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  • Writer's pictureLynn Holzinger

Names of God: Elohim

In the beginning, God...

Genesis 1:1

Jill Briscoe, in her book, God's Name, God's Nature, tells of a catechism teacher who asked a young boy, "What is the chief end of man?" The boy replied, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and endure Him forever." We can laugh at that because the boy should have said, "enjoy Him forever." Unfortunately, too many people seem to agree more with what the boy said, that God is to be endured rather than enjoyed. It's safe to say we must know God if we are going to enjoy Him, and understanding His names is one of the ways that helps us know God.


Elohim is a Hebrew word that can refer to "God" or "god." It's a generic term for diety as well as a proper name for the God of the Bible. It's the most common name for God, used over 2000 times in the Old Testament. In the Bible, Elohim is most often used to refer to the One True God.

We are first introduced to Elohim in Genesis 1:1, where it says, "In the beginning, God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth." The word means strong one, mighty leader, supreme Deity, and denotes majesty and power. By His power, He created and now sustains the world; and is supreme judge over everything He has made.

The word Elohim is sometimes shortened to El and used with another name for God. For example, El Roi is "the God who sees" (Gen 16:13), and El Shaddai means "God Almighty" (Gen 17:1).

In some contexts, elohim is used of pagan gods (Gen 31:30), angels (Ps 8:5), human rulers (Ps 82:6), and judges (Ex 21:6). When used of human rulers or judges, the idea conveyed in Psalm 82 is that they (elohim) represent God (Elohim) on earth and will someday answer to Him.

Interestingly, the word Elohim is plural and indicates a plurality of majesty and power. It also allows and hints at the triune nature of God. The hymn, Holy, Holy, Holy, says it so well: "God in three persons, blessed Trinity." The plurality of a single God will always remain somewhat of a mystery to us, but Scripture is clear in its teaching that God is three in one. He is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, as well as a single all-powerful God.

We see the trinitarian nature of Elohim most clearly at Jesus' baptism: God the Father speaking from heaven to His Son, Jesus (God the Son) and God the Spirit, in the form of a dove, coming to rest on Jesus.


God first revealed Himself as Elohim at creation. He is the One who brought everything into existence by His Word, who holds all things together and created you in His image. He is supreme over everything, and He rules with all power and authority. Think about His power, majesty, and the triune nature of Elohim (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit) as you read the following Scriptures:

Psalm 47:7 For God [Elohim] is King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God [Elohim], and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Isaiah 40:28-29 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God [Eohim], the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God [Elohim].

Micah 6:8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God [Elohim].

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