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ELOHIM ĕl’ ō hĭm (אֱלֹהִים, H466, many suggestions for the meaning of the root but no consensus, perhaps related to “El” meaning mighty or strong). A most commonly used Heb. word for God, gods, angels, or magistrates.

It has been demonstrated to the writer’s satisfaction that 14th cent. b.c. Ugaritic lit. when referring to a single deity sometimes uses the “plural of majesty” (cf. Anchor Bible, 16, pp. XXIV and 43 etc.). Since the pl. word Elohim when used for God in the OT is most emphatically sing. in meaning (Deut 4:35, 39; 1 Kings 8:60; 18:39; Isa 45:18, etc.), there is real probability that the Hebrews looked on it as a “plural of majesty.” Often but not always when referring to the true God, the definite article is employed with the word in Heb. This usage was an overtone of the root’s basic meaning, hence “the Mighty (?) One,” but this is not carried over into the Eng. Bible which has simply “God” with a capital letter.

The word is frequently used to refer to heathen gods (Exod 18:11; 20:23; 1 Sam 4:8; 2 Kings 18:33, etc.). Less frequently the word refers to a heathen god in the sing., Dagon (1 Sam 5:7), Chemosh (Judg 11:24), Baal (1 Kings 18:24) etc.

There are a number of references where the word can be rendered magistrates, judges, or rulers. Noteworthy are Exodus 21:6 where the slave is brought “to God” or perhaps “to the judges” where his ear is bored, and Exodus 22:28 which may mean “You shall not revile the magistrates (God?), nor curse the ruler of your people” (cf. 1 Kings 21:13). Other passages should be studied in this light (i.e. 1 Sam 2:25 and Judg 5:8).

It is quite clear that the sons of Elohim are the angels in Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7. The writer takes them to be dignitaries in Genesis 6:2, 4. The NT follows the LXX in rendering Elohim as angels in Psalm 97:7 (Heb 1:6).

See Names of God.

See also

  • Names of God