The Names of God

by Ken Hemphill

The Old Testament names for God offer rich insight into His self-revealing character and His adequacy to meet every need of His people. Ken Hemphill analyzes each of the names and shows how they applied to the ancient nation of Israel and how they can apply to believers today.

Elohim is the primary name for God. It is translated "God" in the English Bible. Its first reference is in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." This at once connects God with His creation. We are not products of blind chance; therefore, we are morally obligated to acknowledge His Lordship.

The second word for God is Adonai. It is used in connection with God's promise to provide a male heir to Abram (later Abraham). This word stresses God's ownership of all things. God's ownership implies a call to action from those who acknowledge Him.

El Elyon is translated "God Most High" in our English Bible. It is used in connection with Abraham's presentation of tithes to Melchizedek who said, "Blessed be Abram of the most high God…." It implies that the God of Israel stands above other so-called gods. It ultimately points to our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ.

El Shaddai is rendered "almighty God" in the Bible. God Himself spoke these words to Abram when he was ninety-nine years old and still without a male heir. It points to the absolute certainly of God's ability to do what He has promised to do. A few months later, Abraham and Sarah were rewarded with a son of promise, Isaac.

The personal name for God is Yahweh or Jehovah. The other names for God describe His character or characteristics, but Jehovah is His personal name. He is the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God. The name Yahweh is so sacred that pious Jews will not pronounce the name.

Other names for God are compounds with the word Jehovah and further reveal the nature of God. These include Jehovah Mekadesh (the Lord who sanctifies you), Jehovah Shalom (the Lord is peace), Jehovah Tsidkenu (the Lord our righteousness) and Jehovah Shammah (the Lord is there).

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