views updated May 14 2018


The divine name ('Ělōhîm ) most frequently used in the Old Testament, a plural form of Eloah, which appears only in poetical books (34 of the 57 times in Job alone). The form Elohim, when used of the God of Israel, is a plural of majesty, signifying the one God who embodies in Himself all the qualities of divinity, and is almost always accompanied by singular verbs and adjectives. Elohim is used also for other gods in general (Ex 18.11; Dt 10.17) and for particular gods, e.g., Chamos, god of the Moabites (Jgs 11.24); the goddess astarte of the Sidonians (1 Kgs 11.5); beelzebub, god of Accaron (2 Kgs1.2). It is used also for the ghost of Samuel (1 Sm 28.13), for Moses (Ex 4.16; 7.1), for the King [Ps 44 (45).7], for angels [Ps 8.6; 28 (29).1; Jb 1.6; Gn 6.14; etc.], for princes and judges [Ps 57 (58).2; 81 (82).6; cf. Jn 10.34], and for David's dynasty and the Messiah (Za 12.8; Is 9.5).

That Elohim was not a particularly Hebrew name for God is indicated by its appearance in Phoenicia long before its use by the Israelites; both the Amarna Letters and the texts found at ugarit, where it is sometimes construed with a singular verb referring to the supreme god as representative of all the gods of the pantheon, provide instances of its earlier use. The Israelites, however, used Elohim for their one and only God, who excludes all other genuine deities. He is seen as the creator God endowed with all-embracing power, the ruler of absolute will. yahweh, the God of Israel, is the only God, and there is no other (Dt 4.35; 6.4; Is 46.9).

Bibliography: w. eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, tr. j. a. baker (London 1961). p. van imschoot, Théologie de l'Ancien Testament, 2 v. (Tournai 195456).

[r. t. a. murphy]


views updated May 21 2018

Elohim (Heb., God(s)). A name for the God of the Jews. Its plural form may once have been literal—‘mighty ones’—but it became subsumed in the accumulating Jewish sense that if God is indeed God, then there can only be what God is: One, and not a plurality of gods.