, “Call any number you want to see if you can find the help you need.” Instead, in His great love for us God says, “I am the only One you will ever need!”

Notice the wording here: “…I am the LORD your God…”

  • I AM—all that you need.
  • the—not one among many, but the One and Only.
  • LORD—God’s covenant name: Jehovah, His name of personal relationship.
  • your—this is a you-Me relationship, not a you-it relationship.
  • God—the All-Powerful, All-Loving One.

This First Commandment is the orientating commandment. When we see all of God’s commandments are rooted in His love (by the way, God uses the phrase the LORD your God five times in the Ten Commandments), everything else in our lives and attitudes is properly aligned.

Jesus demonstrated this for us. He said He loved His Father and therefore obeyed all of His commands (John 14:31). Christ’s obedience was motivated and aligned by love. The Apostle John said this loving obedience is to be the distinguishing characteristic for us too:

This is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)

We honor God and obey the First Commandment best when we know He is the One Who loves us enough to say, “I am the only One you need. Don’t look to anyone or anything else, but just come to Me!”

We are continuing our series The Love In The Law next Sunday. Please join us!

Forethought Or After-Thought?

What is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet. (Psalm 8:4-5)

forethoughtafterIn mythology, humans are an after-thought, a nuisance, slaves and servants of the gods, and usually pawns in the gods’ scheming against each other.

But Jehovah God created man as a part of His creation. He created mankind in His own image and breathed His own life into him. After the first five days of creation, God said, “It is good.” But on the sixth day, after creating man, He said, “It is very good!”

Jehovah God has man at the forefront of His mind. He not only calls us into a relationship with Him, but the Trinity works in divine cooperation to make it possible for us to come to Him.

He doesn’t see a mass of humanity, but He sees each one of us individually and uniquely. And He is attentive to us—“For the Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:9).

As David burst into praise with this realization of God’s forethought of us, let us echo this praise (Psalm 8:9)—

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!

I Am Jehovah

I Am JehovahOne of the misconceptions about Jesus that He first appears on the scene in a manger in Bethlehem. Nothing could be further from the truth! Jesus appears in the opening words of the Bible—In the beginning God created—and in the last words of the Bible—Yes, I am coming soon. And He appears in every word in between!

It was Christ’s claims of being one with the Father that enraged the Jewish religious leadership. When He proclaimed His “I Am” statements in the New Testament, they knew He was tying Himself to the “Jehovah” titles of the Old Testament.

B.B. Warfield has a great picture of the Old Testament being a mansion with richly-decorated, beautifully-ornate rooms, but which are dimply lit. So with just the Old Testament by itself, it is hard to appreciate the magnificent beauty that’s there. In Jesus, the light is turned on, and we can now appreciate the glory and majesty that was always there!

So notice how the “I Am” statements shine a bright light on the titles of “Jehovah”

  • Jehovah Jireh (I Am Your Provider) → I am the Bread of Life (John 6:35)
  • Jehovah Rapha (I Am Your Healing) → I am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25-26)
  • Jehovah Nissi (I Am Your Source) → I am the Vine (John 15:5)
  • Jehovah Shalom (I Am Your Peace) → I am the Light of the world (John 8:12)
  • Jehovah Raah (I Am Your Shepherd) → I am the Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
  • Jehovah Sabaoth (I Am Your Wall Of Protection) → I am the Gate (John 10:9)
  • Jehovah Tsid-kenu (I Am Your Righteousness) → I am the Way, Truth, and Life (John 14:6)
  • Jehovah Shammah (I Am Here) → I am the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13).

In essence Jesus is saying “I Am Jehovah in all His fullness.” So what are we to make of that? What are we to make of Jesus Christ? Here’s how C.S. Lewis addressed that question:

This is a question which has, in a sense, a frantically comic side. For the real question is not what are we to make of Christ, but what is He to make of us? The picture of a fly sitting deciding what it is going to make of an elephant has comic elements about it. But perhaps the questioner meant what are we to make of Him in the sense of ‘How are we to solve the historical problem set us by the recorded sayings of this Man?’ 

The problem is to reconcile two things. On the one hand you have got the almost generally admitted depth of sanity of His moral teaching, which is not very seriously questioned, even by those who are opposed to Christianity. In fact, I find when I am arguing with very anti-God people that they rather make a point of saying, ‘I am entirely in favor of the moral teaching of Christianity….’ 

On the one side clear, definite moral teaching. On the other, claims which, if not true, are those of a megalomaniac, compared with whom Hitler was the most sane and humble of men. There is no halfway house and there is no parallel in other religions. If you had gone to Buddha and asked him, ‘Are you the son of Bramah?’ he would have said, ‘My son, you are still in the vale of illusion.’ If you have gone to Socrates and asked, ‘Are you Zeus?’ he would have laughed at you. If you had gone to Mohammed and asked, ‘Are you Allah?’ he would first have rent his clothes and then cut your head off. If you had asked Confucius, ‘Are you Heaven?’ I think he would have probably replied, ‘Remarks which are not in accordance with Nature are in bad taste.’ 

The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. In my opinion, the only person who can say that sort of thing is either God or a complete lunatic suffering from that form of delusion which undermines the whole mind of man. (emphasis mine)

C.S. Lewis gives us three choices about Jesus. We can either say (1) He is a liar, (2) He is a lunatic, or (3) He is who He says He is.

What do you say about Him?

I will be continuing my series of messages in the series Who Is Jesus? next Sunday, and I’d love to have you join me!

%d bloggers like this: