The Many Names of God

Other Names

Genesis 14:18-22; Psalms 57:2, Luke 8:28, El Elyon, Elyon "God Most High, Most High"
Psalms 150, see also 104-106, 111-113, 115-116, 135, 146-149
Genesis 31:53a, 32:9; Exodus 3:6, 3:15-16, 4:5; Mark 12:24-27; Acts 3:13, 7:30-32, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
Genesis 31:41-53, Fear of Isaac

More Names of God

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Genesis 14:18-22; Psalms 57:2, Luke 8:28, El Elyon, Elyon "God Most High, Most High" (1/15/2009)

El Elyon is another one of those titles that seems to shade across into a name. We already know that El means God. Elyon means "most high." (This is a separate word; the "el" part of "elyon" isn't spelled the same as "el" and doesn't mean "God.") Unlike Sabaoth, Elyon is translated when it comes into the New Testament. El Elyon is less common than some of the other names and titles we've seen, occurring only about 40 times in the OT and five times in the NT. Interestingly enough, the only speakers to use it in the NT (3 times) are demons, who are certainly in a position to know whom they are talking to. The other two occurrences are quoting from the OT.

Notice that Abraham and Sarah were not the only people of their time who worshipped El Elyon. Melchizedek was a priest of El Elyon.

Psalms 150, see also 104-106, 111-113, 115-116, 135, 146-149, YAH (1/16/2009)

Hallelujah! We are all checked out on the seven most important names of God: El and Elohim (God), Adonai (Lord), YHWH (unpronounceable, say "Lord"), Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh (I AM), Shaddai (meaning unknown), and Tzevaot (Sabaoth = of armies). Now you are ready to sing the following hymns with renewed vigor: But wait! There's more! Hallelujah contains another name! Yah is a strange little word that is one of God's names. It is probably a form of our old friend, "I am." Halelu is Hebrew for "Y'all praise!" "Alleluia" is one Greek or English word that is transliterated from the two Hebrew words; therefore it means exactly what the Hebrew means. Unfortunately, most of us didn't learn that in Sunday School, so we end up using "Hallelujah!" to mean "I'm sure glad about that!"

Yah is used as an independent word mainly in the Psalms. It is used many, many times as a combining form in names, usually in the form "-iah" or "J-." For example, Zedekiah means God is Righteous, and Joshua means God Saves.

Genesis 31:53a, 32:9; Exodus 3:6, 3:15-16, 4:5; Mark 12:24-27; Acts 3:13, 7:30-32, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (1/19/2009)

So this guy is walking along the arroyo, see, and a voice says, "Hey, come over here!" So the guy goes over, and there's this cactus. A voice from the cactus says, "I want you to go to Washington and straighten everything out." The guy says, "OK. Whom shall I say has sent me?" The voice says, "GOD." And the guy says, "Which god?"

Unfortunately, this is not a joke. There were dozens of gods when God called Moses to the burning bush. We even know a lot of their names: Molech, Astoreth, Chemosh, Milcom, Baal, Dagon, and Diana all appear in the Bible (they get bad press, though). Osirus, Horus, Isis, and others were known to the Hebrews in Egypt, and Paul saw many of the Greek and Roman gods in Athens, although none of these are named in the Bible. Fortunately, God understood the problem Moses was having, and He identified Himself specifically: "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." God could have named Abraham's brother and father and Melchizedek as well. In this conversation, God identified Himself by emphasizing whose God He is. Notice that Jesus chooses to emphasize whose God He is.

Genesis 31:41-53, Fear of Isaac (1/20/2009)

WARNING: Some wearers of gift jewelry may be offended by today's study tip.

Jacob was secretly taking his wives, children, flocks, and herds away from the place of his father-in-law Laban, when Laban found out about it and caught up with them. After some discussion, they agreed to separate peacefully, but not entirely trustfully. They set up a witness stone as a boundary marker and swore not to cross the boundary to do harm to one another.

My personal nomination for "Verse Most Amusingly Taken Out of Context" is "May the LORD watch between thee and me while we are apart." Usually you find this verse written on a matched pair of something, say, two necklaces. The idea seems to be, "I love you so much that I am praying that we can be together again." Now, although I have never done so, I once joked that I would give one half of such a pair to my husband. He laughed, because he knew that I meant it exactly the same way Jacob and Laban did as a threat: "If you do anything wrong while you are out of my sight, I will call upon God for judgment!"

Appropriately enough, God is called Pachad Yitzhak "the Fear of Isaac" only twice once near the beginning of this passage and once near the end, so the fear motif forms a little pair of bookends around the threat. (By the way, it is definitely "Isaac's fear," not "being afraid of Isaac.")

Some translations go in different directions altogether, for example, "Kinsman of Isaac," which is based on an Aramaic word. Too bad that pachad is a perfectly good Hebrew word meaning "dread." I looked at the study notes in the Jerusalem and Schocken Bibles, at Wesley's commentary, and a couple of web sites, and I have to tell you that scholars don't quite know what to make of this name. I like my bookend explanation, but if you don't, that's fine I didn't see it proposed by anybody who actually knows anything.

More Names of God
Names of God - Introduction
Sacred Names - Part 1
Sacred Names - Part 2
Other Names - Part 1
Other Names - Part 2
Other Names - Part 3
Names of Jesus - Part 1
Names of Jesus - Part 2
Names of Jesus - Part 3
Names of Jesus - Part 4
Names of Jesus - Part 5
Names of Jesus - Part 6
Names of Jesus - Part 7
Names of Jesus - Part 8
Names of Jesus - Part 9
Names of the Spirit

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