September 2023 | Acts 5—Generosity and Corruption

Names of God in Old Testament

Names of God in Old Testament

Dr. John K. Mathew

Webster defines "name" as a word or phrase by which a person, thing or class of things is spoken of,  known by or called.

The Hebrews thought of names as being revelatory, as disclosing some attribute that was characteristic of the person named. For instance, the name Adam means, 'of the earth' or' taken out of the red earth'. His name revealed his origin. A number of names for god are found in the scriptures. It could be just one name or a multiplicity of names that can reveal all his attributes. But we need only to know God's attributes to the extent that he is pleased to reveal them, and those that pertain to the relationship we have with him. The name ‘Elohim’ is the first word used in the scripture to designate God.

The Hebrew word 'Elohim' grammatically is a plural word used in singular sense. The verbs and pronouns used with 'Elohim' should be in the plural, when Elohim refers to the Lord God, the verbs and pronouns are in the singular. 

There are several compound names used with Elohim - El-Shaddai, El -Elyon, El- Roi, El-Olam and so on. They all represent different attributes of ‘Elohim’. 

Rabbi Simeon ben Joachi commenting on the word Elohim: 'Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet notwithstanding they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other". (David Guzik, Verse by Verse Commentary: Genesis). 

Jehovah is the personal name of God in his relationship as redeemer. Exodus 3:13-15 reads: "Moses said to God, suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you and they ask me, What is his name? then what shall I tell them? God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM. This is what you have to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you. God said to Moses, Say to the Israelites, THE LORD, The God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you." This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation." Since Jehovah is the covenant name of God expressing personal relationship, it is natural that his name would be compounded with other terms that identify and make specific those relationships.

In the Old Testament, there are nine names compounded with the name of Jehovah.

Jehovah-Tsidkenu, Jehovah-Elohim, Jehovah-Jireh, Jehova-Rapha, Jehovah-Nissi, Jehova-Shalom, Jehovah-Raah, Jehova-Saboath and Jehovah-Shammah.

Each of this is a revelation of the character and nature of God. Larry Lea, in his book, 'Could You Not Tarry One Hour?'  suggests,that the nine compound names of God in the Old Testament also correspond to the five-fold promise God makes to his people in the new covenant or the New Testament. While God's name reveal different dimensions of his character they also point to their fulfilment in the person and work of Jesus Christ. 

What are the five promises or benefits in the New Covenant with which the nine compound names of God correspond? He begins each with an 'S': 

1. Sin - forgiveness of sin and deliverance from sin's dominion;

2, Spirit - the fullness of the Holy Spirit

3. Soundness - the promise of health and healing

4. Success - freedom from the law's curse of failure and insufficiency

5. Security - freedom from the fear of death and hell

It is our responsibility to appropriate the names of God and the character it represents through Jesus Christ in our life.

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