The Names of God – Elohim

The first time God’s name is found in the Bible is in Genesis chapter one verse one. “The Hebrew for this very first name is Elohim, and it fittingly describes God in the unity of His divine personality and power.”[1] It is used 2,310 times to refer to the God of the Bible.[2] Elohim is a plural of majesty, the plural form of el which “conveys a clear impression of grandeur or majesty.”[3]

El and Elohim are more general names for deity. They can be used of the biblical God, but they also refer to pagan gods. In Exodus 12:12 God said, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.” The word translated “gods” is the Hebrew word elohim. Context clearly indicates if the word is referring to the biblical God or pagan deities.

As mentioned before, Elohim is a plural of majesty. This plurality has led some scholars, to argue that Elohim alludes to the Trinity. Dr. Charles Ryrie warns, “to conclude this necessitates reading New Testament revelation back into the Old Testament. The plural may allow for the subsequent revelation of the Trinity, but that is quite different from saying that the plural indicates Triunity.”[4] The Trinity is not a contradiction to Old Testament teaching, but the Trinity was not revealed until the New Testament. The God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament. He has always existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but this truth was not revealed until the New Testament was written (Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 29:18-20; Ephesians 1:3-14, 2:18).

Scholars are divided as to the root of the word elohim. “Some trace it to a root which means The Strong One, and others to a root which denotes fear, and from this it is claimed the essential idea of reverence springs… No doubt all that these two root ideas originate as to the meaning of Elohim is true.”[5] The biblical God is the all-powerful Creator of the universe, and the name Elohim is used thirty-five times “in connection with God’s creative power.[6] Only God can boast, “Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” (Isaiah 44:8).

The name Elohim can provide great comfort and hope for Christians. Believers do not serve gods of wood or stone that are helpless (Isaiah 40:19-20). As Moses told the Israelites in Deuteronomy 10:17, “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.” Christians serve Elohim, “…that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers…” (Isaiah 40:22). “To whom then will you liken God (Elohim)?” (Isaiah 40:18). There is no one to compare with God. He is the all-powerful Creator (Genesis 1:1-31). He is sovereign over His creation (Isaiah 54:5), and the earth should give thanks to Him for His mercy (Psalm 136:2).

[1] Herbert Lockyer, All the Divine Names and Titles in the Bible: A Unique Classification of All Scripture Designations of the Three Persons of the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975).
[2] Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 51.
[3] Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr., eds., “God,” Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament (Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996).
[4] Ryrie, Basic Theology, 52.
[5]Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1973), 265.
[6] Lockyer, All Names, 5.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.