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Concordant Studies

YAHWEH  IS  THE  ONLY  ELOHIM

“GOD IS SPIRIT” (John 4:24). “God no one has ever seen” (John 1:18a). Since God is spirit, He is therefore invisible, intangible, imperceptible. He is all-sufficient; He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. While such, indeed, are among God’s attributes, it is not inherent in this title (i.e., “the Subjector,” or “God”) that this is so. God alone is unoriginated and supreme; but it is neither entailed in nor does it follow from the fact that the Almighty is “God” that He is unoriginated and supreme.
It is true that in certain of its occurrences, the primary divine title, ELOHIM, does not refer to the supreme and only true God, but to a plurality of certain of His creatures. Clearly, in such cases, reference is made to a plural number of such beings, each one of whom, in some capacity, is a “subjector.”
In the overwhelming majority of the occurrences of ELOHIM, however, this term is not used in reference to certain creatures who, in a relative sense, may also bear this title together with the Supreme, but in an absolute sense in reference to Yahweh Himself alone, Who is the supreme and only true God. For example, “. . . Yahweh, He is the only Elohim. There is no one else aside from Him” (Deut.4:35). “So you know today, and you recall it to your heart that Yahweh, He is the only Elohim in the heavens above and on the earth beneath; there is no one else” (Deut.4:39).
There are not only those both in heaven and on earth who are termedGODS” (or “ELOHIM”), but there are also those who areGODS” (“there are many gods and many lords”; 1 Cor.8:5). “Nevertheless,” declares the apostle Paul, “for us there is one God, the Father, out of Whom all is . . . .” (1 Cor.8:6).
Just as Paul identifies to us Who the one true God is, saying that He is “the Father, out of Whom all is,” Moses identified the one true God to Israel, declaring that He is the One Whose name is Yahweh. 1
Indeed, this is Israel’s great confession: “Hear, Israel! Yahweh [is] our Elohim; Yahweh [the only] One” (Deut.6:4).
“The first Hebrew sentence that a Jewish child learns is [this very verse]:

SH’MA YISRAEL YAHWEH ELOHENU YAHWEH ECHAD
Hear, Israel! Yahweh our-Elohim, Yahweh One

“The observant Jew is required to recite it twice daily, in the morning and at nightfall, together with three related passages. He may add verse 5 (“So you will love Yahweh your Elohim with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your intensity”), sometimes including the following verses 6-9; also Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41.” 2
The sense is that not two (or more) are Israel’s “elohim,” but only one is their Elohim. That one is Yahweh alone. To express the ellipsis inherent in the second clause, we would say, “Yahweh is our Elohim; Yahweh–One–[is our Elohim].” 3
The title of this Jewish key prayer, “Shema,” is taken from the first word of Deuteronomy 6:4, Sh’ma (Hear!). Most Jewish translators and commentators give the sense the same as that which appears in the Concordant Version. “The belief that God [Elohim] is made up of several personalities, such as the Christian belief in the Trinity, is a departure from the pure conception of the Unity of God. Israel has throughout the ages rejected everything that marred or obscured the conception of pure monotheism it had given the world, and rather than abandon that pure monotheism, rather than admit any weakening of it, Jews were prepared to wander, to suffer, to die.” 4
“Yahweh” is the name of the divine Being Himself, Whose chief title is “Elohim.” The literal significance of the word ELOHIM is “subjectors-ward.”
The shortest form of the divine title, El, which is singular, is the same in form as the connective to and the pronoun these. To and these indicate the direction, disposition, or subjection of that which is in view. For example, “The water from under the heavens shall flow together to one place” (Gen.1:9), disposes or subjects the waters. “These are the genealogical annals” (Gen.2:4), places the generations before the mind of the reader. This is the underlying thought, in accord with the true proverb, “Man proposes, but God disposes.” 5 It would seem, then, that the essential thought of the divine title (which appears in three forms, El, Eloah, and Elohim) is Subjector, Disposer, or Placer.
We may be certain that this assumption is correct, since the Greek equivalent, Theos, which is derived from the-, PLACE, signifies the Placer. This may be confirmed from many words which share this common stem such as tithêmi, place, lay, appoint, assign, or atheteơ, which means “repudiate” or have no place for. The meaning of the- may be seen as well in such English words as theme, thesis, and theater, in which a certain entity (whether a topic, proposition, or drama) is placed before an audience.
The intermediate form of the divine title is Eloah, which is also singular. 41 of its 58 occurrences appear in the book of Job. In order to express motion or direction, the ending -ah is occasionally postfixed to a noun, such as westward (Num.2:18). This same ending, which means -ward (i.e., “[to]ward”), appears in Eloah as well. This calls to mind John 1:1 where we read that “the WORD was toward God.” We are mindful that Christ’s name is called the “Word” (or “Expression”) of God in Revelation 19:13. Surely all that Christ is and does directs us toward God.
It is conceivable that the title Eloah, in an ideal sense, was especially intended to reflect the general direction of Christ’s activity, which is Godwards, toward-the-Deity, toward-the Subjector, toward-El. Perhaps certain of its usages even entail this thought, though we cannot be certain. That the word identifies the one so termed as Christ, however, is not something that these morphological considerations themselves can prove. Indeed, in certain instances, we may be sure that ELOAH does not in any respect speak of the true God, Eloah of Israel, but of a foreign eloah or god (e.g., Dan.11:37,39). The main point to note, however, is that, whatever the original reason may have been (which may be lost to antiquity) for the employment of this special singular form which incorporates a suffix signifying -ward, this form as well, when used of the Eloah of Israel, ultimately directs us to the only true God.
The longest form of the divine title, Elohim, which contains the plural ending im, occurs much more frequently than either of the other forms. In a number of its occurrences it speaks of a plurality of beings, of various creatures, whether righteous or unrighteous, whether in heaven or on earth, of whom all are in some respect “subjectors,” working toward the accomplishment of their own purposes, which, in the highest sense, all direct us toward God and the accomplishment of His purpose (cp Isa.10:5-15). All such “subjecting ones,” in one way or another, are engaged in subjecting others, in the disposition of their affairs, in placing them under a certain authority. And, all such ones, in so acting, are the agents of the Supreme Subjector; thus they are included among “the men of His counsel” (cp Isa.46:11).
Many of the passages in which “elohim” appears merely speak of the idolatrous “elohim,” the gods of the nations which Israel was prone to worship. Aaron declared to Moses: “The anger of my lord must not grow hot. You know the people that they are unbridled, for they said to me: Make elohim for us who shall go before us, for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we know not what has become of him” (Ex.32:22,23; cit. Acts 7:40; cp Acts 7:43; Amos 5:25-27; Ex.22:20; Deut.7:25).
It is with such “elohim” in mind that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “that which the nations are sacrificing, they are [actually] sacrificing to demons . . .” (1 Cor.10:20). This was so, by whatever name these “gods” of the nations may have been known. Such deceiving spirits actually are not worthy of the title “subjectors,” for their subjection was unto evil ends and was not in the faithful service of the true God.
In the Song of Moses, in Deuteronomy 32:21, Yahweh speaks of Israel having followed such unclean spirits, ones which were called “elohim” yet were only so in an evil sense, unworthy of the name: “As for them, they make Me jealous with a non-el. They provoke Me to vexation with their idols of vanity. As for Me, I shall make them jealous with a non-people; with a decadent nation shall I cause them vexation.” Paul speaks of the time when the Galatians once, like the Thessalonians, had turned about “to God from idols, to be slaving for the living and true God” (cf 1 Thess.1:9). Until that time, however, and in a similar sense to that of Israel in her idolatrous worship of a “non-el,” the Galatians had been “slaves of those who, by nature, are not gods” (Gal.4:8). These demons, however, were quite real, and certainly subjected the natives of Galatia to much evil. Therefore, it is only with a faithful sense in view that these wicked spirits were deemed “not gods.” 6
It is certain that Galatians 4:8 should be understood in such a sense as is suggested here, for there are a considerable number of scripture passages which speak of both men and messengers as being “elohim” (i.e., “subjectors”), each one, under God, working in his own faithful capacity toward the achievement of his own respective service. Note the following texts: “You shall not maledict the elohim [i.e., the arbiters or judges; cf Ex.21:6], and a prince among your people you shall not curse” (Ex.22:28). “Then the sheiks of Edom are flustered; the arbiters [elohim; i.e., judges, or disposers] of Moab, quivering took hold of them. All the dwellers of Canaan are dissolved” (Ex.15:15).
“If the thief is not found then the possessor of the house will be brought near to the elohim [or “judges”] to show whether or not he has put forth his hand on the work of his associate. In every matter of transgression over a bull, over a donkey, over a flockling, over raiment or over every lost thing which one says that this is it, unto the elohim shall come the word of the two of them. Whom the elohim shall condemn, he shall repay double to his associate” (Ex.22:8,9).
Of the sons of Israel, collectively, it is written, “I Myself have said: you are elohim, and sons of the Supreme are all of you” (Psa.82:6). How glorious to know that these words will find a fulfillment in the kingdom of the heavens. Then, Israel will be the head and not the tail; then, in the kingdom, the chosen race will indeed be a “royal priesthood,” a “holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). Citing the very words of Psalm 82:6, Jesus declared to the Jews, “Is it not written in your law that, ‘I say you are gods’? If He said those were gods, to whom the word of God came (and the scripture can not be annulled), are you saying to Him Whom the Father hallows and dispatches into the world that ‘You are blaspheming,’ seeing that I said, ‘Son of God am I’?” (John 10:34-36).
The words of Psalm 97:7, in reference to Yahweh, “bow down to Him, all you elohim,” are interpreted in Hebrews 1:6 as “worship Him, all the messengers of God!” In speaking of Christ, Hebrews 1:9 (citing Psalm 45:7) declares, “Thou lovest righteousness and hatest injustice; therefore, Thou art anointed by God, Thy God, with the oil of exultation beyond Thy partners.” Though there are others, whether celestial or terrestrial, who are themselves “anointed ones” of God (i.e., “christs”), who thus are our Lord’s “partners” (metochon, WITH-HAVer) in divine service, Christ’s own anointing and corresponding divine service is certainly beyond that of any others.
In Hebrews 1, verses 8 and 9 (citing Psalm 45:6,7), God declares to the Son, “Thy throne, O God, is for the eon of the eon,” and “Thou art anointed by God, Thy God.” The text of Psalm 45:6, 7 itself reads: “Your throne, O Elohim, is for the eon and further . . . . Elohim Your Elohim has anointed You.”
In these verses of Psalm 45, not only is God termed “Elohim” but the Son is also termed “Elohim.” While it is true that the mere form of this word is plural, it is just as true that each of the two Beings Whom it herein represents are singular Beings. 7 One is God Himself, “the Majesty in the heights” (Heb.1:3), at Whose “right hand” the other One so addressed, termed “the Son,” is seated. As is the case as well in the vast majority of the texts in which ELOHIM appears in which it is used in reference to God Himself (“Yahweh Elohim”), this form is used here not of a plurality of beings but, respectively, of Two individual beings, God and His Son.
It follows, then, the claims of Mormonism, among others, notwithstanding, that the plural form ELOHIM does not mean a “company” or “family” of beings. That it is used of a plurality of beings in certain passages and that certain of these are, under divine inspiration, interpreted accordingly in the New Testament, 8 no one doubts. That, however, is not the issue. Indeed, it is just as true, and far more to the point, that in many places and in all cases in the Greek New Testament, God always used the Greek singular for Elohim whenever referring either to Himself or His Son. 9
Perhaps, as many scholars have suggested, when “ELOHIM” is used of Yahweh Himself, the plural form “Elohim” is an idiom termed plural amplitudinus or plural of majesty, which originally had in view the plenitude of God’s operations in which He acts through others who are energized by His holy spirit. Some such explanation must account for the mere plural form. This is because in the vast number of passages which speak of Yahweh Himself as “Elohim,” even as where, under God, Christ as well is denominated by this same title, a single Being alone is addressed or is in view.
It is a fallacy that either supremacy or unoriginatedness is entailed by the word “God.” It is a fallacy as well that wherever the word appears it speaks of the same being. And finally, it is a fallacy that if the word is used in a certain sense in one place, it is used in the same sense in another place. Each of these errors has been the source of much confusion. Collectively, the volume of deception which they have wrought is simply incalculable. If we are not snared by these errors ourselves, this can only be attributed to the grace of God.
We are often praying for a realization of God’s purpose of the eons which He makes in Christ Jesus our Lord (Eph.3:11), even as for discernment concerning His allotment among the saints, in which we have a part. May we complement such prayers by a request for the most fundamental realization of all, which is simply a realization of Him (Col.1:10). Truly, may the eyes of our heart be enlightened, in a realization of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory (cf Eph.1:15-19).

James Coram


1. The Divine Name, Yahweh, is composed of the elements of the verb “to become.” Yahweh is “I am that I am,” or literally, “I am becoming Who I am becoming” (Ex.3:14). In Revelation 1:8 John seems to give the meaning of the Name for His Greek readers: Who is and Who was and Who is coming (cf 1:4; 4:8 and 11:17; 16:5 where the future is omitted). Though these passages in Revelation speak directly of God Himself in contrast to Jesus Christ (cp 1:5), it is important to remember that while, absolutely speaking, Christ is not God Himself (“Yahweh,” in the Old Testament), representatively speaking, Christ indeed is Yahweh, Who alone is God Himself (cp Zech.14:3,4).

2. Herman H. Rocke, Unsearchable Riches, vol.78, p.280.

3. The Authorized Version rendering of Deuteronomy 6:4, “. . . the LORD our God is one LORD,” is confusing and misleading. The Revised Version (1901) is to be commended for including the correct sense in its margin (“. . . Jehovah is our God, Jehovah alone”). The Revised rendering, however, which appears in its main text, “. . . Jehovah our God is one Jehovah,” is even more perplexing than the AV translation.

4. J. H. Herz, editor: THE PENTATEUCH AND HAFTORAHS, Soncino Press, London, 1972, p.770.

5. cf A. E. Knoch, Unsearchable Riches, vol.24, p.173.

6. Some, in an effort to “prove” Trinitarianism, have found support for their claim in Galatians 4:8. Their notion is, based upon their own presupposition that the Galatians’ erstwhile idols were in no sense whatsoever actually “gods,” therefore “ELOHIM” is a term descriptive of nature, one which entails both supremacy and unoriginatedness. Hence it can legitimately only be used of the “Triune God” of their creeds. This illogical claim is simply contrary to the facts, and fails to note the sense and corollaries of Deuteronomy 32:21, to which Paul alludes.

7. It should be noted that the plural form, “elohim,” is used as well of individual gods of the nations (cf 1 Sam.5:7; Judges 11:24; 1 Kings 18:24).

8. cf John 10:34,35; Acts 7:40,14:11,19:26; 1 Cor.8:5; Gal.4:8.

9. For example, in Exodus 3:16 when God spoke to Moses out of the flaming thornbush, He revealed Himself as the Elohim of Abraham, and the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob. Yet when our Lord cites this passage in proving the necessity of resurrection (Matt.22:32), and Steven brings it before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:32), neither translates Elohim as plural. Thus we may be certain concerning Yahweh, that He is the Subjector and Placer (not “subjectors” or “placers”) of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.

Forward to Part Four

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