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Elohim (אֱלוֹהִים , אלהים, sometimes transliterated as Aleim) is a Hebrew word which expresses concepts of divinity. It is apparently related to the Hebrew word ēl, though morphologically it consists of the Hebrew word Eloah (אלוה) with a plural suffix. Elohim is the third word in the Hebrew text of Genesis and occurs frequently throughout the Torah, the Judaic Holy Scroll, recognized as the first five books of the Old Testament by other religions. Its exact significance is often disputed.

In some cases (e.g. Exodus 3:4, "... Elohim called unto him out of the midst of the bush ..."), it acts as a singular noun in Hebrew grammar (see next section), and is then generally understood to denote the single God of Israel. In other cases, Elohim acts as an ordinary plural of the word Eloah (אלוה), and refers to the polytheistic notion of multiple gods (for example, Exodus 20:3, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."). This may reflect the use of the word "Elohim" found in the late Bronze Age texts of Canaanite Ugaritmarker, where Elohim ('lhm) denoted the entire Canaanite pantheon (the family of El אל, the patriarchal creator god). It may also refer to a henotheistic strand of Judaism.In still other cases, the meaning is not clear from the text, but may refer to powerful beings (e.g. Genesis 6:2, "... the sons of the Elohim (e-aleim) saw the daughters of men (e-adam, the adam) that they were fair; and they took them for wives... ," Exodus 4:16, "He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you [[[Moses]]] were ''Elohim'' to him [[[Aaron]]]... ," Exodus 22:28, "Thou shalt not revile Elohim, or curse a ruler of your people... ," where the parallelism suggests that Elohim may refer to human rulers) (see Sons of God).


  • Joel Hoffman derives the word from the common Canaanite word elim, with the mater lectionis heh inserted to distinguish the Israelite God from other gods. He argues that elohim thus patterns with Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah. (See also Yahweh.)
  • Karel van der Toorn repeats the common claim that elohim is the plural of eloah. D. Pardee notes the lack of any clear etymology for eloah, but the word itself is well-attested (57 times in the OT).
  • Some trace its origin in el or ul which may mean ("to be strong") or possibly ("to be in front"), from which also are derived ayil ("ram", the one in front of the flock) and elah (the prominent "terebinth"); Elohim would then be an expanded plural form of El. (However, Semitic etymologies are generally based on triconsonantal roots, which this proposal completely ignores.)
  • The word Elohim (and Eloah, "a god") may relate to alah ("to terrify") or alih ("to be perplexed, afraid; to seek refuge because of fear"). Eloah and Elohim, therefore, would be "He who is the object of fear or reverence," or "He with whom one who is afraid takes refuge".
The form of the word Elohim, with the ending -im, is plural and masculine, but the construction is usually singular, i.e. it governs a singular verb or adjective when referring to the Hebrew god, but reverts to its normal plural when used of heathen divinities (Psalms 96:5; 97:7). There are many theories as to why the word is plural:
  • In one view, predominant among monotheists, the word is plural in order to augment its meaning and form an abstraction meaning "Divine majesty".
  • Among orthodox Trinitarian Christian writers it is sometimes used as evidence for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.
  • The word's plurality may reflect early Semitic polytheism, originally meaning "the gods", or the "sons of El," the supreme being. The word may have been singularized by later monotheist priests who sought to replace worship of the many gods of the Canaanite or Semitic pantheon with the Hebrew singular patron god YHWH alone.
  • Michael Heiser has suggested that verses such as Ps. 82:6 (El in within of Elohim) refer to a "Divine Council" of elohim serving the Creator. See the "Divine Council"

A plural noun governing a singular verb may be according to oldest usage. The gods form a heavenly assembly where they act as one. In this context, the Elohim may be a collective plural when the gods act in concert. Compare this to English headquarters, which is plural but governs a singular verb: there are many rooms or quarters, but they all serve one purpose. Thus, it is argued, the meaning of Elohim therefore can mean one god, with many attributes.

The alternative polytheist theory would seem to explain why there are three words built on the same stem: El, Elohim, and eloah. El, the father god, has many divine sons, who are known by the plural of his name, Elohim, or Els. Eloah, might then be used to differentiate each of the lesser gods from El himself.

While the words El, Elohim, and eloah are clearly related, with the word El being the stem, some have claimed it is uncertain whether the word Elohim is derived from El through eloah. These have suggested that the word Elohim is the masculine plural of a feminine noun, used as a singular. This would imply indeterminacy in both number and gender, although, as mentioned above, from Canaanite texts in Ugarit, this is what appears to be intended in this case . However, to many this is speculative and confusing, although consistent with many other Jewish and Christian views of the nature of the Godhead.

Note that contrary to what is sometimes assumed , the word Eloah (אלוה) is quite definitely not feminine in form in the Hebrew language (and does not have feminine grammatical gender in its occurrences in the Bible). This word ends in a furtivum vowel (i.e. short non-syllabic [a] element which is part of a lowering diphthong) followed by a breathily-pronounced final [h] consonant sound — while feminine Hebrew words which end in "ah" have a fully syllabic [a] vowel which is followed by a silent "h" letter (which changes to a [t] sound in the grammatical "construct state" construction, or if suffixes are added). The pronounced [h] (or he mappiq) of Eloah never alternates with a [t] consonant sound (the way that silent feminine "h" does), and the [a] "furtivum" element in Eloah is actually a late feature of masoretic pronunciation traditions, which wouldn't have existed in the pronunciation of Biblical times.

The meaning of Elohim is further complicated by the fact that it is used to describe the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel, raised by Saul in 1 Samuel 28:13. The witch of Endor tells Saul that she sees 'gods' (elohim) coming up out of the earth; this seems to indicate that the term was indeed used simply to mean something like 'divine beings' in ancient Israel.

It is worthy of note that, in the Biblical Hebrew (as well as in many other languages, such as Yaqui) the customary grammatical "plurality" of a word is often simply that: a grammatical plural. The use of "plural" forms for singular nouns is common in the Hebrew Bible, and often connotes quintessence, uniqueness, or might rather than plurality (though it may connote both). Thus, the phrase "מלך מלכי המלכים" ("melekh maləkêi ha-məlâkhim") does not refer to "a king, kings of kings", but to "a king of unsurpassed kingship"; שיר השירים, ("shir ha-shirim") does not refer to "a song of songs", but to "a song that is the quintessential song"; ימים רבים ("yamim rabim") refers to "a great sea" as easily as to "great [or 'many'] seas". A clue to this is the Hebrew grammatical term for "plural": lâshon rabbim, meaning a term of grandiosities.

Forbidding the use of the word in Judaism

Modern Judaism forbids the use of the word "Elohim" under the belief that "Elohim" is one of God's names, and that speaking his name out loud is forbidden by the Torah. Therefore, when said out loud outside of prayer, and when written not by a Sofer Stam, the word's fourth letter hei (Hebrew: ה') is replaced by the letter kof (Hebrew: ק), which is similar in shape but completely changes the phonetic pronunciation of the word from "Elohim" to "Elokim". In Hebrew culture it is often easy to differentiate religious people from secular people by the former's use of the word "Elokim" or "Hashem" (Hebrew: השם, meaning "The Name") instead of the word "Elohim". Other names of God are also replaced, such as "Adonai" (In writing it is replaced by the letter hei and when spoken is replaced by either "Hakadosh Baruch-Hu" (Hebrew: הקדוש ברוך-הוא, meaning "The Holy One, Blessed He Is") or simply "Hashem."

Significance in the documentary hypothesis

The choice of word or words for God varies in the Hebrew Bible. According to the documentary hypothesis these variations are evidence of different source texts: Elohim is used as the name of God in the Elohist and the Priestly source, while Yahweh is used in the Jahwist source. The difference in names results from the theological point being made in the Elohist and Priestly sources that God did not reveal his name, Yahweh, to any man before the time of Moses.

Elohim in the Qur'an

In the context of Islam, the divine name Allah, used in the Qur'an, has a linguistic cognate relationship with the Hebrew word "Eloah (אלוה)". See "La ilaha illallah...", the Muslim declaration of faith, where the word for a god is Ilah (from which the word Allah derives by prefixation of the Arabic definite article).

In the Qur'an, a first person plural pronoun ("we") is used in a similar way when the angels are involved in executing the will of God, implying the presence of these divinely guided beings. Some Muslim scholars, however, reject the opinion of the plural pronoun being used in this way, and instead explain the plural pronoun as an example of "royal plural". As in the Bible, when the focus is on the oneness of God (as in worship of God alone) the singular is used.

Elohim in the Latter Day Saint movement

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as some other denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, the term Elohim (also spelled "Eloheim") is often used to distinguish God the Father as a distinct member of the Godhead.

The plural sense of "Elohim" is generally recognized by the LDS Church as meaning "the council of the gods", often interpreted as the Godhead, in the creation story. This is particularly evident in Chapter 4 of the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price.

Elohim in anthroposophy

In anthroposophy, based on the teachings by Rudolf Steiner, the Elohim represent the sixth realm of the Christian angelic hierarchy of the Roman Catholic tradition. Using the terminology of Dionysius the Areopagite, thishierarchic level of divine spirits is referred to as Exousiai (Greek) or Potestates (Latin) and is immediately abovethe three levels comprising the Angels, Archangels and Archai/Principati. Steiner frequently refers to the Elohim as "spirits of form."The role of the Exousiai/Elohim in spiritual evolution is essential, since the human Self has emanated from them. Having their residence in the spiritual spheres of the Sun, the Exousiai/Elohim are specially devoted to the development of Earth and humanity. Yahweh, the leader of the seven Elohim, moved to the spiritual sphere of the Moon for the sake of humanity and took up the task as the divine ruler of the biblical Israelites, destined to receive the incarnation of Christ in the man Jesus. Christ, himself originating from Trinity (which stands above all hierarchies), is the ultimate leader of the Exousiai.

Divine Name movement

In some Sacred name Bibles, like The Scriptures 98 and Restored Name King James Version the word "Elohim" is used in many places in the New Testament where the word theos θεος is found in the Greek text (such as John 1:1 and John 10:36). Though there are no attested early Biblical manuscripts of the New Testament with "Elohim", the editors of such translations appeal to the fact that the Syriac word "ܐܠܗܐ" (Aloha, cognate with Hebrew Eloah) is found in the Peshitto text of the New Testament in locations where there are quotations from Old Testament passages which contained "Elohim" in the original Hebrew (such as John 10:34). However, Syriac Aloha does not actually have plural morphology (the distinctive feature of Hebrew "Elohim").

In Rabbinic Literature

Elohim occupy the seventh rank of ten in the famous medieval Rabbinic scholar Maimonides' Jewish angelic hierarchy. Also Maimonides told that:
I must premise that every Hebrew knows that the term Elohim is a homonym, and denotes God, angels, judges, and the rulers of countries, ...


The Raëlian Movement translates 'Elohim' to "Those who come from the heavens" or "Those who came from the sky", keeping with the hypothesis that it is a plural form of 'Eloha', which would in turn mean, "He/She who comes from the heavens/sky". Elohim would then be human-like extraterrestrials who came from another planet or dimension and created all life on Earth using advanced genetic engineering and bio-science as declared in the book of Genesis.

Elohim in Oahspe

The name elohim is not used to mean the Creator throughout the bulk of the Kosmon Bible Oahspe; the singular Hebrew terms Jehovih [SHD 3069] and Eloih are used instead. Elohim is mentioned in the linguistic book of Saphah in Oahspe as having been used in Arabania to mean the Creator. This is after the times when elim, ilim, alim, etc. (with the plural 'im' ending), were already used to mean gods-plural in interrelated Semitic cuneiform languages, see Elohim . In Oahspe's rites of Emethachavah (the presence of the name Christ would date these rites no older than the time of the Christians) it is explained that the original name of the Creator was E-o-ih (one phonetic cognate of YHWH) which later became eloih, elohim etc. In the glossary under Jehovih, Oahspe directs the student to Godfrey Higgins notes, in Newbrough's Commentary, concerning the name elohim. John Newbrough (who channeled Oahspe) quotes Godfrey Higgins notes on elohim, including the statement “it is by no means singular.” Oahspe tells of holy gods and goddesses (one time mortals) who serve the Creator. This account is analagous to the biblical mention of the elohim as 'holy gods' (Dan. 4:8 & 5:11), elohim-gods plural over whom YHWH is king (Ps. 95:2-6), and that these elohim worship YHWH (Ps. 97:7&9); also the many biblical cases where elohim is translated as gods plural, and where it is used with plural verbs and other grammatical terms. To check all Bible verses go to interlinear Bible link below See also Hebrew scholar Michael Heiser's work on the Divine council and The Lost Data on the Chariots of the Elohim

See also


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