Elohim is the plural for El. El is the general name for God or a god. It is used for false gods, angels and human rulers. Although the word is plural, when used of the true God it does not mean “gods” since it is primarily used with singular verbs, pronouns and adjectives. The plural form probably is intended as a “majestic” plural – to emphasize the greatness of God. Ancient Hebrew did not have capital letters so it used the plural to designate God as the greatest. It is similar to when a king speaks of himself as we, because he represents the whole kingdom. It does not exclude the possibility, though, of a hint towards the doctrine of the Trinity. Elohim occurs 2602 times in the Old Testament.
Elohim first occurs in Genesis 1:1
In the beginning, God (elohim) created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
What can we learn from this that can help us in our worship? Here are a few thoughts that stand out to me:
- Majesty. God is King over everything. When God speaks, He speaks as the ruler over all creation. Do I recognize His words as the top authority? Do I worship Him as King?
- Mystery. God is such that He is beyond description. We believe He is three persons and yet one being. He is plural in one sense and yet singular overall. The Hebrews were comfortable calling Him Gods even though they believed He was one. How does one put the majesty and mystery of God into a word? How does one get close to explaining God even in a whole book? Do you see God as understandable? Do you have Him carefully squeezed into your doctrinal box or have you left room for the mystery of God? God is bigger than our understanding and greater than any language can possibly express.
by Jerry Wyrick, president of Worship Arts Conservatory