Names of God

by Bob Davidson

Names of God

In our modern world parents tend to give their children names they like, or names which are fashionable, little attention being given to the meanings of the names. This has not always been so, and especially in Scripture, names are frequently given specifically because of their meanings.

Samuel means ‘asked of God’ or ‘God heard, Daniel means ‘God my judge’ and Joshua means ‘Jehovah my saviour’. Dispensationalists recognize the significance of the name Lo-ammi, given by the Lord to a son of the prophet Hosea. A great deal of care is taken with names in Scripture because of their meanings, and as would be expected, the same applies to the names used of God. If the Lord’s names are specific in their meanings then it is likely that these names reflect His character and attributes.

ELOHIM

Elohim is the first divine name to appear in Scripture and its first occurrence is in Genesis 1:1 where it is stated that in the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. This clearly connects Elohim with the creation and is the only divine title used in Genesis 1. Elohim is therefore the power behind creation and the source of life. The name appears in the Old Testament about 2700 times and is translated ‘God’.

In John 1:1-3, Col 1:16 and Heb 1:3 it is made quite clear that Christ was the Creator. It is difficult to escape the inference that Christ is in fact Elohim. We know from John 3:24 that God is spirit and from John 1:18 that no man hath seen God at any time, yet Elohim visited Adam in the garden as Jehovah Elohim (The Lord God) Gen 2 & 3, and God and man obviously came face to face at that time. Elohim appeared to Abraham in Gen 22 and told him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Jacob wrestled with Elohim Gen 32:24-30, and in v30 says “I have seen Elohim face to face”. Elohim appeared to Moses in the burning bush Ex 3:6, and it was Elohim who said to Moses “I AM THAT I AM” Ex 3:15

This seems to create a problem, but Col 1:15 says Christ is the image of the invisible God and that He is the firstborn of all creation. Could it be that God took on the form of Elohim – the image of the invisible God – and that it was Elohim who was born at Bethlehem? Was “being in the form of God” (Phil 2:6) actually being Elohim? If this is so then it is certainly true that “the great Creator became our Saviour”

EL SHADDAI

Shaddai occurs 48 times and is always translated “Almighty”. On seven occasions it is combined with El, related to Elohim, to form El-Shaddai. Its origin is probably related to the idea of All-bountiful rather than All-mighty, and this thought is supported by the following references. In Gen 17:1 Jehovah appears to Abram and declares Himself to be El-Shaddai. The following five verses relate to Abram’s fruitfulness and the name Abram – meaning exalted father – is changed to Abraham – meaning father of a multitude. In Gen 35:11 Elohim has just changed Jacob’s name to Israel when Elohim says “I am El-Shaddai: be fruitful and multiply.” It is noteworthy that in these references both Jehovah and Elohim say “I am EI-Shaddai.”, thus forming a strong connection between the two. As has already been noted Elohim is Christ, but these references suggest that El-Shaddai and Jehovah are also Christ. This makes great sense of Phil 4:19, My God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

A search of other Old Testament passages referring to El-Shaddai, Shaddai or The Almighty shed further light on the idea of All-bountiful.

JEHOVAH

Jehovah is the name of God which the Jews would not pronounce, and frequently would not write. The Massorah gives 134 passages in which Adonai is substituted for Jehovah because of this reticence. Purists object to the name Jehovah and often refer to the name as the Tetragrammaton for the Hebrew spelling of the name is YHWH. Some pronounce it Yahweh. When written in Hebrew if it is alone it is spelled using the vowels from Adonai (a word meaning Lord) to give YaHoWaiH. If it is combined with Adonai it is spelled using the vowels from Elohim to give YeHoWiH. Jehovah is merely an English attempt at its pronunciation. We do something similar with the name Jesus. In Hebrew the name is Jehoshua and in Greek it is Iesous, but nobody is troubled by the pronunciation Jesus. Jehovah is a proper name and should not be translated Lord any more than ‘Samuel’ should be translated ‘heard’ or ‘Ephraim’ ‘fruitful’.

The name first occurs in Gen 2:4 where it is combined with Elohim to form Jehovah-Elohim, another evidence that the two are the same person. Jehovah is God in covenant relationship to those He has created, while Elohim is the creator. Eve understood this. Elohim dealt with the sin in the garden but when she bore a child she saw him as Jehovah – the one who would come in fulfilment of the covenant made with her.

This distinction is seen again in Gen 22. In verse 1, Elohim tells Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, and through the narrative it is Elohim who is God; until in verse 11 it is Jehovah who intervenes, in verses 12 – 13 Jehovah who supplies the ram and in verses 15-18 Jehovah who makes further promises to Abraham.

Jehovah is especially the God of Israel in covenant relationships, and he is the One Who is to come. He is not Jehovah in creation. It is Jehovah-Elohim who will lead Israel out of Egypt using great power (Ex 3:15-17), but it is Jehovah who appears in the burning bush to make the promise to Moses.

God first really revealed Himself as Jehovah when He spoke with Moses. In Ex 6:23 He says that He appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El-Shaddai, not as Jehovah. The name was known by these patriarchs but this was not the major name by which God manifested Himself at that time. He tells Moses to go to the children of Israel and say “I am Jehovah”. It is little wonder that Pharaoh in Ex 5:2 did not know Him. Israel before Moses had little idea of the richness of the name Jehovah and Pharaoh had no idea at all.

THE JEHOVAH TITLES

The name Jehovah was frequently used in combination with other words, and this added great depth to the meaning of the name. Jehovah cared for Israel and these combined titles show how He supplied all their needs.

Jehovah-Jireh (Gen 22:1-14) – The first need of His people was a substitute. In Gen 22 this substitute is seen in Isaac then in the ram. The only Son is mentioned three times in this passage, and the two , father and son, going up together is mentioned twice. Considering our earlier recognition that Jehovah is Christ, it is no great leap to see both Isaac and the ram as pictures of Christ, nor is it difficult to see in the two going up together a picture of God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Isaac, the only son, had the ram as a substitute but Christ had no substitute; He was the ram. Jehovah-Jireh =  “Jehovah will provide”

Jehovah-Ropheca (Ex 15:26) – The second need of His people was healing. The Lord promised Israel in the wilderness that if they obeyed Him he would protect them from the diseases He had brought on the Egyptians. He declared Himself to be Jehovah-Ropheca, “I am the Lord that healeth thee”.

Jehovah-Nissi (Ex 17:15) – The third need of His people was protection. When Israel fought Amalek at Rephidim. the Lord used miraculous means to defeat their enemy. He revealed Himself as Jehovah-Nissi, “The Lord my banner”.

Jehovah-Mekaddishkem (Ex 31:13) – The fourth need of His people was sanctification. Israel were commanded to keep the Lord’s sabbaths, a sign that they were different from the nations around them. They were promised that if they did so they would know Him as  Jehovah-Mekaddishkem, “The Lord who sanctifies”.

Jehovah-Shalom (Judges 6:24) - The fifth need of His people was peace. In Judges 6 Gideon had seen the angel of Jehovah face to face and was terrified, but Jehovah brought him peace and eased his fears. Gideon built an altar and named it Jehovah-Shalom, “The Lord my peace”.

Jehovah-Tsidkenu (Jer 23:6) - The sixth need of His people was righteousness. In Jeremiah 23 Jehovah promises a restoration of Israel, and a King to reign over them. The Kings name would be Jehovah-Tsidkenu, “The Lord our righteousness”.

Jehovah-Shammah (Ezek 48:35) - The seventh need of His people is the presence of the Lord. In the final chapters of the book of Ezekiel the restored state of the land and the city and the temple are described. As a benediction it is stated that the name of that city will be Jehovah-Shammah, “The Lord is there”.

Jehovah-Rohi (Psalm 23:1) - The eighth need of His people is to be cared for. Psalm 23 speaks of this care and in verse 1 Jehovah is referred to as Jehovah-Rohi, “The Lord my shepherd”.

The whole of Psalm 23 relates to the way Jehovah watched over His people Israel, and, although not specifically mentioned, many of the Jehovah titles are implied.

  1. The Lord is my shepherd (Jehovah-Rohi … Shepherd); I shall not want (Jehovah-Jireh … Provision).
  2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters (Jehovah-Shalom … Peace).
  3. He restoreth my soul (Jehovah-Ropheca … Healing);  He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake (Jehovah-Tsidkenu … Righteousness).
  4. Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Jehovah-Shammah … He is There).
  5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: (Jehovah-Nissi … Banner); Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. (Jehovah-Mekaddishkem … Sanctification).
  6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Jehovah-Rohi … Shepherd).

While there are a number of other instances where Jehovah is combined with other words, only two more will be considered.

Jehovah-Zebaoth (1 Samuel 1:3) - Elkanah, husband of Hannah, went annually to Shiloh to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts. This is the first occurrence of this title which appears 281 times and denotes the God of Israel as the Lord of all the hosts of earth and heaven. David, (1 Sam 17:45) when confronting Goliath said he came in the name of Jehovah-Zebaoth, the God of the armies of Israel. This name is associated with kings and kingdoms. Jehovah-Zebaoth is the Divine Ruler and Leader and Commander of His people. Jehovah-Zebaoth,  “The Lord of hosts”.

Jehovah-Elyon (Psalm 7:17) - The name Elyon first appears in relation to Melchizedek who is called the priest of El Elyon, the most High God. It is certainly one of the supreme titles of God. Its use is always associated with power and blessing and it is found combined with Jehovah in Psalm 7:17. Jehovah-Elyon, “Jehovah most high”.

CONCLUSION

We have seen that as Elohim, Christ was the creator and that Elohim and Jehovah both stated that they were El-Shaddai. This is clear evidence that the God of the Old Testament was in fact Christ. Careful examination will show that all the attributes of God described in the Old Testament are attributes given to Christ in the New Testament. If God is to be greatly praised in the Old Testament then the same should be expected for Christ in the New Testament. That this is so is clear from Phil 2:9-11.

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Leave A Comment...

*