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"And Elohim created Adam" by William Blake.

Elohim (אֱלהִים) is a Hebrew word which expresses concepts of divinity or deity, notably used as a name of God in Judaism. It is apparently related to the Northwest Semitic word ʾēl (אֱל) "god". Within Hebrew, it is morphologically a plural, in use both as a true plural with the meaning "angels, gods, rulers" and as a "plural intensive" with singular meaning, referring to a god or goddess, and especially to the single God of Israel. The associated singular Eloah (אלוה) occurs only in poetry and in late Biblical Hebrew, in imitation of Aramaic usage.[1]

In the Torah, the word sometimes acts as a singular noun in Hebrew grammar, and is then generally understood to denote the single God of Israel, while in other cases, it acts as an ordinary plural and refers to the polytheistic notion of multiple gods (see Sons of God).

The notion of divinity underwent radical changes throughout the period of early Israelite identity. The ambiguity of the term Elohim is the result of such changes, cast in terms of "vertical translatability" by Smith (2008), i.e. the re-interpretation of the gods of the earliest recalled period as the national god of the monolatrism as it emerged  in the 7th to 6th century BC 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 AD.[2]



The term is clearly related to Northwest Semitic ʾēl "god", but it contains the addition of the 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, and in Arabic ʾilāh "god, deity". Eloah (the extended root ʾlh) does not have any clear etymology.[3] The word ʾel itself is usually derived from a root meaning "to be strong". Joel Hoffman derives it from the common Canaanite word elim, with the mater lectionis heh inserted to distinguish the Israelite God from other gods. He argues that elohim thus patterns with Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah.[4]

Grammatical number

In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and adjective and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions (such as "one" or "more than one").[5]

The form of the word Elohim, with the ending -im, is plural and masculine, but the construction is usually singular, i.e. it governs a singular verb or adjective when referring to the Hebrew god, but reverts to its normal plural when used of heathen divinities (Psalms 96:5; 97:7). Some exceptions include Gen. 20:13, 35:7, 2 Sam. 7:23 and Ps. 58:11[6]. Even in these cases, the Septuagint translation has the singular ὁ θεὸς, and modern translations follow suit in giving "God" in the singular.[7]

There are many theories as to why the word is plural:

  • In one view, predominant among monotheists, the word is plural in order to augment its meaning and form an abstraction meaning "Divine majesty".[citation needed]
  • Among orthodox Trinitarian Christian writers it is sometimes used as evidence for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.[citation needed]
  • The word's plurality may reflect early Semitic polytheism, originally meaning "the gods", or the "sons of El," the supreme being. The word may have been singularized by later monotheist priests who sought to replace worship of the many gods of the Canaanite or Semitic pantheon with the Hebrew singular patron god YHWH alone.[citation needed]
  • Michael Heiser has suggested that verses such as Ps. 82:6 (El in within of Elohim) refer to a "Divine Council" of elohim serving the Creator. See the "Divine Council" [8]

A plural noun governing a singular verb may be according to oldest usage. The gods form a heavenly assembly where they act as one. In this context, the Elohim may be a collective plural when the gods act in concert. Compare this to English headquarters, which is plural but governs a singular verb: there are many rooms or quarters, but they all serve one purpose. Thus, it is argued, the meaning of Elohim therefore can mean one god, with many attributes.

The alternative polytheist theory would explain why there are three words built on the same stem: El, Elohim, and eloah. El, the father god, has many divine sons, who are known by the plural of his name, Elohim, or Els. Eloah, might then be used to differentiate each of the lesser gods from El himself.

While the words El, Elohim, and eloah are clearly related, with the word El being the stem, some have claimed it is uncertain whether the word Elohim is derived from El through eloah. These have suggested that the word Elohim is the masculine plural of a feminine noun, used as a singular. This would imply indeterminacy in both number and gender, although, as mentioned above, from Canaanite texts in Ugarit, this is what appears to be intended in this case[citation needed]. However, to many this is speculative and confusing, although consistent with many other Jewish and Christian views of the nature of the Godhead.[citation needed]

Note that contrary to what is sometimes assumed, the word Eloah (אלוה) is quite definitely not feminine in form in the Hebrew language (and does not have feminine grammatical gender in its occurrences in the Bible). This word ends in a furtivum vowel (i.e. short non-syllabic [a] element which is part of a lowering diphthong) followed by a breathily-pronounced final [h] consonant sound—while feminine Hebrew words which end in "ah" have a fully syllabic [a] vowel which is followed by a silent "h" letter (which changes to a [t] sound in the grammatical "construct state" construction, or if suffixes are added). The pronounced [h] (or he mappiq) of Eloah never alternates with a [t] consonant sound (the way that silent feminine "h" does), and the [a] "furtivum" element in Eloah is actually a late feature of masoretic pronunciation traditions, which wouldn't have existed in the pronunciation of Biblical times.

The meaning of Elohim is further complicated by the fact that it is used to describe the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel, raised by Saul in 1 Samuel 28:13. The witch of Endor tells Saul that she sees 'gods' (elohim) coming up out of the earth; this seems to indicate that the term was indeed used simply to mean something like 'divine beings' in ancient Israel.

It is worthy of note that, in the Biblical Hebrew (as well as in many other languages, such as Yaqui) the customary grammatical "plurality" of a word is often simply that: a grammatical plural. The use of "plural" forms for singular nouns is common in the Hebrew Bible, and often connotes quintessence, uniqueness, or might rather than plurality (though it may connote both). Thus, the phrase "מלך מלכי המלכים" ("melekh maləkêi ha-məlâkhim") does not refer to "a king, kings of kings", but to "a king of unsurpassed kingship"; שיר השירים, ("shir ha-shirim") does not refer to "a song of songs", but to "a song that is the quintessential song"; ימים רבים ("yamim rabim") refers to "a great sea" as easily as to "great [or 'many'] seas". A clue to this is the Hebrew grammatical term for "plural": lâshon rabbim, meaning a term of grandiosities.

Hebrew Bible

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 acts as a singular noun in Hebrew grammar, and is then generally understood to denote the single God of Israel. In other cases, Elohim acts as an ordinary plural of the word Eloah, and refers to the polytheistic notion of multiple gods (for example, Exodus 20:3, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."). In still other cases, the meaning is not clear from the text, but may refer to powerful beings (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... ," Exodus 4:16, "He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you [Moses] were Elohim to him [Aaron]... ," Exodus 22:28, "Thou shalt not revile Elohim, or curse a ruler of your people... ," where the parallelism suggests that Elohim may refer to human rulers) (see Sons of God).

The choice of word or words for God varies in the Hebrew Bible. According to the documentary hypothesis these variations are evidence of different source texts: Elohim is used as the name of God in the Elohist and the Priestly source, while Yahweh is used in the Jahwist source. The difference in names results from the theological point being made in the Elohist and Priestly sources that God did not reveal his name, Yahweh, to any man before the time of Moses.

While the Jahwist presented an anthropomorphic God who could walk through the Garden of Eden looking for Adam and Eve, the Elohist frequently involves angels. For example, it is the Elohist version of the tale of Jacob's ladder in which there is a ladder of angels with God at the top, whereas in the Jahwist tale, it is a simple dream in which God is simply above the location, without the ladder or angels. Likewise, the Elohist describes Jacob actually wrestling with God.

In Rabbinic Judaism

Elohim occupy the seventh rank of ten in the famous medieval Rabbinic scholar Maimonides' Jewish angelic hierarchy. Also Maimonides told that:

I must premise that every Hebrew knows that the term Elohim is a homonym, and denotes God, angels, judges, and the rulers of countries, ...[9]

Modern Judaism forbids the use of the word "Elohim" under the belief that "Elohim" is one of God's names, and that speaking his name out loud is forbidden by the Torah. Therefore, when said out loud outside of prayer, and when written not by a Sofer Stam, the word's fourth letter hei (Hebrew: ה') is replaced by the letter kof (Hebrew: ק), which is similar in shape but completely changes the phonetic pronunciation of the word from "Elohim" to "Elokim". In Hebrew culture it is often easy to differentiate religious people from secular people by the former's use of the word "Elokim" or "Hashem" (Hebrew: השם, meaning "The Name") instead of the word "Elohim". Other names of God are also replaced, such as "Adonai" (In writing it is replaced by the letter hei and when spoken is replaced by either "Hakadosh Baruch-Hu" (Hebrew: הקדוש ברוך-הוא, meaning "The Holy One, Blessed He Is") or simply "Hashem."

Christian Bible translations

Hebrew elohim in English Bible translations is usually rendered as gods when referring to pagan deities, and as God when referring to the God of Israel, echoing use of θεος theos in LXX.

In some Sacred name Bibles, like The Scriptures 98 and Restored Name King James Version the word "Elohim" is used in many places in the New Testament where the word theos is found in the Greek text (such as John 1:1 and John 10:36). Though there are no attested early Biblical manuscripts of the New Testament with "Elohim", the editors of such translations appeal to the fact that the Syriac word ܐܠܗܐ Aloha, the source of Hebrew Eloah, is found in the Syriac bible text.

In contrast to most of mainline Christianity, Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that God the Father is Elohim and Jesus Christ (the actual creator in Mormon view) is Jehovah, both of whom have physical tangible bodies of flesh and bone.

When one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to; that is, Elohim. All mankind are his children. The personage known as Jehovah in Old Testament times, and who is usually identified in the Old Testament as LORD (in capital letters), is the Son, known as Jesus Christ, and who is also a God. Jesus works under the direction of the Father and is in complete harmony with him. All mankind are his brethren and sisters, he being the eldest of the spirit children of Elohim. Many of the things that the scripture says were done "by God" were actually done by the LORD (Jesus).[10]

See also


  1. ^ Gesenius' Lexicon (1847) s.v. אלוה
  2. ^ 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 9783161495434, p. 19.
  3. ^ Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible ISBN 90-04-11119-0, s.v. "Elohim".
  4. ^ Hoffman, Joel M.. In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language. ISBN 0-8147-3654-8. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ e.g. Gen. 20:13: התעו אתי אלהים מבית אבי (where התעו is from תעה "to err, wander, go astray, stagger", the causative plural "they caused to wander"). LXX: ἐξήγαγέν με ὁ θεὸς ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου τοῦ πατρόςKJV: "when God caused me to wander from my father's house"
  8. ^"The Divine Council"
  9. ^ Moses Maimonides(1904)"Guide for the Perplexed"
  10. ^ Bible Dictionary: God, The Official Scriptures of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2006 Intellectual Reserve, Inc.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




From Hebrew אלהים or אלוהים (elohiym) plural of "god"

Proper noun




  1. The name used for God in the Hebrew scriptures

See also


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to God article)

From BibleWiki

(A.S. and Dutch God; Dan. Gud; Ger. Gott), the name of the Divine Being.



It is the rendering (1) of the Hebrew El, from a word meaning to be strong; (2) of Eloah, plural Elohim. The singular form, Eloah, is used only in poetry. The plural form is more commonly used in all parts of the Bible, The Hebrew word Jehovah, the only other word generally employed to denote the Supreme Being, is uniformly rendered in the Authorized Version by "LORD," printed in small capitals.

Existence of God

The existence of God is taken for granted in the Bible. There is nowhere any argument to prove it. He who disbelieves this truth is spoken of as one devoid of understanding (Psalm 14:1).

The arguments generally adduced by theologians in proof of the being of God are:

  • The a priori argument, which is the testimony afforded by reason.
  • The a posteriori argument, by which we proceed logically from the facts of experience to causes. These arguments are,
    • The cosmological argument, by which it is proved that there must be a First Cause of all things, for every effect must have a cause.
    • The teleological argument, or the argument from design. We see everywhere the operations of an intelligent Cause in nature.
    • The moral argument, called also the anthropological argument, based on the moral consciousness and the history of mankind, which exhibits a moral order and purpose which can only be explained on the supposition of the existence of God. Conscience and human history testify that "verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth."


The attributes of God are set forth in order by Moses in Exodus 34:6, 7. (see also Deut 6:4, 10:17; Num 16:22; Exodus 15:11, 33:19; Isa 44:6; Hab 3:6; Ps 102:26; Job 34:12.) They are also systematically classified in Rev 5:12 and 7:12.

God's attributes are spoken of by some as absolute, i.e., such as belong to his essence as Jehovah, Jah, etc.; and relative, i.e., such as are ascribed to Him with relation to His creatures. Others distinguish them into communicable, i.e., those which can be imparted in degree to His creatures: goodness, holiness, wisdom, etc.; and incommunicable, which cannot be so imparted: independence, immutability, immensity, and eternity. They are by some also divided into natural attributes, eternity, immensity, etc.; and moral, holiness, goodness, etc.

See Also

This article needs to be merged with GOD (Jewish Encyclopedia).
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This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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