of a Name
The Hebrew word which is translated,
"name" is shem. The etymology of this word is little
help in understanding the significance of a name.
However, throughout the Old Testament we are given many indications
that personal name meant much more than a means of identification.
"In the modern world, a person's name is merely an identifying
label, like a number, which could be changed without loss. Bible
names, however, have their background in the widespread tradition
that personal names give information, describing in some way who
To explain and give one's name was to reveal the central aspect
of one's personality and character. Consider the following examples:
1. 1 Sam. 25:23-25, the name
of Nabal is equated with his existence, character and reputation:
23 When Abigail saw David, she hurried
and dismounted from her donkey, and fell on her face before David
and bowed herself to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said,
"On me alone, my lord, be the blame. And please let your
maidservant speak to you, and listen to the words of your maidservant.
25 "Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless
man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and
folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the
young men of my lord whom you sent. (boldface, mine)
2. 1 Sam. 24:21: To destroy
a name is equivalent to destroying the person.
21 "So now swear to me by the
LORD that you will not cut off my descendants after me and that
you will not destroy my name from my father's household."
3. Names used for the devil are descriptive
of his character, personality and deeds. The personal name, Satan,
means adversary, opposer, and was consistently used by the
Hebrews to refer to the devil.
4. Names like Esau (which means,
red), and Laban (which means, blond), were
descriptive of physical appearance.
5. Scripture reveals God as a God who
placed special significance on names. His vision for Abraham
is evident in renaming him from Abram, in Genesis 17:4,5:
4 "As for Me, behold, My covenant
is with you, And you will be the father of a multitude of nations.
5 "No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name
shall be Abraham; For I will make you the father of a multitude
Abram means, exalted father,
while Abraham means, father of a multitude.
6. Likewise, Jacob, is renamed,
Israel, in Genesis 35:9,10.
9 Then God appeared to Jacob again
when he came from Paddan-aram, and He blessed him. 10God said
to him, "Your name is Jacob; You shall no longer be called
Jacob, But Israel shall be your name." Thus He called him
Israel. 11God also said to him, "I am God Almighty; Be fruitful
and multiply; A nation and a company of nations shall come from
you, And kings shall come forth from you.
The name, Jacob, means cheat,
supplanter, while the name, Israel, means prince with
The names that we read in our English
Bibles, God and Lord, reveal little to us in terms
of God's character, nature and personality. Much of the understanding
is lost in the translation, and, if we are to understand their fullness,
we must understand them in their original language. There are many
names used for God in Scripture.
The great difficulty arises in the ability to describe an infinite
Being, in finite terms. Nathan Stone makes the point in his book,
Names of God, that one needs many words to describe the character
and personality of human beings like Moses and David, let alone
the Supreme God of the Universe! No one name, he suggests,
is sufficient to accomplish this purpose.
We will look at the most prevalent
and some of the rarer names used by the biblical authors. One thing
we must keep in mind is that Scripture is the revelation of God
to man. As such, the ultimate authority and control of these names
as they are used, is God's. The individual authors may have had
a unique purpose and contribution, or preference, but that purpose
must ultimately be attributed to God (2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20,21).
The biblical author viewed the events he recorded as unique, historical
events in which a speaking and acting God revealed His will to,
and through mankind. "These events were the initial patterns
for all subsequent encounters of God with men. They were not simply
events, but they were unique events."
Walter Kaiser, in his incisive work,
Toward an Old Testament Theology, has identified this unfolding
purpose in the Old Testament, as God's revelation of Himself as
the God of Promise. He argues inductively that,
Such a category was sufficient to
encompass a great variety of biblical books, themes and concepts.
In spite of an almost universal chorus to the contrary, the mass
of data is neither intractable nor impossible. It does yield up
a single theology with a deliberate plan of God. Furthermore,
Scripture presents its own key of organization. The OT does possess
its own canonical inner unity which binds together the various
emphases and longitudinal themes. This is not a hidden inner unity.
It lies open and ready for all: The Promise of God.
Throughout the course of our study
we will seek to determine to what extent, if any, these names contribute
to understanding the immediate context and the broader unfolding
of God's purpose and plan of Promise.
The place to start in order to understand
the names for God is in the powerful way that God revealed Himself
to Moses. In the event where God speaks to Moses in the Burning
Bush (Exodus 3), He identifies Himself as the God of the patriarchal
5 Then He said, "Do not come
near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on
which you are standing is holy ground." 6 He said also, "I
am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob." Then Moses hid his face, for he was
afraid to look at God (vs. 5,6).
This is no small claim. The covenant
with Abraham (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-21, 17:1-14), reaffirmed with Isaac
(Gen. 26:23-25), and to Jacob (Gen. 28:3-19; 35:9-14), included
the promise of : a great name, a great nation, a blessing to all
the nations, an everlasting kingdom, and a land to possess forever.
Abraham received this promise by faith (Gen. 15:6), at which point
God cut the covenant with Abraham by Himself (Gen. 15:9-19). In
doing this He demonstrated His everlasting commitment to upholding
His own promise!
As He appears in the Burning Bush,
God continues by expressing His concern for the nation of Israel
and tells Moses He has heard their "cry" (Ex. 3:9). Moses'
mission is to go and bring His people out of their oppression in
Egypt; this in keeping with the covenant that God has already made.
11 "Who am I, that I should
go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out
of Egypt?" 12 And He said, "Certainly I will be with
you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent
you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall
worship God at this mountain." 13 Then Moses said to God,
"Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say
to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they
may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?"
14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said,
"Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent
me to you.'" 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus
you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The LORD (Yahweh), the God
of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the
God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and
this is My memorial-name to all generations.
God is placing incomparable significance
on His own name. He identifies Himself as Yhvh, or Yahweh
which becomes the proper name of the God of Israel. It is used
6824 times in the Old Testament as God's name.
Little can be determined as to the meaning of this name from the
etymology, therefore we must look to God's character through word
and deed in order to understand it.
"God's immediately preceeding
promise to Moses had been, "Certainly I will be with you"
(Ex. 3:12). So his assertion in verse 14 would seem to be saying,
"I am present is what I am." Indeed the fundamental
promise of his testament is, "I will be their God and they
will be My people" (Ex. 6:7, etc.; contrast Hos. 1:9); thus
"Yahweh," "faithful presence," is God's testamentary
nature, or name (Ex. 6:2,4; Deut. 7:9; Isa. 26:4)."
It is of no small significance that
God declares, "This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name
to all generations" (vs. 15). Yahweh is instructing Moses that
He is to be known in the context of His everlasting covenant promise,
forever. A memorial-name (zeker) is a name which recalls
God's great deeds.
Several psalms use this word and demonstrate that the name, Yahweh,
had indeed become synonymous with His covenant actions toward Israel.
7 They shall eagerly utter the memory (zeker) of Your
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.
4 He has made His wonders to be remembered (zeker);
The LORD is gracious and compassionate.
The point of all this lies in the incomprehensible
fact that God has disclosed to Moses His very nature. His name proclaimed
Him as eternal, self-sustaining, self-determining, ever-faithful,
sovereign reality in an everlasting covenant relationship with Israel.
This was the starting point for Moses who was about to lead them
on a journey of faith and deliverance. We can be sure that Moses
understood Yahweh to mean more than an identifying label for God,
just as God disclosed it as more than a label.
Some have had problems with the use
of Yahweh as God's name occuring before the time of the exodus,
when, as we just discussed, God revealed Himself as Yahweh. Exodus
6:2 is an interesting verse in this regard.
2 God spoke further to Moses and
said to him, "I am the LORD (Yahweh); 3 and I appeared to
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty (El-Shaddai), but by
My name, LORD (Yahweh), I did not make Myself known to them. 4
"I also established My covenant with them, to give them the
land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned.
The patriarchs knew God as El-Shaddai
but now God was making known His name, Yahweh. This indicates that
God was at work progressively revealing His own character
through His name. He was unfolding His plan.
God invited Moses to observe history
in the making as He disclosed His plans and actions. Moses not
only received the revelation from God but was prepared to recognize
God's power in events about to occur. God rehearsed with Moses
a history of His revelation to the forefathers, reminding Moses
that He was the same God whose plans had been developing for generations.
He was known historically by different names, but He remained
the same Divine Presence who gave purpose to earlier Israelite
leaders. . . . God's revelation builds off past revelations, prepares
His chosen leader to interpret present actions, and builds a path
to future revelations. God reveals Himself when His people need
Him. . . . Moses had a dimension of what he knew about God that
Abraham did not have. . . . That is not to say that earlier information
was wrong. It is only saying that earlier information was not
as complete as later information.
This idea of a progressive unfolding
of God's character through His name is overwhelmingly apparent in
Moses' writings. In addition to Ex. 6:2, He uses several combined
names for God in the context of specific events where a new aspect
of God's character is illustrated.
For example, in Genesis 22 when Abraham
is told to sacrifice Isaac, God reveals Himself as Yahweh-raah
(or Jehovah-jireh). In verse 8, Abraham said to Isaac, "God
will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."
When God did provide a ram for the burnt offering, "Abraham
called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide (Yahweh-raah),
as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will
be provided" (vs. 14). The place was called Yahweh-raah
but Yahweh revealed Himself as God who provides what he asks for
Likewise, in Exodus 17, Israel waged
war against the Amalekites. As long as Moses held up the staff of
God, Israel prevailed. When Moses' arms were lowered, the enemy
prevailed. Soon Aaron and Hur supported Moses' arms so that the
Amalekites were utterly defeated (see vs. 8-13). "Then the
LORD said to Moses, "Write this in a book as a memorial and
recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of
Amalek from under heaven." Moses built an altar and named it
The LORD is My Banner; and he said, "The LORD has sworn; the
LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation"
(vs. 14-16). The altar was named Yahweh-nes because God fought
the war for Israel and prevailed.
The Banner was Moses' rod and was a
symbol of Yahweh's faithful, powerful presence and working. It was
God's signal to rally to Him and among Jews it is also a word for
"miracle." The lesson here is that Israel could not wage
warfare alone; Yahweh is My Banner!
In another situation, God reveals a
broader moral aspect of Yahweh. When Moses is leading Israel
in the wilderness, his discouragement brings about a fascinating
discussion between he and Yahweh in Exodus 33 & 34. Moses' real
need is for God to show him His glory. This will encourage him to
complete the mission that God has given him.
17 The LORD said to Moses, "I
will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have
found favor in My sight and I have known you by name." 18
Then Moses said, "I pray You, show me Your glory!" 19
And He said, "I Myself will make all My goodness
pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD
before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will
be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I
will show compassion." 20 But He said, "You cannot see
My face, for no man can see Me and live!" (boldface, underline,
God reveals that His goodness,
graciousness and compassion are all wrapped up and
defined by His name, Yahweh. J.I. Packer asserts this as
the "foundational announcement of his moral character"
and something that is echoed later in Scripture (Ps. 86:15; Joel
This is in answer to Moses' request of God to show His glory. It
is clear by the fact that Moses could only glimpse at the back of
God that His amazing and incomprehensible goodness is but a glimpse
of the glorious, perfect nature of Yahweh.
Not long after this incident Yahweh
reveals more depth as to His moral character, desire for intimacy,
and covenant longing by announcing Himself as "the LORD whose
name is Jealous (Ex. 34:14). The word qanna, is only used
5 times in Scripture and solely of God in the context of idolatry.
As a name for God, Jealous gives power to the second commandment
(Ex. 20:5) which commands Israel not to make and worship idols,
"for I am a jealous God." This of course, is not an unrighteous
jealousy. Instead, it "is covenantal: it is the virtue of the
committed lover, who wants total loyalty of the one he has bound
himself to honor and serve."
Although it is beyond the scope of
this paper to look at even hundreds of occurances of Yahweh, it
is clear from what we have seen that both God and Moses placed tremendous
importance on names. God's names progressively reveal His character.
Once understanding the full power of them, as Moses did in the incident
of the Burning Bush, it would be inconceivable to use them without
meaning. In addition, the name Yahweh is so intrinsically tied to
covenant promise that the theological meaning and practical significance
for Israel during the most desperate times of nationhood and in
the most fruitful times, is inescapable (compare Jeremiah's trust
in Yahweh, expressed during national exile, with David's overwhelmed
response to blessing in 2 Sam. 7)!
In Genesis 1:1-2:4, Moses describes
the activity of the creation and uses the Hebrew name, Elohim
35 times in 35 verses as the agent of that creation. Elohim
is the plural form of eloah, and is translated as a name
for God 2570
times in the Old Testament. It is also used to identify "other
gods" in the OT Scripture.
"Albright has suggested that
the use of this majestic plural comes from the tendency in the
ancient near east toward a universalism: "We find in Canaanite
an increasing tendency to employ the plural Ashtorot `Astartes',
and Anatot `Anaths', in the clear sense of totality of manifestations
of a deity." But a better reason can be seen in Scripture
itself where, in the very first chapter of Gen., the necessity
of a term conveying both the unity of the one God and yet allowing
for a plurality of persons is found (Gen. 1:2,26). This is further
born out by the fact that the form elohim occurs only in Hebrew
and in no other Semitic language, not even Biblical Aramaic."
Elohim is a word that describes
the divine activity. In contrast to Yahweh as the immanent
and personal covenant God, Elohim is the Transcendent; the
Mighty Creator to be feared and awed by men. Elohim expresses greatness,
glory, and inherently contains the ideas of "creative and governing
power, omnipotence and sovereignty."
When Elohim creates, the special verb bara' is used. God
is always the subject of this verb and it separates God's creative
acts from all human comparison. The creation of Elohim is unique.
Genesis 1, then, reveals a unique, purposeful, intelligent Creator
God who authors the universe as He pleases.
Elohim is often associated with
titles by which the people of Israel came to know Him. All
of His titles are related to His nature, deeds, and or personality.
These are examples of titles related to :
Work of Creation:
Isa. 45:18; Jonah 1:9 *
Gen. 24:3,7 (see Deut. 4:39, Josh.
2:11); Is. 37:16, 54:5; 1 Ki. 20:28; Jer. 32:27; Neh. 2:4,20;
Deut. 10:17** *
Ps. 50:6, 58:11, 75:7 *
Savior God: (God linked to
individuals whom He has called)
Gen. 17:8; 26:24; 28:13;
Ex. 3:6 - There are more than 100
of these formulaic expressions.
6 He said also, "I am the
God (Elohim) of your father, the God (Elohim) of Abraham, the
God (Elohim) of Isaac, and the God (Elohim) of Jacob."
Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God (Elohim).
God's Majesty or Glory:
Isa. 40:28; 30:18; 65:15;
Jer. 10:10; 1 Sam. 6:7 *
God as linked to Israel (whole
God of the Armies of Israel (1 Sam.
God of Jerusalem (2 Chr. 32:19) *
God of Salvation
1 Chr. 16:35; Ps. 18:46 cf.
Expressing Intimacy With His People
Jer. 23:23; 2 Ki. 19:10;
Deut. 8:5; Gen. 48:15; Ps. 4:1; 59:17; 43:2; 116:5
Often the name, Elohim, is accompanied
by the name, Yahweh. In the first passage below, Moses has
cause to combine the names because of the context of creation as
well as the initial intimate blessings from God to man. In the second
passage below, the context is the covenant obligations of Israel;
therefore the use of Yahweh, and the more general Elohim as the
transcendent deity. Indeed, for Moses, it seems that the two names
appear together as "LORD God" so many times, it becomes
almost formulaic but not meaningless..
4This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they
were created, in the day that the LORD (Yahweh) God (Elohim)
made earth and heaven. 5 Now no shrub of the field was yet in
the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the
LORD (Yahweh) God (Elohim) had not sent rain upon
the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. 6 But
a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface
of the ground. 7 Then the LORD (Yahweh) God (Elohim)
formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils
the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8 The LORD
(Yahweh) God (Elohim) planted a garden toward the
east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.
9 Out of the ground the LORD (Yahweh) God (Elohim)
caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good
for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and
the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
22"You shall celebrate the Feast of Weeks, that is,
the first fruits of the wheat harvest, and the Feast of Ingathering
at the turn of the year. 23 "Three times a year all your
males are to appear before the Lord (Adonai) GOD (Yahweh),
the God (Elohim) of Israel. 24 "For I will drive out
nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall
covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before
the LORD (Yahweh) your God (Elohim).
In the following passage in Deuteronomy
10, Moses is defining Yahweh's name (see vs. 20), by making use
of other names in conjunction with Yahweh. He seems to be stretching
the limits of his own vocabulary in describing their awesome Yahweh.
Moses is staggered by His God!
16"So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no
longer. 17 "For the LORD (Yahweh) your God (Elohim) is the
God (Elohim) of gods (elohim) and the Lord (Adonai) of lords (adon),
the great, the mighty, and the awesome God (El) who does not show
partiality nor take a bribe. 18 "He executes justice for
the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by
giving him food and clothing. 19 "So show your love for the
alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. 20 "You
shall fear the LORD (Yahweh) your God (Elohim); you shall serve
Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.
Like Yahweh, there is a covenant aspect
to Elohim as well. The prophet Jeremiah directly connects the covenant
with David to Elohim.
33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the
house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD (Yahweh),
"I will put My law within them and on their heart I will
write it; and I will be their God (Elohim), and they shall be
1 "Comfort, O comfort My people," says your God
The interplay of these names is powerful
suggestion that they are often carefully and meaningfully chosen
to fit the context of the passage. As such, they contribute to the
theological content of the Scripture and are part of God's self-disclosure
to mankind. However, the significance of the use of Elohim is not
a pervasive pattern in Old Testament Scripture; the Psalms
being a prime example. Psalms 14 and 53 are almost identical and
yet the psalter in 14 employs both Yahweh and Elohim as names for
God, and in 53, the psalter uses Elohim exclusively.
Indeed, Books I, III, V prefer the name Yahweh over Elohim, Book
II prefers Elohim, and Book IV uses Yahweh exclusively.
This appears to be largely attributable to author preference.
Elohim, then is the Mighty God; powerful
and transcendent. He is a covenant God, "Elohim of Israel."
His titles link Him to God's sovereign actions in Israel's history,
filling out their understanding of the One God. Elohim figures significantly
in the unfolding plan of promise in His participation as God of
salvation (Ps. 18:46; 1 Chr. 16:35), among other roles (see titles,
The "emphatic" name, Adonai
is translated Lord in our bibles and is only used some 300
times in the Old Testament, almost always in the plural possessive.
Most of these occurrances are found in Psalms, Lamentations, and
the latter prophets.
It is also used 215 times of men and translated, "sir,"
"lord," and "master."
In situations where it refers to men (as in Gen. 24, where Eliezer
speaks of "my master, Abraham"), it is always in the singular,
The name, Adonai, signifies
ownership or mastership. Used of God, it is best understood that
He is our master and therefore fully deserving of all rights as
the owner and master of our lives. He has the right to our unrestricted
2 Abram said, "O Lord (Adonai) GOD (Yahweh), what will
You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is
Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "Since You have
given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir."
Abram addressed God as his Master.
Certainly Abram understood what this
relationship meant; perhaps better than we nowadays understand
it, for those were days of slavery. Lordship meant complete possession
on the one hand, and complete submission on the other. As already
seen, Abraham himself sustained the relationship of master and
lord over a very considerable number of souls; therefore in addressing
Jehovah as Adonai he acknowledged God's complete possession of
and perfect right to all that he was and had. . . . The purchased
slave stood in a much nearer relationship to his lord than a hired
servant. . . . In Israel, the hired servant who was a stranger
might not eat of the Passover or the holy things of the master's
house, but the purchased slave, as belonging to his master, and
so a member of the family, possessed this privilege (see Ex. 12:43-45;
Lev. 22:10,11). The slave had the right of the master's protection
and help and direction.
This aspect of the meaning of Adonai
is remarkably similar to the ancient Hebrew concept of go'el. Abram
knew the weightiness of his own role as the go'el, or "kinsman
redeemer." This idea was commonly understood in ancient family
law whereby the patriarch was responsible for the family in a wide
variety of duties. For instance, the kinsman redeemer was responsible
to buy back a family member who had been sold into slavery (Lev.
25:48ff.), or to buy back a family field which had been lost (Lev.
25:25). In addressing God as Adonai, Abram is recognizing
God as his Go'el. God is his Master and Abram will look to
Him as such.
When Moses spoke to God in the Burning
Bush, he understood that God, Adonai, held the rights even
to his gifts (or lack thereof) of speech.
10Then Moses said to the LORD, "Please, Lord (Adonai),
I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past,
nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech
and slow of tongue." 11 The LORD said to him, "Who has
made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing
or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 "Now then go, and I,
even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to
say." 13 But he said, "Please, Lord (Adonai), now send
the message by whomever You will." 14 Then the anger
of the LORD burned against Moses, and He said, "Is there
not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently.
And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees
you, he will be glad in his heart.
Moses uses the term again in Ex. 34:23
in the context the renewal of the covenant and of Yahweh's proclamation
that His name is Jealous. In this passage Moses combines
3 names for God stressing His character, His ownership, His self-sustaining,
everlasting covenant relationship, and His ultimate supremacy: The
Hebrew transliteration reads, "ha'adon yhwh elohe yisra el".
As noted previously, the psalmists
use Adonai as a name for God. Psalm 8 begins with, "O,
Yahweh, our Adonai . . ." and proceeds to recognize God's majestic
work of creation; including the sobering responsibility of man in
governing the creation.
Psalm 110 uses the name Adonai to refer
to the Messiah. The psalm stresses God's ultimate and sovereign
control over the events of history; master over the dealings of
1 The LORD (Yahweh) says to my Lord
"Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet."
2 The LORD (Yahweh) will stretch forth Your strong scepter from
"Rule in the midst of Your enemies."
3 Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power;
In holy array, from the womb of the dawn,
Your youth are to You as the dew.
4 The LORD (Yahweh) has sworn and will not change His mind,
"You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek."
5 The Lord (Adonai) is at Your right hand;
He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.
6 He will judge among the nations,
He will fill them with corpses,
He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.
7 He will drink from the brook by the wayside;
Therefore He will lift up His head.
David's response to God after He makes
His covenant with him is the response of a servant to his Adonai.
He is full of the recognition that he is unworthy and that his Master
is also the ever-faithful and ever-present God of covenant, Yahweh.
He also recognizes the supreme transcendence of Elohim (vs.
2 Samuel 7:18-22
18 Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD (Yahweh),
and he said, "Who am I, O Lord (Adonai) GOD (Yahweh), and
what is my house, that You have brought me this far? 19 "And
yet this was insignificant in Your eyes, O Lord (Adonai) GOD (Yahweh),
for You have spoken also of the house of Your servant concerning
the distant future. And this is the custom of man, O Lord (Adonai)
GOD (Yahweh). 20 "Again what more can David say to You? For
You know Your servant, O Lord (Adonai) GOD (Yahweh)! 21 "For
the sake of Your word, and according to Your own heart, You have
done all this greatness to let Your servant know. 22 "For
this reason You are great, O Lord (Adonai) GOD (Yahweh); for there
is none like You, and there is no God (Elohim) besides You, according
to all that we have heard with our ears.
Throughout Lamentations, Jeremiah uses
both Adonai and Yahweh. It appears as if maybe these two names are
used interchangeably and without much deliberateness in context.
However, one of the principle roles of the adon; master is the protection
of, and provision for the slave as a member of his own family. Likewise,
the role of Yahweh of covenant promised them everlasting nationhood,
land, etc. Jeremiah writes to a nation in the desperate throws of
exile; a nation that had great cause to wonder where Adonai and
Yahweh have gone.
1 How the Lord (Adonai) has covered the daughter of Zion
With a cloud in His anger!
He has cast from heaven to earth
The glory of Israel,
And has not remembered His footstool
In the day of His anger.
2 The Lord (Adonai) has swallowed up; He has not spared
All the habitations of Jacob.
In His wrath He has thrown down
The strongholds of the daughter of Judah;
He has brought them down to the ground;
He has profaned the kingdom and its princes.
3 In fierce anger He has cut off
All the strength of Israel;
He has drawn back His right hand
From before the enemy.
And He has burned in Jacob like a flaming fire
Consuming round about.
4 He has bent His bow like an enemy;
He has set His right hand like an adversary
And slain all that were pleasant to the eye;
In the tent of the daughter of Zion
He has poured out His wrath like fire.
5 The Lord (Adonai) has become like an enemy.
He has swallowed up Israel;
He has swallowed up all its palaces,
He has destroyed its strongholds
And multiplied in the daughter of Judah
Mourning and moaning.
6 And He has violently treated His tabernacle like a garden booth;
He has destroyed His appointed meeting place.
The LORD (Yahweh) has caused to be forgotten
The appointed feast and sabbath in Zion,
And He has despised king and priest
In the indignation of His anger.
7 The Lord (Adoani) has rejected His altar,
He has abandoned His sanctuary;
He has delivered into the hand of the enemy
The walls of her palaces.
They have made a noise in the house of the LORD (Yahweh)
As in the day of an appointed feast.
8 The LORD (Yahweh) determined to destroy
The wall of the daughter of Zion.
He has stretched out a line,
He has not restrained His hand from destroying,
And He has caused rampart and wall to lament;
They have languished together.
9 Her gates have sunk into the ground,
He has destroyed and broken her bars.
Her king and her princes are among the nations;
The law is no more.
Also, her prophets find
No vision from the LORD (Yahweh).
The fact that Jeremiah only uses Elohim,
a couple of times in Lamentations only serves to strengthen the
argument that he was quite intentional about his choice of Yahweh/Adonai.
Indeed, Jeremiah's point seems to be that God appears to have broken
His covenant relationship with Israel. This would be to act against
Yahweh/Adonai's own character!
The master-slave relationship indemic
in the name Adonai makes this name material to our understanding
of the Scriptures. It illustrates both the rights and obligations
of the master and the obedience of the slave.
God first revealed Himself as El-Shaddai
at the time of the covenant with Abram and in connection with the
promise of progeny:
1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared
to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty (El-Shaddai);
Walk before Me, and be blameless. 2 "I will establish My
covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly."
This promise by El-Shaddai is given
on the heels of promise to make Abraham's descendants innumerable
(see Gen. 12,13, 15). The context immediately following this passage
is the renaming of Abram, thus God's covenant promise to him became
part of Abraham's identity. Is there significance to Moses' choice
of the name, El-Shaddai?
The word, El is the word from which
the name Elohim is derived. It is translated "God" over
200 times in Scripture with the general significance of might, power,
For example, "You are the God who works wonders; You have made
known Your strength among the peoples" (Ps. 77:14; see also
The name, El, is also used by Isaiah and Nehemiah in reference to
His mighty deeds (Is. 40; Neh. 9:32). The word el is also
a more generally understood term for "power" (Gen. 31:29;
Micah 2:1). What about Shaddai? This name is used 48 times in the
Old Testament, most often in Job (31 times). Only seven of its occurances
is it prefaced by el. Usually Shaddai is translated "Almighty".
Reasonable suggestion for the meaning of this word are:
1. It is connected to the Hebrew
verb shadad, which means "to destroy" and therefore
the name for God would mean, "my destroyer." 2.
2. It is connected with the Akkadian,
sadu, which means "mountain" and therefore El-Shaddai
would mean "God of the mountain;" or God's abode. This
is the "most widely accepted" view, championed by W.
F. Albright, among others.
Leon Morris draws the conclusion after
a survey of the various possiblities regarding the meaning of sadday,
that etymology yields nothing! He cites S. R. Driver in saying that
neither Hebrew nor any other of the cognate Semitic languages offer
any sufficient explanation of it. In a general sense, he sees this
name as communicating the thought of God's power either in blessing,
protection, or punishment.
In light of the lack of information
provided by etymology, we can look to helpful clues from the context.
The context for the use of the name Shaddai outside of Job, is the
covenant. First, to Abraham (as we have seen in Gen. 17:1), then
to Isaac (Gen. 28:3), and finally to Jacob (Gen. 35:11; 43:14; 48:3).
3"May God Almighty (El-Shaddai) bless you and make you
fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples
11God also said to him,
"I am God Almighty (El-Shaddai);
Be fruitful and multiply;
A nation and a company of nations shall come from you,
And kings shall come forth from you.
Stone suggests that Shaddai is derived
from the similar word, shad, which the Bible translates,
This occurs 21 times in the Old Testament, some of which are found
in Song of Solomon and Hosea, refering to sensual situations, in
the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekial as gestures of mourning and
arrival at the maturity of young adulthood (see Is. 32:12; Ezk.
23:34, "he smote upon his breast"; Is. 28:9; Ezk. 16:7,
"Those just weaned . . . taken from the breast"). Where
is Stone's argument for the name Shaddai being derived from "breast"?
There is an interesting verse in Genesis 49:
From the hands of the Mighty One
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
25 From the God (El) of your father who helps you,
And by the Almighty (Shaddai) who blesses you
With blessings of heaven above,
Blessings of the deep that lies beneath,
Blessings of the breasts (shad) and of the womb.
26 "The blessings of your father
Have surpassed the blessings of my ancestors
Up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills;
May they be on the head of Joseph,
And on the crown of the head of the one distinguished among his
Victor P. Hamilton connects the word
shad to the blessing of fertility and progeny in this verse
Stone connects the name, Shaddai with shad, and suggests
that "Shaddai signifies one who nourishes, supplies and satisfies.
Connected with the word for God, El, it then becomes the
"One mighty to nourish, satisfy, supply." El-Shaddai then,
is the God "who abundantly blesses with all manner of blessings".
Stone supports his argument with some
passages from Isaiah which reinforce the connections between the
promise of blessing to Israel and the illustration of nourishment
and blessings of the breast.
15 "Whereas you have been forsaken and hated
With no one passing through,
I will make you an everlasting pride,
A joy from generation to generation.
16 "You will also suck the milk of nations
And suck the breast of kings;
Then you will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior
And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
10 "Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all
you who love her;
Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her,
11 That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts,
That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom."
12 For thus says the LORD, "Behold, I extend peace to her
like a river,
And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;
And you will be nursed, you will be carried on the hip and fondled
on the knees.
13 "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you;
And you will be comforted in Jerusalem."
Stone also argues that many ancient
near eastern cultures worshipped idols that incorporated breasted
female images in order to bring forth blessings of rain which would
yield the fruit of the field necessary to sustain and nourish life.
He also notes that the "common Hebrew word for field, (sadeh)
. . . is simply another form of the word shaddai. It is the field
as cultivated earth which nourishes and sustains life."
"From all this it is felt that
the name El-Shaddai or God Almighty is much better
understood as that El who is all sufficient and all bountiful, the
source of all blessing and fullness and fruitfulness."
With this in view, it makes sense that
the God who will bless Abraham with a son in fulfillment of His
promise, would be El-Shaddai, source of all blessing. It is also
not surprising that the other instances of this name occur in the
context of the promise of progeny and the command to "be fruitful
and multiply" to Isaac and Jacob as well. Shaddai blesses,
nourishes and sustains the progeny of promise.
Walter Kaiser identifies the "blessing"
motif as the earliest expression of the promise. He says:
For men, it involved more than the
divine gift of proliferation and "dominion having." The
same word also marked the immediacy whereby all the nations of the
earth could prosper spiritually through the mediatorship of Abraham
and his seed: this too, was part of the "blessing." Obviously,
pride of place must be given to this term as the first to signify
the plan of God.
The argument that the name El-Shaddai
is properly and fully understood in terms of blessing, specifically
blessing of progeny in the covenant to the patriarchs appears reasonable.
But what are we to make of the majority of occurances of El-Shaddai
in the book of Job? In light of the probable early origins of Job
(quite possibly during the patriarchal period), and the fact that
the book is about the removal of blessing from Job in order to test
his faith, the choice of El-Shaddai as God's name seems most appropriate
if understood as the God of blessing, nourishment and sustenance!
In support of this, there are other
passages in which El-Shaddai is used in connection with suffering.
Consider Naomi's words in 1:20, 21: "She said to them, "Do
not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty (Shaddai) has
dealt very bitterly with me. 21"I went out full, but the LORD
(Yahweh) has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since
the LORD (Yahweh) has witnessed against me and the Almighty (Shaddai)
has afflicted me?"
Could it be true that El-Shaddai, the
God of blessing, is the same God who afflicts her? The lesson here
is the same as it was for Job and Abraham (in his inability to conceive
a child), that being that in order to experience God's sufficiency
and receive His blessing, we must understand our insufficiency.
Stone comments, "The less empty of self we are, the less of
blessing God can pour into us; the more of pride and self-sufficiency,
the less fruit we can bear. Sometimes only chastening can make us
realize this." We have to understand that God's ultimate purpose
is that we know God and His great love for us.
Our original questions considered whether
or not the name/names used for God were intended to have a material
effect on the theological content of the scripture? Or, are they,
generally speaking, arbitrary, interchangeable, and a simple reflection
of author preference?
There is little doubt that God fully
intended His name/names to be full of meaning regarding His nature
and character. His character is incontravertably tied up in His
covenant with the nation of Israel and therefore, so is His name.
There is no way to divorce the name of the meaning it possesses.
We have seen examples from Moses writings, David's, other psalmists,
Jeremiah, Ruth, Isaiah, and Job. All of them seem to carry an awareness
of the meanings of names for God and use them appropriately. The
fact that often the names are used together gives the reader insight
into the frustration of the author to communicate the whole character
of Israel's God. The most important aspect of these names for God,
and the element that connects them to the unfolding of the Promise
plan, is the aspect of covenant which we find in varying
degrees and with varied richness in all of them. God wants Israel
to know and understand Him this way. He wants them to understand
His ever-faithful longsuffering, and their required response of
obedience and faith.
Our answer has to be yes. The names
for God do have a material effect on the theological content of
Scripture. Yahweh stands out as the name by which God reveals His
own nature, but the others aid in filling the vaccuum of our finite
minds. There are, no doubt, places where the names used are due
to author preference, but even there, we will not find an inappropriate
name used. God is in control.
The most significant lesson learned
from this is how much God wants us to know Him. He was continually
at work expanding and revealing Israel's knowledge of Him through
the circumstances in their lives. He is at work expanding and revealing
Himself to us as well . God will show us His glory as He
did for Moses, because His covenant with us is part of who He is;
His commitment is everlasting.
No certain etymology has been established for this word. Many scholars
prefer the view of W. R. Smith who derives it from the Arabic root
wsm "to mark or brand." This view renders it merely an
external mark that distinguishes one person or thing from another
(Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, Vol. 2, R. Laird
Harris, Ed., (Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1980), pg. 934. Return
J.I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian
Beliefs, (Tyndale House, Wheaton, Ill.), "Self-Disclosure."
Return to Text
J.O. Sanders, Satan is No Myth, (Moody Press, Chicago, 1975),
p. 24, 25. Sanders states that while the word, satan, is used of
human adversaries (see 1 Ki. 11:14,23), in 56 instances it is a
personal name reserved for the devil and represented as the "implacable
adversary of God and man." Sanders has an excellent chapter
in this book devoted to exposing the rich content behind the names
chosen for the devil throughout the Scripture. Return to Text
Ibid., p. 25. Sanders cites a work by T.C. Horton (The Wonderful
Names of Our Wonderful Lord), which identifies 365 names for
the persons of the Trinity. I was unable to find this work. Return
Nathan Stone, Names of God, (Moody Press, Chicago, 1944),
p. 9. Return to Text
G. Herbert Livingston, The Pentateuch in its Cultural Environment,
(Baker, Grand Rapids, MI, 1974), p. 149. Return to Text
Walter Kaiser Jr., Toward and Old Testament Theology, (Zondervan,
Grand Rapids, MI, 1978), p. 69. Return to Text
New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance, Robert L. Thomas,
Th.D. Gen. Ed., updated by W. Don Wilkins, Th.D., Ph.D., (Parsons
Technology, Cedar Rapids, IA, Electronic Edition, STEP Files, 1998).
Return to Text
Theological Word Book of The Old Testament, Vol. 1, R. Laird
Harris, Ed., (Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1980), p. 210,211. God's
name represents the simple (Qal) imperfect of hawa "to
be," I am is what I am. Return to Text
Ibid., p. 212. "More than anything perhaps, the "is-ness"
of God is expressive both of his presence and his existence. Neither
concept can be said to be more important than the other," p.214.
Return to Text
Ibid., p. 242. Return to Text
In each of these psalms, the underlined word is the Hebrew word,
zeker. This is the same word used in Ex. 3:15 referring to
the personal name, Yahweh.. Return to Text
Disciples Study Bible, Holmann Bible Publishers, 1988, (Parsons
Technology, Cedar Rapids, IA, Electronic Edition STEP Files, 1998),
"Exodus 6:1-5," "Exodus 6:2,3." Return to
Stone, pg. 86-91. Return to Text
Packer, "Self-Disclosure." Return to Text
TWBOT, Vol. 2, pg. 803. Return to Text
Packer, "Self-Disclosure." Return to Text
TWBOT, Vol. 1, pg. 44. Return to Text
Ibid., pg. 44. The plural ending is usually descried as one of majesty
and not intended as true plural when used of God. The noun, elohim,
is consistently used with singular verb forms, adjectives and pronouns.
This objection to the Trinity in the name Elohim is rejected by
conservative scholars like Nathan Stone who also cites John Calvin.
They argue that the majestic plural (ie: that used of kings) was
not known then. The plural form with the singular pronoun, etc.
is fully consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity. (See Nathan
Stone, Names of God, pg. 16,17) Return to Text
Stone, pg. 12. Return to Text
Disciples Study Bible, "Genesis 1:1." Return
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Vol. 1, pg. 44-45.
Elohim is usually attached in titles by means of a construct, relative
clause, or participle phrase. Return to Text
TWBOT, Vol. 1, pg. 212. Return to Text
Lee Campbell's notes. Return to Text
This deserves more careful consideration. Return to Text
TWBOT, Vol. 1, pg. 13. Return to Text
Ibid. It occurs when Sarah speaks to Abraham (Gen. 18:12), Lot to
the angels (19:2), Joseph was called Lord (42:10); Ruth called Boaz
(Ru. 2:13); Hannah to Eli (1 Sam. 1:15). Return to Text
Stone, pg. 43. Return to Text
Ibid., pg. 44. Return to Text
Ibid., pg. 46. Return to Text
Arthur Cundall & Leon Morris, Judges & Ruth: An Introduction
and Commentary, (Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester, England / Downers
Grove, Illinois, 1968), ppg. 282,283. Return to Text
TWBOT, Vol. 1, ppg. 12,13. This is one of numerous situations where
the singular suffix is used in reference to God (see also Deut.
10:17). There is never a case when adon appears in
the "special plural form with a first common pronominal suffix"
that does not refer to God. Return to Text
Stone, pg. 32. Return to Text
This psalmist makes use of the names, Elohim, Adonay, Yahweh, as
well as the general, El. As we have seen, the use of many names
is not uncommon and, either the psalmist is using the names interchangeably,
or, he is exploring and exposing the whole character and nature
of God? In the following exerpt from the same psalm, we can see
the reason for the psalmist to be questioning God's whole character.
3 When I remember God (Elohim), then I am disturbed; When
I sigh, then my spirit grows faint. Selah. 4 You have held
my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5
I have considered the days of old, The years of long ago. 6 I will
remember my song in the night; I will meditate with my heart, And
my spirit ponders: 7 Will the Lord (Adonai) reject forever? And
will He never be favorable again? 8 Has His lovingkindness ceased
forever? Has His promise come to an end forever? 9 Has God
(El) forgotten to be gracious, Or has He in anger withdrawn His
compassion? Return to Text
TWBOT, Vol., 2, pg. 907. It is interesting that this translation
dates back to the LXX which translates it pantokrator, meaning
"all-powerful". The Vulgate translates it omnipotens,
for the same general meaning. The Babylonian Talmud (Hagigah 12a)
understands it as derived from she-day, which means "the
one who is (self)sufficient". Return to Text
Ibid. Return to Text
Cundall & Morris, ppg. 264-267. Return to Text
Stone, pg. 34. Return to Text
TWBOT, Vol., 2, pg. 907. Return to Text
Stone, pg. 34. Return to Text
Ibid., pgs. 34,35. Return to Text
Ibid., pg. 36. Return to Text
Ibid., pg. 37. Return to Text
Kaiser, Toward An Old Testament Theology, pg. 33. Return
Stone., pg. 40-42. Return to Text