NAMES OF GOD
A third lecture in a seven part series on the Godhead.
Throughout the Bible we read of many names of God. In this article I would like to look at a number of these names, as they bring out deep and important truths.
The Personal Names of God
Personal Names. The names of the Persons of the Godhead are Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). These are the names of the three Persons of the Godhead as distinct from one another. These names have to do with the eternal identity and intra-Trinitarian relationships of the Godhead. That means they are completely independent from everything that transpires in time. The Father has always been Father to the Son, etc.
The Historical Names of God
Historical Names. There are really only two historical names of God… one of power, and the other of relationship. Of power He is Elohim. Of relationship, He is Jehovah. One name gives us the Creator-God, the other gives us the Relator-God. We find that there are other dispensational names under which God has revealed Himself in time, but the historical names transcend dispensations, as do the names of Divine Persons (Father, Son, and Spirit), although the Personal names were not fully declared in the Old Testament.
Elohim is the common name for God in the Old Testament. Elohim means "the mighty one", and it refers to God in the strength of His being. "El" (a general form) and "Eloah" (a singular form) are other versions of the same name. Elohim is the name of God as Creator. It is to Him as Creator that intelligent creatures must answer. Elohim is a plural word, which in the Hebrew language means "three or more". Clearly, whenever we get Elohim it is the Trinity, if no further specification is given. But there are times when more is given, and a specific Person may be in view, such as in Gen. 1:2; "And the Spirit of Elohim moved upon the face of the waters". Elohim is first introduced with respect to creation, in Genesis 1:1; "In the beginning Elohim created the heaven and the earth." We have Elohim framing the universe with His words, and we see the effect of His mighty power, but he is unapproachable, and incomprehensible. His "eternal power and deity" (Rom. 1:20) are conveyed, but we do not yet see God in relationship with man, only as Creator. If Elohim is the general name for God in the Old Testament, what is the New Testament equivalent? The Koine Greek name for God is "Theos", but it is a general word used for deity. In the Septuagint, Theos is used to translate the Hebrew word Elohim most frequently, and also occasionally to translate Jehovah.
Jehovah is the modern transliteration of the Hebrew name Yahweh, which is God's name in relationship with men, especially with Israel. Hence in Genesis 1 we have only "Elohim", the Creator; but in Genesis 2 we have "Jehovah Elohim," because the relationship of God with men is brought in. Jehovah means, Him who IS (Exodus 3:14). In other words, "the One who exists". The extension of this expression is found in the New Testament, stated in a way that Gentile minds can more readily understand, Jehovah is the One “which is and which was, and which is to come” (Rev. 1:4, 8:4, 8; 16:5). Past, present and future are terms that we think in, but not needed by God. His existence is outside of time: in the past God IS, in the present God IS, in the future God IS. His is called by another name, "The Same" (Psalm 102:27; Heb. 1:12) which has to do with His immutability. In Exodus 6:2 Moses is instructed to tell the children of Israel when they asked who has sent Moses, “I am Jehovah,” in connection with their covenant relationship to God. So, intrinsically (in Himself) Jehovah is the self-existing One; and extrinsically (toward man) He is the One who seeks the blessing of man! The name Jehovah (Yahweh) seems to be a compound of two shorter names, Jah ("LORD", Ex. 15:2, Ex. 17:16, etc.) and Ehyeh ("I AM", Ex. 3:14). Together, "Yah-ehyah" (Jehovah) means "Lord I am". The name Jehovah is found over 6800 times in the Old Testament! Another name of Jehovah is Qanna (meaning Jealous; Exo. 34:14), because the God of relationship is jealous of men's affections.
Jehovah Appears to Man. As the name of God in His relationships with men, the One who appears is always Jehovah. When Jehovah appears to man in the Old Testament, He is called "the Angel of Jehovah". It was Jehovah that walked in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8), that appeared to Abraham (Gen. 12:7; 18:1), that appeared to Hagar (Gen. 16:7), that appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exo. 3:2) and on Mt. Sinai when He showed Moses His glory (Exo. 33:11). It was Jehovah that appeared to Balaam's dumb ass (Num. 22:22), that appeared to Gideon (Judges 6:12) to Manoah's wife (Judges 13:3), and to Solomon (1 Kings 9:2). As the One who appears, it is fitting that the New Testament identifies "the Word", the Person of the Son, with these Old Testament appearances. Connect the words of Isaiah,"In the year of the death of king Uzziah, I saw the Lord [a visible manifestation] sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple" (Isa. 6:1), with this verse "These things said Esaias [previous quotation from Isa. 6] because he saw his glory and spoke of him [Jesus]" (John 12:41). These verses clearly identify Jesus with the visible manifestations of Jehovah in the Old Testament! However, it would be wrong to say Jehovah was exclusively the Son. But I believe it would be correct to say that the appearances of Jehovah were the pre-incarnate Son of God, for He alone is the Word or expression of God.
Expansions of the Name Jehovah. There are seven different expansions of the name 'Jehovah' (Yahweh) found in the Old Testament.
- Jehovah Jireh - "The Lord will Provide" (found once, Gen. 22:14)
- Jehovah Rapha - "The Lord your Healer" (found once, Exo. 15:26)
- Jehovah Nissi - "The Lord my Banner" (found once, Exo. 17:15)
- Jehovah Shalom - "The Lord is Peace" (found once, Jdg. 6:24)
- Jehovah Sabaoth - "The Lord of Hosts" (found 249 times, most in the prophets; first in 1 Sam. 1:3)
- Jehovah Tsidkenu - "The Lord our Righteousness" (found twice, Jer. 23:6; 33:16)
- Jehovah Shammah - "The Lord is There" (found once, Ezekiel 48:35)
God, or “Theos”. In the New Testament, Elohim and Jehovah are not generally used for God’s essential being. Rather, the name God (“Theos” in Greek) is used, occurring over a thousand times in the New Testament. It is important to see that God is in relation to creature and man. It was as man that Christ cried, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” As the Son He spoke of “My Father”. The God-man relationship was something that Christ entered in time, but the Father-Son relationship was His from eternity to eternity. So in the eternal state, “when all things shall have been brought into subjection to him, then the Son also himself shall be placed in subjection to him who put all things in subjection to him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). The Son will never be inferior to the Father, but as man, Christ takes a place of subjection to God in Godhead. As the perfect man, the Son will subject Himself to God for all eternity.
Lord, or “Adonai” is a title which is used to address Deity that indicates submission and reverence. In the Old Testament the title was Adonai (plural) or Adon (singular; Exodus 23:17). In the New Testament, the Greek word for “lord” is “kurios”. It means Sovereign, or Lord, and is frequently used personally, such as in the confession “my lord”. It is a quite personal acknowledgment of the authority of God in the believer’s life.
The Dispensational Names of God
In His “eternal power and deity” (Rom. 1:20), God is always Elohim or Theos. However, in relationship, Jehovah reveals himself under various dispensational names:
- Bringing Abraham (individuals) into blessing………..Almighty
- Bringing Israel (a nation) into blessing…………………..Jehovah
- Bringing the Church into blessing………………………….Father
- Bringing Heaven and Earth into blessing……………Most High
“El Shaddai”, or God Almighty.
The name of Almighty God has the thought of special strength on behalf of those who are called by Him; i.e. power and provision for His people. It is a special name of character and relationship with those to whom God was revealed as such. God was revealed under the name "El Shaddai" first to Abraham, when he said "I (Jehovah) am El Shaddai; walk before me" (Gen. 17:1; Exodus 6:3). Again, He revealed Himself to Jacob (Gen. 35:11) as the Almighty God. The name is found forty-eight times in the Old Testament. The name El Shaddai is connected with the dispensational principle of calling.
“Jehovah”, or the Self-existing One.
This name has the thought of the ever-existing One come forth in relationship to His people
. “Jehovah” was often used by the patriarchs (occurs 195 times before the exodus), showing that God was always known personally to be the self-existing One, but in Exodus 6:3 we read: “I am Jehovah; and I appeared unto Abraham as El Shaddai: (in) my name Jehovah was I not (made) known to them.”
This shows that God as Jehovah was not identified in a covenant relationship to a specific people until Moses. Israel was given to knew God as “Jehovah our Adoni (Lord)”
(Psa. 8:1), and referred to Jehovah as “the name”. Hence, we read of the Israelitish woman’s son who “blasphemed THE NAME”
(Lev. 24:11). There are seven expansions of the name Jehovah in the Old Testament (read more…
“Pater”, or Father. This name has the thought of special love for those who are His children. “Father” is the special Name under which God has revealed Himself to the Church (called out ones) in the New Testament (2 Cor. 6:18). The name is that of God the Father, distinct from the God the Son (sent to reveal the Father), and distinct from the God the Spirit (which causes us to cry, “Abba Father”; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). “The Father” is His eternal, trinitarian identity. He did not become the Father in time, but was revealed as such by the Son.
“El Elyon”, or the Most High God.
This name has the thought of the Possessor and Blesser of the universe. "Most High" is a name God takes in connection with men; setting Himself above all idolatrous gods, all demons and all earthly and angelic powers, as the "possessor of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14:19). The name "Most High God" is mentioned first in connection with Melchizedek, who is a type of Christ in His Millennial priesthood. God saw fit to force the greatest earthly monarch that has ever reigned (Nebuchadnezzar) to be "driven from the sons of men", to live like and animal... "till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will" (Dan. 5:21). God is "El Elyon" for all time, but this Name will be fully declared in the Millennium when the inheritance is taken by Christ. The name is found fifty-one times in the Old Testament. The Greek word for Most High is "Hupsistos".
The following chart attempts to show the personal, historical, and dispensational names of God as they are revealed throughout history. Notice that the disproportional names of God were revealed in connection with the callings. This is why we do not have a dispensational name revealed to Noah, or David. Abraham is the first man “called out”, Israel was the first nation “called out”, and the Church also is totally unique in her calling. Notice that the dispensational names of God disappear in the Eternal State, with the exception of the Church, who will always know God as Father.