Who is Elohim?
Many are learning the Creator's name, and are using Yahweh, or something similar when referring to the god of Israel. But in Genesis and Exodus, the Hebrew word Myhla elohim (Strong's #430) is frequently used. In fact Gen 1:1 says: "In the beginning Elohim created ....".
Some are confused by this, and wonder whether Elohim and Yahweh might be two separate entities. Trinitarians exacerbate this confusion, and use it for their purpose, trying to show that their "God" is a plurality of persons. Some of them do this by saying that Elohim and Yahweh are two separate entities. Others do it by saying that the Hebrew word elohim, is itself, a plurality.
The purpose of this article is to reduce this confusion by showing that when the Bible refers to the Creator as Elohim, it means none other than the one and only Yahweh. The word elohim is a generic title. The phrase, "Yahweh your elohim", is like, "John your doctor", where elohim, and doctor, are not names, but titles.
YAHWEH IS A SINGULAR ENTITY
Yahweh is a lone and single entity and in reference to Him, hundreds of verses use the word elohim as a singular title as follows:
Ex 20:2: I am Yahweh your elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.
Lev 25:17: Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy elohim: for I am Yahweh your elohim.
Deut 6:4: Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our elohim is one Yahweh:
Deut 4:39: Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that Yahweh he is elohim in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.1
ELOHIM AS A SINGULAR TITLE
Some erroneously suppose the word elohim is always plural. Actually it is one of those kinds of words which can be either singular or plural. The context of its usage must be the determining factor. Here are some examples where it cannot possibly be plural.
Deut 4:35: To you it was shown, that you might know that Yahweh is elohim; there is no other beside him.
In this verse it is impossible for the word elohim to have a plural meaning!
Besides many texts where elohim is used as a singular title for Yahweh, it is also a singular title for various pagan deities; Chemosh, Milcom, Dagon and Ashtoreth.3 And it is singular in reference to Moses.3 So clearly, the word elohim is not always plural. In fact the only times it is plural is in some of the references to pagan deities.4
Referring to a specific pagan deity, elohim is singular, but it is sometimes used in the plural sense referring to more than one, or to all of them collectively:
Ex 12:12 .... and against all the elohim of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am Yahweh.
Ex 18:11 Now I know that Yahweh is greater than all elohim: for in the thing wherein they dealt proudly he was above them.
Deut 12:3: ... you shall hew down the graven images of their elohim, and destroy the names of them out of that place.
Lev 19:4: Do not turn to idols, or make for yourselves molten elohim: I am Yahweh your elohim.5
ELOHIM AS AN APPELLATION
We have seen frequent and obvious use of elohim as a generic title. But a number of times in Genesis and Exodus it is used as an appellation (as if it were a name). We have the same situation in English with the word god as a title in the phrase, "the god of Abraham"; and as an appellation in the phrase "God is just". In Hebrew it would be, "the elohim of Abraham"; and "Elohim is just".
Hebrews used the word elohim from their human vocabulary when referring to the Creator. And that same Creator communicated to humans and said that His name is Yahweh. In Ex 6:2, some person wrote: Elohim spoke unto Moses and said, "I am Yahweh". This verse alone is sufficient to refute the teaching that Elohim is someone other than Yahweh.
YAHWEH IS ELOHIM
Yahweh and Elohim are not separate entities. Yahweh is Elohim just as Ex 6:2 says. Here is more proof:
Deut 4:35: To you it was shown, that you might know that Yahweh He is Elohim and there is none else beside Him.
Josh 22:34: ... for it shall be a witness between us that Yahweh is Elohim.
1 Ki 8:60: That all the people of the earth may know that Yahweh is Elohim, and that there is none else.
The confusion about this subject vanishes when you simply understand that elohim was a word which Hebrews used from their own human vocabulary in reference to the Creator, while Yahweh is the name which that Creator revealed to Moses. The history in Genesis and Exodus was written by someone who sometimes used the word elohim from the human vocabulary, and other times used Yahweh, the name revealed to Moses, but always in reference to the same one and only Creator.
The Bible gives no indication that the true elohim is more than one or that He is anyone other than Yahweh! Only the one true Creator has power over physical laws so as to do miracles. He did those miracles in the presence of Israelites and Egyptians to show His power and identity.
Deut 4:35: To you (the Israelites) it (the miracles) was shown, that you might know that Yahweh He is Elohim (the powerful Creator) and there is none else beside Him.
1 And there are dozens more similar examples of elohim used as a singular title in reference to Yahweh. You can see a complete list of them by looking up Strong's #430 in Englishman's concordance. Yahweh your elohim is translated in most English bibles as the LORD your God.
2 Although false or powerless, these were considered to be singular entities. See 1 Ki 11:5; 11:33 and Judg 16:23.
3 Ex 7:1: And Yahweh said unto Moses, see, I have made you elohim to Pharaoh .... This does not mean that Moses really was elohim. But it surely appeared to Pharaoh that he was elohim.
4 Some may disagree by citing Ex 21:6 & 22:8-9 but there is no reason to translate elohim as judges here. The meaning here is that the subject (person) is to be brought to elohim (Yahweh) at His court just as litigants are required to do in Deut 19:17.
5 For more examples of elohim as a title for pagan deities, see: Ex 20:3; 23:13,24,32,33; 34:14-17; Num 25:2; 33:4; Deut 4:28; 5:7; 6:14; 7:4,16,25; 8:19; 11:16,28; 12:2-3,30-31; 17:3; 18:20; 20:18; 28:14,36,64; 13:2,6-7,13; 29:18,26; Josh 23:7; 24:2,14-16,20,23; 2 Ki 17:35; Isa 44:15-17; Jer 25:6; 35:15.
Submitted to Search the Scriptures Newsletter by Lloyd Brumbaugh (Ed. Note: Lloyd Brumbaugh is the author of theleaflet, “The Creator Knows You By Name; Do You Know HimBy Name?)