Divine Names and Titles

 •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 10
The beauty of, and precision in, the use of the various titles and names of God are well worthy of being carefully noted by the student of holy Scripture. The field is a rich one, and the mine will yield its wealth to the Spirit taught Christian. Strange that in a scene where the rays of the divine glory are reflected from these names, and one so fruitful for meditation and study, for wonder and worship, some should find food for unbelief, and on this very point assail the divine inspiration of the word of God! The truth is, that Corinthian wisdom and German learning are on a par, for “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God,” and “the things of God knoweth, NO MAN, but the Spirit of God.” The Holy Ghost is the alone power to understand holy Scripture. “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God,” and “reveals” them to us. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-1310But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:10‑13), the absolute necessity of divine teaching is insisted upon strongly; so strongly, indeed, as to cast everlasting contempt upon mere fleshly wisdom and learning, when they would dare to enter the sacred precincts and seek to scan the divine verities of our holy faith. The Holy Ghost in these verses is presented as the alone Knower (v. 11), Searcher (v. 10), Revealer (v. 10), and Teacher (v. 13) of the precious mysteries of God. Where this is unknown or practically ignored, there can be no progress in the truth beyond what is necessary for salvation.
We will now glance at a few of the names by which God has been pleased to reveal Himself to man, trusting that the reader will for his own profit follow out in fuller detail this deeply interesting subject.
1. God (Elohim). There are about twenty-seven hundred occurrences of this name in Scripture. It is an interesting fact, and one not sufficiently weighed in the Arian controversy, that the word as thus used is a plural one, and is translated “Gods” in Psalms 97:7;827Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods. (Psalm 97:7)
7But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes. (Psalm 82:7)
. 6; John 10:34, 3534Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; (John 10:34‑35). Thus this word alone vindicates the fullness and establishes the truth of the persons of the Godhead. Strange that it should have been to such an extent overlooked! God (Elohim) created and made. In Genesis 1,1 where the subject is creation, Elohim occurs 35 times. This frequent use of the name within a compass of 34 verses sufficiently indicates the wide extent and fullness of the name Elohim. The word, although sometimes used in a lower sense as to earthly judges (Exodus 21:66Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever. (Exodus 21:6)) of Israel as set in the place of authority and blessing (John 10:34,3534Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? 35If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; (John 10:34‑35)) and of angels mighty in power (Psalms 97:77Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him, all ye gods. (Psalm 97:7); Hebrews 1:66And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. (Hebrews 1:6)) always involves the idea of authority and power.
Creation—glory, and Godhead—fullness are unfolded by this blessed name.
2. God (Eloah). There are about 60 occurrences of this name in Scripture, and in most, if not all, of the instances it is used in striking contrast to the many gods of the Gentiles. Our God is one and alone in power, wisdom, and goodness. It is the singular form of the word “Elohim.” The grand truth committed to Israel, and which ought to have formed the burden of her testimony in midst of an idolatrous world, is found in Deuteronomy 6:44Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: (Deuteronomy 6:4), “Hear, O Israel; the Lord (Jehovah) our God is one Lord:” this lies at the root of all testimony for God. Mark 12:2929And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: (Mark 12:29).
Not until the mighty works of God in creation, and the still more marvelous acts and ways in moral display in Egypt, the Red Sea, and the wilderness were fully declared not until the great and everlasting principles of good and evil were traced up to their respective sources—and not until the various relationships of man and Israel with God were established2 have we a single recurrence of the word Eloah. The excellency and fullness of the Godhead are maintained in the fullest possible manner before even God (Eloah) confronts the gods of the uncircumcised. This He does for the first time in Deuteronomy 32:1515But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation. (Deuteronomy 32:15). Eloah’s controversy with idols is a grave and important question, and will be found fully discussed in the fifth section of Isaiah. (Chapters 40-48.)
To the heathen God sends a message in their own language3 that their gods will perish from the earth and from under the heavens (Jer. 10:1111Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. (Jeremiah 10:11)); this threat will be executed in the day of the Lord as Isa. 2:1818And the idols he shall utterly abolish. (Isaiah 2:18) solemnly intimates, “The idols He shall utterly abolish.”
3. Lord God.
The first occurrence of this double title is in Genesis 2:44These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, (Genesis 2:4). The relationships of man with God were established in innocence (chapter 2), and were maintained spite of the fall (chapter 3.), hence in these two chapters the title “Lord God” occurs 20 times. Man’s responsibilities to God, to his wife, to creation, are in no wise compromised on the divine side because of the inability of man to meet them. The cross of Christ presented to faith settles forever on behalf of all who believe, the question in all its breadth of creature responsibility, and Christ risen from the dead and ascended is our source of new life, which has new responsibilities. Man unfallen (Genesis 2), and guilty (Genesis 3, and Psalms 14:1,21<<To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.>> The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. 2The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. (Psalm 14:1‑2)), and Israel (as Psalms undoubtedly teach) are taught that the “LORD” with whom they are in moral relationship is none other than God whose power and glory forms the theme of creation’s song and testimony. (Psalms 19;145) Thus God (Elohim), supreme in power, alone in creation—glory, and in the absoluteness of His being, has been pleased to bring man and Israel into positive relationship with Himself, and, we might add, creation too, as Genesis 9:8-178And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 11And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: 13I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth. (Genesis 9:8‑17) clearly enough shows. (See especially verses 10, 12, 13, 16, 17.)
4. LORD, or Jehovah.
This title, so familiar to the Jews, expresses absolute existence. It is much more difficult to perceive and grasp by a Gentile mind than by a Jewish one, so the name is explained to us, saved Gentiles, in Revelation 1:88I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (Revelation 1:8), “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord (Jehovah), which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” We learn the absoluteness of His being—the independent, self-existent One—in the words “which is” (compare with John 8:5858Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)), while Jehovah’s relation to the past is expressed in “which was,” and His relation to the future in the words “which is to come.”
Now man (Genesis 4) and Israel (Exodus 6:33And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. (Exodus 6:3)), but not the Patriarchs, were in moral relationship with Jehovah—the self-existing One. It is anything but trifling to note, and that carefully too, the use of these divine titles. Let Genesis 7 furnish us with an example of the exactness of the Spirit in writing the names “God” and “LORD.” In verses 1-5 it is “LORD;” in verses 7-9 it is “God.” Why this? Why is it said in verse 5, “And Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him,” while in verse 9 it is said, “as God had commanded Noah.” In the latter passage God’s rights in creation is the thought, hence a pair of animals and birds—male and female—were to be brought into the Ark clearly for the propagation of the species and the preservation of creation. Thus the appropriateness of the title “Elohim” the Creator is self-evident. On the other hand, where it was a question of moral relationship, seven pairs of clean animals and birds were to be brought into the Ark (these would be needed for sacrifice, the basis of all relationship with God), hence the fitting title “LORD.”
In the first Book of Psalms (4-41.) Jehovah occurs upwards of 270 times; Elohim about 50 times. In the second Book (Psalms 42-72.) there are only about 26 instances of the use of the divine title Jehovah, while Elohim occurs about 200 times. Again, in Psalms 14, “Jehovah looked down from heaven,” while in Psalms 53, “Elohim looked down from heaven.” In the former Psalm, the wicked “call not upon the Jehovah,” while in the latter it is said “they have not called upon Elohim.” Why these differences? Are we stupidly to term them “fanciful distinctions?” Has the accuracy of the Holy Ghost, in inditing Scripture, no charm for us? Certain am I that these distinctions, when duly weighed, will be found of deepest interest to the spiritual.
Judah in her land, and especially in Jerusalem—consequently in covenant relationship—is the subject of the first Book of Psalms, hence the frequent use of the covenant name “Jehovah;” while in the second Book, Judah’s outcast state from her land, and especially Jerusalem, is the great burden; thus Elohim, not Jehovah, is the leading title in the book. Read Psalms 14 and 53 in this light, and instead of seeming confusion, the perfect order and beauty of these titles will shine out. Let every word and sentence of holy writ be solemnly pondered; let nothing be passed over as too trivial or unimportant. Scripture, given by inspiration of God, is made up of letters and words; never, therefore, pass over a single word in the Bible; treasure up every word; for “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Luke 4:44And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. (Luke 4:4).
5. Almighty God.
The first time this title is used is in Genesis 17:11And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (Genesis 17:1). “Almighty,” used singly, or in conjunction with other divine names, occurs about 60 times in the Bible. Half of these instances will be found in the ancient Book of Job, and all of them refer to God only. There are only two instances of the compound title “Almighty God.” To the first, stranger, pilgrim and patriarch—Abraham called to walk with God against a wicked and idolatrous world—the “Almighty God” (Genesis 17:11And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (Genesis 17:1)) was the sure and all-sufficient resource of the man of faith. Almighty in grace, almighty in sustaining power, almighty in resources—such seem to be the force of the patriarchal title. In Revelation 19:1515And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. (Revelation 19:15), we meet with it again— “He treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” If the first book of Scripture tells of an all-sustaining, all-gracious God, the last book speaks of an all-consuming, wrathful God—almighty in wrath and judgment.
In Exodus 6:33And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. (Exodus 6:3) it is said, “And I appeared unto Abraham (Genesis 17:11And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. (Genesis 17:1)), unto Isaac (Genesis 28:33And God Almighty bless thee, and make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, that thou mayest be a multitude of people; (Genesis 28:3)), and unto Jacob (Genesis 48:33And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan, and blessed me, (Genesis 48:3)), by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them.” It is true we frequently meet with the name “Jehovah” long previous to Israel’s redemption out of Egypt, and oftentimes applied when moral relationship is in question, but that is not at all the point in this interesting passage. The Fathers of the people must have been long familiar with the title Jehovah, and, no doubt, have understood something of the glory of the name, but God did not please to reveal Himself to them as Jehovah, but as God Almighty. Were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob 4 to go on pilgrimage? Then God reveals Himself to them accordingly Almighty! How it would speak to their hearts of God’s infinite resources, and all-sustaining power! If, then, one is called upon to come clean and clear out from a judged world as Abraham (Genesis 12), or as the Christian (2 Corinthians 6:14-1814Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? 16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:14‑18)), from false and idolatrous worship and unholy fellowship, what are the resources and aids of such a one in his separate path? To prove the relationship of a son or daughter—to know a Father’s heart and tender love, and to know practically the infinite resources of love, wisdom, and power in “the Lord Almighty.”
May it be ours to learn the blessedness of a separate path! It will never be so lonely as the path of the stranger. Son of God come down from heaven—He trod it alone—we in company with Him.
(To be continued, if the Lord will.)
1. In the first two chapters of Genesis, as in other instances, the division is forced and unhappy. Verses 1-3, chapter 2, should close chapter 1.
2. Save kingly power and government; but, in truth, every relationship is shadowed forth in the “ seed plot “ of the Bible-Genesis.
3. Syriac.
4. Not Joseph, who is a marked and personal type of the Lord in suffering and in glory.