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The Use of Elohim in Scripture. Laindon Bible Class 24 September 2008. Introduction. The Big Issue with “Elohim” Careful examination of its use in Scripture Other uses and meanings In reference to false gods In reference to judges In reference to angels In combination with Yahweh.

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the use of elohim in scripture

The Use of Elohim in Scripture

Laindon Bible Class 24 September 2008

  • The Big Issue with “Elohim”
  • Careful examination of its use in Scripture
  • Other uses and meanings
    • In reference to false gods
    • In reference to judges
    • In reference to angels
    • In combination with Yahweh
the big issue with elohim

Singular verb

Plural noun ending

(-im (m), -oth (f))

The Big Issue with “Elohim”

This is not normal. Usually the verb and noun would both be singular or both be plural – they would match. It sounds wrong when they don’t.

He creates (sing)

They create (plural)

They creates

He create

the big issue with elohim1
The Big Issue with “Elohim”
  • Two possible solutions:
    • It is bad grammar, but deliberately so by inspiration to convey a meaning specific to the one true God.
    • It is a valid hebrew form which conveys meaning, but not uniquely used of the one true God.
bro thomas view
Bro. Thomas’ View
  • He adopted no.1 – it is deliberate bad grammar

“This looks and sounds very uncouth to the Anglo-Saxon mind; and as the grammar is bad, in order to save the grammatical reputation of Moses, and to get over what they can not explain, the grammarians have invented the plural of majesty or excellence, and tell us that the plural word Elohim must be regarded as singular.”

Phanerosis (emphasis mine)

confirmed by thirtle
Confirmed by Thirtle

“Thus, in Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning, God created : . . "the noun (Elohim) is in the plural number, but the verb (bahrah) is in the singular number. This is contrary to the normal rules of grammar, which state that a noun and its verb must agree in number. Theology explains this departure from the normal rule as expressing a "plurality of eminence,”

Appendix to Phanerosis

development of this idea

Sons of God

Manifest in many angels

Manifest in many saints

Manifest in Christ

Development of this idea
  • Bro Thomas exposition of God-Manifestation

One God

  • God = Elohim = mighty ones

“We affirm then, that the Mosaic and prophetic revelation concerning Deity is that there is ONE POWER, multitudinously manifested; and that these manifestations constitute GOD.”

h p mansfield s summary
H.P. Mansfield’s Summary

“ELOHIM: (rendered “God”). Plural form of the above [Eloah]; Deity in multitudinous manifestation. The word, though plural, is often used with a singular verb, indicating that though the Elohim may constitute a multitude, one Eternal spirit motivates them all. Thus revealing Diety in manifestation.”

Names and Titles of the Deity

(Emphasis mine)

the other view
The Other View
  • Lexicons and Hebraists, CC Walker, F Pearce adopt solution no.2 – it is a valid hebrew form





Plural of H433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative: - angels, X exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), X (very) great, judges, X mighty.

the other view1
The Other View
  • Brown Driver Briggs
  • H430
      • אלהים
      • 1) (plural)
        • 1a) rulers, judges
        • 1b) divine ones
        • 1c) angels
        • 1d) gods
      • 2) (plural intensive - singular meaning)
        • 2a) god, goddess
        • 2b) godlike one
        • 2c) works or special possessions of God
        • 2d) the (true) God
        • 2e) God
an examination of its use 1
An Examination of its Use (1)
  • Problematic verses for solution 1
    • Gen 21:17/31:11 “Angel of God”
    • Gen 28:12/32:1 “Angels of God”
    • 1 Chr 21:15 “God sent an angel”
    • Deut 10:17/Dan 11:36 “a God of gods” (ct with false gods)
    • Deut 6:4 “the LORD our God is one LORD”
    • Isa 44:6-8 “Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.”
    • Isa 45:5 “there is no God beside me”
    • Isa 45:21 “there is no God else beside me”
    • Isa 46:9 “I am God and there is none else”
an examination of its use 2
An Examination of its Use (2)
  • God/Elohim does not appear to be particularly used to reflect multitudinous manifestation:

“(1) And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre…(13) And the LORD said unto Abraham… (17) And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do” (Genesis 18)

an examination of its use 3
An Examination of its Use (3)
  • Many hebrew words plural in form, singular in number

zequnim - old age (Genesis 21:2, 7; 37:3; 44:20.)

ne`urim - youth. Goliath "a fighting man from his youth" (I Samuel 17:33.)

chayyim - life.

samayim – heaven. “God created the heaven…” (Genesis 1:1)

gebhuroth - strength. Plural form is used in Job 41:12.

tsedaqoth - righteousness. Isaiah 33:15 - "he who walks righteously”

chokmoth - wisdom. Plural form used in Proverbs 1:20.

'adonim - lord. Isaiah 19:4, "I will hand the Egyptians over to the power of a cruel master ['adonim]."

behemoth. in Job 40:15 it refers to one particular animal.

an examination of its use 4
An Examination of its Use (4)
  • Examples of a plural used to intensify meaning:
an examination of its use 5
An Examination of its Use (5)
  • Examples of a plural used to intensify meaning:
an examination of its use 6
An Examination of its Use (6)
  • Examples of a plural used to intensify meaning:

CONCLUSION: a plural noun with a singular verb is not unique to Elohim, but is a form used to intensify the meaning of a noun.

Rabbi Nehemia Gordon:

The plural intensifies the meaning to “absolute master”

an examination of its use 7
An Examination of its Use (7)
  • Elohim used to refer to an individual false god
    • Judg 6:31 “Will ye contend for Baal…if he be a god”
    • Judg 8:33 “and [they] made Baalberith their god”
    • Judg 11:24 “which Chemosh thy god giveth (s) thee”
    • Judg 16:23 “sacrifice unto Dagon their god”
    • 1 King 11:5 “Ashoreth the god(dess) of the Zidonians”
    • 1 Kings 18:27 “Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking(s)”
    • 2 Kings 1:16 “Baalzebub the god of Ekron”
    • 2 Kings 19:37 “in the house of Nisroch his God”

CONCLUSION: the plural form “elohim” is also used of single false gods with singular verbs. So this form cannot be designed to convey a unique meaning specific to the one true God.

an examination of its use 8
An Examination of its Use (8)
  • Use in New Testament quotations
an examination of its use 9
An Examination of its Use (9)
  • Use in New Testament quotations
    • Matt 4:10 “thou shalt worship the Lord thy God”
    • Matt 22:32 “I am the God of Abraham…”
    • Matt 22:37 “thou shalt love the Lord thy God…”
    • Acts 7:32 “I am the God of thy fathers…”
    • Mark 10:36 “God made them male and female”
    • Mark 12:29 “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”
    • Heb 4:4 “And God did rest the seventh day from all his works”
    • Acts 7:40 “make us gods (theous) to go before us”

CONCLUSION: Inspired New Testament writers consistently translate “elohim” as the singular “theos” and do not hint at any plural application.

conclusion so far
Conclusion so far

Solution 2 is supported by the use of “elohim” throughout the Old Testament, and in the New Testament quotations.

Elohim is a word with plural intensive form, but singular in meaning when used of the one true God.

When used with a singular verb the word does not mean “mighty ones”, and is not a reference to angels or saints.

To use “elohim” as a plural synonym for angels is an inaccurate use of the hebrew word and inconsistent with scriptural usage.

other uses

Then elohim should be taken as singular

Then elohim should be taken as plural

Then the context must be relied upon

Other Uses
  • “Elohim” does have a valid plural meaning
  • It is sometimes translated “gods” i.e. false idols
  • How do we know when it should be God or gods?

If the verb is singular

Gen 1:1 - God [he] created

If the verb is plural

Ex 32:1 - make us gods…[they] shall go before us

If there is no associated verb

Dt 6:14 – ye shall not go after other gods

use in genesis 1 26 27
Use in Genesis 1:26-27

[26] And God (s) said (s), Let us make (pl) man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

[27] So God (s) created (s) man in his own image, in the image of God created (s) he (s) him; male and female created(s) he (s) them.

CONCLUSION: The one God addresses the host of angels in his presence, inviting them to observe and participate. But, as with the rest of creation it is the one God who performs the act of creation.

use in genesis 3 5 22
Use in Genesis 3:5 & 22

[5] For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

RV, RSV, ESV, YLT, NIV, Roth - “like God”

[22] And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil:

Same solution as Gen 1:26, the one God is addressing angels

Gen 11:6 And the LORD said…Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language,

use in exodus 22 8 9
Use in Exodus 22:8-9

[8] If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour's goods. [9] …the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judgesshall condemn (pl), he shall pay double unto his neighbour.

RV, RSV, ESV, Roth, YLT - “brought before God”

BUT: the verb is plural, so there is recognition here that the priests at the door of the tabernacle (before God) were those through whom God’s judgement came. This was given through the Urim & Thummim (see next slide).

in psa 82 1 6 john 10 34
In Psa 82:1,6 & John 10:34

God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods….[6] I have said, Ye (pl)are gods (pl);

This is not the intensive meaning and so is a valid plural, as used of false gods. It is perhaps referring to how God had passed judgements through the nation’s priests and rulers e.g. through Urim and Thummim. Jesus comments on this:

[34] Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? [35] If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came…

use in hebrews 1 6
Use in Hebrews 1:6

[6] And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

Margin cross refs this to Psalm 97:7 “worship him, all ye gods.” But these are not the words quoted and the context of Psalm 97:7-9 is clearly gods = false idols.

Quotation is actually from LXX in Deut 32:43 (not in KJV) “Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: and let all the angels of God worship him”

use in psa 8 5 and heb 2 7
Use in Psa 8:5 and Heb 2:7

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels [elohim], and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

This is rendered “angels” because the LXX has aggelous.

This is simply a bad translation in LXX.

RV, RSV, YLT, Roth - “lower than God/Godhead”

Heb 2 [7] Thou madest him a little lower than the angels;

Why did the writer maintain the translation error?

Because it has no impact on his argument which is to show that Jesus was made the same as all other men - a little lower than God/angels – it doesn’t matter which as either would prove the point.

combined with yahweh
Combined with Yahweh
  • How many times does LORD God appear?
      • 17
      • 170
      • 700
      • 1700
combined with yahweh1
Combined with Yahweh

CONCLUSION: The hebrew does not appear to support treating Yahweh Elohim as “he who will be (manifest in) mighty ones of…”. Instead Yahweh is a proper name meaning “he who will be”, followed by a title such as “the God of Abraham”.

RV, RSV, ESV, NIV, Roth, YLT - LORD, the God of…