CHAPTER 3-THE NAMES OF GOD
The aim of this volume is to better acquaint its readers with the true and living God. If any of our readers feel that the author is lopsided, and does not maintain the balance of truth by emphasizing the responsibility of man, we would remind him that our thesis is God, not man.
There are several sources of knowledge about God. The heavens and the earth, the things He has made, reveal His eternal power and Deity, and declare His glory. The human conscience also testifies to His existence, as do the laws of nature. But the Bible is the chief source of information about God in His character and work.
The various names and titles given to God in the Bible reveal much concerning His character and government. In the Bible the names of persons, places, and things are of great significance; the names were chosen because of their meaning! We give names to our children today without any thought of what the name means, and very often the name is not appropriate to the character that wears it. Many men have worn the name Jesus, but to only one Man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God, is the name appropriate. All the names of God in the Bible are most appropriate and much can be learned about Him through the study of His names.
The study of names given to persons and places in the Bible is so entrancing that we must pursue it a little further before coming to our main theme---THE NAMES OF GOD. In the Bible names reveal the character of persons, and commemorate important events. To illustrate we are taking a number of names somewhat at random. At the battle of Aphek Israel was defeated by the Philistines, losing thirty thousand footmen; Eli's two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain; the ark of God was taken by the Philistines; and when the sad news came to the wife of Phinehas, giving her life in childbirth, on her death bed she named the child Ichabod, which means "inglorious, "thus signifying that the glory had departed from Israel: "And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband" (1Sa 4:21). The name Moses means "drawer out, "and was given him by Pharaoh's daughter, as "she said, because I drew him out of the water" (Ex 2:10). The name Samuel was given to the son of Elkanah and Hannah as a memorial to answered prayer. Samuel means "heard of God, "and was given him by his mother: "Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD" (1Sa 1:20). The human name of Jesus was given to our Lord because it means "Jehovah saves." When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph to quiet his fears and suspicions concerning his espoused wife, Mary, he announced the birth of a son, and said "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21). The name Abraham means "father of a multitude, "and was given to Abraham by God when He promised him a numerous progeny. "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee" (Ge 17:5). Adam called the creature, taken from his side, woman: "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man" (Ge 2:23). When Adam and his wife became sinners by transgressing the law of God, the gospel was preached to them by God, the gospel that the seed of woman should bruise the serpent's head: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Ge 3:15); whereupon, in faith, Adam named the woman Eve, which means "living, ""And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living" (Ge 3:20). Eve's firstborn was named Cain, which means "acquired", "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD" (Ge 4:1). The word for man in the Hebrew is "ish, "which means a man of high degree, and it is probable that Eve believed Cain to be the promised Redeemer. If so, she was sadly disappointed, and when her next son was born, it must have been in a spirit of despair that she named him Abel, meaning "vanity or vapor." When Samuel had defeated the Philistines on a field of battle between Mizpeh and Shen, he planted a stone on the very spot of victory and called it Ebenezer, meaning "the stone of help, ""Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us" (1Sa 7:12).
Some names of God respect Him as subject: Jehovah, Lord, God; others are predicates, spoken of Him and attributed to Him: holy, just, good, etc. Some express the relations between the persons of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Spirit; and some express the relation of God to the creatures: Creator, Preserver, Governor, etc. Some names or titles are common to the three persons, as Jehovah, God, Father, Spirit. And some are proper names used to express His character and work.
The name of God is what He IS; it stands for His character. But the Creator is so great that no one name can possibly be adequate to His greatness. If the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him, how can a name describe the Creator? So the Bible contains a number of names of God which reveal Him in the several aspects of His marvelous personality.
This is the first name of God in Scripture: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Ge 1:1).Here it is in the plural form with a singular verb, denoting plurality of persons in unity of essence or being. This name is expressive of God's greatness and power. It is the creatorial name of God, and is used exclusively in the account of creation: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day. And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day. And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made. These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens"(Ge 1:1-2:4). Elohim is always translated "God" in our English Bible. According to the prevailing opinion of scholars the word is derived from a root in the Arabic language which means to worship. Weight is given to this opinion when we observe that the word is sometimes used improperly of angels, of men, and of false deities. In Ps 8:5 "For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour" the word for angels is elohim, and angels are sometimes improperly worshipped. In Ps 82:1,6: "God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods...I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High" elohim is translated gods, and is used of men. Also in Joh 10:34,35: "Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken". In Jer 10:10-12 "But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion." we have the true God (elohim) in contrast with "the gods (elohim) that have not made the heavens and the earth, "thus implying that none but the Creator is the proper object of worship.
This compound word is translated God Almighty (El for God and Shaddai for Almighty). The title EL is for God in the singular, and means strong or mighty. EL is translated God 250 times in the Old Testament. The title is generally connected with some attribute or perfection of God; as, "Almighty God": "And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him" (Ge 17:3); "Everlasting God": "And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God" (Ge 21:33); "A jealous God": "Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me" (Ex 20:5); "The living God": "And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites" (Jos 3:10).
SHADDAI, always translated Almighty, means sufficient or resourceful. It is thought the word comes from SHADDAY, meaning breasts. The word breast is used in the scriptures as an emblem of blessing and nourishment. In pronouncing his dying blessing upon Joseph, Jacob, among other things, said, "Even by the God (EL) of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty (Shaddai), who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:" (Ge 49:25). Isaiah, describing the future excellency and blessings of Israel, says, "Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles (nations), and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob" (Isa 60:16). The people of God shall draw upon the resources of nations and kings because their God is EL-SHADDAI the One mighty to bless.
Satan is a competitor of God and a counterfeiter of His works. Therefore, we may expect to find in heathen religions imitations of God in the several aspects of His character and government. This point is well illustrated in the following quotation taken from the book by Nathan J. Stone on the "Names of God in the Old Testament."
"Such a conception of a god or deity was not uncommon to the ancients. The idols of the ancient heathen are sometimes termed sheddim in the Bible. It is no doubt because they were regarded as the great agents of nature or the heavens, in giving rain, in causing the earth to send forth its springs, to yield its increase, its fruits to maintain and to nourish life. There were many breasted idols worshipped among the heathen. One historian points out that 'the whole body of the Egyptian goddess Isis was clustered over with breasts because all things are sustained or nourished by the earth or nature. "The same was true of the idol of the Ephesian goddess Diana in the nineteenth chapter of Acts, for Diana signified nature and the world with all its products."
This name of God first appeared in connection with Abram: "And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly" (Ge 17:1,2). Years before and on different occasions, God promised Abram that He would make of him a great nation and a numerous progeny. The years came and passed and no child was born to Abram and Sarah. Then he resorted to that fleshly expedient which brought Ishmael and Mohammedanism into the world. And God's promise was still unfulfilled. And now, according to the laws of nature, it is too late, Abram is ninety-nine and Sarah ninety. And then it was that God appeared to him as God- Almighty (EL-SHADDAI), and repeated the promise. And here it was that his name was changed from Abram to Abraham, meaning "father of many nations." "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee" (Ge 17:5). Here was a staggering promise, but it did not stagger Abraham, "He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; "(Ro 4:20). Abraham's strong faith was based upon this new revelation of God as God-Almighty (EL-SHADDAI). "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb:" (Ro 4:19). His thoughts were upon an All-sufficient God. Here is a fine illustration of the difference between nature's law and nature's God. The laws of nature could not produce an Isaac, but it was not too much for nature's God. It matters not if everything is against God; He is all- sufficient in Himself.
This name or title of God is in the plural, denoting a plurality of persons in the Godhead. It is translated Lord in our King James version, and expresses the relationship of a master and slave. When used in the possessive it is an acknowledgment of God's ownership and authority. Slavery is a blessing when God is the Owner and Lord. And in the days of Abraham when slavery was the order between man and man it was not an unmitigated evil. The purchased slave had the protection and privileges not enjoyed by the hired servant. The bought slave was to be circumcised and allowed to eat the Passover: "But every man's servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof" (Ex 12:44).
This word in the singular (ADON) is applied to man more than two hundred times in the Old Testament, and is variously translated lord, master, owner. This name for God is first used in the Old Testament in connection with Abraham. Abraham was the first man to address God as ADONAI. Abraham as a slave owner also acknowledges God as his Master and Owner. When Abraham had returned from the slaughter of the king's, and had rescued Lot, the king of Sodom wanted to reward him, but he refused the reward. "After these things the word of the LORD (Jehovah) came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord GOD (Adonai Jehovah) what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?" (Ge 15:1,2). He who had slaves acknowledged himself to be the slave of God.
This is the most famous of the names of God, and is predicated of Him as a necessary and self-existent Being. The meaning is: HE THAT ALWAYS WAS, THAT ALWAYS IS, AND THAT EVER IS TO COME. We have it thus translated in Re 1:4: "John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne."
Jehovah is the personal, proper, and incommunicable name of God. In Ps 83:18 we read: "That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth." The other names of God are sometimes applied to creatures, but the name Jehovah is used exclusively of the true and living God.
The Jews had a superstitious reverence for this name of God and would not pronounce it when reading, but would substitute other names as Adonai and Elohim. This is the name of God in covenant relation with man. It occurs about seven thousand times and is usually translated "Lord" in our King James version. As already noted it includes all tenses, past, present, and future. The name comes from a root which signifies to be.
Of the relation between Elohim and Jehovah, A. W. Pink has some illuminating remarks in his book, "The Divine Inspiration of the Bible, "and we quote:
"The names Elohim and Jehovah are found on the pages of the Old Testament several thousand times, but they are never employed loosely or used alternately. Each of these names has a definite significance and scope, and were we to substitute the one for the other the beauty and perfection of a multitude of passages would be destroyed. To illustrate: the word God occurs all through Genesis 1, but 'Lord God' in Genesis 2. Were these two Divine titles reversed here, a flaw and blemish would be the consequences. 'God' is the creatorial title, whereas 'Lord' implies covenant relationship and shows God's dealings with His own people. Hence, in Gen. 1, 'God' is used, and in Gen. 2, 'Lord God' is employed, and all through the remainder of the Old Testament these two Divine titles are used discriminately and in harmony with the meaning of first mention. One or two examples must suffice. "And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God (Elohim, C. D. C.) had commanded him." 'God' because it was the Creator commanding with respect to His creatures, as such; but in the remainder of the same verse, we read, "and the Lord (Jehovah, C. D. C.) shut him in" (Ge 7:15,16), because God's action here toward Noah was based upon covenant relationship. When going forth to meet Goliath David said "This day will the LORD (Jehovah) deliver thee into mine hand (because David was in covenant relationship with him); and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth (which was not in covenant relationship with Him) may know that there is a God (Elohim) in Israel. And all this assembly (which were in covenant relationship with him) shall know that the LORD (Jehovah) saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD'S, and he will give you into our hands" (1Sa 17:46,47). Once more: "And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, It is the king of Israel. Therefore they compassed about him to fight: but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD (Jehovah) helped him; and God (Elohim) moved them to depart from him" (2Ch 18:31). And thus it is all through the Old Testament."
The name Jehovah is often used as a compound with other names to set forth the true God in some aspect of His character in meeting the needs of His people. There are fourteen of these Jehovah titles in the Old Testament, but there is not space in this volume to treat each one separately. It must suffice for us to present them and give a few references where they are used:
1. JEHOVAH-HOSEENU, "Jehovah our Maker" "O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker" (Ps 95:6).
3. JEHOVAH-ROPHECA, "Jehovah that healeth thee" "And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee" (Ex 15:26).
5. JEHOVAH-M'KADDESH, "Jehovah that doth sanctify you": "Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am the LORD that doth sanctify you" (Ex 31:13); "And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you" (Le 20:8).
6. JEHOVAH-ELOHEENU, "Jehovah our God" "Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy...He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar: they kept his testimonies, and the ordinance that he gave them. Thou answeredst them, O LORD our God: thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions" (Ps 99:5,7,8).
7. JEHOVAH-ELOHEKA, "Jehovah thy God" "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage: ...Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me...Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain" (Ex 20:2,5,7).
8. JEHOVAH-ELOHAY, "Jehovah my God" "And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee" (Zec 14:5).
9. JEHOVAH-SHALOM, "Jehovah send peace": "Then Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord, and called it Jehovah-shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites" (Jud 6:24).
10. JEHOVAH-TSEBAHOTH, "Jehovah of hosts" "And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, the priests of the LORD, were there" (1Sa 1:3); "And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha" (Ro 9:29); "Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth" (Jas 5:4).
12. JEHOVAH-HELEYON, "Jehovah most high" "I will praise the LORD according to his righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the LORD most high" (Ps 7:17); "For the LORD most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth" (Ps 47:2); "For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth: thou art exalted far above all gods" (Ps 97:9).
13. JEHOVAH-TSIDKEENU, "Jehovah our righteousness" "In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" (Jer 23:6); "In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness" (Jer 33:16).
1. THEOS. In the Greek New Testament this is the general name of God, and corresponds with Elohim of the Hebrew Old Testament. It is applied to all three persons of the Trinity, but especially to God the Father.
2. PATER. This title corresponds with Jehovah of the Old Testament and expresses the relationship we have with God through Christ. It is applied to God two hundred and sixty five times and is always translated Father.
3. DESPOTEES (English Despot). This title sets forth God in His absolute sovereignty, and is similar to Adonai of the Old Testament. It occurs only five times in the New Testament: "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word" (Lu 2:29); "And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is" (Ac 4:24); "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2Pe 2:1); "For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 4); "And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" (Re 6:10).
4. KURIOS. This word is found hundreds of times and is translated lord, Lord, master, Master, owner, and sir. In quotations from the Hebrew it is often used for Jehovah. It is a title of the Lord Jesus as master and owner.
5. CHRISTOS. This word means the Anointed and is translated Christ. It comes from chrio to anoint. It is the official name of the long promised and long expected Messiah or Savior. The New Testament applies this title to Jesus of Nazareth exclusively.
From all these names of the Supreme Being we learn that He is the eternal, immutable, self-existent, self-sufficient, and all-sufficient being; and is the supreme object of fear, trust, adoration, and obedience.
To the author this study has been interesting, and at the same time tedious and difficult, and the reader will have to be a patient plodder if he is to get the most out of it. What a marvelous revelation we have of the great God in these various names!