The Many Names Of God

In the Bible, a person's name was very important. It usually described a vital characteristic of that person, or told something about them. Often, a person's name changed after a very dramatic experience with God. Thus Abram became Abraham, and Jacob's name was changed to Israel. Their new names told us something important about them.

God's names tell us something important about Him, too. When we look at some of His names, we learn many of God's eternal characteristics; characteristics we can depend on. His names assure us we can safely trust in Him; He is able and willing to be everything we need.

Absolute or Personal Names of God in the Old Testament

  1. Elohim: The first form of the Divine name in the Bible, ordinarily translated "God" This is the most frequently used name in the Old Testament, as its equivalent, "theos", is in the New Testament. It is one of a group of kindred words, to which belong also El and Eloah. It means "might" or "power". It is the plural form of Eloah, and expresses majesty or "all-mightiness".

  2. Eloah: The singular form of the preceding name, Eloah is confined in its use almost exclusively to poetry, or to poetic expression, being characteristic of the Book of Job. It is, in fact, found in Job more often than the elsewhere plural form, "Elohim". The Aramaic form is "Elah", found frequently in Ezra and Daniel.

  3. El: It is frequently combined with nouns or adjectives to express the Divine name with reference to particular attributes or phases of His being, as El Elyon, El-Ro'i, etc.

  4. Adon, Adonai: An attributive name, Adonai emphasizes God's sovereignty (Ps 2:4; Isa 7:7), and closely corresponds to Kurios of the New Testament. It is frequently combined with Yahweh and with Elohim

  5. Yahweh (Yahweh): This is the covenant name of God, the name most distinctive of God as the God of Israel. Yahweh is a combination of the tetragrammaton (YHWH) with the vowels of Adonai, transliterated as Yehowah. It is the personal name of God, as distinguished from such generic or essential names as El, Elohim, Shaddai, etc. Characteristic of the Old Testament is its insistence that it is possible to know God as a person, and Yahweh is His name as a person. In the King James Version, this name is written in all capital letters as LORD.

  6. Jehovah (also: Yehovah, Yahweh , or YHWH)= "Self existent, eternal"; this is often used in connection with other attributes or characteristics of God. These compound names reveal that God alone is able to meet all the needs of mankind, from his fallen state to his eternal state.

    • Jehovah Jireh = The LORD will provide
    • Jehovah Rapha = The LORD who heals
    • Jehovah Nissi = The LORD is our banner
    • Jehovah M-quaddash = The LORD who sets apart
    • Jehovah Shalom = The LORD is peace
    • Jehovah Sabaoth = The LORD of Hosts
    • Jehovah Raah = The LORD is my Shepherd
    • Jehovah Shammah = The LORD is here (present, in this place)
    • Jehovah Tsidkenu = The LORD is our righteousness
    • Jehovah Nakeh = The LORD who strikes
    • Jehovah El Gomolah = The LORD of recompence

  7. Tsur (Rock): Five times in the "Song" of Moses (De 32:4,15,18,30-31) the word tsur, "Rock," is used as a title of God. It occurs also in the Psalms, Isaiah and poetical passages of other books. It is customary for both Old Testament and New Testament writers to use descriptive names of God: "rock," "fortress," "shield," "light," "bread," etc., and is in harmony with all the rich figurativeness of the Scriptures.

  8. Kadhosh: The name (qadhosh, "holy") is found frequently in Isaiah and Psalms, and occasionally in the other prophets. It is characteristic of Isaiah, being found 32 times in that book. It occurs often in the phrase qedhosh yisra'el, "Holy One of Israel." The derivation and meaning remain in doubt, but the customary and most probable derivation is from qadhash, meaning "to be separate". When used of God it signifies: (1) His transcendence, His separateness above all other beings, His aloneness as compared to other gods; (2) His peculiar relation to His people Israel unto whom He separated Himself, as He did not unto other nations.

  9. Shaddai: "The all sufficient One". In the patriarchal literature, and in Job particularly, where it is put into the mouths of the patriarchs, this name appears sometimes alone, and sometimes in the compound "el shaddai". While its root meaning also is uncertain, the suggested derivation from shadhadh, "to destroy," "to terrify," seems most probable, signifying the God who is manifested by the His mighty acts.

Descriptive Names of God in the Old Testament

It is difficult to distinguish between the personal and the attributive names of God, the two divisions necessarily shading into each other. Some names are really attributive, but have been made personal by usage. The following are the most prominent descriptive or attributive names.

  1. Abhir: This name (abhir), translated in English Versions of the Bible "Mighty One," is always combined with Israel or Jacob; its root is "abhar, "to be strong" It occurs in Jacob's blessing (Gen. 49:24), in a prayer for the sanctuary (Ps. 132:2,5), and in Isaiah, to express the assurance of the Divine strength in behalf of the oppressed in Israel (Isa. 1:24), or in behalf of Israel against his oppressors. (also see Psalms 1:6; 49:20; 60:12) It is interesting to note that this name was first used by Jacob himself.

  2. El-Elohe-Israel: The name El is combined with a number of descriptive adjectives to represent God in His various attributes; and these by usage have become names or titles of God.

  3. Elyon: "The strongest strong One, the Most High God". This name is a derivative of alah, "to go up." It is used of persons or things to indicate their elevation or exaltation: of Israel, favored above other nations. This indicates that its meaning when applied to God is the "Exalted One," who is lifted far above all gods and men. It occurs alone (De 32:8; Ps 18:13), or in combination with other names of God, most frequently with El (Ge 14:18; Ps 78:35), but also with Yahweh (Ps 7:17; 97:9), or with Elohim (Ps 56:2 the King James Version; Ps 78:56).

  4. Gibber: In the heroic days of Saul and David, and in which there was developed a band of men whose great deeds entitled them to the honorable title "mighty men" of valor (gibborim). These were the knights of David's "Round Table." In like manner the Hebrew thought of his God as fighting for him, and easily then this title was applied to God as the Mighty Man of war, occurring in David's psalm of the Ark's Triumphant Entry (Ps 24:8), in the allegory of the Messiah-King (Ps 45:3), either alone or combined with El (Isa 9:6; Jer 32:18), and sometimes with Yahweh (Isa 42:13).

  5. El-Ro'i: "The God who sees all". When Hagar was fleeing from Sarah's persecutions, Yahweh spoke to her in the wilderness of Shur, words of promise and cheer. Whereupon "she called the name of Yahweh that spake unto her, Thou art El roi", In the text the word ro'i, derived from ra'ah, "to see," is translated "that seeth," literally, "of sight." This is the only occurrence of this title in the Old Testament.

  6. Tsaddiq: One of the covenant attributes of God, His righteousness, is spoken of so often that it passes from adjective to substantive, from attribute to name, and He is called "Righteous" (tsaddiq), or "the Righteous One." The root tsadhaq, "to be straight" or "right," signifies fidelity to a standard, and is used of God's fidelity to His own nature and to His covenant-promise (Isa 41:10; 42:6; compare Ho 2:19); it occurs alone (Ps 34:17), with El (De 32:4), with Elohim (Ezr 9:15; Ps 7:9; 116:5), but most frequently with Yahweh (Ps 129:4, etc.).

  7. Kanna: Frequently in the Pentateuch, most often in the 3 versions of the Commandments (Ex 20:5; 34:14; De 5:9), God is given the title "Jealous" (qanna1), most specifically in the phrase "Yahweh, whose name is Jealous" (Ex 34:14). This word, however, did not bear the evil meaning now associated with it in our usage, but rather signified "righteous zeal," Yahweh's zeal for His own name or glory.

  8. Yahweh Tsebha'-oth: Connected with the personal and covenant name Yahweh, there is found frequently the word Sabaoth (tsebha'oth, "hosts"). Invariably in the Old Testament it is translated "hosts" (Isa 1:9; Ps 46:7,11, etc.), but in the New Testament it is transliterated twice, both in the Greek and English (Ro 9:29; Jas 5:4). It is used of heavenly bodies and earthly forces (Ge 2:1); of the army of Israel (2Sa 8:16); of the Heavenly beings (Ps 103:21; 148:2; Da 4:35). It is probable that the title is intended to include all created agencies and beings, of which Yahweh is maker and leader.

  9. "I Am That I Am": When God appeared to Moses at Sinai, commissioning him to deliver Israel; Moses, being well aware of the difficulty of impressing the people, asked by what name of God he should speak to them: "They shall say to me, What is his name?" Then "God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM .... say .... I AM hath sent me unto you" (Ex 3:14). The name of the Deity given here is in the 1st person (ehyeh), since God is here speaking of Himself.

New Testament Names of God

The variety of names which characterizes the Old Testament is lacking in the New Testament, where we are all but limited to two names, each of which corresponds to several in the Old Testament. The most frequent is the name "God" (Theos) occurring over 1,000 times, and corresponding to El, Elohim, etc., of the Old Testament.

  1. God: It may, as Elohim, be used by accommodation of heathen gods; but in its true sense it expresses essential Deity, and as expressive of such it is applied to Christ as to the Father (Joh 20:28; Ro 9:5).

  2. Lord: Five times "Lord" is a translation of "despotes". In each case there is evident emphasis on sovereignty and correspondence to the Adon of the Old Testament. The most common Greek word for Lord is Kurios, representing both Yahweh and 'Adonai of the Old Testament, and occurring upwards of 600 times. It is applied to Christ equally with the Father and the Spirit, showing that the Messianic hopes conveyed by the name Yahweh were fulfilled in Jesus Christ; and that in Him the long hoped for appearance of Yahweh was realized.

Each of His names tell us something important about God. God never changes: He is everything His names describe. He will be all of these things to you. Believe in His name!

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