THE NAMES OF GOD
by Dr. Roy Blizzard
Yavo Digest, 1987
Some time ago, when David Bivin was here in the United States and he and I were working on the manuscript Jesus the Rabbi and His Rabbinic Method of Teaching, we took a weekend off and conducted a special seminar together in El Paso, Texas. The subject of the seminar was "The Nature of God." In the seminar I dealt with the nature of God, man, satan, and related topics, and the outgrowth of that seminar was my series entitled "The Nature of God." In that series I state that the nature of God can be best understood by examining the names by which he is known in the Bible. Although God ultimately transcends the bounds of human explanation or definition, yet it can assist us in understanding something of his nature if we look at the names by which he is called as an extension of his nature.
In the series, I mention several of the names of God and examine them as an attribute of God or an indication of the character of God. As a result of the series, I received numerous requests for a study on the names of God. For the month of June, I recorded a tape for our prayer partners on the "Names of God." In the tape, I mentioned some 50 names that are used for God in the Bible, along with a brief explanation of each name, and since then I have been inundated with requests for a list of the names so that people can have them at hand for easy reference and study. Since we have received so many requests, I decided to write this article for the Yavo Digest so that our readers, as well as our prayer partners, would have the list in hand.
One of the most important words in the Bible is the word one. We could go so far as to say it is one of the principal words in the Bible, reflecting one of the most important concepts of the God of the Bible. That God concept is monotheism. Monotheism comes from two Greek words, mono (one) and theos (god) and means "one God." The central theme of biblical faith is that God is one. Monotheism is such an important biblical God concept, and is so radically different from the God concepts of the other great nations and peoples of the Bible, that it stands as a marvelous indication of the internal evidences for inspiration contained within the text itself. In other words, this concept of monotheism is so radically different from all other prevailing religious systems that it cannot be accounted for on purely natural grounds. It demands the supernatural to explain such a lofty concept. And it is this concept that becomes the foundational tenet upon which biblical faith is based. "Hear O Israel, The Lord is Your God is One." The "shema," as it is known, is still recited twice each day by religious Jews.
However, this one God has manifested himself in history in so many multifaceted ways. He is known by myriad names during many varied circumstances, and for many different reasons or purposes. A clear picture of him begins to emerge only when we examine the names by which he is known, as each will reflect some aspect of his nature.
Although God is known by many names, it is of the utmost importance to stress that He is One. Many parallels can be found in this concept of oneness. For example: Law. Law is one, and it is God's revelation of himself and His will for man, to man. However, there was the Law God gave to Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel before the flood. There was the Law God gave to Noah after the flood. There was the Law God gave to Abraham and his seed, and there was the Law God gave to Moses at Sinai. Notice the Law God gave to Moses at Sinai. It consisted of:
I. The Written Law
A. Moral (10 Commandments)
A. Haggagah (Legends)
B. Halachah (Laws)
But it was all ONE. The One Law of the One God.
As God is One, the Law is one, and so also man is One. The biblical concept of man is that God created man in his image. Therefore, as God is, so man is. God is one, so man is one. Although man consists of a body (of the earth or earthy) and a spirit (of the heavenlies), the two form an inseparable unity. The spirit and the flesh will never be separated but both are made for eternity. This idea of man constituted a basic belief of Jesus, the Pharisees, and the Apostle Paul, who all taught on the resurrection of the dead. Although flesh and blood will not enter the eternal realm of the world to come, "we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and this mortal shall put on immortality and this corruptible shall put on incorruptibility." (I Corinthians 15). Scientifically we know that once matter has been created it can never be destroyed. Only its form can be changed.
This concept of ONE as the coming together of two or more parts to constitute a whole is first introduced to us in the first chapter of Genesis: "And there was evening and there was morning, ONE day" (Genesis 1:5). Notice it takes both the evening and the morning, two parts, to come together or to be joined together, to form the ONE day.
Let's look now at some of the over 50 names I have chosen to share with you. Each reflects some attribute or characteristic of the ONE God of the Bible.
The first name for God we want to note is the simple Semitic name El. The word El in Semitic languages seems to reflect strength or power. El is the God of strength and power.
YHWH, the tetragrammaton (4-lettered) name for God is often transcribed and vocalized in English as Yahweh and transliterated as Jehovah (an incorrect transliteration, as there is no letter J in Hebrew). However, the name YHWH was not to be pronounced except on special occasions, so the four letter name of God is usually vocalized as Adonai, or Lord. As used in the Bible, YHWH reflects the covenant attribute of deity, as it is always YHWH who is entering into covenant relationships.
Elohim is a plural masculine noun used for the one God of the Bible. Some scholars have associated Elohim with the singular El, but this association is not without problems. However, regardless of the root, Elohim is used of the one true God, the omnipotent creative God. It is Elohim who, in the creative aspect of his nature, is calling the universe into existence simply by the words of his mouth in Genesis 1.
In many instances, YHWH and Elohim are joined together in construct as in Genesis chapter 2, YHWH Elohim. When used thus, it appears to reflect the totality of all that God is. It is used hundreds of times in the Bible. An even more expressive form is the union of all three of the most commonly used names in the name El Elohim YHWH, the all-powerful, creative, covenant God.
A host of construct names follow, each beginning with the word El and joined with another word that reflects an attribute or characteristic of God which serves to illuminate our understanding of his nature.
El Brit: the God of the covenant. The God who makes covenants with his people, i.e., Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Israel, and also with us.
Ha El HaNe'eman, used with the definite article: the faithful God. The one who is faithful to his word, his covenant, his creation, his people.
Ha El HaGadol: the Great God.
Ha El Hakadosh: the Holy God.
El Yisrael: God of Israel.
El HaShamayim: God of the heavens.
El Sali: God is my rock.
El Simchat Gili: God who is joy of my exaltation.
El Ro'i: God who allows me to see him; to understand, to know him. How? Through his word, his deeds, and in the lives of his people.
El HaKavod: God of glory, respect, or honor.
El Da'ot: God of knowledge. Omniscience.
El Olam: Eternal, or everlasting God. He who is without beginning and without end.
El Emet: God of truth.
El Emunah: God of faith.
El Yeshuati: God of my salvation.
El Chaiyai: God of my life.
El Echad: One God.
El Rachum: God of compassion.
El Nashah: God who forgets (forgives).
El Chanum: Gracious God.
El Kana: Jealous God. He is a God who demands love, worship, honor, praise. There is no room in our lives for anyone or anything else (as an object of worship).
El Tzadik: Righteous God. Only God is Holy. But man can be righteous and he demands we be righteous as he is righteous. Often this righteousness is reflected in not what we do to or with God, but what we do to our fellow man.
El Shaddai: the all-sufficient God, or possibly the God who nourishes and sustains me by suckling me from his breasts. If so, this would reflect the female aspect of deity in a very profound way.
El Elyon: the highest God.
Elohay Kedem: the God who was before, or the pre-existent God.
Elohay Tzur: God of Rock.
Elohim Kedoshim: Holy God. Again, only God can be holy. A place or a thing, or a person can be holy only if God is there and abides there. It is he who makes the place, thing, or person to be holy.
Elohim Chaiyim: Living God.
Elohay Tzva'ot: God of hosts.
Elohay Mishpat: God of judgment.
Elohay Marom: God of heights (on high).
Elohay Mikarov: God who is near.
Elohay Chasdi: God of my kindness (of men to men, piety).
Elohay Mauzi: God who is my strength.
Elohay Tehelati: God who is my praise.
Elohay Yesha: God of salvation.
Elohay HaElohim: God of Gods.
Elohay Kol Basar: God of all flesh.
El Elohay Haruchot Lekol Basar: God, the God of the spirits of all flesh. (He is the one who gives life to all flesh.)
Ruach Elohim: Spirit of God, i.e., the Holy Spirit. The empowering aspect of deity.
Adonai YHWH: Lord God, i.e., the God who is ruler or master over my life.
YHWH Mekadesh: God who causes me to be holy.
YHWH Yireh: the God who sees, i.e., the all-knowing or omniscient God.
YHWH Nisi: God who is my banner or standard, or the God who is my miracle. The God who leads me and in so doing sustains me by his miracles.
YHWH Shalom: God who is peace, i.e., wholeness and/or completeness.
YHWH Tzidkenu: God who causes us to be righteous.
YHWH Shamma: God who is there. Actually a synonym for the city of Jerusalem. However, it reflects the omnipresence of God. He is there, he is everywhere.
YHWH Tzva'ot: Lord of Hosts. Again, the one who leads his people into battle and to victory.
Yah: an abbreviated form of YHWH used in poetry, especially in the Psalms as in Psalm 104:35, halalu-Yah, Praise ye Yah the Lord).
Moshiah: Savior. This word is used in dozens of forms and reflects the saving or redeeming aspect of deity. In Exodus 14:13, and in Chronicles 20:17, we see the phrase alluded to in Luke 3:6: "Ve ra'u kol basar et yeshuat Elohim" (And all flesh shall see salvation of God, or God's salvation). In Exodus 14:13 we read, "Re'u et yeshuat YHWH." (see the salvation of YHWH. In this context Yeshuat Elohim and Yeshuat YHWH are construct names for God referring to the redemptive or saving aspect of his deity. In Psalm 149:4, God is known as the one who will beautify the meek with salvation.
Yefaer anavim bishuah: In this context, he is called the one who will beautify the humble or meek, i.e., those who are "righteous," with his salvation.
I hope this special study will be beneficial to you in assisting you to understand more about the nature of God as reflected in his names. We have noted over 50 in this study and have not nearly exhausted all the possibilities. In Hebrew, there are many euphemisms that are used for God such as Hamakom, the place, or Hashamayim, the heaven. Unfortunately, in such a short space we cannot begin to exhaust all the possibilities. But even if we studied all the names for God in the Bible, looking at all he had done and was doing, there could be only one conclusion at which we could ultimately arrive--one final and ultimate truth: Our God is more than all we can know or say about him, and he is more than enough!
Dr. Roy B. Blizzard Jr. is President of YAVO, Inc., an Austin-based non-profit corporation dedicated to biblical research and education. Dr. Blizzard is a native of Joplin, Missouri. He attended Oklahoma Military Academy and has a B.A. degree from Philips University in Enid, Oklahoma. He has an M.A. degree from Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico, an M.A. degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. From 1968 to June 1974, he was an instructor in Hebrew, Biblical History, and Biblical Archaeology at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Blizzard studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, in the summer of 1966. In the summer of 1973, he worked on the archaeological excavations at Tel Qasile, where a Philistine Temple dating from 1200 B.C. was excavated. In 1968, 1971, and 1972, he worked on the excavations at the Western Wall, or "Wailing Wall," at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Since then, much of Dr. Blizzard's time has been spent in Israel and the Middle East in study and research. He is a licensed guide in Israel and has directed numerous Historical/Archaeological Study Seminars to Israel, as well as to Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
Dr. Blizzard has hosted over 500 television programs about Israel and Judaism for various television networks, and is a frequent television and radio guest. He is the author of Let Judah Go Up First, and the co-author of Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus. He is the author of Tithing, Giving and Prosperity, The Passover Haggadah for Christians and Jews, and the co-author of Jesus the Rabbi and His Rabbinic Method of Teaching, all of which we hope to publish in the near future, as well as many other articles and lecture series.
Dr. Blizzard is a member of The Jerusalem School for the Study of the Synoptic Gospels,, an exclusive consortium of scholars, both Christian and Jewish, who principally live and work in Israel. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Union Graduate School of the Union for Experimental Colleges and Universities in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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