What is God's Name in the Bible and
Why does He seem to have so many names? Are names important?
The great purpose of man, especially the believer in Christ,
is to glorify God. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all
to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Essential to our ability to glorify
God is the knowledge of God and knowing Him personally in view of that
The word “glory” in the Greek New Testament is doxa
which means an opinion, an estimation, or reputation in which one is held. It
refers to that which should accrue to God as praise, thanksgiving, obedience,
reverence, and service because of who God is and what God does (past, present,
and future). In other words, giving glory to God is tied in with the knowledge
of God (revelation of God), and knowing God personally (response to God).
The Lord Jesus said in
John 17:3, “And this is eternal life,
that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast
sent.” The many names in Scripture constitute additional revelation of God’s
character, His works, and His relationship to us based on His character and
works. The names which God chose for Himself and which are ascribed to Him in
the Word of God are additional revelations of the who and what of God that we
may know and relate to God.
Note David’s declarations about God’s name and word in Psalm
138:1-2. God’s name declares much about His person, but it is God’s Word that
reveals God and His name.
We know what God is like, not only by His perfections and
works, but also by His names. They tell us many things about God’s care and
concern for his own. This is one of the fascinating studies of Scripture. The
various circumstances which bring forth each of the names of God are important.
The Significance of
the Names of God in Scripture
In our twentieth century Western culture, personal names are
little more than labels to distinguish one person from another. Sometimes
nicknames are chosen which tell something about a person, but even this is a
poor reflection of the significance of names in the Bible.
Unfortunately, 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.
The Name of God in General
There are a number of instances where no name of God is
employed, but where simply the term “name” in reference to God is used as the
point of focus:
Abraham called on the name of the Lord (Gen.
The Lord proclaimed His own name before Moses
(Ex. 33:19; 34:5).
Israel was warned against profaning the name of
the Lord (Lev. 13:21; 22:2,
The name of the Lord was not to be taken in vain
(Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11).
The priests of Israel were to minister in the name
of the Lord (Deut. 18:5; 21:5).
The name of God is called “wonderful” in
To call on the name of the Lord was to worship
Him as God (Gen. 21:33; 26:25).
Consequently, from this we can
conclude that such phrases as “the name of the LORD” or “the name of God” refer
to God’s whole character.
It was a summary statement embodying the entire
person of God.
When we turn to the New Testament we find the same. The name
Jesus is used in a similar way to the name of God in the Old Testament:
Salvation is through His name (John 1:12).
Believers are to gather in His name (Matt.
Prayer is to be made in His name (John 14:13-14).
The servant of the Lord who bears the name of
Christ will be hated (Matt. 10:22).
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).
It is at the name of Jesus that every knee will
one day bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil.
So, just as the name of God in the
Old Testament spoke of the holy character of God
the Father, so the
name of Jesus in the New Testament speaks of the holy character of God the Son.
Overview of the
Names of God in Scripture
(1) Elohim: The plural form of EL,
meaning “strong one.” 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. Defined: God; a
plural noun, more than two, used with singular verbs; Elohim
occurs 2,570 times in the OT, 32 times in Gen. 1. God as Creator, Preserver,
Transcendent, Mighty and Strong. Ecclesiastes, Daniel & Jonah use Elohim
almost exclusively. See
Gen. 1:1, 6:18, 7:7,
Deut. 5:23; 8:15; I
Jer. 31:33; Isa. 40:1,
Jer. 32:27; Ps. 68:7)
EL: God ("mighty, strong, prominent") used 250
times in the OT. See
Gen. 7:1, 28:3, 35:11;
Sam. 22:31, 32;
Neh. 1:5, 9:32;
Isa. 9:6; Ezek. 10:5. El is
linguistically equivalent to the Moslem "Allah," but the attributes of Allah
in Islam are entirely different from those of the God of the Hebrews. ELAH
is Aramaic, "god." Elah appears in the Hebrew Bible in
Jer. 10:11 (which is
in Aramaic, and is plural, "gods"). In Daniel (the Aramaic sections) Elah is
used both of pagan gods, and of the true God, also plural. Elah is
equivalent to the Hebrew Eloah which some think is dual; Elohim is
three or more. The gods of the nations are called "elohim." The origin of
Eloah is obscure. Elohim is the more common plural form of
El. Eloah is used 41 times in Job between 3:4 and
40:2, but fewer than 15 times elsewhere in the OT.
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. 6:31; Ps. 91:1, 2).God
Almighty or "God All Sufficient." 48 times in the OT, 31 times in Job. First
Gen. 17:1, 2. (Gen. 31:29, 49:24, 25;
Prov. 3:27; Micah 2:1;
60:15, 16, 66:10-13;
Ruth 1:20, 21) In
Rev. 16:7, "Lord God the Almighty."
The Septuagint uses Greek "ikanos" meaning "all-sufficient" or
"self-sufficient." The idols of the heathen are called "sheddim."
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) or modernly translated Jehovah:
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.
3:12)LORD in our
English Bibles (all capitals). Yahweh is the covenant name of God. Occurs
6823 times in the OT -- First use
(Jehovah Elohim). From the verb "to
be", havah, similar to chavah (to live), "The Self-Existent One," "I AM
WHO I AM" or 'I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE" as revealed to Moses at the burning bush,
Ex.3. The name of God, too sacred to be uttered, abbreviated or written "YHWH"
without vowel points. The tetragrammaton. Josh., Judges, Sam., and Kings use
Jehovah almost exclusively. The love of God is conditioned upon His moral and
spiritual attributes. (Dan. 9:14; Ps. 11:7;
Lev. 19:2; Hab. 1:12). Note
6:4,5 known to Jews as the Sh'ma uses both Jehovah and Elohim to indicate one
God with a plurality of persons.
Compounds of Yahweh: Strictly speaking, these
compounds are designations or titles which reveal additional facts about God’s
- 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.
- Yahweh Shammah: “The Lord is there.”
Portrays the Lord’s personal presence in the millennial kingdom (Ezek.
- 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).
- Jehovah-Rophe: "The Lord Who Heals"
Ex. 15:22-26. From "rophe" ("to heal"); implies
spiritual, emotional as well as physical. healing. (Jer. 30:17, 3:22; Isa.
61:1) God heals body, soul and spirit; all levels of man's being. Shepherd:
Gen. 49:24; Isa. 40:11.
- Jehovah Elohim: "LORD God"
Gen. 2:4; Judges 5:3;
Isa. 17:6; Zeph. 2:9;
Psa. 59:5, etc.
- Jehovah Tsidkenu: "The Lord Our Righteousness"
Jer. 23:5, 6, 33:16. From
"tsidek" (straight, stiff, balanced - as on scales - full weight, justice,
right, righteous, declared innocent.) God our Righteousness.
- Abhir: 'Mighty One', ("to be strong")
Gen. 49:24; Deut. 10:17;
Isa. 1:24, 49:26, 60:1.
- Kadosh: "Holy One"
Isa. 40:25, 43:3, 48:17. Isaiah uses the
expression "the Holy One of Israel" 29 times.
- Shaphat: "Judge"
- El Roi: "God of Seeing" Hagar in
Gen. 16:13. The God Who opens our eyes.
- Kanna: "Jealous" (zealous).
Ex. 20:5, 34:14; Deut. 5:9;
Isa. 9:7; Zech.
- Palet: "Deliverer"
Isa. 43:3. Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the
Hebrew "Joshua." The latter is a contraction of Je-Hoshua. ("Christ", the
anointed one is equivalent to the Hebrew Maschiah, or Messiah).
- Gaol: "Redeemer" (to buy back by paying a price).
Job 19:25; For example,
the antitype corresponding to Boaz the Kinsman-Redeemer in the Book of Ruth.
- Magen: "Shield"
Psa. 3:3, 18:30.
- Eyaluth: "Strength"
- Tsaddiq: "Righteous One"
- El-Olam: "Everlasting God" (God of everlasting time)
- El-berith: "God of the Covenant" Used of Baal in Judges 9:46. Probably
used originally to refer to the God of Israel.
- El-gibhor: Mighty God (Isa. 9:6)
- Zur: "God our Rock"
Deut. 32:18; Isa. 30:29.
- 'Attiq Yomin (Aramaic): "Ancient of Days,"
Dan. 7:9, 13, 22.
- Melekh: "King"
Psa. 5:2, 29:10, 44:4,
47:6-8, 48:2, 68:24,
97:1, 99:4, 146:10;
Isa. 5:1, 5, 41:21, 43:15,
44:6; 52:7, 52:10.
Num. 1:9; I Sam. 16:6;
Ex. 4:22-23; 2 Sam. 7:14-15;
Psa. 2:7; Isa.
- The First and Last:
Isa. 44:6, 48:12.
- 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).Lord in our English Bibles (Capitol letter 'L
', lower case, 'ord') (Adonai is plural, the sing. is "adon"). "Master'' or
"Lord" 300 times in the OT always plural when referring to God, when sing. the
reference is to a human lord. Used 215 times to refer to men. First use of
Gen. 15:2. (Ex. 4:10; Judges 6:15; 2 Sam. 7:18-20;
Ps. 8, 114:7, 135:5,
141:8, 109:21-28). Heavy use in Isaiah (Adonai Jehovah). 200 times by Ezekiel.
10 times in Dan. 9.
New Testament Names for God
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
Rev. 15:4); (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;
Rom. 9:5; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1.
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).
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).
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;
Heb. 12:5-11; John 15:16; 16:23;
Eph. 2:18; 3:15; 1 Thess. 3:11).
Kurios: "Lord" Found some 600 times in the NT.
"Lord" 5 times:
Lu. 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 4; Rev.
Theos: "God" (equivalent to the Hebrew Elohim), 1,000 times in the NT. In
the NT all the persons of the trinity are called "God" at one time or another. Theotes:
Col. 2:9; Rom. 1:20.
I AM: Jesus upset his generation especially when He said, "Before Abraham
was, I AM,"
John 8:58. Note also his claim to be Jehovah in such phrases as "I
AM the Light of the world," "the bread of life," living water," "the
Resurrection and the Life," "the Way, Truth and the Life" in John's Gospel. From
the Hebrew OT verb "to be" signifying a Living, Intelligent, Personal Being.
Click here for Interestingly Unique Scriptures Relating to the Name of God &
Robert Lightner, The God of the Bible, An Introduction to the
Doctrine of God (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1973) page 107.