Chapter II


UPON opening the Bible one is immediately confronted in the Hebrew text (Gen. 1:1) with the word "God" in the plural number; hence it is proper to begin this study with:


In the first statement of the Tenach (Old, Testament):
בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים
אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃ "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," the word which is translated "God" is אֱלֹהִים, and is in the plural number, as is well known to all Hebrew scholars. All Hebrew nouns ending with ים―, im, are masculine and are in the plural number. As an example note the word, כְּרֻבִים which means more than one, the singular being כְּרוּב, cherub (see Psa. 18:10 (11). Another illustration is שְׂרָפִים which is the plural of שָׂרָף, saraph.

For conclusive proof that אֱלֹהִים is in the plural number, and means more than one, look, dear reader, at the First Commandment found in Exodus 20:3.
לֹא־יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים עַל־פָּנָי׃ "Not shall there be to you other gods before me" (Author's literal Tr.). The word אֱלֹהִים here is correctly translated "gods," meaning many gods, and is modified by אֲחֵרִים which means "strange" or "other" and is likewise in the plural number.

Another instance may be cited which is found in Deut. 13:2(3).
נֵלְכָה אַחֲרֵי אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יְדַעְתָּם וְנָעָבְדֵם׃ saying, "Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them." Here the words translated "other gods" are the same as occurred in the First Commandment (see Ex. 18:11 and Judg. 10:13). All translators, both Jewish and Gentile, correctly translate אֱלֹהִים "gods" in these and in all other passages where it refers to idols. Hundreds of instances could be adduced, but these are sufficient to make the point clear.

If, when this word refers to heathen gods, it is to be translated grammatically and correctly in the plural number, why should the grammar be ignored and the word be translated as if it were a singular noun when it refers to Israel's God, since the facts are that it is a plural noun and means more than one?*


In addition to the proof which is furnished by the plural noun
אֱלֹהִים, the use of the verb in the plural number, used in connection with אֱלֹהִים, indicates that there is a plurality of Divine Personalities.† In Gen. 20 there is recorded a conversation which took place between Abimelech and Abraham, in which conversation Abraham (v. 13) said: וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר הִתְעוּ אֹתִי אֱלֹהִים מִבֵּית אָבִי "And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house." The word הִתְעוּ, hith'u, is in the plural number and has as its subject אֱלֹהִים. From the use of this plural verb the one legitimate inference that may be drawn is that Abraham recognized that there is a plurality of Divine Personalities.

Again, this same fact is presented in Gen. 35:7, in which passage one reads that Jacob built an altar to the Lord, and called the name of the place
אֵל־בֵּית אֵל, "For there the Gods revealed themselves unto him when he fled from the face of his brother" (Author's Tr.). The verb נִגְלוּ, niglu, is in the plural number and has for its subject הָאֱלֹהִים. There were more than one of the Divine Persons who revealed themselves to Jacob as indicated by the plural noun and the plural verb.


The plurality of Divine Personalities is again seen by the fact that in several Scriptures there appears to be a distinction between "God" and "God." A typical case of this distinction is found in Psa. 45:6,7 (7,8). The inspired Psalmist in verse 6, addressing God, said: "Thy throne, 0 God, is for ever and ever: A sceptre of equity is the sceptre of thy kingdom." From this statement it is clearly seen that the Psalmist is addressing the Eternal, Omnipotent God, for such is the signification of
אֱלֹהִים "God." Continuing the conversation with God in verse 7 (8), the Psalmist furthermore, says: עַל־כֵּן מְשָׁחֲךָ אֱלֹהִים אֱלֹהֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן שָׂשׂוֹן מֵחֲבֵרֶיךָ׃ "Therefore God, thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."¹

From this Psalm it is evident that the inspired Psalmist in verse 6 addressed God, who, according to the Targum, is the Messiah; hence
אֱלֹהִים in verse 6 is in the second person; and in speaking to God the Messiah, the Psalmist speaks of "God, thy God" in the third person, who is the God of the Messiah; but since the Messiah is none other than God in human form, as will appear later on in this book, it is clear from this passage that there are at least two Divine Personalities who are eternal and omnipotent. Again, at least two Divine Personalities appear in Hosea's prophecy. In Hos. 1:2, 4, 6 the Lord speaks to Israel. Continuing His message to her in verse 7, the Lord says, וְאֶת־בֵּית יְהוּדָה אֲרַחֵם וְהוֹשַׁעְתִּים בַּיהוָה אֱלֹהֵיהֶם "I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them (Israel) by the Lord their God." If one man should promise another that he would do a certain work by a third person, it would be quite evident that the one who does the work is different from the one through whom he does it. Such is the case with this prediction. Hence the Lord who speaks is different from the Lord who actually delivers Israel. As another illustration of the distinction between the Divine Personalities, note Psa. 110:1: לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר נְאֻם יְהוָה לַאדֹנִי שֵׁב לִימִינִי עַד־אָשִׁית אֹיְבֶיךָ הֲדֹם לְרַגְלֶיךָ׃   "Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." This Psalm is likewise understood in rabbinical writings to be a messianic prediction. This statement being true, the Lord speaks to the Psalmist's Lord a certain revelation. אֲדֹנִי 'adoni, is here used with reference to the Messiah; hence He is divine. (See Chapter XIII of the Eternal God Revealing Himself for discussion of Psa. 110). Therefore from this passage it is also manifest that there are at least two Divine Personalities.


The word
אֲדֹנָי is the plural construct form of the word אֲדוֹן with the suffix י–ָ which is the personal pronoun "my" first person, singular number, possessive case, and which is attached to a plural or dual noun. Hence this sacred name, which occurs hundreds of times in the Tenach and is applied to God only, is in the plural number. This fact likewise corroborates the position that there are more than one Divine Personality.


A fifth group of facts pointing toward the conclusion of a plurality of Divine Personalities is the use of the plural pronouns in a number of passages which refer to God.

A. The first example where this usage is found is in Gen. 1:26 which gives a conversation introduced by the words,
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים "God said": נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ  "Let us make man in our image, and according to our likeness." From this quotation one is forced to the irresistible conclusion that the speaker, who is God, and the one to whom He was speaking, are of the same divine essence or nature, for he uses the words, דְמוּת צֶלֶם demuth tselem, "image and likeness" in the singular number and attaches the plural personal pronoun "our" to these singular nouns. This fact in and of itself shows that the speaker and the ones addressed are of the same image and substance. Hence since the speaker is God, the eternal God, the ones spoken to are none less than the eternal God.

B. A second use of the plural personal pronoun is found in Gen. 3:22, in which God says after man's disobedience
וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים הֵן הָאָדָם הָיָה כְּאַחַד מִמֶּנּוּ "Behold, the man is become as one of us." Again, it is evident that the speaker, the self-existing God, speaks to another who is of the same nature as Himself, by the use of the expression כְּאַחַד מִמֶּנּוּ "as one of us." Such language as this God could not use in speaking to a created being. The language unquestionably implies the equality of the speaker and the ones addressed.

C. This same usage is seen in the account of the destruction of the Tower of Babel recorded in Gen. 11. In verse 7 God said
הָבָה נֵרְדָה וְנָבְלָה שָׁם שְׂפָתָם "Come, let us go down, and there confound their language." The explanation of the two passages just discussed is the only satisfying interpretation of this passage.

Solomon, to whom God gave special wisdom (I Kings 3:12), urged young people in the days of their youth to וּזְכֹר אֶת־בּוֹרְאֶיךָ "remember now thy creators" (Author's Tr., Eccl. 12:1). To the Hebrew student it is very plain that בּוֹרְאֶיךָ, bor'eka, is in the plural number, as is indicated by the accompanying vowel which joins the personal pronoun "thy" to the participle "creators." Again, in Psa. 149:2 יִשְׂמַח יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּעֹשָׂיו "Let Israel rejoice in his Makers." The personal pronoun יו ָ "his" shows that the participle is in the plural number and refers to Israel's God. The facts noted in this paragraph confirm the interpretation of the significance of the pronouns in paragraphs A, B, and C.


In Deut. 4: 7 appears the following statement:
כִּי מִי־גוֹי גָּדוֹל אֲשֶׁר־לוֹ אֱלֹהִים קְרֹבִים אֵלָיו כַּיהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ בְּכָל־קָרְאֵנוּ אֵלָיו׃
"For what great nation is there, that hath a god so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is whensoever we call upon him?" In the translation of the Jewish Pub. Soc.
אֱלֹהִים is translated as though it were a singular noun and capitalized, which fact shows that the translator understood that it referred to the God of Israel. Isaac Leeser translates it "gods." In the Revised Version it is translated by the expression "a god." These facts show a diversity of opinion as to whom Moses had in mind. This question, however, does not affect the grammar of the original text. The question is, "Is אֱלֹהִים singular or plural?" That it is plural is clearly seen from the adjective קְרֹבִים, kerovim, which is in the plural number and which modifies it. The singular of this adjective is קָּרֹב, karov.

Another instance of the adjective in the plural number modifying
אֱלֹהִים appears in Josh. 24:19,20: וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אֶל־הָעָם לֹא תוּכְלוּ לַעֲבֹד אֶת־יְהוָה כִּי־אֱלֹהִים קְדֹשִׁים הוּא אֵל־קַנּוֹא הוּא לֹא־יִשָּׂא לְפִשְׁעֲכֶם וּלְחַטֹּאותֵיכֶם׃ כִּי תַעַזְבוּ אֶת־יְהוָה וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֱלֹהֵי נֵכָר וְשָׁב וְהֵרַע לָכֶם וְכִלָּה אֶתְכֶם אַחֲרֵי אֲשֶׁר־הֵיטִיב לָכֶם׃ "And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgression nor your sins. If ye forsake the Lord, and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you evil, and consume you, after that he hath done you good." אֱלֹהִים is here modified by קְדֹשִׁים, kedoshim, which is in the plural number קָדוֹשׁ is singular. Therefore אֱלֹהִים is in the plural number since there must be agreement between the adjective and the noun which it modifies.


Another fact which proves that
אֱלֹהִים is plural is that in Ex. 21:6; 22:8,9,28 of the translation by Isaac Leeser it is rendered "judges." In the version of the Jewish Pub. Soc. in the text it is translated "God" with this marginal note, "that is, the judges." In the American Revised Version (marginal note) it is likewise translated "the judges." Whenever certain ones came for grievance to the judges, who were God's official representatives in Israel, Moses said that they were coming to God. Hence in a secondary sense the word might properly be rendered "judges." The point, however, here is that it is recognized by these translators as being in the plural.

VIII. THE MEANING OF אֵל אֱלֹהִים יְהוָה 'el, 'elohim, yahweh

The data which have been presented under the preceding divisions of this chapter prove conclusively that there is a plurality of personalities in the Divine Being. Evidence corroborating this conclusion may be seen in a quotation from Joshua 22:21-29.

21 Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered, and spake unto the heads of the thousands of Israel, 22 The Mighty One, God, Jehovah, the Mighty One, God, Jehovah; he knoweth; and Israel he shall know: if it be in rebellion, or if in trespass against Jehovah (save thou us not this day), 23 that we have built us an altar to turn away from following Jehovah; or if to offer thereon burnt-offering or meal-offering, or if to offer sacrifices of peace-offerings thereon, let Jehovah himself require it; 24 and if we have not
rather out of carefulness done this, and of purpose, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with Jehovah, the God of Israel? 25 for Jehovah hath made the Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no portion in Jehovah: so might your children make our children cease from fearing Jehovah. 26 Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt-offering, nor for sacrifice: 27 but it shall be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we may do the service of Jehovah before him with our burnt-offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace-offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no portion in Jehovah. 28 Therefore said we, It shall be, when they so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we shall say, Behold the pattern, of the altar of Jehovah, which our fathers made, not for burnt-offering, nor for sacrifice; but it is a witness between us and you. 29 Far be it from us that we should rebel against Jehovah, and turn away this day from following Jehovah, to build an altar for burnt-offering, for meal-offering, or for sacrifice, besides the altar of Jehovah our God that is before his tabernacle.

The occasion which called forth these words was as follows. At the completion of the wars of conquest the men of the two and one-half tribes of Israel who settled on the east side of Jordan bade farewell to their comrades-in-arms (the warriors of the nine and one-half tribes who settled on the west side of the river) and started on their way home. Upon their reaching the Plains of Jericho, they erected an altar "by the Jordan, a great altar to look upon" (Josh. 22:10). Their purpose in building it was that it might serve as a memorial to which they in future generations could point as evidence in affirming that they were of the same stock as were their brethren on the west side of Jordan. When the news concerning the erecting of this altar reached the Israelites, who had just settled down in their own homes, they flew to arms and pursued their brethren, overtaking them in the Plains of the Jordan. Immediately they accused them of attempting to set up an altar for the purpose of worshiping God--contrary to the instructions given by Moses. In reply those accused stated the case as given in the quotation above. From the context it is clear that the accusers thought of this altar as a place of idolatrous worship. This idea is reflected in the answer to this false charge.

In making their defense, the heads of the thousands of Israel declared: "God, Gods, Jehovah--God, Gods, Jehovah--he knoweth; and Israel he shall know: if it be in rebellion, or if in trespass against Jehovah (save thou us not this day), that we have built us an altar to turn away from following Jehovah . . . (lit. trans.). Let the reader note that the word for God, which
is אֵל, 'el, is in the singular number. In apposition with it is אֱלֹהִים, 'elohim, which literally means Gods. Also in apposition with these words is יְהוָה, Yahweh, which means the Eternal One, or the Uncaused Cause of all things, and which is translated Jehovah. The use of אֵל, God, in the singular indicates the unity of the Divine Being. The employment of אֱלֹהִים, Gods, in the plural, which is in apposition with אֵל, 'el, God, is equivalent to an affirmation of a plurality of personalities in the Almighty. The word Jehovah, being in apposition with these terms, is used for the purpose of identifying those to whom the speakers refer by the use of the word Gods in the plural as being the God of Israel. (The force of this last statement will appear more fully in Chapter III.)

The fact that the three terms, just mentioned, were used on this occasion is not accidental. For instance, there would have been no point in the use of the word
אֵל, 'el, and then repeating it. Neither would there have been sense in employing the term אֱלֹהִים, 'elohim, and then repeating it. Moreover, this was not in accordance with Hebrew custom. For instance, in the priestly blessing the word Jehovah appears in three parallel petitions (Num. 6:24-26). This same triple use of a term is seen in the cries of the seraphim, "Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts. . . ." as they worshiped the Lord (Isa. 6:3). As we notice the terms אֵל ,אֱלֹהִים ,יְהוָה God, Gods, Jehovah, we see three distinct forms. Evidently there was a reason for the employment of these different words. When we recognize that the first one is a noun in the singular number and means God, that the second is in the plural and signifies Gods, and that the third is the memorial name of the Almighty, which He revealed to Israel at Sinai, we may be absolutely certain that the biblical writers who use these terms employed them in order to express the exact thought conveyed by them when literally understood. There is nothing in this context to indicate a departure from their ordinary, usual significance. In such circumstances we are bound, therefore, to accept the literal meaning of each, if we wish to be logical and to arrive at the exact thought of the original speakers. Honest men, in ordinary life, who try to make themselves understood, as these men evidently did, employ words with their ordinary connotations. We have every reason to believe that these words are equivalent, as stated above, to an affirmation that the Divine Being is one in a definite sense of the term, that He is at the same time a plurality of personalities in a different sense; and that this Being is the one who entered into covenant relationship with Israel at Sinai, and who revealed His memorial name to the nation as Jehovah. The full significance² of this statement will become more apparent in the next chapter on the unity of God.

In Psalm 50:1 we have the same idiom, word for word. It is rendered in the Revised Version as follows: "The Mighty One, God, Jehovah, hath spoken, And called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof." In the use of the word אֵל, God, in the singular, the unity of the Supreme Being is asserted; whereas the plurality of personalities subsisting in the one divine essence is set forth by the use of the word אֱלֹהִים, God. Thus this uni-plural, sovereign Being is identified as Jehovah יְהוָה, "the God of Israel."

In the light of the indisputable facts which have been presented in this chapter, we come to the conclusion that there is a plurality of personalities in the one God.

As we have already seen,
אֵל, 'el, is in the singular number and denotes one in the absolute sense of the term, but אֱלֹהִים is in the plural number and signifies more than two--three or more. The reason for this assertion is that the Hebrew had the dual number which, as all know, indicates two. It is true that the dual form in Hebrew, as in Greek, gradually disappeared and the plural number was used to take its place. Nevertheless, in the early stages of the language, when the dual was in use, it would have become a fixed form in referring to the Deity, if the early patriarchs had considered God as a dual being. The fact of their using the plural number indicated their understanding that there were at least three personalities in the Divine Being.

Another case in point is found in Deuteronomy 10:17:
כִּי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הוּא אֱלֹהֵי הָאֱלֹהִים וַאֲדֹנֵי הָאֲדֹנִים הָאֵל הַגָּדֹל הַגִּבֹּר וְהַנּוֹרָא אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יִשָּׂא פָנִים וְלֹא יִקַּח שֹׁחַד׃ "For Jehovah your God, he is God of gods, and Lord of lords, the great God, the mighty, and the terrible, who regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward." Literally rendered, the sentence reads as follows: "For Jehovah your Gods is the Gods of the gods, the Lords of the lords, the God--great, mighty, and terrible--who regards not persons, nor taketh reward." Here Jehovah, the true God, speaks of Himself as being the Gods of Israel. He also designates Himself as "the Gods of the gods, and the Lords of the lords." These expressions echo the plurality of divine personalities of the one Sovereign Being. But to avoid the error of polytheism, He asserts their unity by using the word אֵל, God, in the singular number. Then He differentiates Himself from idols by asserting His absoluteness in greatness, power, and terribleness--He is the almighty sovereign.

That I have put the normal construction upon Joshua 22:22 Psalm 50:1, and Deuteronomy 10:17 becomes apparent in the light that comes to us from Genesis 33:20: "And he erected then in altar, and called it
'el-elohe-Israel [אֵל אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל]." This expression rendered literally is "God, the Gods of Israel." To translate the second word of this expression in the genitive relation does not make sense. If one should do so, it would read as follows "God of the Gods of Israel." But to render the first word, which is in the singular number, God of; and the third, Israel, is to recognize a normal Hebraic idiom, which makes good sense. Hence the rendering, "God, the Gods of Israel," is in keeping with the genius of the language and makes the text intelligible to all who wish facts and truth. Here again we see that the forms of the words used confirm the conclusions reached regarding God's being a unity and at the same time a plurality of personalities.


In the preceding sections of this chapter we have seen data which prove conclusively, without a shade of a doubt, that
אֱלֹהִים 'elohim, is a plural noun and is rendered literally Gods. Every standard Hebrew lexicon which I have consulted shows this as a noun in the plural number, masculine gender. All standard Hebrew grammars tell us that ים―  im, is the regular ending of a noun in the masculine gender and plural number. About this statement there can be absolutely no question.


* The writer is aware of the argument that the plural noun
אלהים is the plural of "excellency, majesty." He admits frankly, that in the Semitic world such usage was common when subjects addressed their king or at times spoke concerning him; but in the passages examined in this section, and in numerous other passages, there is nothing in the context of any of them which warrants a departure from the strict grammatical interpretation of the words and the substitution of an interpretation invented to support a theological bias.

Proof for the "plural of Majesty" is sought for, in such passages as Judg. 11-24: "Wilt not thou possess that which
כמוש (Chemosh) thy God giveth thee to possess?" כמוש
is in the singular number and is the name of the God of Moab, and in apposition with it is אלהיך "thy Gods." From this passage it is argued that since אלהיך is in apposition with כמוש and Since it is in the plural number, it is the plural of majesty, which conforms to the Semitic usage with reference to rulers. Therefore it is contended that אלהים אלהיך אלהינו etc., simply mean "God, thy God, our God," and are not to be taken in their primary, ordinary, literal meaning, the supposition being that when applied to the God of Israel they are the plural of majesty. In reply to this argument it is sufficient to note the fact that כמוש was not the name of one idol only, but it was the name of innumerable idols throughout the kingdom. Hence כמוש though in the singular form is a collective noun which embraced every idol of the realm. Hence אלהיך "thy gods" conforms strictly to the correct grammatical usage of the language and means "thy gods." The same explanation holds good with reference to Dagon in I Sam. 5:7 and like passages.

† Personality is not to be confounded with corporeality. One is as much of a personality after death as he is before. Angels who have not human bodies are personalities. Likewise, God is
רוח "spirit" without a material body yet He is a personality.

¹ The statement in Ex. 4:16
ודבר־הוא לך אל־העם והיה הוא יהיה־לך לפה ואתה תהיה־לו לאלהים "And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people; and it shall come to pass, that he shall be to thee a mouth, and thou shalt be to him as God," is considered by some to be overwhelming proof that אלהים, though plural in form, is singular in meaning. In support of this contention the question is asked, "How can אלהים be plural when Moses was to be to Aaron לאלהים ?" This question is quite proper and seems to bear directly upon the question under consideration.

In replying to this argument it is sufficient to call attention to the fact that a comparison or parable has one point of contact with the truth to be taught, and no attempt should be made to make it fit in all points. The function of a comparison may be illustrated by two circles which are tangent the one to the other; hence there is but one point of contact. Thus it is with all comparisons; those illustrations are used whose outstanding characteristic will illustrate the matter in hand.

The context of this passage points definitely to what the point of contact is between the illustration and the lesson to be taught. Verse 15 states that Moses should speak to Aaron and that the former should put his words in the latter's mouth. Verse 16 adds that he, Aaron, should speak to the people in behalf of Moses and that he (Aaron) should be a mouth for him (Moses). These data show that Aaron was to be the spokesman
נביא for Moses. A spokesman or prophet in Israel was a representative of God, hence, since the message Aaron was to deliver the people was to be given him by Moses, he sustained the relationship of prophet to Moses; since God is the correlative term of prophet it was but natural that God should say that Moses should be to Aaron as God. This conclusion is furthermore confirmed by the fact that Moses being invested with the power of God to perform miracles and to deliver the chosen people was God's representative on earth. These facts being true, to speak of the reciprocal relationship between Moses and Aaron in these words "he shall be to thee for a mouth and thou shall be to him for God," was the only natural, normal comparison to be used. Therefore this passage has no bearing upon the meaning of אלהים. The same explanation is to be given for Ex. 7:1 and all similar passages.

² Some translators render the words under discussion in this manner: "God of gods, Jehovah, God of gods, Jehovah..." The following phrases are examples of this construction: "God of gods" in Dan. 11:36, "the God of thy father" in Genesis 49:25, "the God of Israel" in Ps. 68:35, "God of truth" in Ps. 31:5, and "the God of Jacob" in Ps 146:5. From a grammatical standpoint, to translate
אֵל אֱלֹהִים, 'el 'elohim, as God of gods is correct, but there is nothing in the context to lead one to adopt this rendering. There are, however, weighty considerations that favor the translation given in the text above.