Elohim (אֱלוֹהִים , אלהים ) is a Hebrew word which expresses concepts of divinity. It is apparently related to the Hebrew word ēl, though morphologically it consists of the Hebrew word Eloah (אלוה) with a plural suffix. Elohim is the third word in the Hebrew text of Genesis and occurs frequently throughout the Hebrew Bible. Its exact significance is often disputed.

In some cases (e.g. Exodus 3:4, "... "Elohim" called unto him out of the midst of the bush ..."), it acts as a singular noun in Hebrew grammar (see next section), and is then generally understood to denote the single God of Israel. In other cases, Elohim acts as an ordinary plural of the word Eloah (אלוה), and refers to the polytheistic notion of multiple gods (for example, Exodus 20:3, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me."). This may reflect the use of the word "Elohim" found in the late Bronze Age texts of Canaanite Ugarit, where Elohim ('lhm) denoted the entire Canaanite pantheon (the family of El אל, the patriarchal creator god). It may also refer to a Henotheistic strand of Judaism.In still other cases, the meaning is not clear from the text, but may refer to powerful beings (e.g. Genesis 6:2, "... the sons of "Elohim" saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them for wives... ," Exodus 4:16, "He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you [Moses] were "Elohim" to him [Aaron] ... ," Exodus 22:28, "Thou shalt not revile "Elohim", or curse a ruler of your people... ," where the parallelism suggests that "Elohim" may refer to human rulers). See Sons of God for more information.

Hebrew grammar

"Elohim" has plural morphological form in Hebrew, but it is used with singular verbs and adjectives in the Hebrew text when the particular meaning of the God of Israel (a singular deity) is traditionally understood. Thus the very are "breshit bara elohim", where "bara" ברא is a verb inflected as third person singular masculine perfect. If Elohim were an ordinary plural word, then the plural verb form "bar'u" בראו would have been used in this sentence instead. Such plural grammatical forms are in fact found in cases where "Elohim" has semantically plural reference (not referring to the God of Israel). There are a few other words in Hebrew that have a plural ending, but refer to a single entity and take singular verbs and adjectives, for example בעלים (be'alim, owner) in Exodus 21:29 and elsewhere.

In most English translations of the Bible (e.g. the King James Version), the letter G in "god" is capitalized in cases where Elohim refers to the God of Israel, but there is no distinction between upper and lower case in the Hebrew text.

ignificance in the documentary hypothesis

The choice of word or words for God varies in the Hebrew Bible. According to the documentary hypothesis these variations are evidence of different source texts: Elohim is used as the name of God in the Elohist and the Priestly source, while Yahweh is used in the Jahwist source. The difference in names results from the theological point being made in the Elohist and Priestly sources that God did not reveal his name, Yahweh, to any man before the time of Moses.


The most likely derivation comes from the word Elohim ('lhm) found in the Ugarit archives, meaning the family or pantheon associated with the Canaanite father God El.

* Joel Hoffman derives the word from the common Canaanite word "elim," with the mater lectionis "heh" inserted to distinguish the Israelite God from other gods. He argues that "elohim" thus patterns with Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah. [cite book |last=Hoffman |first=Joel M. |title=In the Beginning: A Short History of the Hebrew Language |id=ISBN 0-8147-3654-8] (See also Yahweh.)
* Karel van der Toorn repeats the common claim that "elohim" is the plural of "eloah". D. Pardee notes the lack of any clear etymology for "eloah" [Both Karel van der Toorn's and D. Pardee's claims are found in "Elohim", in "Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible" ISBN 90-04-11119-0.] , but the word itself is well-attested (57 times in the OT).
*Some trace its origin in "el" or "ul" which may mean ("to be strong") or possibly ("to be in front"), from which also are derived "ayil" ("ram", the one in front of the flock) and "elah" (the prominent "terebinth"); "Elohim" would then be an expanded plural form of "El". (However, Semitic etymologies are generally based on triconsonantal roots, which this proposal completely ignores.)
* Others relate the word (and "Eloah," "a god") to "alah" ("to terrify") or "alih" ("to be perplexed, afraid; to seek refuge because of fear"). "Eloah" and "Elohim", therefore, would be "He who is the object of fear or reverence," or "He with whom one who is afraid takes refuge".The form of the word "Elohim", with the ending "-im", is plural and masculine, but the construction is usually singular, i.e. it governs a singular verb or adjective when referring to the Hebrew god, but reverts to its normal plural when used of heathen divinities (Psalms 96:5; 97:7). There are many theories as to why the word is plural:
* In one view, predominant among monotheists, the word is plural in order to augment its meaning and form an abstraction meaning "Divine majesty".
* Among orthodox Trinitarian Christian writers it is sometimes used as evidence for the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. This is regarded as fanciful by some secular linguists and some biblical scholars.Fact|date=October 2008
* In another view that is more common among a range of secular scholars, heterodox Christian and Jewish theologians and polytheists, the word's plurality reflects early Semitic polytheism. They argue it originally meant "the gods", or the "sons of El," the supreme being. They claim the word may have been singularized by later monotheist priests who sought to replace worship of the many gods of the Canaanite or Semitic pantheon with the Hebrew singular patron god YHWH alone.Fact|date=October 2008

A plural noun governing a singular verb may be according to oldest usage. The gods form a heavenly assembly where they act as one. In this context, the Elohim may be a "collective plural" when the gods act in concert. Compare this to English "headquarters," which is plural but governs a singular verb: there are many rooms or "quarters," but they all serve one purpose. Thus, it is argued, the meaning of Elohim therefore can mean one god, with many attributes.

The alternative polytheist theory would seem to explain why there are three words built on the same stem: "El," "Elohim," and "eloah." El, the father god, has many divine sons, who are known by the plural of his name, Elohim, or "El"s. Eloah, might then be used to differentiate each of the lesser gods from El himself.

While the words "El", "Elohim", and "eloah" are clearly related, with the word "El" being the stem, some have claimed it is uncertain whether the word "Elohim" is derived from "El" through "eloah". These have suggested that the word "Elohim" is the masculine plural of a feminine noun, used as a singular. This would imply indeterminacy in both number and gender, although, as mentioned above, from Canaanite texts in Ugarit, this is what appears to be intended in this case. However, to many this is speculative and confusing, although consistent with many other Jewish and Christian views of the nature of the Godhead.

Note that contrary to what is sometimes assumed, the word Eloah (אלוה) is quite definitely not feminine in form in the Hebrew language (and does not have feminine grammatical gender in its occurrences in the Bible). This word ends in a "furtivum" vowel (i.e. short non-syllabic [a] element which is part of a lowering diphthong) followed by a breathily-pronounced final [h] consonant sound — while feminine Hebrew words which end in "ah" have a fully syllabic [a] vowel which is followed by a silent "h" letter (which changes to a [t] sound in the grammatical "construct state" construction, or if suffixes are added). The pronounced [h] (or "he mappiq") of Eloah never alternates with a [t] consonant sound (the way that silent feminine "h" does), and the [a] "furtivum" element in Eloah is actually a late feature of masoretic pronunciation traditions, which wouldn't have existed in the pronunciation of Biblical times.

The meaning of Elohim is further complicated by the fact that it is used to describe the spirit of the dead prophet Samuel, raised by Saul in 1 Samuel 28:13. The witch of Endor tells Saul that she sees 'gods' (elohim) coming up out of the earth; this seems to indicate that the term was indeed used simply to mean something like 'divine beings' in ancient Israel.

It is worthy of note that, in the Biblical Hebrew (as well as in many other languages, such as Yaqui) the customary grammatical "plurality" of a word is often simply that: a "grammatical" plural. The use of "plural" forms for singular nouns is common in the Hebrew Bible, and often connotes quintessence, uniqueness, or might rather than plurality (though it may connote both). Thus, the phrase "מלך מלכי המלכים" ("melekh maləkêi ha-məlâkhim") does not refer to "a king, kings of kings", but to "a king of unsurpassed kingship"; שיר השירים, ("shir ha-shirim") does not refer to "a song of songs", but to "a song that is the quintessential song"; ימים רבים ("yamim rabim") refers to "a great sea" as easily as to "great [or 'many'] seas". A clue to this is the Hebrew grammatical term for "plural": "lâshon rabbim", meaning "a term of grandiosities".

Elohim in Islam

In the context of Islam, the divine name "Allah", used in the Qur'an, has a linguistic cognate relationship with the Hebrew word "Eloah (אלוה)". See "La ilaha illallah...", the Muslim declaration of faith, where the word for a "god" is Ilah (from which the word Allah derives by prefixation of the Arabic definite article).

Elohim in the Latter Day Saint movement

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes referred to as the LDS Church or "Mormons") as well as some other denominations of the Latter Day Saint movement, the term Elohim (also spelled "Eloheim") is often used to distinguish God the Father as a distinct member of the Godhead.

The plural sense of "Elohim" is generally recognized by the LDS Church as meaning "the council of the gods", often interpreted as the Godhead, in the creation story. This is particularly evident in of the Book of Abraham in the "Pearl of Great Price".

Elohim in anthroposophy

In anthroposophy, based on the teachings by Rudolf Steiner, the Elohim represent the sixth realm of the Christian angelic hierarchy of the Roman Catholic tradition. Using the terminology of Dionysius the Areopagite, this hierarchic level of divine spirits is referred to as Exousiai (Greek) or Potestates (Latin) and is immediately above the three levels comprising the Angels, Archangels and Archai/Principati. The role of the Exousiai/Elohim in spiritual evolution is essential, since the human Self has emanated from them. Having their residence in the spiritual spheres of the Sun, the Exousiai/Elohim are specially devoted to the development of Earth and humanity. Yahweh is one of them, who moved to the Moon spheres for the sake of humanity and took up the task as the divine ruler of the biblical Israelites, destined to receive the incarnation of Christ in the man Jesus. Christ, himself originating from Trinity (which supersedes all hierarchies), is the direct leader of the Exousiai.


The Raëlian Movement translates 'Elohim' to "Those who come from the heavens" or "Those who came from the sky", keeping with the hypothesis that it is a plural form of 'Eloha', which would in turn mean, "He/She who comes from the heavens/sky". Elohim would then be human-like extraterrestrials who came from another world and created all life on Earth using advanced genetic engineering and bio-science as declared in the book of Genesis.

Popular Culture

The Elohim are a race of mysterious, immensely powerful beings in Stephen Donaldson's Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.Fact|date=February 2008

On their 2003 album "Heretic", the death metal band Morbid Angel has a track called, "Cleansed in Pestilence (Blade of Elohim)"

In the computer game Homeworld 2, there is a minor character named Captain Elohim.

In the comic series 'Lucifer' (most prominently in #29) a "tiny demon of the Elokim" appears

ee also

* Creation according to Genesis
* Documentary hypothesis
* El (god)
* Elohim (gods)
* Elohist
* Ilah
* Names of God
* Names of God in Judaism
* Theophoric name


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