De Moor IV:4: Is Sabbaoth properly a Name of God?

Updated: Feb 22, 2019

Johannes Buxtforf II

In addition, צְבָאוֹת/Sabbaoth is held as a proper Name for God. For the sake of the vindication of this opinion, specious reasons indeed are alleged, 1. The constant tradition of the Hebrews, who among the ten Names of God also enumerated this, our צְבָאוֹת/Sabbaoth; see BUXTORF’S Dissertationem de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 56. 2. The Greek Version, which here and there retained this Hebrew name, expressing it in Greek fashion as σαβαώθ, or σαββαώθ/Sabbaoth: but also the very Apostles, Paul and James, who both in their Epistles appear to have preserved it as a proper name, Romans 9:29;[1] James 5:4.[2] 3. The Hebrew construction, from which it appears to be evident that, if the name צְבָאוֹת/Sabbaoth be appellative and not proper, the preceding Name ought to be placed in construct state, which nevertheless is not always done, for example, in Psalm 80:4, you read, יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהִ֣ים צְבָא֑וֹת, instead of, אֱלֹהֵי צְבָאוֹת; likewise, in Psalm 84:8.[3] And thus we also read יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, Jehovah Sabbaoth or the Lord of Hosts, for example, for example, in Psalm 69:6; 84:1; Haggai 2:7-9. But the Name יְהוָה/ Jehovah, as it is well known, does not enter into construct state. In which passages the Name צְבָאוֹת/Sabbaoth appears to be conjoined to the preceding אֱלֹהִים/Elohim and יְהוָה/Jehovah by apposition so closely that it might be God army, Jehovah army, that is, who is, as it were, an army and in the place of one for His own. And from passages of this sort some think that others are to be expounded, in which God is called אֱלֹהֵי צְבָאוֹת, which would signify not God, who is the Lord of armies, as elsewhereאֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, the God of Israel; but who is an army, no less than אֱלֹהֵי אָמֵן, the God of truth, in Isaiah 65:16, and אֵל אֱמֶת, the God of truth, in Psalm 31:5, is God, who Himself is true or truth. Now, the plural here,[4] as in the case of חָכְמוֹת, consummate wisdom,[5] and others, will have been used for the sake of emphasis.


And hence, following ORIGEN and JEROME in the passages cited, REUCHLIN, and JACOB ALTING[6] also, opera, tome 2, part III, on Psalm 80:4, page 156, and VRIEMOET, Adnotationibus ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, tome 1, chapter III, pages 135, 136, enumerate צְבָאוֹת/ Sabbaoth among the Names of God, such that Jehovah Sabbaoth is Jehovah, who is Sabbaoth. With whom you may also observe LEUSDEN[7] to side, Philologo Hebræo-Græco, Dissertation XXXI, § 9, in which is: “The Name of God, צְבָאוֹת/Sabbaoth, follows…. God with due right is called the Lord of hosts, because He is the lord of many armies, who themselves always attend to His will. It is asked concerning this Name, Whether צְבָאוֹת/Sabbaoth, conjoined with another divine Name, is always a Name of God? I respond in the negative: because by צְבָאוֹת/Sabbaoth most frequently are denoted Hosts both superior, and also inferior; but it appears to be a Name of God, when it is conjoined with another divine Name, יְהוָה/Jehovah or אֱלֹהִים/Elohim, by apposition: as when He is called יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, Jehovah Sabbaoth or the Lord of Hosts, in Isaiah 1:9, 24; 3:1; etc.; or with אֱלֹהִים/Elohim, as in אֱלֹהִים צְבָאוֹת, God of Hosts, in Psalm 80:7, 14; 84:8; Isaiah 3:15.” That in passages of this sort צְבָאוֹת/ Sabbaoth is joined by apposition to the other divine Name, יְהוָה/Jehovah or אֱלֹהִים/Elohim, Leusden there endeavors at length to add in turn.

But, on the other hand, others with BUXTORF, Dissertatione de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 57-60, observe: 1. That צְבָאוֹת/Sabbaoth denotes Hosts, or creatures of the heavens and earth, of which, not the name, but the creation and conservation, is attributed to God, comparing Genesis 2:1.[8] 2. That the Name צְבָאוֹת/Sabbaoth is nowhere attributed to God separately, without another divine Name added, which nevertheless certainly obtains in other divine Names.

Now, they respond to the reasons given:

1. The authority of the Jews on this point ought not to be esteemed so highly, since their nearly innumerable errors are evident, and they are such also that invent out of thin air other Kabbalistic Names for God. 2. The Name σαβαώθ/Sabbaoth is retained by Paul and James, just as other Hebrew words are retained in the Greek text of the New Testament, ἁλληλούϊα/Hallelujah,[9] ὡσαννὰ/Hosanna,[10] ἀμήν/ Amen,[11] πάσχα/Passover,[12] σάββατον/Sabbath,[13] as formerly known by perpetual use; whence σαβαώθ/Sabbaoth is not able to be concluded as a proper Name of God. 3. Neither does the absolute state prove that thence it is derived that the two Nouns conjoined together are proper; but that, when אֱלֹהִים צְבָאוֹת, God of Hosts, is used, it happens through an Enallage quite familiar to the Hebrews, in the place of אֱלֹהֵי צְבָאוֹת: just as טוּרִ֣ים אָ֑בֶן, rows of stones, is put in the place of טוּרֵי אָבֶן, Exodus 28:17; פָרִ֖ים שְׂפָתֵֽינוּ׃, calves of our lips, in the place of פָרֵי שְׂפָתֵינוּ, Hosea 14:2, just as καρπὸς χειλέων, the fruit of lips, is in the place of this in Hebrews 13:15: The Grammarians will give more examples. But, whenיְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, Jehovah Sabbaoth, is used, they think that it is able to be explained by an Ellipsis of the construct Noun, אֱלֹהֵי/Elohe, such that יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, Jehovah Sabbaoth, is used in the place of יְהוִה אֱלֹהֵי הַצְּבָאוֹת, Jehovah Elohe Sabbaoth, as it is found written in full in Amos 3:13 (with the Name אֲדֹנָי/Adonai added at the beginning[14]) and elsewhere.

Certainly God could be called an Host, no less than the fortress, rock, and high tower of His people.[15] But then, as it certainly appears, צְבָאוֹת/Sabbaoth is not used so absolutely; but with relation to His people at least sometimes He is more fully called צִבְאוֹת עַמּוֹ, Sabbaoth of His people, or עַמּךָ, of thy people: and, as in various places God is expressly called אֱלֹהֵי צְבָאוֹת, Elohe Sabbaoth, so also Jehovah of hosts everywhere appears to explain the expression, יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, Jehovah Sabbaoth, more conveniently than the Lord who is an host. But, although thus צְבָאוֹת/ Sabbaoth is dislodged from the number of divine Names, it is not to be denied that the entire phrase, the Lord God of hosts, belongs to the emphatic descriptions of God, which are also called His Name, Jeremiah 51:57; Amos 4:13; Isaiah 54:5, by which description God is set forth as the omnipotent Lord, to whom consummate power belongs, who over all creatures, as his own armies, heavenly and earthly, hold the government, who governs all things in His Church and outside of His Church, and moves His armies by His will, and to whom as a General all creatures ought to render their most ready obedience, indeed who is able with the greatest ease to dissipate and strike down all the great power that is in the armies. Wherefore by the Septuagint it is also translated, ὁ παντοκράτωρ, the Almighty, or Κύριος τῶν δυνάμεων, the Lord of forces, Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς τῶν δυνάμεων, the Lord God of forces. JOHN SPENCER, de Legibus Hebræorum ritualibus,[16] book I, Dissertatione de Theocratia Judaica, chapter I, section II, pages 205, 206, thinks that God by this title, יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, Jehovah Sabbaoth, is many times distinguished in the Sacred Books, specifically because in the Israelite Army He had formerly held the title and office of highest General; and because He had acquired it for Himself in the desert, where He showed Himself powerful in battle, etc. It is not able to be denied that God, or specifically the Angel of the covenant, at that time went before the Armies of the Israelites, לִפְנֵי מַחֲנֵה יִשְׂרָאֵל, before the camp of Israel, in the pillar of cloud and fire,[17] so that He might show them the way, and lead them to battle against their enemies.[18] It is also certain that the people of Israel, led out of Egypt through the desert, are called צִבְאוֹת יְהוָה, the hosts of the Lord, כָּל־צִבְאוֹת יְהוָה, all the hosts of the Lord, which people God was leading עַל־צִבְאֹתָם, by their armies, לְצִבְאֺתָם, according to their flocks, Exodus 12:41, 51: and that God is so emphatically able to be called the Lord and God of Hosts with relation to Israel and its ancient history. But, nevertheless, that title in an infinitely fuller sense agrees with God with relation to every and all creatures: see our AUTHOR’S Exercitationes Miscellaneas, Disputation VI on Zechariah 6:9-15, § 13; OUTHOVIUS’[19] Judicia Jehova Zebaoth, pages 2 and following. Into the reason why the title Jehovah Sabbaoth is found far more frequently, if you attend to the mass of the books, when it is speech concerning God, in the writing of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, written after the Babylonian captivity, than in the remaining books of the Old Testament written before the same captivity, inquiry is made in Nederlandse Bibliotheek, volume 5, n. 10, Mengelst, pages 281-293.

[1] Romans 9:29: “And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth (Κύριος Σαβαὼθ) had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.”

[2] James 5:4: “Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth (Κυρίου Σαβαὼθ).”

[3] Psalm 84:8: “O Lord God of hosts (יְה֘וָ֤ה אֱלֹהִ֣ים צְ֭בָאוֹת), hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.”

[4] צְבָאוֹת/Sabbaoth is plural.

[5] For example, Psalm 49:3: “My mouth shall speak of wisdom (חָכְמוֹת); and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.”

[6] Jacob Alting (1618-1679) was a Dutch Reformed Theologian and Hebraist. At Groningen he served as Professor of Hebrew (1643-1667), and then as Professor of Theology (1667-1677).

[7] Johannes Leusden (1624-1699) was a Dutch Reformed Orientalist; he served as Professor of Oriental Languages at Utrecht (1650-1699).

[8] Genesis 2:1: “Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them (וְכָל־צְבָאָם).”

[9] See, for example, Revelation 19:1: “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia (ἁλληλούϊα, from הַלְלוּ־יָהּ, praise ye the Lord); Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God…”

[10] See, for example, Mark 11:9: “And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna (ὡσαννά, from הוֹשִׁיָעה נָּא, save, I pray); Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord…”

[11] See, for example, Romans 1:25: “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen (ἀμήν, from אָמֵן, so let it be).”

[12] See, for example, Matthew 26:2: “Ye know that after two days is the passover (τὸ πάσχα, from פֶּסַח), and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.”

[13] See, for example, John 5:9: “And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath (σάββατον, from שַׁבָּת).”

[14] Amos 3:13: “Hear ye, and testify in the house of Jacob, saith the Lord God, the God of hosts (אֲדֹנָ֥י יְהוִ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֥י הַצְּבָאֽוֹת׃, Adonai Jehovah Elohe Sabbaoth)…”

[15] See, for example, 2 Samuel 22:2, 3; Psalm 18:2.

[16] John Spencer (1630-1693) was an Anglican churchman and Hebraist. His De Legibus Hebræorum is a work in comparative religion; in it, he argues that the Biblical religion is not the oldest nor original.

[17] See, for example, Exodus 14:19.

[18] See Exodus 23:20-23; 40:36-38; Numbers 9:20-23; 10:33-36.

[19] Gerhardus Outhof (1673-1733) was a Dutch Reformed minister, laboring in the pastoral ministry at Emden and Kampen.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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