Grace Bible Church

Preaching the Living Word through the Written Word













A.    Introduction


1.     Names can and do carry man meanings. This was especially true in Old Testament times. For instance, “Cain” means, “to get or acquire,” because Eve declared that she had gotten a “manchild” by the help of the Lord (Ge 4:1). Isaac’s name means “laughter” because Abraham and Sarah both laughed at the idea of bearing a child in their old Age (Ge 17:17; 18:12). However, they were filled with the joy of the Lord in their old age at the fulfillment of God’s promise (Ge 21:6-7).

2.     God’s names also have meanings and those meanings reveal God’s attributes, acts, and personal dealings in the world. In addition, the believer can find great comfort and strength in the names of God.

a)    The many names of God in the Scriptures provide additional revelation of His character. These are not mere titles assigned by people but, for the most part, His own descriptions of Himself. As such they reveal aspects of His character. (Ryrie, Basic Theology, pg. 51)

3.     The English Bible distinguishes the primary names of God along with capitalizations. “LORD.” with all capitals is the designation for Yahweh. “Lord,” with small letters is the designation for Adonai. The name “God” is the designation for Elohim.


B.    Primary Names Of God


1.     Elohim


a)    Elohim is the first name of God encountered in the Scriptures. The root El in Elohim means might or strength. The idea of Elohim is the Strong One, the Great One, or the Chief God among all others.

b)    Elohim is the name of God introduced and emphasized in Genesis chapter one (1-31 except 13, 15, 19, 23, 30). Elohim is the Mighty Creator who created everything that exists.

c)     Interestingly, Elohim is found in the plural form in Hebrew (im). There is some discussion as to why the plural is used here with respect the name Elohim. Some maintain that it refers to the multifaceted attributes of God whereby it is called, “a plurality of majesty.” While this is true, Elohim very well could be the first implication of God’s triune nature (Gen 1:1) as Creator (cf. Ge 1:2; Jn 1:1). As to the plurality of the persons of the Godhead, such is manifest in Ge 1:26 when Elohim said, “Let Us make man in Our image.”

d)    There are no other gods besides Elohim. He alone is the Mighty One (Isa 45:5, 18, 21).

e)     He is the God (Elohim) of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen 28:13), of all flesh (Jer 32:27), of the earth (Isa 54:5), of the heavens (Neh 2:4).

f)     As believers we are to have a worshipful reverence toward Elohim (Psa 66:19), to trust in His strength (Psa 46:10), and to rely upon His strength (Psa 18:31-32; 46:1; 59:9).


2.     Yahweh


a)    The next name for God is Yahweh. It occurs some 5,321 times in the Old Testament, making it the most frequently used name for God.

b)    This is the personal proper name of Israel's God, even as Chemosh was the god of Moab, and Dagon the god of the Philistines (Psa 81:10; 83:18; 140:6).

c)     Since ancient Hebrew only had consonants, the four consonants of the name of God were YHVH. The “four letters” YHVH, are called the Tetragrammaton. Its original pronunciation was lost in antiquity, but some suggest that in all likelihood it is pronounced Yahweh.

d)    This particular name was so sacred to the Jewish scribes that when they came to this name, they would stop and make themselves ceremonial clean. In post-biblical times, the name Yahweh was pronounced only once a year by the High Priest. On all other occasions, it was replaced by the name Adonai. Most scholars believe Jehovah was comprised of the consonants of JHVH (Latin) and the vowels of Adonai. However, some maintain that Jehovah was the Latinization of Yahweh.

e)     The name Yahweh contains the verb (hawa, rare synonym of hayah) signifies existence as in a “tree trunk, being at rest where it fall - Eccl 11:3” (TWOT). It also carries the idea of development as in Neh 6:6. Both ideas combined denote that God is the active Self-existent One.

f)     The attribute of self-existence means, that God has the ground of His existence in Himself, and unlike man, does not depend on anything outside of Himself. He is independent in His Being, in His virtues and actions, and causes all His creatures to depend on Him. (Louis Berkhof, Summary of Christian Doctrine).

g)     God’s self-expressed name, “I AM” in Ex 3:14 is most likely related to Yahweh (“LORD”) in Ex 3:15. Moses was “sent” by both “I AM” (Ex 3:14) and Yahweh (Ex 3:15). In addition, Yahweh is His “name forever.” This connection gives support that the root of yahveh is hayah (Qal Imperfect - continuous unfinished action, i.e. “I AM”). Therefore, Yahweh is the Chief Self-existent God.

h)    The first usage is in Genesis 2 (4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22) where Yahweh is combined with Elohim. The first usage without the combination of Elohim is in Gen 4:3ff in the narrative of Cain.

i)      It was Yahweh who is described with the attribute of holiness (Is 6:3).

j)     It was Yahweh who spoke with Moses from the tent of meeting (Le 1:1) and who detailed Israel’s sacrificial system (Le 1:2).

k)    It was Yahweh who gave to Israel His law (Ex 31:18) that Israel was to delight in, meditate day and night (Ps 1:1), and walk in (Ps 119:1).

l)      It is Yahweh whose name is called upon for salvation (Joel 2:32; Ac 2:21; Ro 10:13).

m)    Yahweh  not only means that God is self-existent and eternal, but it also refers to God’s covenantal name for His relationship with Israel (Ex 3:15; Ps 135:13). Believers also have a relationship with Yahweh through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Joh 8:58). All believers ought to give praise to Yahweh (hallelujah, hallelu - praise; jah or yah - Yahweh; Psa 106:48; 150:1, 6)


3.     Adonai


a)    Adonai means one with authority and is translated Lord or Master. It also is in plural form in Hebrew.

b)    It is used for human masters or authorities (Ge 24:14, 27, 35, 37); to show the quality of servanthood and respect (Gen 24:18); and its first usage was applied by Sarah in reference to her husband (Gen 18:12 cp. 1Pe 3:6).

c)     When used in reference to God, Adonai (“Lord”) refers to His absolute Lordship among men (Psa 2:3-4).

d)    Ex 34:23 combines all three names of God, “the Lord (Adonai) GOD (Yahweh), the God (Elohim) of Israel”

e)     David uses Adonai to indicate his submission to God (Psa 16:2).

f)     Isaiah is overcome with the holiness and authority of Adonai and therefore submits his life to Him (Isa 6:1, 8-11).

g)     Every believer bows to Adonai when he confesses that Jesus is Lord (kúrios) (Phil 2:11 cp. Isa 45:23).




Grace Bible Church · 4000 E. Collins Rd ·  PO Box #3762 · Gillette, WY · (307) 686-1516