In biblical times, a name was more than just a nickname, it also said something about the character and personality of the person. The three most common names for God in the Old Testament are El, Elohim and YHWH (Yahweh).
El simply means “God” or “god” and is used in the Bible to refer to both God and idols. It is also not uncommon for God to be called “El” + an attribute, for example “Elyon”, (= the Most High). Elohim is the plural form of “El” and thus means “gods”, but in Hebrew the plural form is also used to reinforce a word and in this sense Elohim is used as a proper name for God and is then translated “God”. YHWH means “I am who I am” and is the name by which God himself chooses to present himself. In the Hebrew text, vowels are not written out and since God’s name YHWH was considered too holy to be pronounced, the pronunciation has fallen into oblivion. Most people believe it should be pronounced “Yahweh” while a few believe “Jehovah”. Since YHWH was not pronounced, it was read “Adonaj” (=Lord) instead. Most Bible translations therefore write “Lord” or “LORD” where in Hebrew it actually says “YHWH”.
Other common names for God are “YHWH Elohim” (=”Lord God”), “El Shaddai” (=”God Almighty”) and “Lord of Hosts”, or rather; “YHWH of Hosts” (=”God of the armies”). In the New Testament, “theos” (=god), “kyrios” (=lord), “abba” (=father) and “pater” (=father) are usually used to describe God.
“3Then he said, “I am God [El], the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.” (Ge 46:3)
“18And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High [El Elyon].)” (Ge 14:18)
“1In the beginning, God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth.” (Ge 1:1)
“15God [Elohim] also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord [YHWH], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.” (Ex 3:15)
“23Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord [Adon] God [YHWH], the God [Elohim] of Israel.” (Ex 34:23)
“4These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God [YHWH Elohim] made the earth and the heavens.” (Ge 2:4)
“1When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord [YHWH] appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty [El Shaddai]; walk before me, and be blameless,” (Ge 17:1)
“45Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts [YHWH God of hosts], the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Sa 17:45)
“9“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.” (Da 7:9)
“6And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”” (Ga 4:6)
“1In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [theos].” (Jn 1:1)
“28Thomas answered him, “My Lord [kyrios] and my God [theos]!”” (Jn 20:28)
- How do you usually address God when you pray?
- What do these names say about the personality and character of God?
- In what way or by what names would you describe God?
- Are there any of these names of God that you are in particular need of experiencing?
Additional Bible Verses
Ge 21:33, Lk 1:49, Re 1:8, Ps 59:9, Ge 49:24, 2 Co 1:3, 1 Jn 5:20