Elohim: Part One-God the Creator

Elohim: Part One-God the Creator

Several thousand years ago, the Pharaoh of Egypt asked Moses the question, “Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?” (Exodus 5:2). It is a question that has followed mankind for centuries. Some, like Pharaoh, ask it in a sarcastic manner so that they might throw off authority while others genuinely want answers to their questions: “Who is God? Does God have personhood? Can I really know Him?” We will spend the summer answering that question by way of understanding who God is through the names He is called by in the Bible.

 

I want to begin by giving you 3 passages of Scripture that illustrate the difficulty of what we will attempt today.

 

Romans 11:33

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

 

Isaiah 40:13 Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?

 

1 Corinthians 2:16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?

 

To describe the God is nearly impossible and, in fact, the Bible does not really attempt to describe Him. Rather it declares that He is and it shares His names and attributes. Hebrews 1:3, in talking about what happened after the Ascension, gives us what is most probably the best description of God in the whole of the Bible, simply referring to Him as the Majesty on High. Even Isaiah 6 and and Revelation 5, where we get the clearest pictures of the person of God, leave us wanting. Who is this Majesty on High? Can I know Him? Does He care about me?

 

Genesis 1:1 (JPS TaNaKh Translation)

1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

In the original Hebrew, we are not able to go more than three words into the text before we are confronted with the word elohim, which is translated God. The word elohim is closely paired with another word, bara, which means to create. The very first information we have revealed to us about God is that there is one, and this God is the creator of our world.

 

In the beginning… No information is given to us about what happened before the creation of the physical universe, though John 1:1 alludes to this time as does Psalm 90, especially the second verse. It is very possible that the rise, rebellion, and judgment of Satan transpired before the events of this chapter but important to know that we do not have that information given to us anywhere in Scripture.

 

God. This standard Hebrew term for deity is Elohim, occurring 2500 times being surpassed only by YHWH which occurs 5410 times, and it is in a form called the plural of majesty or plural of intensity. In contrast to the ordinary plural, gods, this plural means “the fullness of deity” or “God — very God.” Further, the use of the plural allows for the later revelation of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19; John 1:1 – 3).

 

The basic meaning behind the name Elohim is one of strength or power of effect. Elohim is the infinite, all-powerful God who shows by His works that He is the creator, sustainer, and supreme judge of the world. “Bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure—you, the righteous [Elohim] who probes minds and hearts” (Psalm 7:9).

Sometimes the word Elohim is shortened to El and used as part of a longer name. El Shaddai, for example, means “God Almighty” (Genesis 49:24); El Elyon means “God Most High” (Deuteronomy 26:19); and El Roi means “God Who Sees” (Genesis 16:13). Personal names of people can include the name of God: Daniel (“El Is My Judge”), Nathanael (“Gift of El”), Samuel (“Heard by El”), Elijah (“El Is Yahweh”), and Ariel (“Lioness of El”) are examples. Place names, too, can contain the shortened form of Elohim: Bethel (“House of El”), Jezreel (“El Will Sow”), and, of course, Israel (“Prince of El”) are examples.

When Jesus cried out from the cross, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (Mark 15:34), He addressed the Father with a form of Elohim (a personally possessive pronoun)Eloi. Mark translates Jesus’ statement for us: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Making understanding Elohim more complex is the fact that Elohim has other usages in the Old Testament besides referring to the One True God. In some contexts, elohim refers to human rulers or judges (see Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34)—the idea is that such people are to act as God’s representatives on earth, exercising authority wisely and ensuring justice. The warning of Psalm 82 is that the human elohim must answer to the Supreme Elohim some day. Elsewhere, elohim is used to refer to false gods (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:28). “They have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the [elohe] of the Sidonians, Chemosh the [elohe] of the Moabites, and Molek the [elohe] of the Ammonites” (1 Kings 11:33). Note that elohe is a form of elohim used with qualifying words or phrases and translated “god of.”

Interestingly, the word Elohim is grammatically plural rather than singular (the -im suffix in Hebrew indicates the plural form). The singular form of Elohim is probably Eloah. What are we to make of the plural? Does the plural form of Elohim imply polytheism? No, the Torah makes clear that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4). Polytheism is expressly forbidden in the Old Testament.

What about Trinitarianism? Does the fact that Elohim is plural suggest the triune nature of God? It is best to understand the word construction as a plural of majesty; that is, writing “Elohim” is a stylistic way of emphasizing greatness, power, and prestige. With that said, and in light of the overall teaching of the Bible, the plural form of Elohim certainly allows for the further revelation of God’s triune nature; the Old Testament hints at the Trinity in order to prepare people for the Messiah who would be much more than a human prophet. When Jesus appeared, He more fully revealed mysteries hinted at in the Old Testament. At Jesus’ baptism we have all three Persons of Elohim present: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:16–17).

Our God is great and mighty. His power is on display every day and night in the universe He has made. “Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you” (Jeremiah 32:17). This great power that no one can restrain is the characteristic of God basic to His name Elohim.

 

We now come to a fairly obvious question: Is there evidence for the existence of God outside of the Bible? Romans 1 points out that creation declares the glory of God. We also have the conscience, a moral compass so to speak that is built into every person. Additionally, there are the arguments from, Teleology, Cosmology, and Logic, all of which we will cover in our next chapter, the Lesson on God the Father.

Arguments for God

  • Argument from Cosmology – How could there be anything if there wasn’t a Cause (God) who was Uncaused (Romans 1:20)? Quoting Dr. Sproul, “IF THERE EVER WAS A TIME WHEN ABSOLUTELY NOTHING EXISTED, ALL THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE NOW IS NOTHING.”
  • Argument from Teleology – The mathematical precision and obvious intelligence in Nature demands a designer of infinitely superior intellect. (God – Psalm 19:1-6)?
  • Moral argument –If there is no one to give a Law, who then is the arbiter of right and wrong? (God – Romans 2:14,15; James 4:12)?
  • Ontological argument – Where do people get the idea of a Perfect Being/Deity (God) except from God Himself (Act 17:27; Romans 1:19)?

 

Can we describe or explain Elohim? How do we do so? God has many perfect characteristics (attributes). Attributes are the characteristics that define the essence of the Godhead

Incommunicable attributes (characteristics belonging only to God).

  • Creator: Genesis 1, Genesis 2, John 1:1-3
  • Self-existence (Exodus 3:14, John 5:26).
  • Immutability (Psalm 102:25-27; Ex.3:14; James 1:17) – God does not change His essence or plan. He can never be wiser, more holy, more just, more merciful, more truthful. Neither can God be any less of any of those as any change would make Him less than God. His plans and His purposes never change (Ps 33:11)
  • Infinity (Psalm 147:5, 1 Kings 8:27, Psalm 145:3, Ephesians 3:8, Revelation 19:6, Psalm 113:4-6, Revelation 1:8, Isaiah 40:28, Jeremiah 23:24, 2 Chronicles 2:6, 2 Chronicles 6:18, 1 Timothy 6:16, Romans 11:33
  • Eternality – Infinite in time (Psalm 90:2)
  • Omnipresence – Infinite in space (Ps.139:7-11) Present everywhere at once (Jeremiah 23:23-24) Yet transcends His creation and as such He is always able to help us, His creatures (Ps 46:1, Matt 28:20) He is inescapable (Ps 139:7-10, 17)
  • Holiness – The absence of evil and presence of purity (Lev.11:44; John 17:11; 1 John 1:5)
  • Holy: God is separate from and exalted above all of His creatures God is free from all defilement, absolutely pure) Isaiah 6:3. Holiness is the foremost attribute of God – the attribute by which He especially wants to be known. God’s Throne is established upon His holiness, thereby regulating His love, power, and will

 

Elohim has communicable attributes (characteristics found in a limited degree in man). Elohim’s communicable attributes are:

  • Intellectual Attributes
  • Omniscience – God knows all things actual and potential. The Bible does not explain this but does assume it as fact (Ps.139:16; Matt. 11:21).
  • All-wise – God acts upon His knowledge to always do what is infinitely best (Rom.11:33-36).
  • Wisdom and knowledge are imparted to man though nowhere close to the level found in God.

Attributes of Emotion

  • God is Love – God is incomprehensibly active for our good (1 John 4:8).
  • Mercy – concern, compassion (James 5:11)
  • Long suffering – self-restrained when provoked (2 Peter 3:9,15)
  • God is just – God is perfectly righteous and exact in His dealings with man (Ps.19:9).

 

Additional Communicable Attributes of God

  • Will/Volition (John 4:34, John 6:38)
  • Omnipotence (Job 42:2) God is able to do anything He wills. He will not do anything against His nature (sin) and He cannot do anything that is logically self-contradictory. Because God can only do what is in harmony with His nature, He cannot
  • lie (Titus 1:2)
  • repent from evil (Numbers 23:19)
  • deny Himself (2 Tim 2:13)
  • be tempted to sin (James 1:13)

In other words, in congruence with His nature, God can do anything that is logically possible and cannot do anything that is logically impossible, such as those mentioned above.

Sovereignty (2 Chronicles 29:11,12) As the only absolute and omnipotent ruler in the universe, He is sovereign in creation, providence, and redemption (Psalm 103:19; Romans 11:36). He has decreed for His own glory all things that come to pass (Ephesians 1:11). He continually upholds, directs, and governs all creatures and events (1Chronicles 29:11). In His sovereignty, He is neither author nor approver of sin (Habakkuk 1:13), nor does He abridge the accountability of moral, intelligent creatures (1 Peter 1:17). He has graciously chosen from eternity past those whom He would have as His own (Ephesians 1:4-6) and in that choosing has sovereignly decreed their salvation.

 

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