The following post is the complete study on God’s names, which first appeared as individual posts from June 3, 2022-August 5, 2022. You can find links to each original post here. You can also find a PDF version of this study on the Free Resources page.
In American culture, names rarely describe a person’s character. “In the Bible a person’s name is a description of his or her character.” This is clearly seen in Genesis 25:19-28, where Esau and Jacob are born and named. Esau means “rough,” and he was red and hairy. Jacob means, “heel-catcher”, and Jacob was born holding onto Esau’s heel. Jesus named James and John the sons of thunder, due to their character (Mark 3:17). “This truth is accentuated by the fact that, when a person acquired some new significance, the name was changed accordingly…”
God has revealed His names and titles describing His character perfectly. While individuals may not act according to their names, God always acts in accordance with His description of Himself. “The many names of God in the Scripture provide additional revelation of His character. These are not mere titles assigned by people but, for the most part, His own descriptions of Himself.”
A.W. Tozer has wisely said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Studying the names of God will be helpful for forming a right conviction about who God is, since they provide us with a glimpse into God’s self-revelation of His character.
This study will give attention to the names Elohim, El-Olam, El-Roi, El Shaddai, Yahweh, Yahweh Tsidkenu, and Yahweh Jireh. Attention will also be given to the practical comfort each Christian can have through a knowledge of God’s characteristics given in these names.
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.” It is used 2,310 times to refer to the God of the Bible. Elohim is a plural of majesty, the plural form of el which “conveys a clear impression of grandeur or majesty.”
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.” 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.” 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. 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).
El-Olam is a compound word from Elohim. “This name means, ‘the Everlasting God,’ from an original form meaning, ‘the God of eternity.’” The word olam designates continuance and perpetual existence. While the name is not found in Psalm 90:2, the truth found in the name El Olam is there: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
God is eternally God. This name also “stresses the unchanging character of God (Genesis 21:33; Isaiah 40:28).” Since He is the eternal God, He is unchanging. Again, the name El-Olam in Malachi 3:6, but the truth of this name is evident there: “For I the LORD do not change.”
El Olam is the Creator and all-powerful God. Isaiah 40:28 says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” Verse 29 also says He is the One who gives strength to those that are weary. Since He is Creator and eternally strong, He is also the Source of infinite strength.
Believers have continual access to the Everlasting God by the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:18). When we are weak and fainting there is still limitless supply of strength because we may draw from El-Olam’s strength.
The name El-Roi appears only once in the Bible, and it comes from an unlikely source. This name comes from Hagar, the Egyptian handmaid of Sarah who also became Abraham’s wife. The sixteenth chapter of Genesis records Abraham’s sin of marrying Hagar. The family trouble that came from this union caused Hagar to run away. God saw Hagar by a spring in the wilderness and asked why she was in the wilderness. She said she was running away from Sarai her mistress. The Lord commanded Hagar to return to Sarai, and He sent her with the promise that He would multiply her seed.
Hagar’s response to this encounter is in Genesis 16:13-14: “So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’ Therefore, the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.” “God of seeing” is a translation of El-Roi, which means “God who sees.”
Hagar also named the place Beer-lahai-roi as a memorial of this event. Beer-lahai-roi means “well of a living (One), my seer.” God commanded Hagar to name her child Ishmael, which means “God who hears.” El-Roi not only saw Hagar, but He heard her distress. He acted compassionately by giving her confidence of her child’s future. He also gave her son’s name as a memorial for her. Each time she said Ishmael’s name it would be a reminder that the Lord heard her prayers.
Although El-Roi only appears once in the Bible, Proverbs 15:3 explains it well, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” Believers serve El-Roi, the God who sees. He is not a distant God, who does not care about the needs of His people. He sees each need, every good work, all distress, and each sin. He hears every one of our prayers. Christians can confidently say, as Hagar did, “You are a God of seeing… who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13).
Sixteen years elapsed between Hagar’s encounter with El-Roi and the first appearance of the name El-Shaddai. “El Shaddai means ‘Almighty God.’” This is obviously referring to God’s power. “Though the derivation of this word is uncertain, the most accepted one is that shaddai is connected with an Akkadian word that means ‘mountain.’” God is strong and immovable like the mountains.
In Genesis 17:1-2 the Lord told Abraham, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you and may multiply you greatly.” This name is connected to God’s covenant with Abraham and the reaffirmation of that covenant with Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 35:11-15, 48:3). In Exodus 6:2-4, God told Moses that it was by His name El Shaddai that He entered covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. “‘God Almighty’ revealed Himself as a powerful deity who was able to perform whatever He asserted.” God promised Abraham descendants and a land. He was more than capable of keeping that promise, as God Almighty.
Believers can find great comfort in our all-powerful God. He has made promises to His people throughout history, and He is powerful enough to keep all those promises. God can keep every promise He makes, because He is El Shaddai, strong and immovable.
“The name Yahweh translates the Hebrew tetragrammaton (four-lettered expression) YHWH.” This is the name that God revealed to Moses as His personal name (Exodus 3:14). It is so sacred that many Jewish people will not pronounce it. Dr. Charles Ryrie explains:
Since Yahweh was God’s personal name by which He was known to Israel, in post-exilic times it began to be considered so sacred that it was not pronounced. Instead, the term Adonai was usually substituted, and by the sixth to seventh centuries A.D. the vowels of Adonai were combined with the consonants YHWH to remind the synagogue readers to pronounce the sacred name as Adonai. From this came the artificial word Jehovah.
In Exodus 3 God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and called Moses to lead the Hebrews out of slavery. Moses asked for God’s name, so he could tell the people of Israel if they asked for God’s name. “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).
“This name is derived from the Hebrew verb, Havah, meaning ‘to be, or being’…” God is self-existent. He exists of His own power. He is who He is, which is God. The LORD is not only existing now, but has continual, eternal existence as God. As the self-existent One, He is also the cause of all things. “Jehovah lives as no other being lives. He is not caused but is the cause of all that is. He is unchangeable, infinite, and eternal.” Since God eternally is, He is unchanging. He cannot change, or else He would cease to be who He is. Eternally, continually, unchangingly God is.
This is the personal name of God that is exclusively found in the Bible. While El is a general name for God found in other cultures, Yahweh is the personal name of the God of the Bible. It is used 6,828 times in the Old Testament. It is the name the Lord used to reveal Himself to His covenant people Israel in relation to His covenants with them (Deuteronomy 29; 2 Samuel 7:1-17; Jeremiah 31:31-40).
Believers in Jesus Christ can find confidence and comfort in their relationship to Yahweh. The One who needs nothing and is dependent on no one has shown grace and mercy toward us and entered a relationship with us (Psalm 117; Exodus 34:6-7). Although He needs no one He desires to have a relationship with us, and He has made this relationship possible through coming as one of us and dying for our sins (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:5-11). The One who created us and created us anew in salvation, is also the One who sustains and preserves (Genesis 2:7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:17).
This is one of the most amazing names in the Bible. It is found in Jeremiah 23:5-6: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days, Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’” Yahweh Tsidkenu means, “Jehovah our Righteousness.”
In Jeremiah 23:5-6, God promised to set up a righteous King to rule over Judah and Israel. “People would refer to Him as ‘Yahweh our righteousness.’ This strongly indicates that this King would be Yahweh Himself ruling in righteousness (cf. 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21).” In light of New Testament revelation, Jesus is the I AM (John 8:58). Jesus is this promised King who will rule the nations with justice (Matthew 16:16-17; Revelation 19:11-20:6).
Not only will Jesus rule in righteousness, but He will be Israel and Judah’s righteousness. Judah and Israel’s righteousness will not be earned through works of the Law; it will be found in Yahweh. This is true in every era. No one can earn a right standing with God. “None is righteous, no, not one” (Psalm 14:1; Romans 3:10). “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Righteousness is in Yahweh, alone, in Christ alone. As it says in Romans 3:21-23, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Righteousness comes through trusting in Yahweh Tsidkenu, Jesus Christ.
Believers in Jesus Christ can confidently say we are righteous before God. This righteousness is not found in our goodness or works. This righteousness is found in Jesus who is Yahweh Tsidkenu, the LORD our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Yahweh Jireh is the name of a place rather than a name for God. “So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The LORD will provide;” as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided’” (Genesis 22:14). Still, it contains God’s personal name and reveals an incredible aspect of God’s character. The English Standard Version gives the meaning of Yahweh Jireh in its translation of Genesis 22:14. Yahweh Jireh means “The LORD will provide.”
In Genesis 22 God told Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, at a mountain that God would reveal to him. Abraham obeyed the Lord. Abraham took Isaac up on the mountain named Moriah. Abraham had not told Isaac what was going to take place. In Genesis 22:7, Isaac asked a question that pulls on the heart strings of every parent, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for burnt offering?” In verse eight Abraham responded, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”
Abraham had no idea what God would do. People reading this account today can easily see the result, but Abraham could not know. Hebrews 11:17-19 says that Abraham offered Isaac in faith, knowing that God could raise him from the dead. Abraham trusted God with the son of promise (Genesis 17:19).
Abraham was getting ready to slay his son, but the angel of the LORD stopped him. Abraham’s response of faith was rewarded by the Lord with a provision. The LORD provided a ram in a thicket for a sacrifice. God provided a substitute for Isaac, preserving the son He promised to Abraham. After offering the ram as a sacrifice, Abraham named the place Yahweh Jireh.
One may ask, “What about the Lamb?” Abraham said that the Lord would provide a lamb, but He provided a ram instead. God did supply a Lamb for Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). The ram was a temporary substitute that looked ahead to the eternal Substitute.
God has provided much for believers in the church age. He has provided substitution through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2). He has provided deliverance from sin through the death of the Son on the cross (Ephesians 1:7). He has given the Spirit to seal and indwell each believer (Ephesians 1:14). The LORD, the self-existent, all-powerful God provides for His own.
The many names of the one biblical God reveal aspects of His character. Elohim is the sovereign, powerful God. El Olam is the everlasting God. El Roi is the God who sees everything. El Shaddai is the God of strength who can keep His promises. Yahweh is the personal, self-existent God, who is the source of all life. Yahweh Tsidkenuh is the righteousness of all who believe. Yahweh Jireh reminds believers that the Lord provides. With knowledge of the Lord’s character, believers can find comfort and assurance. Knowledge of God’s character also leads to worship. When believers learn more about God’s character, they will be encouraged to speak well of Him and live to serve Him.
Appendix: Objections to “Yahweh” in Genesis
God’s statement in Exodus 6:2-3 troubles some. “God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD is did not make myself known to them.” The problem lies in the fact that the name Yahweh appears in Genesis, long before the Lord revealed Himself to Moses. Yahweh was used by Eve (Genesis 4:1), multiple people (Genesis 4:26), Abraham (Genesis 22:14), Laban and Bethuel (Genesis 24:50), Isaac (Genesis 27:7), and Jacob (Genesis 27:20). This list is not exhaustive to the number of times that a person used Yahweh to refer to God. So, what did God mean when He said that this name was not revealed to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer presents two possibilities. First, that the patriarchs knew the name Yahweh, but God had not revealed its significance to them. Secondly, Moses wrote the Genesis account, so he used that name to designate God, even though the people in Genesis did not know the name Yahweh. Moses would have redacted information if he simply used a name that the patriarchs did not know. For instance, Genesis 22:14 is clear that Abraham named the place where he prepared to sacrifice Isaac Yahweh Jireh. It would be inaccurate to say that Abraham named the place Yahweh Jireh when he named it something else. Though it leaves room for question, it seems best to say that though the patriarchs knew the name Yahweh, they were not given the significance of the name Yahweh as Moses and the Israelites were.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology. Vol. 1. Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1973.
Constable, Thomas. “Notes on Jeremiah: 2016 Edition.” Sonic Light, 2016. Accessed July 27, 2016. http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/jeremiah.pdf.
Enns, Paul. The Moody Handbook of Theology. Revised and Expanded. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.
Lockyer, Herbert. 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.
Ryrie, Charles. Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding
Biblical Truth. Chicago: Moody Press, 1999.
Strong, James. “883. BEER-LAHAI-ROI.” The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary
of Bible Words. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.
——- . “6215. Esau.” The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words.
Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.
——- . “3290. Jacob.” The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words.
Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.
——- . “5769. olam.” The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words.
Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.
Unger, Merrill F., and William White, Jr., eds. “God.” Nelson’s Expository
Dictionary of the Old Testament. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996.
——-, eds. “LORD.” Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament.
Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996.
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 157.
 James Strong, “6215. Esau,” The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).
 Ibid, “3290. Jacob”.
 Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1973).
 Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 51.
 A.W. Tozer. The Knowledge of the Holy: The Attributes of God (New York: Harper One, 1961), 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).
 Ryrie, Basic Theology, 51.
 Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr., eds., “God,” Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament (Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996).
 Chafer, Systematic Theology, 265.
 Lockyer, All Names, 5.
 Strong, “5769. Olam.”
 Ryrie, Basic Theology, 53.
 Strong, “883. BEER-LAHAI-ROI.”
 Lockyer, All Names, 11
 Ibid, 12
 Ryrie, Basic Theology, 52.
 Unger and White, “God.”
 Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, Revised and Expanded (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008), 201.
 Ryrie, Basic Theology, 53-54.
 Lockyer, All Names, 19.
 Chafer, Systematic Theology, 264.
 Unger and White, “LORD.”
Lockyer, All Names, 53.
 Thomas Constable. “Notes on Jeremiah: 2016 Edition.” Sonic Light, 2016. Accessed July 27, 2016. http://www.soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/jeremiah.pdf, 124
 Chafer, Systematic Theology, 262.