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Bible Lexicons

Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament


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The general Hebrew name for God is Elohim (אלהים ). Sometimes it is used with a definite article, sometimes without. Altogether it occurs 2555 times in 2310 of these instances it is used as the name of the living and true God, but in 245 passages it appears to be adopted in lower senses.

Although plural in form, [This is indicated by the termination -im, as in such words as Cherub-im and Seraph-im. Dr. Sayce tells me that in the Tel el Amarna tableta Pharaoh is addressed as gods.] the name is generally used with a singular verb when it refers to the true God. [The exceptions are Genesis 20:13; Genesis 35:7; 2 Samuel 7:23 (but see 1 Chronicles 17:12). The Samaritan Pentateuch has altered those in Genes is to the singular. Sometimes the adjective which agrees with Elohim is plural, as in Joshua 24:19; sometimes singular, as in 2 Kings 19:4.]

This name properly represented One only Being, who revealed Himself to man as Creator, Ruler, and Lord. It was his own peculiar title, and ought to have been confined to Him. Accordingly we read, ' in the beginning God (Elohim in the plural) created (in the singular) the heavens and the earth.'

The first hint at the possibility that the title Elohim might be shared by others besides the Creat or is to be found in the serpent's suggestion, 'Ye shall be as Elohim , knowing good and evil' (Genesis 3:5). The translators of the A. V. render the word 'gods,' but our first parents only knew of one Elohim ; they heard his voice from time to time, and perhaps they saw his form; they addressed Him in the singular number; and the idea of any other being to be called Elohim but this One could not have entered their imagination until the Tempter said to them, 'Ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil' (see R. V.).

In after ages the worship of the Creat or as Elohim began to be corrupted. The Name, indeed, was retained, but the nature of Him who bore it was well-nigh forgotten. When men were divided into different nations, and spoke various dialects and languages, they must have carried with them those notions of Elohim which they had inherited from their fathers, but the worship which was due to Him alone was in the lapse of ages transferred to the souls of the departed, to the sun, moon, and stars, and even to idols made by men's hands.

It has been supposed that some sanction is given to the theory that the name Elohim is generic by the fact that idols are called by this name in Scripture. Some instances of this usage may therefore be cited for examination.

In Genesis 35:1-2; Genesis 35:4, we read as follows: 'and Elohim said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there, and build there an altar, unto the El that appeared to thee when thou fleddest from before thy brother Esau. Then Jacob said to his house and to all that were with him, Put away the strange Elohim that are among you . and they gave unto Jacob all the strange Elohim that were in their hands, and their earrings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.' The Elohim in this case seem to have been images, perhaps charms worn on the person, similar to those which the ancient Egyptians used to wear, and which have been exhumed or manufactured by hundreds in modern days. The word nacar (נכר ), here rendered strange, is used in Scripture in two opposite senses, for to know, and not to know; it here probably means foreign or alien, in which sense it is frequently applied to idolatrous worship in Scripture.

In Genesis 31:19, we read that Rachel had stolen her father's images (teraphim [ for further remarks on the nature of the Teraphim, see chap. xxvii. § 7.]), but Laban calls them his Elohim (verse 30), and Jacob, adopting the word, says, 'with whomsoever thou findest thine Elohim , let him not live.' Laban, then, worshipped teraphim as Elohim , though he ought to have known better, for he knew the name of Jehovah (Genesis 30:27; Genesis 31:49), and he was not ignorant of the real Elohim , whom his own father had worshipped (Genesis 31:29; Genesis 31:50; Genesis 31:53).

We also read of 'the Elohim of Egypt' (Exodus 12:12, A.V. gods; the margin has princes, but see Numbers 33:4); of molten Elohim . (Leviticus 19:4); of 'the Elohim of the heathen' (Exodus 23:24); also of Chemosh, Dagon, Milcom, and other idols which were designated as Elohim . When the Israelites made the molten calf out of their golden earrings (Exodus 32:3-4), they said of it, 'These be thy Elohim , O Israel,' by which they practically meant 'This is thy God,' for they regarded the image as a representation of Jehovah (verse 5). [David Mill, in one of his Dissertationes Selectoe, discusses the symbolical meaning of the golden calf, and comes to the conclusion that it represented, not Apis, but Typhon (i.e. Set), to whom the Egyptians attributed all evil. The people of Israel knew full well that their God had looked with no favouring eye up on Egypt, and it is therefore not improbable that in choosing a symbol to represent Him they would select that which the Egyptians regarded as their evil genius.]

Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, draws a distinction between the true and the false Elohim when he says, 'Now know I that Jehovah is greater than all the Elohim , for in the matter where in they dealt proudly he was above them' (Exodus 18:11); yet this very confession is so worded as to imply not only that the priest of Midian had hitherto been in the dark on the subject, but also that he still had a lingering belief in the existence of inferi or Elohim . The same ignorance and superstition was to be found amongst the children of Israel; and the primary less on which the Lord sought to teach them during their journeyings in the wilderness was that they were to restore the name Elohim to its original and sole owner. 'Thou shalt have no other Elohim before me.' [Literally, ' in addition to my face.' Some Hebrew students regard this expression not merely as a Hebrew idiom, but as setting forth that the Face or Manifestation of God is God. They have hence argued for the Deity of Christ; but the argument in the form in which it is sometimes advanced is rather perilous because it is inapplicable to other passages, e.g. Exodus 33:20 : 'Thou canst not see my f ace, for there shall no man see me and live.' It is nevertheless true that we do behold 'the glory of God in the face or person of Jesus Christ' (2 Corinthians 4:6).] (Exodus 20:3). 'Make no mention of the name of other Elohim , neither let it be heard out of thy mouth' (Exodus 23:13). 'Jehovah he is Elohim in heaven above and up on the earth beneath; there is none else' (Deuteronomy 4:39). So in the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:37; Deuteronomy 32:39) we read concerning the heathen, 'Where are their Elohim , the rock on which they leaned? . I even I am he, and there is no Elohim with me.' Once more, the utter anomaly of using the word Elohim for others than the true God is clearly indicated in the prayer of Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:18), ' of a truth, Jehovah , the kings of Assyria have destroyed the nations and their lands, and have cast their Elohim into the fire: for they were no Elohim but the work of men's hands, wood and stone.'

Elohim and the Trinity

It is clear that the fact of the word Elohim being plural in form does not at all sanction polytheism; but we have now to consider whether it may fairly be taken as a testimony to the plurality of Persons in the Godhead. It is certainly marvellously consistent with this doctrine, and must remove a great stumbling-block out of the path of those who feel difficulties with regard to the acknowledgment of the Trinity in Unity. Great names are to be cited for taking a step further, and for adducing, as a proof of the Trinity, the words, 'Elohim said, Let us make man in our image after our likeness' (Genesis 1:26). Father Sim on notes that Peter Lombard (1150) was the first to lay stress up on this point; though probably the argument was not really new in his time. Many critics, however, of unimpeachable orthodoxy, think it wiser to rest where such divines as Cajetan in the Church of Rome and Calv in among Protestants were content to stand, and to take the plural form as a plural of majesty, and as indicating the greatness, the infinity, and the incomprehensibleness of the Deity. Perhaps the idea unfolded in the plural form Elohim may be expressed more accurately by the word Godhead or Deity than by the word God; and there is certainly nothing unreasonable in the supposition that the name of the Deity was given to man in this form, so as to prepare him for the truth that in the Unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons.

as long as the passage above quoted stands on the first page of the Bible, the believer in the Trinity has a right to turn to it as a proof that Plurality in the Godhead is a very different thing from Polytheism, and as an indication that the frequent assertions of the Divine Unity are not inconsistent with the belief that the Father is God, the son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. It is well known that the Hebrews often expressed a word in the plural, so as to give it a special or technical meaning, as in the case of the words Blood, Water, Wisdom, Salvation, Righteousness, Life; and this is in favour of what has just been advanced. The use of the plural in the language of majesty and authority tends to the same conclusion in these cases it is implied that the word in the singular number is not large enough to set forth all that is intended; and so in the case of the Divine Name the plural form expresses the truth that the finite word conveys an inadequate idea of the Being Whom it represents.

Other names of God will be found to be in the plural also; and it is worthy of notice that in the well-known passage in Ecclesiastes (Ecclesiastes 12:1) the Hebrew runs thus, 'Remember now thy Creators in the days of thy youth.'

Secondary Uses of the Name Elohim

Another use of the word Elohim has now to be noticed. We read in Exodus 4:16, that God said to Moses, with reference to his brother Aaron, 'thou shalt be to him in the place of Elohim .' From these words it would appear that Moses was to be regarded by Aar on as standing in immediate relation to God, - not, however, as on a level with Him, for God did not say 'thou shalt be as (ך ) Elohim ,' but ' for (ל ) Elohim .' [The R. V. is in err or here in chap. 6:7, we have the same expression (לאלהים ) rendered in the A. V., 'I will be to you a God.' It might be best, therefore, to consider the emphatic verb to be in the above passage as signifying (in conjunction with the preposition) to represent - 'Thou shalt represent Elohim to him.' in Zechariah 12:8, there is a more remarkable expression; it is said that 'the House of David shall be as God and as the Angel of the Lord before them.' Here we have not representation but equality; and the passage has its fulfillment in Christ.] Moses was instructed to convey the Divine message to Aaron, who, in his turn, was to announce it to Pharaoh. Similarly in chap. 7:1, the Lord says to his servant, 'Behold I have appointed thee Elohim to Pharaoh, and Aar on shall be thy prophet.' It is evident that the name of God was here given to his human representative, as such. The LXX has τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν.

The usage of the word in these passages may be illustrated by a reference to our Lord's teaching. When accused by the Jews of making Himself God, He answered, ' is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, - and the Scripture cannot be broken, - say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemes; because I said, I am the son of God?' (John 10:34-36.) The passage which our Lord here refers to is in Psalms 82:1-8, and begins thus: 'Elohim taketh his stand (נצב ) in the gathering of El; in the midst of Elohim he doeth judgment.' The Psalmist proceeds to rebuke this gathering of Elohim , who were evidently judges, and who were responsible for judging in accordance with the word of the Lord: 'How long will ye administer perverted justice, and favour wicked men? Deal justly with the po or and fatherless: acquit the afflicted and needy. Deliver the po or and needy: rescue them from the h and of wicked men.' Yet the rebuke was unheeded. Alas! 'They know not, neither do they perceive; they go on walking in darkness: all the foundations of the l and (i.e. its judges) are moved from their course.' Then comes the retribution following on their neglect of these august privileges and duties. 'It is I myself [It is only in some such way is this that one can express the force of the emphatic Hebrew personal pronoun. Our translators have not often adopted this plan, but in other versions (e.g. the French of Ostervald) the distinction between the expressed and the unexpressed pronoun has been marked in this way. The R. V. fails here.] that said ye are Elohim and all of you children of the Highest. Yet after all ye shall die as Adam, and as one of the princes shall ye fall' The Psalmist concludes with the prophetic aspiration, 'Arise, thou Elohim , administer just judgment in the land: for it is thou that hast all the nations for thine inheritance.' Our Lord, by referring to this Psalm, evidently meant his hearers to understand that if earthly judges were called 'gods' in Scripture because they were to regulate their decisions by the Word of God, it could be no blasphemy in Him whom the Father hath sent into the world to call Himself God s Son. If they represented God, how much more did He.

In accordance with the words of the Psalm just referred to, we read in Exodus 22:8-9, 'If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges (ha-Elohim), to decide whether he hath put his h and unto his neighbour's goods. The cause of both parties shall come before the judges (ha-Elohim), and whom the judges (Elohim) condemn, he shall pay double to his neighbour.' in the twenty-eighth verse, where our translators have somewhat unfortunately put 'thou shalt not revile the gods,' we read Elohim again, and consistently with the previous passages we should render it, 'thou shalt not revile judges, nor speak evil of a leader among thy people.' See R. V., margin. this passage was referred to with a latent shade of irony by St. Paul when he was called to account for speaking sharply to Ananias, who professed to judge him after the law whilst causing him to be smitten contrary to the law (Acts 23:5).

The judges are also called Elohim in Exodus 21:6, where the account is given of the master boring his servant's ear in the presence of the magistrates. It is possible that the witch of Endor, when she said, 'I see Elohim ascending from the earth,' used the word in this sense, that we might render the passage, 'I see judges ascending from the earth.' But the noun and the participle are in the plural number in this passage. [See chap. xxvi. § 3, for a further reference to the scene here noticed.] The R. V. has noted this point.

In all these passages the word Elohim indicates not beings who are to be worshipped, but a body of responsible magistrates who are called by this name because they represent the only true Elohim, who is God of gods and Lord of lords. Accordingly we read that 'the men between whom there is a controversy shall stand before Jehovah , before the priests and the judges' (Deuteronomy 19:17).

The Application of the Name Elohim to Angels

There is yet another use of the word Elohim which must not be passed over. The Samaritan Version and also the LXX have adopted the word angels to represent it in several places, and the English translators, partly guided by the teaching of the N.T., have occasionally followed their example.

Some critics have been inclined to render the words in Genesis 3:5, 'Ye shall be as angels'; but there is no ground for such an interpretation in Job 38:7, 'the sons of God' who shouted for joy are designated angels by the LXX, but this is by way of commentary rather than translation. Compare Psalms 138:1.

In Hebrews 1:6, we read, 'when he bringeth the first-begotten into the world, he saith, and let all the angels of God worship him.' The writer here cites words which are to be found in some copies of the LXX in the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:43), but there is no Hebrew equivalent for them in our existing test. The verses which follow carry the reader on from the day of Moses to a time yet to come when God 'will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful to his l and and to his people.' this will be at the time of the restitution of all things which have been spoken of by all the holy prophets from old time (Acts 3:21). Whilst the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews probably had the Song of Moses in his mind when he quoted the words of the LXX, there may be a secondary reference to Psalms 97:7, where we read, 'worship him all ye gods (Elohim),' but where the LXX has rendered, 'worship him all ye his angels.'

In the 8th Psalm the A. V. runs thus, 'What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? for thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hastcrowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands.' Here the Hebrew has Elohim ; and were it not for the sanction given to the LXX interpretation in Hebrews 2:7, our translators would probably have given a literal rendering, as the R. V. has done.

Gesenius, Hengstenberg, and other critics, understood the Psalmist to mean that the son of Man should be but little below the glory of God. So Calvin, 'parum abesse eum jussisti a divino et coelesti statu.' We might, perhaps, paraphrase the words, 'thou hast bereft [The word is so rendered in Ecclesiastes 4:8.] him for a little while of the divine glory.' Compare Philippians 2:7 in giving this interpretation of the words, though we do not adopt the exact rendering of the LXX, we arrive at a substantial agreement with its teaching. The fact announced in the Hebrew text with regard to man generally, is fulfilled with regard to Christ in such a mode as the LXX describes, and as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews sanctions.

Difficulties in Translating the Name Elohim

We have seen that the name Elohim is properly a title belonging to one Being, who is the Creat or of heaven and earth, and the Sustainer of all existence. The question now returns, how is the word to be dealt with in translation? Three possible courses present themselves. The Hebrew word might be transliterated, as is sometimes done with the name Jehovah ; or the name of some native object of worship might be substituted for it; or the original meaning of the word might be reproduced by a translation.

To deal with the last proposal first,, there could be no valid objection to such a course, if no better plan presented itself. It is agreed by almost all scholars that the name Elohim signifies the putter forth of power. He is the Being to whom all power belongs. The lowest of heathen tribes are compelled to acknowledge that there is a Power in existence greater than their own, and the missionary constantly has to take this acknowledgment as a basis on which he may plant a more complete theology.

The proposal that the Hebrew name for the Divine Being should be transliterated, and used alone or in combination with those of native deities, has been received with greater favour by some missionaries. They have looked up on it as a means of avoiding the danger in which every translator is manifestly involved, of giving a seeming sanction to false religion by the adoption of a name which conveys false ideas. But, after all, whilst seeking to escape one evil, the transliterat or runs into another, for he would be laying himself open to the charge that he was setting forth strange gods.

The other plan is to single out that name which is, on the whole, the best representative of a personal and powerful Being, leaving it for the general teaching of Scripture and for the oral instruction of the missionary to lift up men's minds to higher ideas of this Being than they had before.

If all the names of God were to be rejected which had ever been used for idolatrous purposes, it is hard to know what would be left. Elohim itself was so used; the same is the case with the Arabic form Allah, with the Greek Theos, the Ethiopic Amlak (cf. Moloch), the Egyptian Nout, the Hungarian Isten, the Albanian Pernti, the Tartar Tengri, and many others, which are sanctioned in time-honoured versions. Nay, what would happen to the Georgian Ghut, the Persian Khuda, the German Gott, and the English God? Fortunately our idea of God comes not from the etymology of the word, nor from its use in the days of our heathendom, but from the truths which we have been taught about Him from our childhood. this is exactly the point to be borne in mind. The truth about God is gathered not so much from the Name as from what is taught concerning Him who bears it. The knowledge of the nature and character of God is gradually acquired through the study of the Scriptures.

The American Bishop Boone, in his contribution to the Chinese discussions, says that we should render the name of God by the highest generic word which represents an object of worship. If this theory were to be carried out, then the first verse of the Bible would practically run thus: ' in the beginning an object of worship created the heavens and the earth.' This, however, would be an inversion of the right order of thought. God is to be worshipped because He is Creator. his works constitute, in great measure, his claim to worship. The same writer also quotes Lactantius and Origen in favour of a generic name for God. These learned men wrote centuries after the matter had been practically settled, so far as regards the Greek language, by the usage of the LXX, and when it would have been too late, even if it had been good for any reason, to substitute Zeus for Theos. Dr. Malan, indeed, has shown, in his work on the Names of God, [Who is God in China? - a powerful argument in favour of Shang-ti.] that Zeus and Theos were originally, in all probability, the same word. But we have a greater witness than Dr. Malan, even that of the Apostle of the Gentiles, who, after quoting two heathen hymns written in honour of Zeus, argues from them in favour of the spiritual nature of Theos, who made the world.

The passage in the Acts (chap. 17.) here referred to deserves special notice. When St. Paul reached Athens he found that it was wholly given to idolatry (κατείδωλον), an expression which falls in all too well with the Roman satirist's remark that it was easier to find a god than a man in that city. Accordingly, the Apostle held constant discussions (διελέγετο), not only with the Jews and proselytes whom he found in the synagogue, [The A. V. runs thus: 'Therefore disputed he in the Synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons; but there ought to be no comma after the word Jews. The σεβόμενοι, or devout proselytes, went to the synagogue, where Paul doubtless discoursed in Greek. The R. V. is correct.] but also with anybody whom he could meet with in the Agora. Here certain of the Epicureans, who were Atheists, and of the Stoics, who were Pantheists, fell in with him from day to day; [The imperfect tense is used throughout.] and while some spoke of him with utter scorn - h is Gospel being 'foolishness' to them - others came to the conclusion that he was setting forth certain demons (A. V. 'gods') which were foreign to their city. by 'demons' these philosophers meant very much the same as the Mahommedans mean by their genii; their ideas about them would be very vague. Sometimes they seem to have been regarded as the souls of the departed, sometimes as guardian angels, sometimes as evil influences, sometimes as what we call demi-gods. [No distinction can be drawn between δαίμων and δαιμόνιον; both were applied to the deity, to fortune, to the souls of the departed, and to genii or demi-gods, beings part mortal part divine (μεταξὺ θεου̂ τε καὶ θνητου̂) as Plato calls them (Symp. p. 202 d.).]

Here, then, St. Paul found himself confronted with idolatry and demon-worship, the two substitutes for the worship of the living God which are to be found amongst almost all the nations of the earth. Even the fetish of the African rain-maker is connected with a mysterious unseen power, which is supposed to work up on a man's life and possessions. The acknowledgment of such hidden influence harmonises all too readily with Pantheism, and is not inconsistent even with Atheism. A man may be a Positivist and yet a Spiritualist. He may, in profession at least, deny that there is a personal causa causarum, and yet may give way to a superstitious respect for certain shadowy powers, which are to him realities, and which exercise an appreciable influence on his thoughts and ways this arises from the necessity of his nature. his consciousness announces to him the reality of unseen and immaterial entities, though he does not care to proclaim the fact to the world. If he is highly civilised and scientific, he may dismiss these phantoms as creations of the imagination; but if he is a member of a barbarous and uncultivated tribe, from which the true idea of God has apparently died out, he will become the prey of the rainmaker, the conjurer, or the witch, by whose arts his superstition will be systematically developed. The fetish or object which he regards with awe, whether it be merely a bit of rag or a bundle of feathers, becomes to him an embodiment of the dark and terrible side of his spiritual feelings. as long as the sun shines and the rain descends and the fruits of the earth abound, - as long as a man has health, and strength, and prosperity, - he cares little about fetish or demon, and still less about God; but when trouble comes he will follow the example of Jonah's mariners, who 'cried every man unto his god,' and will seek by magic or superstitious arts to avert the misfortunes which have befallen him, and to propitiate the evil spirit whom he has unwittingly offended. this sad story of human superstition is well known to every missionary who has laboured among rude tribes of idolaters; and it may help us to understand the state of things which Christianity has had to displace ever since its earliest promulgation.

But to return to St. Paul's speech at Athens. 'He seemeth,' said the sage, 'to be a setter forth of strange (i.e. foreign) demons.' [The very charge made against Socrates (Xen. Mem. 1. 1. 2; Plato, Ap. 24 b.).] Accordingly, impelled by curiosity, they gather round the Apostle, and lead him out of the bustling Agora up the rock-cut steps by which we still mount to the Areopagus. There to his male and female audience, half-cynical, half-interested, the Apostle of the Gentiles delivered a model missionary address, and conferred a lustre on Athens which neither the oratory of Demosthenes, the statesmanship of Pericles, the philosophy of Plato, nor the art of Phidi as can surpass. 'Athenians!' he seems to say, 'ye appear to me to be far too much given to demon-fearing already; it is a mistake therefore to suppose that I have come to set forth more demons for your acceptance. My mission is a very different one; for whilst coming through your city, and inspecting the objects which you regard with reverence, I met with an altar on which was written, "To God The Unknown." Besides the demons whom you fear, then, there is evidently a being called GOD, whom you regard with reverence, even though you are ignorant about his true nature. this is the Being whom I am setting forth to you.' [Καταγγέλλω; compare the ξένων δαιμονίων καταγγελεὺς of v. 18.]

Having thus awakened the attention of his hearers, he concentrated their mind on the word GOD. 'The God who made the cosmos and all that is in it, He, being possess or and ruler of heaven and earth, cannot have his Presence confined with in the minute space which human hands are able to compass round with walls (and here no doubt the speaker pointed to the buildings that lay at his feet), neither can He be ministered to (θεραπεύεται) by hands of mortal men, as if He had any necessities which they could relieve - seeing that it is He that is the giver of life in all its aspects to all men. The nations which dwell on the face of the whole earth have sprung from one source, and have been distributed through many ages, and among various countries, by his will and agency. and it is for them to seek God, [Not 'the Lord' as A. V.] if haply they may feel Him [The point is somewhat obscured in the A. V. and R. V., which read, 'feel after him.' The verb ψηλαφάω means to 'handle' (1 John 1:1); hence, to feel an object in the dark. The nations were intended to have an impression of God's existence, though they were in darkness as to his real nature.] and find Him. And, after all, He is not far off from any single person among us, for it is through union with Him that we have life, movement, and even bare existence; as some of your own poets [The hymns to Jupiter which he quotes were written by Cleanthes the Stoic, of Assos (300 b.c.), and by Aratus of Soli, near Tarsus (270 b.c.).] have said, " for we are his offspring." Seeing, then, that there is such a relationship existing between God and man, we ought to know better than to suppose that the Deity (τό θει̂ον) can be really like a cleverly carved piece of stone or metal. If these things do not represent the real life of man, how can they possibly represent Him from whom that life flows?'

St. Paul's argument rested not on the name of God, but on the Divine operations and attributes. He knew full well that the word Theosdid not convey the whole truth about the Divine Being to the mind of his hearers, and that Zeus was still further from being a fair representative of Elohim ; but he confirmed what he had to say about the Theoswho made the heaven and the earth by reference to two hymns dedicated to Zeus, who was also described as maker of all things. He thus worked round to the original idea of Elohim , and laid the foundations of sound Gospel teaching on one of the noblest products of natural theology.

Other Names for God

Although the plural Elohim is ordinarily used for God, the singular form Eloah is found in fifty-seven passages, most of which are in the Book of Job. Only six times is Eloah applied to any but the true God.

The Aramaic form Elah is found thirty-seven times in Ezra, once in Jeremiah, and forty-six times in Daniel. of the eighty-four passages where it occurs, seventy-two refer to the True God. The Assyrian form is Ilu.

The more simple and elementary form El, which is frequently adopted either alone or in dependence on another substantive, to express power or might, is used of the True God in 204 passages, and of others in eighteen passages. It is found especially in Job, the Psalms, and Isaiah.

The names El, Elah, Eloah, and Elohim seem to express the same idea, even if they are not all connected etymologically, - though it may prove that they are. All occur, together with Jehovah , in Deuteronomy 32:15-19.

The plural of El is Elim, which is supposed to be used of false gods in Exodus 15:11; Psalms 29:1; Psalms 89:6; and Daniel 11:36; in each of which passages, however, the word may be rendered 'mighty ones.' Elimh is never used of the true God.

El is sometimes used in compound names, as El-Shaddai, rendered in the A. V. 'Almighty God,' Bethel, 'the house of God;' and in other cases it is used apparently to add force and sublimity to an idea, as when we read of 'mountains of El,' i.e. 'mighty mountains.'

The titles of the Messiah contained in Isaiah 9:6, have been subjected to a good deal of criticism from Jewish and Gentile pens, partly, no doubt, because the name El occurs in the expression which our translators have rendered 'the mighty God.' in this passage we read, 'H is name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor.' These words may, perhaps, be taken in their connection with one another as a parallel to Isaiah 28:29, where the same words in rather different forms are rendered, 'wonderful in counsel,' and applied to the Lord of Hosts. [The word for wonderful is literally a wonder (see Isaiah 29:14). The verb related with it is constantly used of God's wonderful works. Sometimes it signifies that which is hidden, or difficult, as in Genesis 18:14, ' is anything too hard for the Lord;' Judges 13:18, 'Why askest thou my name, seeing it is secret?' Perhaps wonderful would be a better rendering here, as the cognate verb occurs in the next verse, where we read that the angel did wondrously.] Again, 'H is name shall be called the Mighty God.' in the LXX, Luther's, and other versions, we find this title broken up into two, and translated 'Mighty, Hero,' or 'Mighty, Powerful'; but the order of the Hebrew words is in favour of A. V., which is consistent with Isaiah 10:21, and Jeremiah 32:18, where the expression reappears. The remaining title, The Everlasting Father, has been rendered in some recensions of the LXX and in the Vulgate the Father of the Coming Age, and in other versions the Father of Eternity; the last, which is the best rendering, when read in the light of the N.T., would signify that the Messiah was to be the Father, Spring, or Source of Everlasting Life to all the world. Lastly, as He was to be the Father of Eternity, so was He to be called the Prince of Peace, one whose dominion should establish a holy peace (in all the fulness of meaning of that word) throughout the world.

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Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Elohim'. Synonyms of the Old Testament.
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