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(Oxford Companion to the Bible) Names of God in the Hebrew Bible.The Bible often refers to God by his proper name, which was probably pronounced Yahweh (See Tetragrammaton). In the Hebrew Bible, the consonants yhwh are usually to be read as Adonai (<‡d¿nŒy), "my Lord," for the sake of reverence, and English versions represent the word by "Lord" or (less often) "God" in capital letters. The Hebrew word is a plural of majesty (with a singular meaning) of <Œdôn, which is translated "Lord" (e.g., Isaiah 1.24; Isaiah 3.1). The name Yahweh often appears in the phrase "Yahweh of hosts," as the Hebrew is probably to be translated (cf. "Yahweh of Teman" or "of Samaria" in the Kuntillet >Ajrud inscriptions of ca. 800 bce), or the longer "Yahweh the God of hosts" (e.g., 2 Samuel 5.10). Some have thought that the hosts, Sabaoth (§ŽbŒ<ôt), are the armies of Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 17.45), but a reference to these human armies is inappropriate in, for instance, prophetic denunciations of Israel (e.g., Isaiah 1.24), and the word probably denotes heavenly or angelic armies. Some maintain that Sabaoth is an epithet in apposition to Yahweh and that it means something like "the Mighty One," but there is no evidence in Hebrew for such a meaning.
The usual Hebrew word for God is Elohim (<Žl¿hîm), another plural of majesty with a singular meaning when used of Yahweh. The singular form Eloah (<Žl¿ah) appears, mainly in the book of Job, but the most common singular noun for God is El (<Ùl), which has cognates in other Semitic languages and whose Ugaritic counterpart is used both for the chief god and as a general word for any god. The Israelites adopted this common Semitic word (cf. Genesis 33.20: El-Elohe-Israel, "El the God of Israel"), and some of the divine names compounded with El in the Hebrew Bible were probably originally used of non-Israelite deities. In Genesis 14.18–20; Genesis 14.22, we find El Elyon (<Ùl >elyôn), "God Most High," whose priest is Melchizedek but who is identified by Abram with Yahweh. The word Elyon is used of Yahweh in other places in the Bible (e.g., Psalm 18.13; Psalm 87.5). In the fourth century ce, Philo of Byblos is cited by Eusebius of Caesarea as referring to Elioun, the Most High (Greek hupsistos), as a Phoenician god (Praeparatio Evangelica 1.10.15). The Aramaic cognate of Elyon is >lyn (perhaps >elyŒn), and a god with this name appears alongside El in a treaty of the eighth century bce from Sefire in Syria.
The element El is found in divine names in Genesis, sometimes in connection with various places, such as Bethel, "the house of God" (cf.Genesis 28.19; Genesis 28.22), and we find El-Bethel, "God of Bethel" (Genesis 35.7; cf. Genesis 31.13). Thus, at a place in the desert there is El-roi ("a God of seeing," Genesis 16.13), and at Beer-sheba there is El Olam ("the Everlasting God," Genesis 21.33; cf. špš >lm in a Ugaritic letter, and šmš >lm in a Phoenician text of ca. 700 bce, both of which mean "the eternal sun" god or goddess). Another name is El Shaddai, usually translated "God Almighty," and the Priestly writer (P) in the Pentateuch maintains that God first made himself known by that name before revealing his name Yahweh (Exodus 6.3; cf. Genesis 17.1; Genesis 35.11; Genesis 43.14; Genesis 48.3). The name is not restricted to P, for it is found in a number of places (Numbers 24.4, on the lips of Balaam, a non-Israelite; Ruth 1.20–21; Job 5.17; etc.), and it is part of the names Zurishaddai and Ammishaddai (Numbers 1.6; Numbers 1.12). It is perhaps related to an Akkadian word for "mountain."
It is uncertain whether El-berith ("God of the covenant") inJudges 9.46 refers to Yahweh, for this deity seems to be the same as Baal-berith in Judges 8.33; Judges 9.4, and may be a Canaanite god. On the other hand, Baal, which means "lord," was sometimes used of Yahweh in early times without necessarily always identifying him with the Canaanite god Baal. In 1 Chronicles 12.6, there is the personal name Bealiah, "Yah is Baal" (cf. yhwb>l on an unpublished seal). Saul and Jonathan, who were worshipers of Yahweh, had sons named, respectively, Esh-baal and Merib-baal (1 Chronicles 8.33–34), which were changed by editors to Ish-bosheth and Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 2.8; 2 Samuel 9.6; etc.), in which "bosheth" ("shame") was substituted for "Baal." Jerubbaal (Jerubbesheth in 2 Samuel 11.21), Gideon’s other name, is probably to be explained similarly, notwithstanding the forced explanation in Judges 6.31–32. David also had a son named Beeliada (b>lyd>, 1 Chronicles 14.7), probably identical with Eliada in other lists. Hosea 2.16 says that Israel will call God "my husband" (lit. "my man") and no longer "my Baal" (i.e., "my lord," another word for husband), which may imply that some Israelites addressed God in the latter way.
Both God’s holiness and his relation to his people are reflected in the phrase "the Holy One of Israel," which is characteristic of the book of Isaiah. Although it is not strictly a name, it is relevant to mention this title here.
Yahweh is frequently described as melek, "king" (e.g.,Deuteronomy 33.5; Psalm 29.10; Psalm 98.6), "a great king over all the earth" (Psalm 47.2; cf. Psalm 47.7; Psalm 48.2) or "above all gods" (Psalm 95.3), "my" or "our king" (Psalm 5.2; Psalm 47.6; Psalm 68.24; Psalm 74.12), or "the King of glory" (Psalm 24.7–10). He "reigns" or "has become king" (Psalm 47.8; Psalm 93.1; Psalm 96.10; Psalm 97.1; Psalm 99.1; Isaiah 52.7), and he "will reign forever" (Exodus 15.18). Personal names include Malchiel (Genesis 46.17; Numbers 26.45; 1 Chronicles 7.31) and Malchiah (Jeremiah 21.1; Jeremiah 38.1; Jeremiah 38.6), meaning "El" or "Yah is king." Isaiah sees a vision of "the King, Yahweh of hosts" (Isaiah 6.5).
Various epithets and figures of speech are applied to God, but they cannot all be described as names or titles. InGenesis 15.1, Yahweh says to Abram "I am your shield" (cf. Psalm 84.11), but that does not prove the theory that "the Shield of Abraham" was a title. On the other hand, God is described as "the Fear of Isaac" (Genesis 31.42; Genesis 31.53)—the suggested alternative translation, "the Kinsman of Isaac," lacks sufficient evidence—and as "the Mighty One of Jacob" (Genesis 49.24; etc.); these may be titles reflecting the special relationship of God with particular individuals. His relationship with people is also shown by names containing the element <Œb, "father," such as Abijah, Abiel, and Abra(ha)m. Yet although God was viewed thus (Jeremiah 31.9; Malachi 2.10; cf. Malachi 1.6), and could be addressed as "my (or our) Father" (Jeremiah 3.4; Isaiah 63.16; Isaiah 64.8), it is doubtful whether the evidence suffices to justify the claim that "Father" was a title, let alone a name.
J. A. Emerton