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Questions: About the Names of God


Question: I have come across many people that use the name of God “Jehovah” along with other extensions such as Shalom, Jireh, Adonai, Ebenezer, Elohim, El-shaddai, Rohi etc. Are these legal names of God? I know for sure that that one name God told Moses would  be his name is “Jehovah,  God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Exodus 3.15) However according to the Bible the other names appear to have originated from other sources besides God identifying himself with them. For example, Jehovah-Jireh (Gen 22.14) “And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah Jireh: as it is said to this day, in the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.” Jehovah Nissi (Ex 17.15) “And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah Nissi.” Jehovah Shalom (Judges 6.24) “Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovah Shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” Please help me to understand if it is scriptural to use these names to refer to God when it appears that they were named after “objects.” I’ve heard a lot of people even preachers using these names as the names of God.

There are many names of God found in the Bible. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia begins its article, “God, Names of” by saying,

To an extent beyond the appreciation of modern and western minds, the people of Biblical times and lands valued the name of the person. They always gave to it symbolical or character meaning.

This article then lists and discusses seventeen names for God in the Old Testament. The following is a brief synopsis of that article without the technical, linguistic comments.

Elohim, one of the most common names for God, is in Genesis 1:1 where “In the beginning God created….” This name means Almighty, stressing the power of God. This name for God is in Genesis alone more than 200 times. There are also two derivatives of this name. Eloth usually appears in the Poetic books, particularly in Job. It is infrequent overall. El is a common Semitic name for deity. In fact, Elohim is the plural of El, but uses singular verbs and pronouns. Some take this to show the oneness of the Godhead with a plurality of persons.

Adonai, usually translated Lord is also very common. This speaks of God as the Ruler, thus of His sovereignty.

Yahweh is Jehovah in the American Standard/English Revised Version. Most other translations have it as LORD, in all capital letters. This was God’s Covenant Name. When Moses asked, “Whom shall I say has sent me?” God used this name. This is often used in combination with the other names and descriptors of God.

Cur (or Kur) is not common, but appears in Deuteronomy 32 (The Song of Moses) five times in verses 4, 15, 15, 30, and 31. It means Rock. This chapter uses many different names for God, as Moses says (v. 3), “I will proclaim the name of the LORD.” Read this chapter carefully to see how Moses uses many names and descriptors for Jehovah God.

Kadhosh means Holy. This is in Isaiah frequently as the Holy One of Israel. Here is an instance in which an attribute of God is used as His name.

Shadday (or Shaddai) is a name that speaks of the awesomeness of God and the fear He strikes into the hearts of those who encounter Him. The name literally means All Powerful.

The other “names” discussed in the ISBE are listed separately as descriptive. They are used less frequently, some only one time.

Abhir is in Isaiah 1:24 where the New International Version reads, “Therefore the Lord, the LORD Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares….” Here we have Lord (Adonai), LORD (Yahweh), and Mighty One (Abhir) one right after the other.

El Elohe in Genesis 33:20 is the name Jacob, renamed Israel, gave to the altar he built at Shechem. This is an instance where someone names a place to reflect an encounter he or she has had with God. The name given the place reflects the attribute of God prominent in the encounter. The name El Elohe means God, the God of Israel, reflecting the new name Jacob received in Genesis 32:28.

The Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32) has several of these descriptive names of God. Caddik (verse 4) is Righteous One, and Elyon (verse 8 ) means Exalted One.

David spoke of his thirty “mighty men” who were great warriors. In a similar way, Psalm 24:8 speaks of “the LORD Mighty in battle. The word here is Gibbor.

One of my favorites is in Genesis 16:13-14. When Hagar fled from Sarai, she had given up hope until “The angel of the LORD” came to her. After this, “She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me.” In verse 14 she named the well there Beer Lahai Roi, which means “well of the Living One who sees me.” This is another instance where an encounter with God leads someone to name a place reflecting that encounter.

God told Moses (after Israel had the Golden Calf), “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14) The word He used is Kanna.

Isaiah 1:9 (and elsewhere) speaks of “the LORD of hosts.” (KJV) The Hebrew word is Cebhaoth, transliterated in the New Testament as Sabaoth (Romans 9:29, a quote from the Septuagint Greek Old Testament of Isaiah 1:9).

The final descriptor in the ISBE is I AM THAT I AM (Exodus 3:14). The Hebrew here is the same as Yahweh, mentioned above, except that this is in the first person, not the third, since God is speaking of Himself.

In addition to those, Isaiah 9:6 uses Shalom, the usual word for peace, when it calls the coming Messiah “the Prince of Peace.”

Ebenezer (see 1 Samuel 7:12) literally means “stone of help.” Samuel set up a memorial stone and named it Ebenezer because God had helped Israel in battle against the Philistines. If applied to God, it would mean that God is our Helper.

You do not need to worry about the use of these names for God. They are all names God uses of Himself or descriptions of Him by His people.

It is faddish to use these Hebrew names, often without defining them. When we use names without knowing their meaning, we lose something in a holy haze of ignorance. Yet, each of these names has rich meaning that can convey significance to us as well.

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