The Divine Names and Titles.

Part V. — GOD (ELOHIM).

By the Rev. Dr. Bullinger.

Taken from Things to Come Magazine, September, 1896


We come now to a title of frequent occurrence, In the Hebrew it is Elohim (pronounced El-0-heem), and in English, God. So that wherever we have the word "God," thus, in ordinary type, it is always Elohim in the Hebrew, except where it is otherwise noted under El and Eloah. As Elohim occurs some 2,700 times, it will be more convenient to give the exceptions under the other titles.

Elohim is a plural noun, either denoting majesty, or referring, as many think, to the plurality of persons in the Godhead.

There are differences of opinion as to the meaning of the word. Some deriving it from the verb to be strong, denoting the strong one, the God of strength: others deriving it from alah, to take an oath, and denoting one set apart with the solemnity of an oath. There is most probably truth in both. of these derivations.

The first occurrence of the word is in Gen. i, 1. "Elohim created." Creation, therefore, is the act specially associated — with Elohim, Elohim is God as the fountain of creaturehood, while Jehovah expresses His covenant relation to it.

Elohim is the commencement of life, while Jehovah is the development of it, nourishing, sustaining, guiding and blessing it to and for His people.

Elohim expresses the power which provides, Jehovah the grace which bestows.

But when we compare Gen. i. and John i., we see once that Elohim is the Title specially appropriated to the Logos or Word, Who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second person of the Trinity. "All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John i. 3). "The Word was God" (John i. 1).

There are several remarkable expressions with regard to Elohim in the New Testament to which we do not give sufficient weight, and for which most of us have no place in our theology.

We all believe that the appearances recorded in the Old Testament were those of the Angel of the Covenant, or the Lord Jesus Christ. He appeared to Adam and conversed with him; He appeared to Abraham, and the Patriarchs (see Gen. xvi., xvii., xviii., xxi., xxii., xxxii.); to Moses (Ex. iii., vi., etc.); to Joshua (Josh. v. 13-15); to Manoah Judges xiii.). Hence He is called the Angel or Messenger, (Ex. xxiii. 23).

He is Jehovah's "Servant," appointed in the counsels of eternity to come and do the Father's will (Ps. xl. 6, etc., Heb. x. 7, 9). His title "Elohim" denotes His being set apart to that office by oath; "Messiah or "Christ" denotes His being anointed for it; "Angel" or "Messenger" denotes His actual dispatch; and He is called "Servant" with reference to the service to be performed. Each title has its own special reference to the particular aspect of His mission, in connection with which it is used.

We ask, now, What is the reason why all assume these recorded appearances as being in a form put on for the occasion? He wrestled with Jacob; He appeared as "the Captain of the Lord's Host" to Joshua. Why are we to believe that these forms were merely temporarily assumed? There is nothing in Scripture to lead to such a conclusion, and one wonders how it ever came to be so universally held.. Indeed there are many Scriptures which seem to point in quite the other direction.

The Godhead is Spirit (John iv. 24), and Spirit has no material form. But we read that Adam was created in the image and likeness of Elohim. Therefore Elohim must have had a form unto which Adam could be conformed in his creation.

Further, Elohim is said to be "the image of the invisible God" (Col. i. 15). Hence He is called "the Word"; because, as the "word" reveals and makes manifest the invisible thought of a speaker, so Christ ( Elohim ) makes manifest and reveals the invisible Godhead. This is clearly stated in John xiv. 9, "he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," "he that seeth Me seeth Him that sent Me" (John xii. 45). "No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John i. 15).

But there are other remarkable statements. In Col. i. 17, it is clearly stated that He, i.e., the Son, "was before all things." In Col. i 15 it is declared that He was "the firstborn of every creature." In Rev. iii. 14, He Himself says that He was "the beginning of the creation of God": and that hence" in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," i.e., in bodily form.

These passages seem to state that Christ, as Elohim, before anything was created, Himself took some form in the likeness of which man was originally made; and in which He appeared to Adam, the Patriarchs, and others. So that the form in which He appeared to them was not temporary, or assumed for the occasion, but was taken for the purpose of creation and for revealing the invisible Godhead to the creatures whom He had created. Compare and read Prov. viii. 22-31, which contains this revelation.

This was in Eternity, when He was "God of the substance of His Father begotten before the worlds.": But in Time, when man had to be redeemed, then He took "flesh," and became "Man of the substance of His mother born in the world."

It would thus appear that He took some form (Rev. iii. 14) in order to create; and afterwards took our " flesh" (John i. 14) or human form in order to redeem.

Elohim, therefore, represented the Godhead, and hence the word is employed of any who are set apart as representing God. That is why magistrates are so called, because they represented the executive power and authority of God delegated to them (Ex. xxi. 6; xxii. 8, 9, 28, quoted in Acts xxiii. 5). It is applied to Moses (Ex. vii. 1), and even to idols as, in a sense, held to represent God (Ex. xii. 12; Num. xxv. 2; Gen. xxxi. 30, compare verse 19).

Elohim is thus used in connection with creation, and is used specially of Christ as the Creator. It always has reference to creation, power and glory.

Hence, in Gen. i. we have only Elohim. In chapters ii. and iii. we have the two titles combined "Jehovah Elohim," telling us of the God who sustained not only creation relationship, but a closer covenant relation, in virtue of which He revealed Himself and communicated Himself to the creatures whom He had made.

Elohim is the God of Creation. Jehovah is the God of Revelation. This is why we do not read "Thus saith Elohim," but always "thus saith Jehovah."

In Gen. vii. 1-5 we have Jehovah in connection with those animals which went into the ark by sevens for the purpose of sacrifice; while we have Elohim (verses 7-9) in connection with those which went in by twos for the purpose of preservation and generation.

In 2 Chron. xviii. 31. When Jehoshaphat, surrounded by the Syrians, cried out, it was 'Jehovah' who helped him (as His Redeemer), and Elohim who caused the Syrians to depart from him (as their Creator).

Compare 2 Chron. xix. 6, 7, 9, where we have Jehovah in connection with Israel; and xx. 29, where' "the fear of Elohim was on all the kingdoms, &c."

Indeed, wherever these two titles occur, this difference may always be seen. They are never used by chance, but always by design.


It may be well to add a note as to what has been called the Jehovistic and Elohistic theory of the book of Genesis.

The higher critics have arbitrarily assumed and invented the hypothesis that whoever edited or compiled the book of Genesis (to whom they have given the grand title of "Redactor") used up some scraps of information written by several different persons at different times, one of whom was in the habit of using Elohim, another Jehovah and so forth.

Now, upon the face of this, the whole question is begged, and the reasoning (for that is all it is) is in a circle! For they, first of all, themselves divide up the book into these very portions, and then invent their assumption concerning them. But the book of-Genesis is already divinely divided up for us into twelve portions, first the introduction, and then the eleven Toledoth or books of "Generations," i.e., the histories of various persons and their families. Now, surely, even upon the theory of the critics, the one who wrote "the generations of Noah'' wrote the whole of it; and the one who wrote "the generations of Terah" wrote the whole of it, And so with the others. This is a fair and just hypothesis. Not that we need it or that we indeed use it, for we believe that God the Holy Ghost wrote the whole of it by Moses.

But here are these twelve divisions into which Genesis is divinely divided:

  1. The Introduction, i. 1 - ii. 3.

  2. The Generations of the Heavens and the Earth, ii. 4 - iv. 26.

  3. The Generations of Adam, v. 1 - vi. 8.

  4. The Generations of Noah, vi. 9 - ix. 29.

  5. The Generations of The Sons of Noah, x. 1 - xi. 9.

  6. The Generations of Shem, xi. 10 - 26.

  7. The Generations of Terah, xi. 27 - xxv. 11.

  8. The Generations of Ishmael, xxv. 12-18.

  9. The Generations of Isaac, xxv. 19 - xxxv. 29.

  10. The Generations of Esau, xxxvi. 1 - 8.

  11. The Generations of Esau in Mount Seir, xxxvi. 9 - 43

  12. The Generations of Jacob, xxxvii. 1 - end.

Now when we come to examine the use of the Divine Titles in these divisions, we find no such fantastic theory as that invented by the higher critics.

One has only Elohim (No. 1). No other has only this name.

One has only Jehovah (No. 5).

One has only Jehovah Elohim (No. 2).

Five have both Elohim and Jehovah (Nos. 3, 4, 7,  9, 12 ).

Four have neither one nor the other (Nos. 6, 8, 10, 11).

Further, every speaker in the book uses the title of Jehovah, with the following significant exceptions:

The serpent!

Abimelech (to Abram, not to Isaac),

The Sons of Heth,

Pharaoh to Joseph, and

Joseph himself (for his name is a compound of part of the title Jehovah).

We must leave our readers to search out the reasons for all this, and to study the matter further for themselves as to the use of these two important and most frequently occurring of all the Divine names and titles.

Continued in Part 6