Symbolic Hebrew Names In The Old Testament

In studying for our ongoing series Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, I came across this chart in my Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it is a good list to get you started on your own Bible study. 

I always find it fascinating when God names something, or instructs parents to name their children, or especially when a name gets changed. Many study Bibles contain a footnote by these names to give you the Hebrew or Greek definition, so don’t breeze by those too quickly! 

You can also find this life from the Faithlife Bible by clicking here. 

Happy studying! 

A Minor Introduction

The minor prophets in the Bible are pretty cool! But we have to be careful with man-made titles. For example, the “old” in Old Testament doesn’t mean outdated; nor does the “new” in New Testament mean something updated to modern times. 

In the same way, the minor prophets are only called “minor” because of the volume of their writing, not the quality of their message. In fact, their messages are actually quite major! 

The minor prophets cover a span of about 300 years, from 760 BC (Amos) to 450 BC (Malachi). You can check out this side-by-side chart to see where these prophets fit in the history of Judah and Israel. 

Here are some interesting tidbits about the minor prophets:

  • In the Hebrew Bible, these books are referred to simply as “The Twelve.” 
  • All of these prophets identify themselves in the first verse of their writing except Jonah, but he is identified in 2 Kings 14:23-25. 
  • The only others of the Twelve that are mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament are Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, and Zechariah (see Jeremiah 26:16-19; 2 Kings 25:18-21; Ezra 5:1). 
  • The prophets consistently give us some historical context in their writings to help us place when, where, and to whom their ministry took place. 

The Twelve also show up quite liberally in the New Testament. Every one of them has either direct quotations or has their writings implicitly referred to throughout the New Testament. Here’s just a small sampling… 

  • Micah 5:2 tells us where Jesus would be born (Matthew 2:6)
  • Hosea 11:1 says Jesus would spend time in Egypt (Matthew 2:15)
  • Malachi 4:5 says an “Elijah” would precede Jesus (Matthew 17:10-11)
  • Zechariah 9:9 foretells Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-10)
  • Jonah 1:17 was used by Jesus to predict His own resurrection (Matthew 12:39-42)
  • Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by Peter on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21)
  • Amos 9:11-12 foretold all peoples coming to Jesus (Acts 15:16-17)
  • Hosea 13:14 was quoted by Paul to show how death was defeated (1 Corinthians 15:53-57)
  • Habakkuk 2:4 was also quoted by Paul to tell how righteous people live (Galatians 3:11)
  • Haggai 2:6 foretells the end times (Hebrews 12:26-29)

I look forward to diving deep into the major lessons in the minor prophets over the next several weeks, but in preparation for that let me give you 3 overarching lessons for all Bible studies:

  1. Christianity is rooted in history. The Bible is a historical record of real people, saying and doing real things in real places in the world. It’s not a collection of fables, myths, or legends. 
  2. We need to study the whole counsel of God’s Word. All of Scripture is interdependent on all the other parts of Scripture, and every part reinforces and amplifies every other part. Don’t limit your Bible reading to just one or two parts.
  3. Looking back in wonder and gratitude builds faith for today and hope for tomorrow. When we see what God has done in the past, and we realize that He is still the same God today, it builds our faith for today. And when our faith today is strengthened, it gives us a bright hope for tomorrow. 

I look forward to having you join me on this journey of discovery through the minor prophets! 

Miracles Of The Prophets

Another gem from the Faithlife Illustrated Study Bible. The photo does not show the complete list, but check out this link to see more.

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 Jesus Who Surprises (book review)

Oswald Chambers wisely noted, “God did not give a progressive revelation of Himself through the Old Testament: the people progressively grasped the revelation, which is very different.” Jesus is all throughout the Old Testament, giving us ample opportunity to discover Him on every page. A helpful guide to get you started on this journey of discovery is The Jesus Who Surprises by Dee Brestin. 

Dee wrote that she was intrigued by Christ’s words to the questioning disciples walking the road to Emmaus on the morning of His resurrection. These men were having a hard time wrapping their minds around the report from eyewitnesses who said Jesus was alive! As Jesus walked with them (although unrecognized by them for the moment), Luke records, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). 

The Jews divided their Scripture—the part we now refer to as the Old Testament—into three sections: the Law, the Writings (the poetic books), and the Prophets. In The Jesus Who Surprises, Dee divides her book into the same three sections, giving us samples of how Jesus surprises us in the pages of each section of the Old Testament Scripture. Each chapter concludes with a Bible study that can be done on your own, or in a small group setting. 

The two disciples on the road Jesus commented to each other later that they felt their hearts burning as Jesus revealed Himself all throughout the Scriptures. I pray that as you read The Jesus Who Surprises you will experience the same burning. Then I believe this book will start you on your own lifelong journey to read the Scriptures for yourself and see Jesus on every single page! 

I am a Multnomah book reviewer. 

“Ye Shall Be As Gods”

“By two great lies was man led away from God. By the same two lies has the estrangement been kept up. On these two lies the world has been feeding ever since the Fall. Their fruit has been woe and death—‘Ye shall not die’ and ‘Ye shall be as gods.’ …

“The world’s history is the same. Our race has been eating the fruit of lies [Hosea 10:13]; not simply of sin, but of lies. The sorrows, sighs, tears, pains of our race are the fruit of lies—the original lie of Paradise, and a thousand such since then. …

“The two original satanic lies are continually coming up, and along with them myriads of others, all leading us astray. Each day brings forth the lie, the fruit, the eating thereof. satan, or the world, or the flesh, or a friend, or a book, or a scene whispers the lie; it is fair and specious, we believe it; it brings forth fruit, we eat of it, and the end is bitterness and disappointment. We feed on lies. … We persuade ourselves that this world is good, and pleasant, and excellent, so we pursue it in preference to the world to come. …

“Jesus says, ‘Yes, ye shall not surely die, but that deliverance shall not be in the way you think. Death is the wages of sin, yet I bring life to the sinner, everlasting life, life through the belief of the Truth, even as death came through the belief of a lie. Yes, ye shall be as gods, but not in your way. I will make you partakers if the divine nature, not by eating the forbidden tree, but by eating of Me.’” —Horatius Bonar, in Light & Truth—The Old Testament

Don’t Stop At Salvation

The Holy Spirit is vital in everything concerning a Christian’s life. Dr. Donald Stamps emphatically said it this way: 

“It is essential that believers recognize the importance of the Holy Spirit in God’s redemptive purpose. Many Christians have no idea what difference it would make if there were no Holy Spirit in this world. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no creation, no universe, no human race (Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4). Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Bible (2 Peter 1:21), no New Testament (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14), no power to proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8). Without the Holy Spirit there would be no faith, no new birth, no holiness, no Christians at all in the world.” 

Sometimes I think we have in our mind that the “old” in Old Testament somehow means outdated or no longer applicable to our lives, and the “new” in New Testament should be our sole focus. But Jesus affirmed again and again that all of the Scriptures—what we now refer to as the Old Testament—all point to Him. 

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost Sunday was not something new to the New Testament Christians. He was always a part of a believer’s life. Even 1000 years before Christ’s public ministry, David knew the importance of the Holy Spirit in both salvation, and in living a consistently holy lifestyle (Psalm 51:10-12, 143:10). 

The role of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s public ministry was foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures and then fulfilled in the New Testament era (see Isaiah 11:1-2; Luke 3:21-22; Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-21). 

If Jesus needed the baptism in the Spirit to empower Him, direct Him, and give Him success, how much more do we need this?! That’s why Jesus imparted the Holy Spirit to His followers at their moment of salvation, but then admonished them to eagerly expect the baptism in the Holy Spirit as well (John 20:22; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). 

Quite simply Jesus is sayingDON’T STOP AT SALVATION

Jesus didn’t, the apostles didn’t, Paul didn’t, Apollos didn’t, the Ephesian Christians didn’t, I didn’t, and you shouldn’t either! 

Keep on going…

  1. Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins
  2. Eagerly desire the baptism in the Spirit 
  3. Ask God to baptize you in His Spirit
  4. Expect that He will answer that prayer (Acts 2:38; Isaiah 44:3; John 7:37-39; Luke 11:13; Mark 11:24)

Join me again this Sunday as we continue to learn what it means for Christians today to be Pentecostal. 

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