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The term Elohim (“God” or “gods” depending on the context) is how the Creator is identified in the first chapter of Genesis. It is a reference to God as the Creator. Gen. 1:1 says,
1 In the beginning Elohim alef-tav created the heavens and the earth.
The two Hebrew letters, alef and tav, are in the Hebrew text but remain untranslated in most Bibles. Yet the New Testament writers pick up on this and comment on it in the Greek term, “Alpha and the Omega” in Rev. 22:12, 13,
12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last [letter], the beginning and the end.”
We see here that Jesus laid claim to being the Alpha and the Omega—which, in Hebrew terms, is the Alef and the Tav. In other words, Gen. 1:1 ought to be translated, “In the beginning, God, the first and the last, created the heavens and the earth.” He was telling us that He was the Creator at the beginning, as we read in John 1:1-3,
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning [alef] with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
He is therefore the Creative Word, and when He said, “Let there be…” whatever He spoke came into being (existence). As the Creator, He claims ownership of all that He created, and as the Owner, He is also responsible for that which He created, according to the laws of ownership in Exodus 22.
This ownership invokes a special relationship between Christ (the Word) and the creation that was brought into existence. It is this relationship that brought Christ to the earth. He came to reveal the Father and to provide the example (and proof) of what mankind was called to be.
There is much dispute as to how to pronounce this “sacred name.” Decades ago, I used to collect the various spellings and pronunciations of YHWH that different teachers believed to be the exact way the name was to be spoken. I am not here to argue for any of these opinions. The sacred name was never intended to be a password to gain access to Him.
What is important is to know who He is. Names are a revelation of one’s nature. We should know the nature of God, and a study of the various names of God in Scripture are revelations of different aspects of His nature. The Hebrew name YHWH (or YHVH) has four letters, which are defined in Rev. 1:8,
8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God [Kurios ‘o Theos], “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
The Greek term, Kurios ‘o Theos, is the standard Septuagint Greek translation of Adonai Yahweh that is used in Gen. 2:4, 7, 8, 9, etc. The term first appears in the second of the eleven family history books that comprise the book of Genesis. Adonai Yahweh is not a separate God, of course. It is another name for Yahweh, which means “was-is-will be”—in other words, ever-living. So we read that the Lord God “is and who was and who is to come.”
Adonai Yahweh is also Ezekiel’s favorite term. According to Dr. Bullinger, the name Adonai denotes headship, where God is pictured as an Overlord in relation to the earth. It denotes the sovereignty of God, attributing to Him the power and ability to accomplish His purpose for the earth. It should properly be translated “Lord Yahweh,” but for some reason, it is usually rendered, “The Lord God,” even though Elohim (“God”) is not part of this name.
To complicate matters the Masoretic (Hebrew) scholars, in 134 places, inserted vowel points in the name Yahweh, signaling to the reader that he should verbalize Yahweh as Adonai, so as to avoid profaning His name. But we need not stress over this, since the Hebrew text itself retained the correct name.
Some, however, have overreacted to this, denouncing the name Adonai as if it were an offence to God. Yet Adonai is a fairly common biblical name for Yahweh, going back as far as the second chapter of Genesis.
The name Yahweh is referenced by Moses in Gen. 21:33,
33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord [Yahweh], the Everlasting [olam] God.
The word olam means “hidden, unknown,” as it is derived from the root word alam, “to hide.” Perhaps this is a subtle reference to the fact that Abraham did not yet know God by the name Yahweh. The name was revealed to Moses many centuries later, so he backdated the name from a position of knowledge. This is shown in Exodus 6:2, 3, which reads (literally),
2 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am Yahweh; 3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but by My name Yahweh, I did not make Myself known to them.”
Hence, whenever we read the name Yahweh in the book of Genesis, we must understand that Moses was inserting a name that was yet unknown to those patriarchs. So we see the curious statement in Gen. 17:1,
1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh appeared to him and said to him, “I am El Shaddai; walk before Me and be blameless.”
Yahweh appeared to Abram but identified Himself as El Shaddai when the time came to prepare for the birth of the promised son, Isaac. El Shaddai means “the breasted one,” (from shad, “breast” as in Job 24:9) and is God’s female role in giving birth to a son. Dr. Bullinger says that El Shaddai sets forth God as being the Giver of grace and comfort.
Again, Gen. 35:11 says,
11 God also said to him [Jacob], “I am El Shaddai; be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come forth from you.”
El Shaddai is concerned with giving birth and presents us with the motherhood of God, even as Yahweh manifests the fatherhood of God. Being one complete God, He created man in His own image, male and female, orienting men toward Yahweh and women toward El Shaddai. The voice is different, but God is one.
We should also note that sometimes Yahweh appears in a shortened form as Yah. This first appears in Exodus 15:2, which, along with verse 3 is quoted in Isaiah 12:2, “Yah Yahweh is my strength and my song.” Yah is also the ending of many Hebrew names (usually spelled with an “-iah,” as, for example, Josiah).
Most scholars list ten versions of Yahweh (or Jehovah). My own list contains twelve. I leave it to the reader to decide for himself.
1. Jehovah-Jireh, “Jehovah will see,” implying that He will provide. (Gen. 22:14).
2. Jehovah-Ropheka, “Jehovah that heals.” (Exodus 15:26).
3. Jehovah-Nissi, “Jehovah my banner.” (Exodus 17:15).
4. Jehovah-Mekaddishkem, “Jehovah that sanctifies you.” (Exodus 31:13).
5. Jehovah-Shalom, “Jehovah that sends peace.” (Judges 6:24).
6. Jehovah-Sabaoth, “Jehovah of (military) hosts.” (1 Sam. 1:3).
7. Jehovah-Zidkenu, “Jehovah our righteousness.” (Jer. 23:6).
8. Jehovah-Shammah, “Jehovah is there (present).” (Ezekiel 48:35).
9. Jehovah-Elyon, “Jehovah Most High (Psalm 7:17).
10. Jehovah-Roi, “Jehovah my Shepherd.” (Psalm 23:1).
To this list, I personally add two more names:
11. Jehovah-Nasaw, “Jehovah that smites” (Ezekiel 7:9)
12. Jehovah-Boethos, “Jehovah our Helper” (Heb. 13:6, quoted from Psalm 10:14).
We will study each of these in turn.