What are the names of God? What do the names of God mean?
The Bible contains literally hundreds of different names and titles of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. For the purposes of this article, we will look at the names of God the Father, many of which are found in the Old Testament and are noted in the Hebrew and in English. Each of God's names and titles describes a different aspect of His nature and character.
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ABBA: "Papa" (Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) – First spoken by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion, "Abba" indicates an intimacy with God as that of a child to his/her father. When we come to Christ in faith, we receive the "Spirit of sonship" and can then approach God as our loving, forgiving Father.
ADONAI: "Lord" (Genesis 15:2; Judges 6:15) – used in place of YHWH, which was thought by the Jews to be too sacred to be uttered by sinful men. "Adonai" is from a Hebrew root word meaning to rule. It refers to a sovereign controller, lord, master, owner.
ALMIGHTY GOD (EL SHADDAI): "The Mighty One of Jacob" (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2, 5) – speaks to God's ultimate and sovereign power over all. Other similar names are "Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:18), "Lord God Almighty" (Revelation 15:3), "Lord God Omnipotent" (Revelation 19:6), and "Mighty One of Israel" (Isaiah 1:24).
ANCIENT OF DAYS: (Daniel 7:9, 13, 22) – Found only in these three verses in Daniel's vision of the end times, referring to God as the "Ancient of Days" denotes His eternality. Unlike the four worldly empires of Daniel 7, which will crumble and fall, the Ancient of Days always existed and always will exist. Daniel sees the Ancient of Days with hair and clothing white as snow and with a river of fire coming from Him (Daniel 7:9-10).
CREATOR: (Isaiah 40:28, 43:15) – God, the Creator of the world has made it, upholds it, governs it, and judges righteously in it. He who created everything is from everlasting to everlasting, unchangeably the same. As the One who created everything, He is the self-existent and all comprehending Being, the maker and former and upholder of all things. As Isaiah reminded the people of Israel, only the Creator God is worthy of our worship.
DELIVERER: (2 Samuel 22:2; Psalm 18:2, 40:17, 70:5) – A favorite name for God used by David, probably because of the number of times God faithfully delivered David from his enemies, including King Saul who tried often to kill him. God may not choose to deliver us from all of life's dangers, but He has provided the ultimate deliverance in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by whose sacrifice on the cross we are delivered from the ultimate danger—eternity in hell for sin.
ELOHIM: (Genesis 1:1) - the plural form of El or Eloah, which shows the triune nature of God. From the Bible's first sentence, the God's power is evident as He (Elohim) speaks the world into existence. Genesis 1:26 describes the inter-trinitarian communication: "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…'" (emphasis added).
EL ROI: "God of Seeing" (Genesis 16:13) – Sarah's servant, Hagar, called God by this name when the angel of the Lord appeared to her in the wilderness. Alone and desperate after being driven out by Sarah (Genesis 16:1-14), the Lord assured her that He was aware of her plight and that He would make of her unborn son, Ishmael, a great nation. El Roi is not a distant and aloof God, but one who sees the needs of His people, hears our prayers and comes to our aid in times of trouble.
EVERLASTING GOD (EL-OLAM): (Genesis 21:33; Psalm 90:1-3) – God's nature is without beginning and without end, the One who will never cease to be. He is outside of time and, in fact, created and controls time without being constrained by it in any way. "From everlasting to everlasting, you are God" (Psalm 90:2).
FATHER: (Isaiah 64:8) – People in the Old Testament didn't often think of God in fatherly terms. It took Jesus to show us the loving mercies of our heavenly Father who so loved the world that He sent His Son so that all who believe on Him can have eternal life (John 3:16). In the New Testament, God is often referred to as Father. He is the "Father of Glory" (Ephesians 1:17), "Father of Lights" (James 1:17), "Father of Mercies" (2 Corinthians 1:3), "Father of Spirits" (Hebrews 12:9), and the "Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Colossians 1:3).
HOLY ONE: (Isaiah 43:15) - Also called the "Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 1:4, 12:6, 60:9) and the "Holy One of Jacob" (Isaiah 29:23), God's premiere attribute of holiness is on display in these names. God's holiness is more than just His perfection or sinless purity; it is the essence of His transcendence, the quality of being separate—outside and above all of creation. God's holiness embodies His mysterious awesomeness and, because of His transcendent holiness, we gaze in awe at Him. The Holy One's purity makes it impossible for Him to tolerate sin, and to satisfy His own holiness, He provided a way for sinful mankind to approach Him—through the sacrifice of Christ, the sinless Son of God.
I AM: (Exodus 3:14) – This name for God, given by Him to Moses, is a form of the Hebrew "to be." It expresses His self-existence and the unchangeableness of His nature. He is the "eternal present," because He always was and always will be. Because He is outside time, He is always in the present. He does not change or change His mind. He is immutable.
YAHWEH / YHWH / JEHOVAH: "LORD" (Deuteronomy 6:4; Daniel 9:14) – strictly speaking, the only proper name for God. Translated in English Bibles "LORD" (all capitals) to distinguish it from Adonai, "Lord." "Jehovah" is derived from the YHWH, the 'tetragrammaton' which is all that remains of the name from the original Hebrew. The Jews from a feeling of reverence avoided the utterance of this sacred name except on the most solemn occasions. This name specifies immanence, a presence. Yahweh is present, accessible, near to those who call on Him for deliverance (Psalm 107:13), forgiveness (Psalm 25:11), and guidance (Psalm 31:3).
YAHWEH-JIREH: "The Lord Will Provide" (Genesis 22:14) – Abraham called God by this name after God stayed his hand from sacrificing Isaac and instead provided a ram for the sacrifice. God still provides for His people's needs, from our daily bread to the Bread of Life who is Christ and the food of His Word.
YAHWEH-RAPHA: "The Lord Who Heals" (Exodus 15:26) – "I am Jehovah who heals you" both in body and soul. Although God often heals our physical maladies in many ways, the most prominent aspect of the Lord's healing is the provision of Jesus Christ, by whose stripes we are healed of the disease of sin (Isaiah 53:5). Forgiving sin is a healing of this disease and this is available only through the blood and sacrifice on the cross of the Son of God.
YAHWEH-NISSI: "The Lord Our Banner" (Exodus 17:15) – Moses gave this name to an altar he built in the wilderness to commemorate the desert victory over the Amalekites in Exodus 17. In ancient times, armies fought under a banner that identified their tribe or nation. God's people fight the "good fight of the faith" (1 Timothy 6:12) under the banner of the Lord of Hosts.
YAHWEH-M'KADDESH: "The Lord Who Sanctifies, Makes Holy" (Leviticus 20:8; Ezekiel 37:28) – God alone, not the law, or any works of man, can cleanse His people and make them holy. Only through the provision of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose righteousness was exchanged for our sin on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21), can we be sanctified and made holy.
YAHWEH-SHALOM: "The Lord Our Peace" (Judges 6:24) – This is the name given by Gideon to the altar he built after the Angel of the Lord assured him he would not die as he thought he would after seeing God burn up the sacrificial offering. Yahweh is still the Lord of Peace, as David declares in Psalm 29:11 (NIV) – "The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace."
YAHWEH-ELOHIM: "LORD God" (Genesis 2:4; Psalm 59:5) – This is a combination of God's unique name YHWH and the generic "Lord," identifying Him as the Lord of Lords. There are many so-called "lords and gods," there is only one LORD God "from whom are all things and for whom we exist" (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).
YAHWEH-TSIDKENU: "The Lord Our Righteousness" (Jeremiah 33:16) – God alone provides righteousness to man, ultimately in Jesus Christ, who became sin for us "that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21). There is no righteousness outside of that of God. The only way we can be righteous is to accept the gift of His Son.
JUDGE: (Psalm 75:7) – Also referred to as the "Judge of all the earth" (Genesis 18:25) and "Judge of Israel" (Micah 5:1) and "Judge of all" (Hebrews 12:23), the concept of God as the ultimate Judge is found throughout Scripture. God is the ultimate dispenser of justice because He alone is worthy to do so. Only He can separate the wheat from the tares, reward the deserving and punish the pretenders. Surely the Judge of all the earth does right. No earthly judge can make such a claim.
KING: (Psalm 10:16, 47:2, 98:6, 149:2) – To the people of the ancient world, the word "king" had much greater significance than it does to us today. The ancient kings were absolute rulers with complete and total authority. Answerable to no one, their word was the law of the land. But above all earthly kings and rulers stands the ultimate King who alone is worthy of worship and obedience. He is the "King of Glory" (Psalm 24:7-10) and "the King of the ages, immortal, invisible" (1 Timothy 1:17).
LAWGIVER: (Isaiah 33:22) – God gave the Ten Commandments to provide a moral code for His people. His laws are the key to joy and contentment in this life and His giving them to us displays His love and care for us. "Oh how I love your law," David cries in Psalm 119:97. The inability of mankind to keep God's laws only proves our need for a Savior who perfectly fulfilled the Law so that we can experience the joy of living in Him. The Lawgiver gave the Law, then gave the perfect fulfillment of it in Jesus.
LIGHT: (Psalm 27:1) – God's glory and presence were symbolized by the light of the pillar of fire to lead the Israelites escaping from Egypt. As our Light, God still guides us today, giving us insight and wisdom through His Word which is a "lamp to our feet" and a "light to our path" (Psalm 119:105). He has also given us His Son, Jesus, who is the "Light of the World" (John 8:12). In heaven there will be no need of the moon or the sun because God will be the only Light (Revelation 22:5).
LORD OF HOSTS (YAHWEH-SABAOTH): (Isaiah 1:24; Psalm 46:7) – Hosts means "hordes" of angels and/or of men. Appearing 250 times in the Bible (18 times in the 18th chapter of Zechariah alone), the "Lord of Hosts" is one of the most common names for God. He who rules the universe exercises control over all the hosts of heaven and ultimate control over the armies of the earth, whether we recognize it or not.
MOST HIGH (EL-ELYON): (2 Samuel 22:14; Psalms 9:2, 73:11, 107:11) – This name is derived from the Hebrew root for "go up" or "ascend," so the implication is of that which is the very highest. El Elyon denotes exaltation and speaks of absolute right to lordship. Nothing in all creation is higher than God. As Nebuchadnezzar discovered, "the Most High rules the kingdom of men" (Daniel 4:31-37).
ROCK: (1 Samuel 2:2) – Also called the "Rock of Israel" (2 Samuel 23:3), "Rock of My Refuge" (Psalm 94:22), Rock of My Salvation" (2 Samuel 22:47), and Rock of My Strength" (Psalm 62:7). The Hebrew word translated "Rock" when referring to God is a massive outcropping or huge rock formation. It describes God as the unmovable One who is not subject to the ravages of time and who stands like a mighty fortress, strong and dependable to His people.
REDEEMER: (Isaiah 54:8) – Also referred to as the "Redeemer of Israel" (Isaiah 49:7), God is the ultimate rescuer of His people. To "redeem" is to ransom by means of a price or a valuable consideration. It is used in the Old Testament of captives taken in war or to redeem property that was sold by paying back the price. God's redemptive plans and power find their culmination in Jesus Christ whom the Redeemer of Israel sent to redeem His bride through His sacrifice on the cross.
SHEPHERD: (Psalm 23:1) – Also called Yahweh-Rohi - the "Shepherd of Israel" (Psalm 80:1). Like a shepherd who leads his sheep to good pasture and protects them from predators, the Lord is our Shepherd, supplying our needs, giving us victory over the enemy of our souls (Satan), and leading us through life to the ultimate "valley of the shadow of death."
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