One God, but many gods? The word elohim can raise a lot of questions. Look at the meaning of this word as we explore this important biblical term.

Biblical Themes Feb 28, 2019


The Reality of Spiritual Beings [00:00-00:25]

Jon: When most people think about the story of the Bible, they think of a story about God and humans.

Tim: But remember, we learned that there’s a whole other cast of characters that appears throughout the Bible and plays a really important role.

Jon: Oh right, the spiritual beings: angels1, demons2, and the like3.

Tim: Right. And in the Bible, they inhabit the heavenly realm, which is parallel to our earthly reality and actually overlaps with it4.

Jon: Now all of these spiritual beings have their own unique characteristics.

Defining Elohim [00:26-01:20]

Tim: But here’s what’s fascinating. The biblical authors have one word that can refer to all the inhabitants of the spiritual realm. In Old Testament Hebrew the word is elohim, and in New Testament Greek it’s theos. But here’s the thing. This word gets translated in lots of different ways, depending on which being is referred to––angels, gods with a lowercase “g,” or even God with a capital “G.”5

Jon: Wait, so one word can refer to any of these beings?

Tim: Yes. It’s because elohim is a category title. It can designate any spiritual being that belongs to the heavenly realm.

Jon: Okay. A title not a name, like the word “mom.”

Tim: Yeah! Right. The word “mom” can refer to lots of really different kinds of people, but they all share in common the same role in a family. And then let’s say a group of brothers and sisters are talking and one says, “hey it’s mom’s birthday.” They are using the title like it’s a name.

Jon: But it would be clear that they’re referring not to any mom but their mom.

Yahweh: Elohim of Elohim [01:21-01:57]

Tim: Yes. And the same goes for the biblical authors. They call their God “Yahweh,” which is the name revealed to Moses6. But they also sometimes refer to him with the category title “elohim,” using it like a name because they all know who they’re referring to7.

Jon: Okay. But don’t the biblical authors think that Yahweh is in a class of his own, not like any other?

Tim: They do, which is why they say things like, Yahweh is “the elohim of elohim,” that is, the chief elohim among all the others8. Or they’ll say, “there’s no elohim beside Yahweh,”9 meaning no other spiritual being compares to him because only he is the ruler and creator of all things.

What about Monotheism? [01:58-02:28]

Jon: Okay. I’m following. But I thought the Bible taught monotheism, which means there’s just one God10.

Tim: Well, the biblical authors are claiming that among all the spiritual beings out there, only one is the source and creator of all things, including the elohim11. That’s biblical monotheism, that one elohim Yahweh is above all other elohim, that is, the other spiritual beings.

Now with all that said, we are ready to learn more about who these other elohim are and how they fit into the biblical story.

Credits [02:29-03:07]

Jon. You just watched a video on elohim, that is, spiritual beings.

Tim: Now, there’s one fascinating group of elohim given many titles in the Bible: the host of heaven, the sons of God, or even the divine council. And that’s who we’re going to look at next.

1. e.g., Exodus 3:2-6
2. e.g., Deuteronomy 32:17
3. e.g., Exodus 12:12, 2 Chronicles 33:15
4. e.g., Ephesians 6:12
5. e.g., Genesis 33:20; Exodus 12:12, Exodus 20:3, 5; Deuteronomy 32:17, Psalm 97:9
6. Exodus 6:2-3
7. Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 10:17
8. Deuteronomy 10:17
9. e.g., Deuteronomy 4:35, 39
10. e.g., Deuteronomy 6:4
11. e.g., 1 Corinthians 8:4-6
For advanced bible reading tools:
Login  or  Join
Which language would you like?