Many people are unfamiliar with the term ‘Elohim’. When we approach Christianity today, we often just refer to God as God, much in the same way that the sun is the sun and the moon is the moon. We only consider there to be one of these things in relation to our place in the universe, and so a direct term is all that is necessary. However, understanding the Elohim definition and the deeper Elohim meaning can lead to a more intricate understanding of God which in turn can improve your spirituality. So, what does Elohim mean?
Many of today’s Bibles don’t feature the word Elohim, but that wasn’t always the case. It’s a Hebrew word that has been used in a variety of ways and featured prominently in the Hebrew Bible. Nowadays, the word is strongly associated with the Judeo-Christian God, but in the past, it could be used to refer to any God or even a number of Gods.
We find a few examples of this within the pages of the Bible itself, provided we focus on older versions, particularly those written in languages such as Hebrew or Greek. If we look at Genesis 1:26, we can see that the term is used alongside a singular verb, indicating that when used in reference to the Judeo-Christian God, it serves as a singular noun i.e. referencing only one being.
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Then Elohim said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image…
In 1 Samuel 28:13, we see the term being used alongside a plural verb. The modern-day translations often change the word in this instance to ‘godlike figure’, ‘ghostly figure’, or ‘a god’. But the original texts used the term in reference to multiple beings:
The woman said, ‘I see Elohim coming up out of the Earth.
The term wasn’t always associated with God or God though, as it was sometimes used in reference to angels or beings of power, including humans. Just to confuse matters, we find that certain modern versions of the Bible translate ‘Elohim’ as meaning angels (such as Psalm 8:5 in the King Kames Version), but also as meaning judges (Exodus 21:6 in the King James Version).
The Elohim Meaning
The Elohim definition can be difficult to pin down, so what does Elohim mean? Well, within the Bible, God is given different names. Each of these names is said to represent a separate aspect of his character. For example, God appears as Yahweh to Moses, and yet this name was unknown to others in that area. He also goes by El Shaddai, God the High, and even Exalted One.
We find that the term is largely used in reference to the power of God, as many translates as literally meaning ‘mighty one’ or ‘supreme one’. However, the term could also be related to the deity ‘El’, who was worshipped by polytheistic groups in the Middle East. It is believed that while these groups started out as polytheistic, they soon realized that they were, in fact, worshipping different versions of the same God.
The Elohim meaning, while potentially referencing a number of different traits or beings, can be used to comment on the power of God. For example, where Yahweh is the name of God (or at least one of the traits of God), the term can be used simply as a description of God’s power. We sometimes see the two words combined to form ‘El Yahweh’, which is often translated to ‘Lord God’ in modern Bibles.
El and Other Gods
So, what does Elohim mean? Well, we’ve considered the Elohim definition and meaning, but it’s natural to still feel slightly overwhelmed by the different ways the word can be used. This becomes even more apparent when we think back to the use of El in reference to a member of a polytheistic group of Gods.
Scripture, as many people like to mention, references Jesus pointing this out. In John 10:34, it is written, “Jesus answer them, ‘Is it not written in your law, I have said you are “gods”?’”
This refers to Jesus stating that we, humanity, are all children of God. However, the Bible also refers to the Canaanites. Abraham and Moses interacted with this group of people, and it is through them that we find the God El. Wars between the Israelites and the Canaanites were fought, which suggests that El isn’t quite the same as Elohim and doesn’t refer to the Judeo-Christian God.
Guidance on Praying
Regardless of how confusing the terms Elohim and El may seem, we can simplify matters by using the term in a manner that makes sense to us on a personal level. Praying is a deeply private and personal matter, and so using the term within your prayers is a great way to show respect to God.
There are a variety of ways you may choose to use the term within a prayer. For example, you could say ‘El Yahweh’, much in the same way that the Hebrew Bibles use the term. Alternatively, you may choose to refer to God as Elohim. However, there are ways you can use Elohim while still referring to God in a more direct manner.
“Oh mighty God, Elohim, I reach out to you now in search of support. Allow me to bask in your glory. Forgive me my sins, as you forgave all of humanity for theirs, and allow me the chance to demonstrate the passion I possess for your words and teachings. I ask that you continue to guide me along my journey so that I can serve you forever. Amen.”
In the end, we find that this all serves as a reminder of your personal relationship with God. We can spend thousands of years debating the meaning of one word, but what will that accomplish? Instead, we can all connect to God in the present and focus on journeying along our spiritual path.
Serving God isn’t about definitions or ancient words, it’s about discovering our true purpose and the role we play within this universe.