Names of God

When we read the Bible we read the words penned by men as inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).  These are the words of God.  The Bible is relevant today and may be used as a guide for how we should do the things which please the Lord (2 Timothy 3;16-17).

 

Jesus gave us some guidelines on how we can talk to God too.  The model for our prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-13. Jesus says that we should begin the prayer with “Our Father”.

Now just in these couple of paragraphs I have used several different names for our Creator.  As you read the Bible is it important to understand that there are many names (some call them titles) for God. I’d like to share some that I have found through my study and research.

During the time when the writers of the Bible lived, names of God or Lord were so much more meaningful than they are today.  To many the names God or Lord convey little more than designations of a supreme being. It says little to them about God’s character, His ways, and what God means to each of us as human beings. But in Scripture, the names of God are like miniature portraits and promises. In Scripture, a person’s name identified them and stood for something specific. This is especially true of God. Naming carried special significance. It was a sign of authority and power. This is evident in the fact that God revealed His names to His people rather than allowing them to choose their names for Him. This is also seen in the fact that God often changed the names of His people: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel. Note also how this concept of authority and power is seen when Nebuchadnezzar changed the names of Daniel and his three friends.

As you study the Bible in many instances no name of God is employed, but where simply the term “name” in reference to God is used as the point of focus.  Let’s take a look at some in the Old Testament that refer to God’s whole character:

(1) Abraham called on the name of the Lord (Gen. 12:8; 13:4).

(2) The Lord proclaimed His own name before Moses (Ex. 33:19; 34:5).

(3) Israel was warned against profaning the name of the Lord (Lev. 13:21; 22:2, 32).

(4) The name of the Lord was not to be taken in vain (Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11).

(5) The priests of Israel were to minister in the name of the Lord (Deut. 18:5; 21:5).

(6) The name of God is called “wonderful” in Judges 13:18.

(7) To call on the name of the Lord was to worship Him as God (Gen. 21:33; 26:25).

The New Testament reveals the holy character of God very similarly and actually calls Him Jesus:

(1) Salvation is through His name (John 1:12).

(2) Believers are to gather in His name (Matt. 18:20).

(3) Prayer is to be made in His name (John 14:13-14).

(4) The servant of the Lord who bears the name of Christ will be hated (Matt. 10:22).

(5) The book of Acts makes frequent mention of worship, service, and suffering in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:18; 5:28, 41; 10:43; 19:17).

(6) It is at the name of Jesus that every knee will one day bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).

In other Scriptures we see specific names of God.

(1) Elohim: The plural form of EL, meaning “strong one.” It is used of false gods, but when used of the true God, it is a plural of majesty and intimates the trinity. It is especially used of God’s sovereignty, creative work, mighty work for Israel and in relation to His sovereignty (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 32:27; Gen. 1:1; Isa. 45:18; Deut. 5:23; 8:15; Ps. 68:7).

Compounds of El:

  • El Shaddai:“God Almighty.” The derivation is uncertain. Some think it stresses God’s loving supply and comfort; others His power as the Almighty one standing on a mountain and who corrects and chastens (Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; Ex. 6:1; Ps. 91:1, 2).
  • El Elyon: “The Most High God.” Stresses God’s strength, sovereignty, and supremacy (Gen. 14:19; Ps. 9:2; Dan. 7:18, 22, 25).
  • El Olam: “The Everlasting God.” Emphasizes God’s unchangeableness and is connected with His inexhaustibleness (Gen. 16:13).

(2) Yahweh (YHWH): Comes from a verb which means “to exist, be.” This, plus its usage, shows that this name stresses God as the independent and self-existent God of revelation and redemption (Gen. 4:3; Ex. 6:3 (cf. 3:14); 3:12).

Compounds of Yahweh: Strictly speaking, these compounds are designations or titles which reveal additional facts about God’s character.

  • Yahweh Jireh (Yireh): “The Lord will provide.” Stresses God’s provision for His people (Gen. 22:14).
  • Yahweh Nissi:“The Lord is my Banner.” Stresses that God is our rallying point and our means of victory; the one who fights for His people (Ex. 17:15).
  • Yahweh Shalom:“The Lord is Peace.” Points to the Lord as the means of our peace and rest (Jud. 6:24).
  • Yahweh Sabbaoth:“The Lord of Hosts.” A military figure portraying the Lord as the commander of the armies of heaven (1 Sam. 1:3; 17:45).
  • Yahweh Maccaddeshcem: “The Lord your Sanctifier.” Portrays the Lord as our means of sanctification or as the one who sets believers apart for His purposes (Ex. 31:13).
  • Yahweh Ro’i: “The Lord my Shepherd.” Portrays the Lord as the Shepherd who cares for His people as a shepherd cares for the sheep of his pasture (Ps. 23:1).
  • Yahweh Tsidkenu: “The Lord our Righteousness.” Portrays the Lord as the means of our righteousness (Jer. 23:6).
  • Yahweh Shammah: “The Lord is there.” Portrays the Lord’s personal presence in the millennial kingdom (Ezek. 48:35).
  • Yahweh Elohim Israel: “The Lord, the God of Israel.” Identifies Yahweh as the God of Israel in contrast to the false gods of the nations (Jud. 5:3.; Isa. 17:6).

(3) Adonai: Like Elohim, this too is a plural of majesty. The singular form means “master, owner.” Stresses man’s relationship to God as his master, authority, and provider (Gen. 18:2; 40:1; 1 Sam. 1:15; Ex. 21:1-6; Josh. 5:14).

(4) Theos: Greek word translated “God.” Primary name for God used in the New Testament. Its use teaches: (1) He is the only true God (Matt. 23:9; Rom. 3:30); (2) He is unique (1 Tim. 1:17; John 17:3; Rev. 15:4; 16:7); (3) He is transcendent (Acts 17:24; Heb. 3:4; Rev. 10:6); (4) He is the Savior (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; 4:10). This name is used of Christ as God in John 1:1, 18; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Tit. 2:13; Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1.

(5) Kurios: Greek word translated “Lord.” Stresses authority and supremacy. While it can mean sir (John 4:11), owner (Luke 19:33), master (Col. 3:22), or even refer to idols (1 Cor. 8:5) or husbands (1 Pet. 3:6), it is used mostly as the equivalent of Yahweh of the Old Testament. It too is used of Jesus Christ meaning (1) Rabbi or Sir (Matt. 8:6); (2) God or Deity (John 20:28; Acts 2:36; Rom. 10:9; Phil. 2:11).

(6) Despotes: Greek word translated “Master.” Carries the idea of ownership while kurios stressed supreme authority (Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; Rev. 6:10; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 4).

(7) Father: A distinctive New Testament revelation is that through faith in Christ, God becomes our personal Father. Father is used of God in the Old Testament only 15 times while it is used of God 245 times in the New Testament. As a name of God, it stresses God’s loving care, provision, discipline, and the way we are to address God in prayer (Matt. 7:11; Jam. 1:17; Heb. 12:5-11; John 15:16; 16:23; Eph. 2:18; 3:15; 1 Thess. 3:11).

I have only bitten off a small piece of what the Bible has to say about the names of God. What can you share to add to my study?  Comment below.

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Pamela Rose Williams

Pamela Rose Williams is a wife, mom and grand mom. She and her Pastor-husband serve together at Selah Mountain Ministries in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is also a Christian freelance writer. To learn more about Pamela and all the things the Lord has to keep her busy, visit her "About" page.