The Plural Name of God

You may have heard of God’s name: Elohim (El-oh-him), but did you know that Elohim is actually a plural name – the singular being Eloha? This seems to demonstrate that the Hebrew scripture indicates a plural nature about God. You are most likely familiar with this idea from Genesis which says:

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. ~Genesis 3:21-23

Who was God speaking to? He definitely seems to be having a conversation with someone about Adam and Eve. It is commonly understood that God was having a conversation among Himself; with one of the persons of the Trinity (the Father, Son, and/or Holy Spirit). Here is another passage where God seems to be having a conversation with himself:

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “It they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God let the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.  ~Exodus 13:17-19

My new insight for this week has been on the Hebrew understanding of God’s name – Elohim. The name Elohim is found in the original Hebrew in both of these passages. While we often translate it as God, it has more of a pluralistic understanding rather than “one” God.

Deuteronomy 6:4 is a key passage to the Jews that uses God’s name this way. It is the beginning of the Shema (which means ‘hear’): “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” In the original Hebrew, “the Lord our God” uses the plural name Elohim and refers to the plural nature of God, but also states that this same God is “one”. It was explained to me that the Hebrew word for “one” echad (ekh-awd) can include a plural aspect to it. For example, consider a batch of cookie dough. It is “one” batch of dough, but it is made up of many parts. In the same manner, saying that God is one does not neglect the fact that there are different parts to God. Comparing God to a batch of cookie dough is only meant to be helpful here, but it hopefully gets this idea across as I’m hoping it does. 🙂

On a side note… here is another passage where God seems to be speaking to Himself. It does not use the Hebrew name Elohim, but now these passages where God seems to be plural in the OT are popping out at me. Do you know of any others?

Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.  ~Genesis 18:17-19

 

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