Hebrew : אֱלֹהִים ’ĕlōhîm) is one of the
names of God in the
Hebrew Bible ; the term is also used in the Hebrew
Bible to refer to other gods.
The notion of divinity underwent radical changes in the early period
of Israelite identity. The ambiguity of the term elohim is the result
of such changes, cast in terms of "vertical translatability", i.e. the
re-interpretation of the gods of the earliest recalled period as the
national god of monolatrism as it emerged in the 7th to 6th century
BCE in the
Kingdom of Judah and during the
Babylonian captivity , and
further in terms of monotheism by the emergence of Rabbinical Judaism
in the 2nd century CE.
The word is identical to the usual plural of el meaning gods or
magistrates, and is cognate to the 'l-h-m found in
Ugaritic , where it
is used for the pantheon of
Canaanite gods , the children of El, and
conventionally vocalized as "Elohim". Most use of the term
Hebrew text imply a view that is at least monolatrist at the
time of writing, and such usage (in the singular), as a proper title
for the supreme deity, is generally not considered to be synonymous
with the term elohim, "gods" (plural, simple noun).
allows for this nominally plural form to mean "He is the Power
(singular) over powers (plural)", or roughly, "God of gods". Rabbinic
Maimonides wrote that the various other usages are commonly
understood to be homonyms .
* 1 Grammar and etymology
* 2 Canaanite religion
* 4 Usage
Elohim with plural verb
Elohim with singular verb
* 4.3 Angels and judges
* 4.4 Ambiguous readings
* 4.5 Other plural-singulars in biblical
* 4.6 Jacob\'s ladder "gods were revealed" (plural)
* 4.7 The
Divine Council of
Sons of God
Sons of God
* 5 Latter-Day Saints
* 6 See also
* 7 Notes
* 8 References
* 9 External links
GRAMMAR AND ETYMOLOGY
El (deity) ,
Ilah , and
Elohim is a grammatically plural noun for "gods " or "deity " in
Hebrew . In Modern
Hebrew , it is often referred to in the
singular despite the -im ending that denotes plural masculine nouns in
In Hebrew, the ending -im normally indicates a masculine plural.
However, when referring to the
Elohim is usually
understood to be grammatically singular (i.e. it governs a singular
verb or adjective). Similarly, the
Quran uses alīha as the plural of
īlah for pagan divinities, and occasionally uses "Allahum" (O God! -
plural) for the sole god (as opposed to "Allah"). The exact
equivalent, in modern Arabic, of
Elohim as meaning plural gods would
be Ilāhīn (إلاهين), although it is rarely used in Arabic
parlance. Note that human beings can also have names with plural
endings, such as
Ephraim , the son of Joseph .
It is generally thought that
Elohim is derived from eloah, the latter
being an expanded form of the Northwest Semitic noun ’il. The
related nouns eloah (אלוה) and el (אֵל) are used as proper
names or as generics, in which case they are interchangeable with
elohim. The term contains an added heh as third radical to the
biconsonantal root . Discussions of the etymology of elohim
essentially concern this expansion. An exact cognate outside of Hebrew
is found in
Ugaritic ʾlhm, the family of El, the creator god and
chief deity of the
Canaanite pantheon , in
Biblical Aramaic ʼĔlāhā
and later Syriac
Alaha "God", and in Arabic
ʾilāh "god, deity" (or
Allah as "The God").
"El" (the basis for the extended root ʾlh) is usually derived from a
root meaning "to be strong" and/or "to be in front".
Ancient Canaanite religion
The word el (singular) is a standard term for "god" in Aramaic,
paleo-Hebrew, and other related Semitic languages including
Canaanite pantheon of gods was known as 'ilhm, the Ugaritic
equivalent to elohim. For instance, in the
Baal cycle we
read of "seventy sons of
Asherah ". Each "son of god" was held to be
the originating deity for a particular people. (KTU 2 1.4.VI.46).
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Elohim occurs frequently throughout the
Torah . In some cases (e.g.
Exodus 3:4, "...
Elohim called unto him out of the midst of the bush
..."), it behaves like a singular noun in
Hebrew grammar, and is then
generally understood to denote the single God of Israel. In other
Elohim acts as an ordinary plural of the word Eloah, and refers
to the polytheistic notion of multiple gods (for example, Exodus 20:3,
"You shall have no other gods before me.").
The words used for God varies in the
Hebrew Bible . According to the
documentary hypothesis these variations are the products of different
Elohim is used as the name of God in the
Elohist (E) and
Priestly (P) sources, while the name
Yahweh is used in the
Form criticism postulates the differences of names may be the
result of geographical origins; the P and E sources coming from the
North and J from the South. There may be a theological point, that God
did not reveal his name, Yahweh, before the time of
Moses , though
Hans Heinrich Schmid showed that the
Jahwist was aware of the
prophetic books from the 7th and 8th centuries BCE.
Yahweh anthropomorphically: for example, walking through
the Garden of Eden looking for Adam and Eve. The
Elohim as more distant and frequently involves angels , as in
Elohist version of the tale of Jacob\'s ladder , in which there is
a ladder to the clouds, with angels climbing up and down, with Elohim
at the top. In the
Yahweh is simply stationed in the
sky, above the clouds without the ladder or angels. Likewise, the
Elohist describes Jacob wrestling with an angel.
The classical documentary hypothesis , first developed in the late
19th century CE among literary scholars , holds that the Elohist
portions of the
Torah were composed in the 9th century BCE (i.e.
during the early period of the
Kingdom of Judah ). This, however, is
not universally accepted as later literary scholarship seems to show
evidence of a later "
Elohist redaction" (post-exilic ) during the 5th
century BCE which sometimes makes it difficult to determine whether a
given passage is "Elohist" in origin, or the result of a later editor.
Hebrew grammar Further information:
Names of God in
Elohim occurs more than 2500 times in the
Hebrew Bible ,
with meanings ranging from "gods" in a general sense (as in Exodus
12:12, where it describes "the gods of Egypt"), to specific gods
(e.g., 1 Kings 11:33, where it describes Chemosh "the god of Moab", or
the frequent references to
Yahweh (Jehovah) as the "elohim" of
Israel), to demons, seraphim , and other supernatural beings, to the
spirits of the dead brought up at the behest of King Saul in 1 Samuel
28:13, and even to kings and prophets (e.g., Exodus 4:16). The phrase
bene elohim, translated "sons of the Gods", has an exact parallel in
Ugaritic and Phoenician texts, referring to the council of the gods.
Elohim occupy the seventh rank of ten in the famous medieval Rabbinic
Jewish angelic hierarchy .
Maimonides said: "I
must premise that every
Hebrew knows that the term
Elohim is a
homonym, and denotes God, angels, judges, and the rulers of countries,
ELOHIM WITH PLURAL VERB
In 1 Samuel 28:13, elohim is used with a plural verb. The witch of
Endor told Saul that she saw "elohim ascending (olim עֹלִים,
plural verb) out of the earth.
In Genesis 20:13, Abraham, before the polytheistic Philistine king
Abimelech , says that "
Elohim (translated as God) caused (התעו,
plural verb) me to wander". Whereas the Greek
Septuagint (LXX) has
a singular verb form (ἐξήγαγε(ν), aorist II), most English
versions usually translate this as "God caused" (which does not
distinguish between a singular and plural verb), possibly to avoid the
implication that Abraham was deferring to Abimelech's polytheistic
ELOHIM WITH SINGULAR VERB
Elohim, when meaning the God of Israel, is mostly grammatically
singular, and is commonly translated as "God", and capitalised. For
example, in Genesis 1:26, it is written: "Then
Elohim (translated as
God) said (singular verb), 'Let us (plural) make (plural verb) man in
our (plural) image, after our (plural) likeness'". Wilhelm Gesenius
Hebrew grammarians traditionally described this as the
pluralis excellentiae (plural of excellence), which is similar to the
pluralis majestatis (plural of majesty, or "Royal we").
Gesenius comments that
Elohim singular is to be distinguished from
elohim plural gods and remarks that:
the supposition that elohim is to be regarded as merely a remnant of
earlier polytheistic views (i.e. as originally only a numerical
plural) is at least highly improbable, and, moreover, would not
explain the analogous plurals (below). To the same class (and probably
formed on the analogy of elohim) belong the plurals kadoshim, meaning
"the Most Holy" (only of Yahweh, Hosea 12:1, Proverbs 9:10, 30:3 - cf.
El hiym kadoshim in Joshua 24:19 and the singular Aramaic "the Most
High", Daniel 7:18, 22, 25) and probably teraphim (usually taken in
the sense of penates ), the image of a god, used especially for
obtaining oracles. Certainly in 1 Samuel 19:13, 16 only one image is
intended; in most other places a single image may be intended; in
Zechariah 10:2 alone is it most naturally taken as a numerical plural.
There are a number of notable exceptions to the rule that
treated as singular when referring to the God of Israel, including
Gen. 20:13, 35:7, 2 Sam. 7:23 and Ps. 58:11, and notably the epithet
of the "Living God" (Deuteronomy 5:26 etc.), which is constructed with
the plural adjective,
Elohim Hayiym אלהים חיים but still
takes singular verbs.
New Testament translations
Elohim has the
singular ὁ θεός even in these cases, and modern translations
follow suit in giving "God " in the singular. The Samaritan
edited out some of these exceptions.
ANGELS AND JUDGES
In a few cases in the Greek
Hebrew elohim with a
plural verb, or with implied plural context, was rendered either
angeloi ("angels") or to kriterion tou Theou ("the judgement of God").
These passages then entered first the Latin
Vulgate , then the
King James Version
King James Version (KJV) as "angels" and "judges",
respectively. From this came the result that James Strong, for
example, listed "angels" and "judges" as possible meanings for elohim
with a plural verb in his Strong\'s Concordance , and the same is true
of many other 17th-20th century reference works. Both Gesenius' Hebrew
Lexicon and the
Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon list both angels and
judges as possible alternative meanings of elohim with plural verbs
The reliability of the
Septuagint translation in this matter has been
questioned by Gesenius and
Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg . In the case of
Gesenius, he lists the meaning without agreeing with it. Hengstenberg
stated that the
Hebrew Bible text never uses elohim to refer to
"angels", but that the
Septuagint translators refused the references
to "gods" in the verses they amended to "angels."
New Testament (NT) quotes Psalm 8:4-6 in Hebrews 2:6b-8a,
where the Greek NT has "ἀγγέλους" (angelous) in vs. 7,
quoting Ps. 8:5 (8:6 in the LXX), which also has "ἀγγέλους"
in a version of the Greek Septuagint. In the KJV, elohim (Strong's
number H430) is translated as "angels" only in Psalm 8:5.
KJV has elohim translated as "judges" in Exodus 21:6; Exodus
22:8; and twice in Exodus 22:9.
Sometimes when elohim occurs as the referent or object (i.e. not
subject) of a sentence, and without any accompanying verb or adjective
to indicate plurality, it may be grammatically unclear whether gods
plural or God singular is intended. An example is Psalm 8:5 where "Yet
you have made him a little lower than the elohim" is ambiguous as to
whether "lower than the gods" or "lower than God" is intended. The
Septuagint read this as "gods" and then "corrected" the translation to
"angels", which reading is taken up by the
New Testament in Hebrews
2:9 "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for
the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the
grace of God should taste death for every man." (full quote and
OTHER PLURAL-SINGULARS IN BIBLICAL HEBREW
Hebrew language has several nouns with -im (masculine plural) and
-oth (feminine plural) endings which nevertheless take singular verbs,
adjectives and pronouns. For example, Ba'alim "owner": "He is lord
(singular) even over any of those things that he owns that are lordly
JACOB\'S LADDER "GODS WERE REVEALED" (PLURAL)
In the following verses
Elohim was translated as God singular in the
King James Version
King James Version even though it was accompanied by plural verbs and
other plural grammatical terms.
And there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because
there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.
— Genesis 35:7,
Hebrew verb "revealed" is plural, hence: "the-gods were
revealed". A NET Bible note claims that the
Authorized Version wrongly
translates: "God appeared unto him". This is one of several instances
where the Bible uses plural verbs with the name elohim.
THE DIVINE COUNCIL OF ELOHIM
AV Psalm 82:1 God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he
judgeth among the gods.
I have said, Ye gods; and all of you children of the most High. But
ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. — Psalm
82:1, 6-7 (AV)
Marti Steussy, in Chalice Introduction to the Old Testament,
discusses: “The first verse of Psalm 82: ‘
Elohim has taken his
place in the divine council.’ Here elohim has a singular verb and
clearly refers to God. But in verse 6 of the Psalm, God says to the
other members of the council, ‘You are elohim.’ Here elohim has
to mean gods.”
Mark Smith, referring to this same Psalm, states in God in
Translation “This psalm presents a scene of the gods meeting
together in divine council...
Elohim stands in the council of El. Among
the elohim he pronounces judgment:...”
In Hulsean Lectures for..., H. M. Stephenson discussed Jesus’
argument in John 10:34–36 concerning Psalm 82. (In answer to the
charge of blasphemy Jesus replied:) "Is it not written in your law, I
said, Ye are gods. If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God
came, and the scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the
Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest;
because I said, I am the
Son of God?" – "Now what is the force of
this quotation 'I said ye are gods.' It is from the Asaph Psalm which
Elohim hath taken His place in the mighty assembly. In the
midst of the
Elohim He is judging.'"
SONS OF GOD
Sons of God
Sons of God
Hebrew word for a son is ben; plural is bānim (with the
construct state form being "benei"). The
Hebrew term benei elohim
("sons of God " or "sons of the gods") in Genesis 6:2 compares to the
use of "sons of gods" (
Ugaritic b'n il) sons of El in Ugaritic
Karel van der Toorn states that gods can be referred to
collectively as bene elim, bene elyon, or bene elohim.
In Jewish tradition, the
Torah verse, that was the battle-cry of the
Hebrew : מכבים Machabim), "Mi chamocha ba'elim
YHWH " ("Who is like You among the heavenly powers, YHWH"), is an
acronym for "Machabi" as well as an acronym for "Matityahu Kohen ben
Yochanan " The correlating
Torah verse, The song of
Moses and the
Children of Israel by the Sea, makes a reference to elim, but more
with a mundane notion of natural forces, might, war and governmental
God in Mormonism
God in Mormonism
Elohim is a name occasionally used to refer to God the
Elohim is a being that is separate from Jesus Christ or "the
Lord" of the Old Testament.
Elohim is the physical father of Jesus,
whose name before birth is said to have been "
Book of Abraham , which faithful members of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints hold to be divinely inspired scripture
revealed by the prophet
Joseph Smith , contains a paraphrase of the
first chapter of Genesis which explicitly translates
Elohim as “the
Gods” multiple times.
Genesis creation narrative
* Henotheism § Canaanite religion and early Judaism
Monolatrism § In ancient Israel
Names of God
Raëlism — a new religious movement centered on beings referred
to as Elohim
Mark S. Smith , God in translation: deities in cross-cultural
discourse in the biblical world, vol. 57 of "Forschungen zum Alten
Testament", Mohr Siebeck, 2008, ISBN 978-3-16-149543-4 , p. 19.;
Smith, Mark S. (2002), "The Early History of God:
Yahweh and the
Other Deities in Ancient Israel" (Biblical Resource Series) * ^ A B
Maimonides . "Guide for the Perplexed" (1904 translation by
* ^ Glinert Modern Hebrew: An Essential Grammar Routledge p14
section 13 "(b) Agreement "
* ^ Gesenius A Grammar of the
* ^ A B C D E F K. van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van
der Horst (eds), Dictionary of deities and demons in the Bible
(revised 2nd edition, Brill, 1999) ISBN 90-04-11119-0 , p. 274, 352-3
* ^ Article "Eloah" by Dennis Pardee in
Karel van der Toorn ; Bob
Pieter van der Horst , eds. (1999). Dictionary of Deities
and Demons in the Bible (2 ed.). p. 285. ASIN B00RWRAWY8 . s.v.
"Eloah" "The term expressing the simple notion of 'gods' in these
texts is ilm...".
* ^ van der Toorn, Karel (1999). "God". In van der Toorn, Karel;
Becking, Bob; van der Horst, Pieter. Dictionary of Deities and Demons
in the Bible (2nd ed.). Brill. p. 360. ISBN 90-04-11119-0 .
* ^ John Day
Yahweh and the gods and goddesses of Canaan, p.23
* ^ H. H. Schmid, Der Sogenannte
Jahwist (Zurich: TVZ, 1976)
* ^ Brian B. Schmidt Israel's beneficent dead: ancestor cult and
necromancy in ancient Israelite Religion and Tradition, Forschungen
zum Alten Testament 11 (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr , 1994). Page 217 "In
spite of the fact that the MT plural noun 'elohim of v.13 is followed
by a plural participle 'olim, a search for the antecedent to the
singular pronominal suffix on mah-to'ro in v.14 what does he/it look
like? has led interpreters to view the 'elohim . . . 'olim as a
designation for the dead Samuel, "a god ascending." The same term
'elohim ... He, therefore, urgently requests verification of Samuel's
identity, mah-to'"ro, "what does he/it look like?" The .... 32:1,
'elohim occurs with a plural finite verb and denotes multiple gods in
this instance: 'elohim '"seryel'ku I fydnenu, "the gods who will go
before us." Thus, the two occurrences of 'elohim in 1 Sam 28:13,15 —
the first complemented by a plural ...28:13 manifests a complex
textual history, then the 'elohim of v. 13 might represent not the
deified dead, but those gods known to be summoned — some from the
netherworld — to assist in the retrieval of the ghost.373 ...
* ^ Benamozegh, Elia; Maxwell Luria (1995). Israel and Humanity.
Paulist Press International. p. 104. ISBN 978-0809135417 .
* ^ Hamilton, Victor P. (2012). Exodus: An Exegetical Commentary.
Baker Academic. ISBN 978-0801031830 .
* ^ e.g. Gen. 20:13
Hebrew : התעו אתי אלהים מבית
אבי (where התעו is from
Hebrew : תעה "to err,
wander, go astray, stagger", the causative plural "they caused to
* ^ LXX : ἐξήγαγέν με ὁ θεὸς ἐκ τοῦ
οἴκου τοῦ πατρός;
KJV : "when God caused me to wander
from my father's house"
* ^ Gesenius
Hebrew Grammar: 124g, without article 125f, with
article 126e, with the singular 145h, with plural 132h,145i"
* ^ Richard N. Soulen, R. Kendall Soulen, Handbook of biblical
criticism, Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, ISBN 978-0-664-22314-4 ,
* ^ Brenton
Septuagint Exodus 21:6 προσάξει αὐτὸν
ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὸ κριτήριον
* ^ The Biblical Repositor p. 360 ed. Edward Robinson - 1838
"Gesenius denies that elohim ever means angels; and he refers in this
denial particularly to Ps. 8: 5, and Ps. 97: 7; but he observes, that
the term is so translated in the ancient versions."
* ^ Samuel Davidsohn An Introduction to the
New Testament 3 1848
p282 "Hengstenberg, for example, affirms, that the usus loquendi is
decisive against the direct reference to angels, because
signifies angels. He thinks that the
Septuagint translator could not
understand the representation ..."
* ^ "Hebrews 2:7 with Greek". Retrieved 18 March 2013.
* ^ "Psalm 8:5 with Greek (8:6 in the LXX)". Retrieved 18 March
* ^ "
Elohim as angels in the
KJV only in Psalm 8:5 (8:6 in LXX)".
Retrieved 18 March 2013.
* ^ "
Elohim as "judges" in the KJV". Retrieved 18 March 2013.
* ^ NET Bible with Companion CD-ROM W. Hall Harris, 3rd, none -
2003 - "35:14 So Jacob set up a sacred stone pillar in the place where
God spoke with him.30 He poured out a 20tn Heb "revealed themselves."
The verb iVl] (niglu), translated "revealed himself," is plural, even
though one expects the singular"
* ^ Haggai and Malachi p36 Herbert Wolf - 1976 If both the noun and
the verb are plural, the construction can refer to a person, just as
the statement “God revealed Himself” in Genesis 35:7 has a plural
noun and verb. But since the word God, “Elohim,” is plural in
form,8 the verb ..."
* ^ Psychology and the Bible: From Genesis to apocalyptic vision
p243 J. Harold Ellens, Wayne G. Rollins - 2004 "Often the plural form
Elohim, when used in reference to the biblical deity, takes a plural
verb or adjective (Gen. 20:13, 35:7; Exod. 32:4, 8; 2 Sam. 7:23; Ps.
* ^ Steussy, Marti. "Chalice Introduction to the Old Testament"
* ^ Smith, Mark. "God in Translation:..."
* ^ Stephenson, H. M. (1890) Hulsean Lectures for... lecture 1,
* ^ (e.g. Genesis 6:2, "... the sons of the
Elohim (e-aleim) saw
the daughters of men (e-adam, the adam) that they were fair; and they
took them for wives..., "
* ^ Marvin H. Pope El in the
Ugaritic texts Supplements to Vetus
Testamentum Vol. II Leiden, Brill, 1955. Pp. x—l-116, p49
* ^ First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles , "The
Father and the Son",
Improvement Era , August 1916, pp. 934–42;
reprinted as "The Father and the Son" , Ensign , April 2002.
* Horst Dietrich Preuss, Old Testament theology, vol. 1, Continuum
International Publishing Group, 1995, ISBN 978-0-567-09735-4 ,
Hebrew word #430 in Strong\'s Concordance
New International Encyclopedia . 1905.
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