"Many Names and Concepts of God"

One of the greatest theological tragedies in our world is that too many people think that God looks, acts, and smells the same to everybody. They believe there is only one concept of the nature of God. His picture was painted by Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Vatican Chapel in Rome. He is a rather stern father, not very tender, who shows more of a tendency to chasten than to love and forgive. He becomes angry with his disobedient children and has been known to deal with them violently. He threatens them with destruction and eternal damnation if they don't do what he tells them to do. "Good" people believe in this God. "Bad" people don't. On the other hand, the Bible presents many different names for God and many different concepts of the nature of God and many different understandings of the manifestations of God. Here are only a few.

EL or ELOACH or ELOHIM is the generic Semitic word for "god." Since vowels are not used in Semitic languages (for the most part), the letter "L" is the key part of the word, and is reflected in the Arabic word, "ALLAH." In Akkadian, Amorite, Ugaritic, Aramaic, and Phoenician, it was also the letter "L" which stood for "god." The Hebrew word "EL" occurs 230 times in the Hebrew Bible and "ELOHIM" is used about 2,570 times. What was originally a common noun became a proper name.

EL SHADDAI is "God Almighty" or the god of the holy mountain. Some scholars are moving more and more to the conclusion that the Mt. Sinai and the Mt. Horeb of the Hebrew Bible are one and the same mountain and that is a mountain in the south of Israel that bedouins today still consider holy. This god lived on that mountain, and volcanic eruptions and earthquakes were proof of his existence. These same scholars are becoming convinced that the Hebrews fleeing Egypt with Moses camped here.

EL ELYON is "God Most High" or the god of Jerusalem. The connection is that the Hebrews considered Jerusalem to be the highest elevation point in the land and later, with the temple there, the holiest spot on earth. This god lived in Jerusalem as the patron god of the city.

EL OLAM is "God Eternal" or the god of Be'er-sheba, a town in the tribal territory of Judah. There were apparently great stone pillars in Be'er-sheba and this was the site of cultic worship in this area. This god presided over this worship and, it was believed, would be there forever. This town is associated with Abraham and Sarah.

YHWH or YAHWEH is the name of the god whom Moses encountered at the burning bush on the "holy mountain." Originally, this god may have been introduced to Moses by Jethro, his father-in-law, a "priest of Midian" and a member of the Kenite tribe. The meaning of the name of this god is a big problem, but it has everything to do with existence and living and life. Perhaps the best translation is "Living and Moving One" because this god is not tied to one location but moves around, going with the people in the Ark of the Covenant wherever they go. The name of this god was spoken as "Adonai," which is translated as "the Lord." It is my conjecture that Yahweh became the predominant god of the southern tribes (especially the tribe of Judah), and Elohim became the predominant god of the northern tribes, and when David brought North and South together to form his Kingdom, he brought their gods together to form "Adonai Elohim," which was "the Lord God." For the first time in Hebrew history, about 1,000 BCE, a monotheistic concept was instituted in the Kingdom of David. The theme of David's reign was "one God, one Kingdom, one King." The established religion known as Judaism was not formed until 500 years later, after the return from exile in Babylon.

For further information, contact Dr. Ray Dykes, 405-728-2844 or e-mail.