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English Bible Dictionary

God

 

(good). Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures two chief names are used for the one true divine Being--ELOHIM, commonly translated God in our version, and Jehovah, translated Lord. Elohim is the plural of Eloah (in Arabic Allah); it is often used in the short form EL (a word signifying strength, as in EL-SHADDAI, God Almighty, the name by which God was specially known to the patriarchs. (Genesis 17:1; 28:3; Exodus 6:3) The etymology is uncertain, but it is generally agreed that the primary idea is that of strength, power of effect, and that it properly describes God in that character in which he is exhibited to all men in his works, as the creator, sustainer and supreme governor of the world. The plural form of Elohim has given rise to much discussion. The fanciful idea that it referred to the trinity of persons in the Godhead hardly finds now a supporter among scholars. It is either what grammarians call the plural of majesty, or it denotes the fullness of divine strength, the sum of the powers displayed by God. Jehovah denotes specifically the one true God, whose people the Jews were, and who made them the guardians of his truth, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. The name is never applied to a false god, nor to any other being except one, the ANGEL-JEHOVAH who is thereby marked as one with God, and who appears again in the New Covenant as "God manifested in the flesh." Thus much is clear; but all else is beset with difficulties. At a time too early to be traced, the Jews abstained from pronouncing the name, for fear of its irreverent use. The custom is said to have been founded on a strained interpretation of (Leviticus 24:16) and the phrase there used, "THE NAME" (Shema), is substituted by the rabbis for the unutterable word. In reading the Scriptures they substituted for it the word ADONAI (Lord), from the translation of which by Kurios in the LXX., followed by the Vulgate, which uses Dominus, we have the Lord of our version. The substitution of the word Lord is most unhappy, for it in no way represents the meaning of the sacred name. The key to the meaning of the name is unquestionably given in God's revelation of himself to Moses by the phrase "I AM THAT I AM," (Exodus 3:14; 6:3) We must connect the name Jehovah with the Hebrew substantive verb to be, with the inference that it expresses the essential, eternal, unchangeable being of Jehovah. But more, it is not the expression only, or chiefly, of an absolute truth: it is a practical revelation of God, in his essential, unchangeable relation to this chosen people, the basis of his covenant.

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