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Elohim

Elohim (eh-low-heem) is a term over which there is much misunderstanding, primarily due to its English translation as God with a capital "G". Many people, seeing the English word God and then looking at the Hebrew word, have come to think that elohim is exclusively a name of Yahweh. This does not bear out upon further examination, however, as can been seen in Psalm 82.

     1 God (elohim) stands in the divine assembly; 
     he administers judgment in the midst of the gods (elohim).
-Psalm 82:1 LEB (emphasis and parentheses mine)

The term elohim is the plural of eloah, meaning generically "god"Elohim when used for multiple gods is plural, but elohim when used as a name for the singular Yahweh is what is called a plural of majesty. He is referred to using a plural to emphasize how grand he is.

In short, Yahweh is an elohim. But no elohim is like Yahweh. Yahweh created all other elohim and their continued existence is contingent upon him.

Some have proposed that elohim can also refer to human judges and rulers, but that does not bear out upon further scrutiny. The most common references used to argue this is found in Exodus in reference to a Hebrew slave that wishes to stay with his master when he could go free.

6 his master will present him to God (elohim) and bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master will pierce his ear with an awl, and he will serve him forever.
-Exod. 21:6 LEB (emphasis and parentheses mine)

9 Concerning every account of transgression—concerning an ox, concerning a donkey, concerning small livestock, concerning clothing, concerning all lost property—where someone says, “This belongs to me,” the matter of the two of them will come to God (elohim); whomever God (elohim) declares guilty will make double restitution to his neighbor.
-Exod. 22:9 LEB (emphasis and parentheses mine)

Translating a word that means "God" or "gods" in all other instances to mean "judges" makes little sense when there is another word used for judges, pelilim, in very close proximity to both of these references.

22 “ ‘And if men fight and they injure a pregnant woman, and her children go out and there is not serious injury, he will surely be fined as the woman’s husband demands concerning him ⌊and as the judges (pelilim) determine⌋.
-Exod. 21:22 LEB (emphasis and parentheses mine)

Another point that is brought up is the close connection to the Canaanite chief god, El, also a shortened form of elohim. This term, El, is also used to identify Yahweh in a few scripture references. These terms can quickly get confusing and become speculative because el, and elohim are both also common nouns for god and gods. The same can be true of other god names like ba'al, which also a common term meaning "lord" in Semitic languages. In fact, Hosea plays on this overlapping meaning in a prophetic poem. Both of the Hebrew words highlighted below are from the same lemma, ba'al. A lemma is essentially the base word that you would find if looking it up in a dictionary.

     16 ⌊And on that day⌋— 
       a declaration of Yahweh— 
          you will call me, “My husband;” 
          you will no longer call me, “My Baal (bali, master).” 
     17 I will remove the names 
       of the Baals (balim) from her mouth, 
          and they will no longer be mentioned by their name.
-Hosea 2:16-17 LEB (emphasis and parentheses mine)

 In Allies of Majesty: I have opted to use the term elohim to refer to when referring to the ontological form of the spiritual beings. To avoid confusion and controversy, I have not chosen to the use the English equivalent, "gods". While using "gods" might sound awesome to some people, it would be very unnecessarily problematic for many other people. Using the Hebrew transliteration rather than "gods" or "angels" allows me to remain accurate to the text without other unneeded baggage.


Other Contributing Works:
  • The Unseen Realm, Michael S. Heiser, 2015
  • Angels, Michael S. Heiser, 2018
  • Fallen, Tim Chaffey, 2019
  • Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, El, Elohim, Ba'al, 1999
  • The Bible Project podcast, Tim Mackie, multiple episodes
  • The Naked Bible podcast, Michael S. Heiser, multiple episodes
  • The Lord of Spirits podcast, Fr. Stephen De Young & Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick, multiple episodes