The Names Of God
A study of the names of God throughout the Bible is a fascinating study depicting God's character and nature. The following study was adapted from a book by Nathan Stone, Names of God (Chicago, IL: Moody Press Publishing Company, 1944), and is a concise description of twelve of the names of God as described in the Bible:
The Hebrew word "El" means "mighty," "strong," "prominent". This word "El" itself is translated "God" some 250 times and frequently in circumstances which especially indicate the great power of God. In Deuteronomy 10:17, we read that "Jehovah your Elohim is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the God or El who is great, mighty, and dreadful". It is this word "El" which is used in that great name "Almighty God", the name under which God made great and mighty promises to Abraham and to Jacob (Gen. 17:1; Gen. 35:11). It is also one of the names given to that promised Son and Messiah of Isaiah 9:6-7 - God, the Mighty. Thus from this derivation, Elohim may be said to express the general idea of greatness and glory.
The name Jehovah is derived from the Hebrew verb "havah," "to be," or "being." This word is almost exactly like the Hebrew verb, "chavah," (to live), or "life." One can readily see the connection between "being" and "life". Thus when we read the name Jehovah, or Lord in capital letters, in our Bible, we think in terms of "being" or "existence and life", and we must think of Jehovah as the Being who is absolutely self-existent, the One who in Himself possesses essential life, permanent existence. An example of the use of the name, "Jehovah" is found in Isaiah 43:10-11. In Psalm 102:27 we read, "But thou art the same and thy years shall have no end." Literally translated, it should read, "Thou art he, and thy years shall have no end"; the "he" (like the Hebrew word for being), is the equivalent of "the same," the One of old whose years have no end - that is, without beginning and without end.
Once again, this word "el" is translated by such words as "might" and "power". The word "Shaddai" itself occurs forty-eight times in the Old Testament and is translated "almighty." The Hebrew meaning of the root word in Shaddai ("Shad") is translated "breast". Thus the title "Shaddai" signifies one who "nourishes," "supplies" or "satisfies". Connected with the word for God, "El", then becomes the "One mighty to nourish, satisfy, supply." The One who "sheds forth" and "pours" out sustenance and blessings. In this sense, God is the all-sufficient, the all-bountiful.
In Genesis 49:24-25, concerning Joseph: "... the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob... even by the God [El] of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty [Shaddai], who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts and of the womb." The distinction and significance of names here is quite striking and obvious. It is God as "El" who helps, but it is God as "Shaddai" who abundantly blesses with all manner of blessings, and blessings of the breast (cf. Isa. 60:15-16; Isa. 66:10-13).
The name "Adonai" is translated "Lord" and signifies ownership or mastership and indicates the truth that God is the owner of each member of the human family, and that He consequently claims the unrestricted obedience of all (Matt. 25:31-32; Acts 17:30-31; Rom. 1:5; Rom. 2:6-11; Rom. 16:25-26; 2 Thess. 1:8). The expression, "Lord of lords," in Deuteronomy 10:17, could be rendered "Master of masters." An illustration of this name as a claim upon man's obedience and service is found in Malachi 1:6, "A son honoreth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honor? And if I be a master, where is my fear? saith Jehovah of hosts ..." And in Job 28:28 it is declared that the fear of Adonai (the Lord, the Master) is wisdom.
The Psalmists make frequent use of the name, "Adonai". It is Jehovah, "Adonai," whose name is so excellent in all the earth, who has put all things under his feet (Psa. 8). He is the Adonai of the whole earth (Psa. 97:5). The earth is bidden to tremble at the presence of the Adonai, its Lord (Psa. 114:7). Adonai is above all elohim or gods (Psa. 135:5). As Master or Lord, Adonai is besought to remember the reproach of His servant (Psa. 89:50). "My eyes are unto thee, O God, the Adonai" (Psa. 141:8) says the Psalmist as of a servant to his Lord. And he asks Adonai, his Master, to take up his cause and defend him against his enemies (Psa. 109:21-28).
In Genesis 22:1-14, we see the story of Abraham and his son, Isaac, as God requires Abraham to "offer him" for a burnt offering (vs. 2). On the way to the place of sacrifice, Isaac cannot contain his curiosity about the lamb for the burnt offering (vs. 7). Abraham's answer to this question is, "God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (vs. 8). As Abraham binds his only son and is about to thrust a knife into him, the angel of the Lord tells him not to harm the child because he now knows that Abraham reverences God by being obedient to His will (vs. 9-12). Then in Genesis 22:14 we read, "And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord [Jehovah] it shall be seen." The ASV reads, "it shall be provided." Still another rendering of this important word is "he shall be seen." Thus, "in the mount of Jehovah, he shall be seen or provided."
In the name, "Jehovah-Jireh", the word "jireh" is simply a transliteration of a Hebrew word which appears many times throughtout the Scriptures. It's meaning is simply a form of the verb "to see." As the One who possesses eternal wisdom and knowedge, God knows the end from the beginning. From eternity to eternity he "forsees" everything. But another word for seeing is "vision," from the latin word "video" - to see. Thus with God foreseeing is "prevision." As the Jehovah of righteousness and holiness; of love and redemption, having "prevision" of man's sin, and fall, and need, He makes "provision" for that need. The word "provision" is a compound of two Latin words meaning "to see beforehand." We learn from the dictionary that the word "provide" is the verb and "prevision" the noun of "seeing beforehand." Thus to God "prevision" is necessarily followed by "provision," for He certainly will "provide" for that need which His "foreseeing" shows Him to exist. With Him "prevision" and "provision" are one and the same thing. all this is expressed in the term Jehovah-jireh (God will provide).
The name "Jehovah-Rophe" means "Jehovah heals." It is the second of the compound names of Jehovah. We learn of this name of God from one of Israel's earliest experiences in the wilderness as told in Exodus 15:22-26. After crossing the Red Sea, they sang (along with Moses) a great song of triumph. In this same chapter, however, we read of the people's murmuring and discontent because of a lack of water (vs. 22). They could not drink of the waters of Marah because they were "bitter" (vs. 23). God then showed Moses a certain tree which, when cast into the waters, turned the waters "sweet" (vs. 25). The people drank and were refreshed, strengthened, and uplifted for the journey ahead. Their murmuring was turned to praise as their confidence in Jehovah and Moses was renewed.
It was, however, not God who was there on trial. It was the people! God was "proving" (testing) them, and saying to them that if they would "hearken" to the voice of God and be obedient to His will, He would put "none of these diseases" upon them that He brought upon the Egyptians "for I am Jehovah that healeth thee" - that is, "Jehovah-rophecha" (vs. 26).
The word "rophe" appears some sixty or seventy times in the Old Testament, always meaning "to restore," "to heal," "to cure," as a physician, not only in the physical sense but in the moral and spiritual sense also. Jehovah here pledges to His people (conditional upon their obedience) to always be their "Healer." Our Lord (the Great Physician) still "heals" His people today of their spiritual illnesses (the disease of sin) through obedience to His inspired Word (Matt. 9:12-13; Lk. 4:18; Lk. 5:31-32; Rom. 6:16-18; 1 Tim. 1:15).
After Israel's victory over the Amalekites (descendants of Amalek, a grandson of Esau - Gen. 36:12), we are told, "And Moses built an altar and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi [Jehovah my banner]" (Exo. 17:15).
A banner, in ancient times, was usually a bare pole with a bright shining ornament which "glittered" in the sun. The word "banner" means "to glisten", among other things. It is translated variously "pole", "ensign" or standard. As an ensign or standard, it was a signal to God's people to rally to Him. It stood for His cause, His battle. It was a sign of deliverance, of salvation. It is the word used by the Psalmist as "lift up" in the expression; "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us" (Psa. 4:6).
When Moses lifted up a brazen serpent in the wilderness so that all who had been bitten by serpents might look and live (Num. 21:9), the word used for the "pole" on which he raised it is our word "banner." The Lord used this Old Testament story in referring to His resurrection (John 12:32-33; John 18:32; Rom. 1:4). The cross of Christ is our "banner" of God's mighty power in redemption. But He is also the "banner" of our warfare. He has conquered the evil influence of the world (John 16:33) and because of His victory over sin and death, we can have victory over sin and death (Rom. 8:37; 1 Cor. 15:55-57; 1 John 4:4).
The name "Jehovah-M'Kaddesh" is found in Leviticus 20:8. It means "Jehovah who sanctifies." The term "sanctify" occurs frequently in the Old Testament. Its primary meaning is "to set apart" or "separate". This idea is most nearly rendered by the words "sanctify" or "hallow". The word "holy" stands for that which is "hallowed" or "set apart". This word is used in the "setting apart" of persons. Individuals were "set apart" from birth or even before birth as in the case of Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5). The first born of Israel was "set apart" (Exo. 13:2). Upon the head of the high priest as the crowning mark of his high office was the perpetual sign of his "setting apart" to Jehovah (Exo. 28:36). Not only the priesthood was "set apart" but all the people were "sanctified" or "set apart" for service to Jehovah (Deut. 7:6).
Today under the law of Christ (Rom. 8:2; 1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2; Jam. 2:8), we as Christians are also "set apart" or "sanctified" on the basis of our redemption in Christ (Eph. 1:7; Heb. 10:10; Heb. 13:12). This santification or "separateness of life" is accomplished by the Word of His truth (John 17:17). We are reminded in Galations 5:25 that our "santification" is not only with regard to our "position" in Jehovah (Gal. 3:26-29), but with regard to our "manner of life" (Rom. 8:1-6; Gal. 5:16-26). "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification" (1 Thess. 4:3), the santification of the "whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess. 5:23).
The name "Jehovah-shalom" is found in Judges 6:24, "Then Gideon built an altar unto Jehovah and called it Jehovah-shalom" which means "Jehovah is peace." The word "Shalom" is one of the most significant in the Old Testament, its various shades of meaning harmonizing with the doctrine of the atonement as the basis of peace with God (Rom. 5:1-11; Eph. 2:12-16). This "peace" was to be characteristic of the reign of the Messiah, the righteous Branch of David, of whom Solomon was typical, that Judah and Israel should dwell safely - "in peace" (Jer. 23:6). One of the great names of the Messiah was to be "The Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6); and Jerusalem, the Messiah's city, means "city of peace" or "possession of peace". Under the Mosaical economy, the peace offering was one of the blood sacrifices of which the shed blood was the "atonement" on which "reconciliation" and "peace" were based (Lev. 3; 7:11-21). In the peace offering, this restoration of fellowship between God and man, broken by sin, but now atoned for by the shed blood, was indicated by the fact that both God and man, priest and people, partook of the offering. It is through Christ's death and the shedding of His blood that we are reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:14-21; Col. 1:12-23). Through Christ, God's children can now truly experience "peace with God" (Rom. 5:1).
The name "Jehovah-Tsidkenu" means "Jehovah our righteousness." It appears in Jeremiah's prophecy of a "righteous Branch" and a "King" who is to appear; "and this is his name whereby he shall be called, the Lord [Jehovah-Tsidkenu] our Righteousness" (Jer. 23:5-6). The word "tsidkenu" is derived from "tsedek" - righteousness. It meant originally to be "stiff" or "straight". It signifies God's dealings with men under the ideas of righteousness, justification, and acquittal. In these three areas, Jesus is our "Jehovah-Tsidkenu" (Rom. 4:20-25; Rom. 5:1, Rom. 8-10; Rom. 8:31-34).
The name "Jehovah-Rohi" means "Jehovah my Shepherd". It is that most precious designation of Jehovah which begins the twenty-third Psalm, where it is translated, "The Lord is my shepherd." The primary meaning of the word "Ro'eh" is "to feed" or "lead to pasture," as a shepherd does his flock. The story of Joseph in Egypt opens with Joseph "feeding the flock with his brethren" (Gen. 37:2). We read in Psalms 80:1, "Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock ..." In the great chapter of comfort (Isa. 40:1), the prophet says, "Behold Jehovah Elohim will come with a strong hand... He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isa. 40:10-11). Ezekiel also gives us a beautiful picture of this relationship in Ezek. 34:11-16, where after the indignation at the false shepherds (Ezek. 34:1-10), Jehovah is presented as the Shepherd who will search his sheep and seek them out. He will feed them in a good pasture and make them to lie in a good fold. He "will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick" (Ezek. 34:16).
In the New Testament, Christ is presented as "that great Shepherd of the sheep" (Heb. 13:20). Some of the most beautiful and appealing of His parables and sayings have to do with this relationship to His redeemed. In Christ was fulfilled the word of Ezekiel (Ezek. 34:11-16). Peter reminds us that we were going astray like sheep "but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls" (1 Pet. 2:25).
The meaning of the name "Jehovah-shammah" is "Jehovah is there" (Ezek. 48:35). Jehovah had promise His presence among His people from the beginning (cf. Exo. 23:20; Exo. 33:14-16). Moses reminds the children of Israel of God's "presence" as they are about to enter the Promised Land (Deut. 4:37 - ASV).
In the New Testament, God's "presence" is now in believers as living temples (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16). Christ promised His abiding "presence" to His Church (Matt. 28:20), being present even where two or three are gathered in His name (Matt. 18:20). John, the Revelation writer, tells us that there will be no further need of any "outward symbol" of Jehovah's presence, "for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb are the temple thereof" (Rev. 21:22). The eternal character and nature of God's presence with man is beautifully expressed in Revelation 21:3, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell [or tabernacle] with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God."
In studying these different names of God, one can see the loving and caring nature of God toward His children. We can especially see His love, care and concern towards His people in Matthew 23:37 when He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" This is a beautiful picture of His tender protection; his wings would have protected them when the storm hovered or the enemy approached. They could have escaped God's judgment upon themselves (Jews) but because of their rejection of God's word, "ye would not." What a sad response to the open and merciful arms of God!
In that heavenly realm, those who have been obedient to the Gospel of Christ will fully see the glory of Jehovah in the Lamb that was slain (Rev. 7:9-17). He will be seen and known in the full meaning and beauty of all the names by which He has revealed Himself to man's imperfect apprehension. We shall join the redeemed of the earth (Rev. 5:9) in saying, "unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion forever and ever" (Rev. 5:13).