What Is Elohim? Biblical Meaning of God's Name

Elohim is one of the many names of God found in the Hebrew Bible.
Christianity.com Editorial Staff
What Is Elohim? Biblical Meaning of God's Name

Help me, O Yahweh my ElohimSave me because of your mercy. - Psalm 109:26

The Name of God: Elohim

Elohim is the Hebrew word for God that appears in the very first sentence of the Bible. When we pray to Elohim, we remember that he is the one who began it all, creating the heavens and the earth and separating light from darkness, water from dry land, night from day. This ancient name for God contains the idea of God's creative power as well as his authority and sovereignty. Jesus used a form of the name in his agonized prayer from the cross. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Elohim (e-lo-HEEM) is the plural form of El or Eloah, one of the oldest designations for divinity in the world. The Hebrews borrowed the term El from the Canaanites. It can refer either to the true God or to pagan gods. Though El is used more than 200 times in the Hebrew Bible, Elohim is used more than 2,500 times. Its plural form is used not to indicate a belief in many gods but to emphasize the majesty of the one true God. He is the God of gods, the highest of all. Christians may recognize in this plural form a hint of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Elohim occurs thirty-two times in the first chapter of Genesis. After that the name Yahweh appears as well and is often paired with Elohim and, in the NIV, the two together are translated "the LORD God."

Excerpt from Praying the Names of God by Ann Spangler

Elohim Meaning & Definition

As wrriten by Mike Leake on BibleStudyTools, The term "Elohim" means “supreme one” or “mighty one”. It is not only used of the one true God but is also used on occasion to refer to human rulers, judges, and even angels.  If you saw one who exhibiting supreme rule and expressed mighty power the word you would use would be Elohim. That does not necessarily mean that you are referring to the one unique God. But even as one comes to understand Yahweh, you might still grab hold of this particular word, Elohim, in order to emphasize God’s power and might.

This is an imperfect illustration of the relationship between Elohim and Yahweh, but perhaps it will capture enough of the thought to be helpful. If a small child sees a furry animal he may very well refer to it as a puppy dog, but as he matures he is able to clearly differentiate between a puppy dog and a kitty. Further maturation might have the child now calling the dog a specific breed—like a beagle. And if the puppy comes to live in the child’s home what once was ‘puppy dog’ will now become ‘my beagle’. In the same way, a person might see a powerful expression and say Elohim. As his knowledge of truth matures Elohim might take upon a specific character, i.e. El Shaddai. And if that knowledge moves into a relationship, Elohim is now identified as Yahweh. So, just one child might refer to a kitty cat as puppy and another refer to his beagle as a puppy, so also, one might refer to a cactus as Elohim and another who has full covenant knowledge of Yahweh refer to him as Elohim.

Elohim in Hebrew

As written by Mike Leake, another interesting aspect of the name Elohim is that it is, in fact, a plural. Does this mean this is a clear reference to the Trinity? While that cannot be disproven, it also could not be proven from the plurality. Many scholars refer to this as a divine plural. I, however, agree with John Frame that this is a plural of abstraction:

“…that is, ‘a more or less intensive focusing of the characteristics inherent in the idea of the stem…rendered in English by forms in –hood, -ness, -ship”...Hebrew uses the plural form for abstract nouns such as youth, old age, maidenhood, and life. It may also (or alternatively) carry some force as a plural of amplication. Usually found in poetry, this plural is an emphatic statement of the root idea, as might and counsel.”

Your Relation to Elohim

God has created you. He is the Elohim above all other elohim. Yet, acknowledging this is not enough. According to Scripture, everyone knows there is a higher power. We suppress that truth in our unrighteousness. This means, we morph our Elohim impulse into worship of some lesser god or we slip into vague notions of a higher power. Or perhaps we continue in even greater suppression and fail to acknowledge any concept of Elohim, choosing instead to place ourselves as the mighty one. We make ourselves arbiters of truth.

In reality, a man drowning in ten feet of water isn’t in much better shape than a man drowning in a hundred feet of water. Likewise, acknowledging the existence of an Elohim doesn’t put you in a position any better than one who actively and aggressively denies the concept of God. It is only when our knowledge of Elohim becomes personal that we move towards what the Bible calls saving faith.

Adapted from:

What Does Elohim Mean & Why is This Name of God So Important? | BibleStudyTools.com

Praying the Names of God | Christianity.com


Originally published April 10, 2019.