Adonay -- Lord, Master

Ann Spangler
Ann Spangler

Adon is a Hebrew word that means “lord” in the sense of an owner, master, or superior. It is frequently used as a term of respect and always refers to people. Adonay (a-do-NAI) is the plural form of adon and always refers to God as Lord or Master. In the Old Testament it is rendered as “Lord” (distinct from “LORD,” the rendering of the Hebrew name Yahweh). When Adonay and Yahweh appear together, it is rendered “Almighty Lord,” “Sovereign Lord,” or “Lord God,” depending on the translation. Adonay is first used in Genesis 15:2. In the New Testament, the Greek word most often translated “Lord” is Kyrios.

The title Adonay implies relationship: God is Lord, and we are his servants. As a word referring to God it appears more than three hundred times in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Praying to Adonay

Most of us don’t like to think of ourselves as anybody’s servant. We associate such people with an underclass, permanent doormats. In our world, being a servant is just one step up from being a slave. Certainly nothing to aspire to.

If that is our attitude, how will we ever know the meaning of Adonay? Remember how the New Testament portrays Jesus? He is both Lord and Servant. In this latter role he exemplifies what our own relationship to Adonay is to be.

Fortunately, belonging to Adonay, is not like belonging to Simon Legree, the infamous villain of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Instead of treating us capriciously or abusing us for his gain, God dignifies us by calling us to be his hands, his heart, and his voice in this world. We represent him. That’s what Jesus did—perfectly. If men and women are ever going to know God’s graciousness, they will know it in part because we reflect it as his servants.

As you pray to Adonay, ask for the grace to rejoice in his Lordship. Tell him that you want to give him your talents, your time, and your treasure so that you can become one of his favorite servants, one he calls upon frequently and with pleasure. Remember that it is only in knowing him as your Lord, your Adonay, that you will discover your true purpose in life.


Originally published April 20, 2021.