De Moor IV:5: Hebrew Names for God: אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah

Updated: Feb 25, 2019


either from אֵל/El in the same sense; or from the Arabic אלה, with the signification of worshipping; or from the Hebrew אָלָה, one sought, even denoting Him, who swears to us in Covenant, and by whom we swear in turn. See BUXTORF, Dissertatione de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 38; LEUSDEN, Philologo Hebræo-Græco, Dissertation XXXII, § 2; VAN ALPHEN, Commentario on Daniel 9:3, pages 107-113, where you may observe, α. that LEUSDEN and JACOB MARTINI[1] in view of Hilary’s Onomasticon Sacrum, page 253, think that a certain Etymology of this Name is not able to be given. β. That GUSSETIUS, in his Commentario Linguæ Hebraicæ, page 46, has אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah as the primary form, denoting precisely this very one, who is God, unto which opinion VAN ALPHEN also signifies himself to be chiefly inclined, Commentario on Daniel 9:3, page 113; but against which VRIEMOET, who discusses the origin and signification of this name in his Adnotationibus ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, tome 1, chapter III, pages 121-124, observes, page 122, “This will not be readily allowed by those that rightly attend to the form of the word, in which the ו/waw is obviously servile. The Chaldean אֱלָהּ is somewhat simpler; but, apart from the fact that perhaps most will say that it arose from the Hebrew אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah, with the Qametz (ָ), in the accustomed manner, added in the place of the Holem (ׂ), it is not such in its own form that you might safely acquiesce in it. Certainly not, as long as some other suitable root is able to be shown:” while ALBERT SCHULTENS, who treats of this Name both in his Institutionibus ad Fundamenta Linguæ Hebrææ ad regulam CXXXII, note ה, pages 389, 390, compared with note ד, pages 388, 389, and page 372, note I, and especially on John 1:1, pages 3, 4, concerning that opinion of Gussetius exclaims, Where has he come, when he passes beyond the olives? His Eight Arguments against the Etymology from אָלַהּ, to worship, among the Arabs, are quibblings, to be refuted elsewhere, not sufficiently worthy of his reputation for learning. γ. That MARCUS MARINUS in his Arca Noæ[2] seeks the origin of this Name from אֵל/El, with the ה added, as if you would call Him the Almighty; which VOSSIUS, in his Etymologico Linguæ Latinæ, on the word Deus/God, also makes mention of as pleasing EUSEBIUS already of old and then PETER LOMBARD;[3] thus also it appears to MATTHIAS MARTINIUS, in his Lexico philologico, on the word Deus/God, page 304b: but which both Buxtorf and Leusden reject as too inconsistent with Grammatical analogy, since the letter ה with a Mappiq (ּ) is never wont to be servile, but always radical, unless it is a suffix of the feminine gender. They likewise repudiate the conjecture of ABARBANEL, who in his Commentario on Genesis 1 maintains that this name is composed of אֵל/El and two letters taken from the Name יְהוָה/Jehovah. With which the invention of HILARY is able to be compared, who maintains that אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah is composed of אֵל/El and the name הוֹהַּ/essence, which is fabricated: but which sort of authors VRIEMOET not without reason thinks to be exceedingly far from the truth, Adnotationibus ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, tome 1, chapter III, page 121. δ. That COCCEIUS[4] derives this Name from the Hebrew אָלָה, to swear, to adjure, in his Lexico Hebraici and Summa Theologiæ, so that it properly denote Him, to whom it belongs אָלָה, that is, to whom it belongs to pronounce a curse, and thus to oblige the conscience to His inquiry under the threat of judgment. But, although Van Alphen, Commentario on Daniel 9:3, pages 110-112, studies to remove by some better way the difficulties of Gussetius and others, moved against this Etymology, nevertheless the Philologists mentioned above, Buxtorf, Leusden, Schultens, Vriemoet, and others, most truly observe against the same that it is altogether repugnant to the genius of the Hebrew language; since the הּ in אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah has a Mappiq (ּ), but Words quiescent in the third ה are never wont to move that ה, either in themselves or in derivatives, of which SCHULTENS advises that not even one example is given, Institutionibus ad Fundamenta Linguæ Hebrææ, page 388. VRIEMOET, Adnotationibus ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, tome 1, chapter III, page 122, admits that there is only one example from the Hebrew language of a quiescent ה changed into a mobile, in אֲמָהוֹת/ handmaids from אָמָה/handmaid: among the Arabs indeed a Word, אַמַהַ/ amaha, is extant, with the final ה being mobile; but nevertheless this name owes its origin to a Word that ends in a quiescent א or י, אמא or אמי: adding notwithstanding this sole example, with some also in the Chaldean tongue, like אֲבָהָן/fathers from אָב/father, which is from אָבָה, to be willing; שְׁמָהָן/names from the singular שֵׁם/name, which is not going to be made from שָׁמָה, so that, when also elsewhere the origination of the Name אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah from אָלָה, to swear, is energetically sought, we might so readily believe that a withdrawal was made here from the ordinary use and analogy of the tongue. But, on the other hand, according to SCHULTENS, Institutionibus ad Fundamenta Linguæ Hebrææ ad regulam CXXXII, note ה, page 390, אֲמָהוֹת/handmaids is from the singular אַמְהָה/handmaid, or the shortened form אָמַהּ, as אָמוֹת/handmaids is from אָמָה/handmaid, both which roots the Arabs have preserved. On the two examples that Vriemoet advances from the Chaldean, SCHULTENS in that same place says, These and a fair number of this sort are pretty far off. Now, concerning these the Most Illustrious Schultens thus established, that double roots of the same signification were to be recognized, אַבַהַ or אָבַהּ with a mobile ה, and אָבָה or אָבַי with the third radical quiescent; and thus likewise שַׁמַהַ or שָׁמַהּ, and שָׁמָה or שָׁמַי: because אָב/father and שֵׁם/name are characterized by a quiescent third radical, but אֲבָהָן/fathers and שְׁמָהָן/ names rom words that have a mobile ה as the third radical. But of a double root of this sort that denotes to swear there are no vestiges. Hence, ε. following ERPENIUS,[5] POCOCKE,[6] HOTTINGER,[7] and other most excellent Philologists, reviewed by CALOVIUS,[8] Bibliis Illustratis on Genesis 1:1, tome I, page 216a: SCHULTENS and VRIEMOET in the passages cited above; JACOB ALTING in his Heptadibus VII, Dissertation IV, page 211b; VENEMA in his Commentario on Daniel 11:37, § CXCIII, page 396; and DEYLING Observationibus Sacris, part II, Observation II, § 1-4, pages 11-13, trace the Name אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah back to a root, which has remained in use among the Arabs, אַלַהַ/alaha, with the Eliph not quiescing, but with the ה/He mobile at the end; and they believe that it properly notes Deity, σέβασμα/awe-inspiring, Him that is to be worshipped and adored with religious veneration, with fear and trembling, which agrees with the true God alone, Jeremiah 10:6, 7; Matthew 4:10. Certainly both words have remained in use among the Arabs, both אלא or אלי, with the ultima quiescent, which to them is to swear; and אַלַהַ/alaha, with the third ה/He mobile, which is to serve, to worship: whence also formerly the Word אָלַהּ with the same signification appears to have been in use among the Hebrews, from which אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah descends. At the same time, with SCHULTENS on Job 1:1,[9] VRIEMOET also observes, Adnotationibus ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, tome 1, chapter III, pages 123, 124, that the signification of the Word אַלַהַ/alaha, from which that divine Name is to be derived, is not so properly to worship, to adore, which signification of the Word rather derives its origin from that Name, אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah; for that Word with its derivatives is never otherwise used than of divine worship, when it has the sense of worshipping; but that the Name אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah is derived from אלהּ in a more primitive sense, whereby it denotes to be astounded, to be seized with fear, so that אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah does indeed mean Deity awe-inspiring, a Being to be admired with holy fear; whence the objection of COCCEIUS falls, who has in his Lexicon: “Concerning the Arabic Etymology, doubted for good reasons, whether the verb, which is translated to worship, is not rather from the noun, which signifies God, as denoting θεοῦν, to esteem as God.”

This Name again is used with the greatest frequency with a Plural Termination, just like the other אָדוֹן/Adon/Lord, with the Singular Signification remaining; not, as our AUTHOR advises,

Johannes a Marck

α. By Ellipsis, as GROTIUS[10] maintained that the same Name was to be understood in the singular, in such a way that אֱלֹהִים/Elohim was set down in the place of אֱלוֹהַּ אֱלֺהִים, God of gods. But, 1. it would be absurd to omit the principal name of the subject, concerning whom the speech is made; with the other name mentioned, which denotes other objects, to which the true subject of the speech has only some relation. 2. No less absurdly would suffixes be thus joined to the plural אֱלֹהִים/Elohim, indicating those λεγομένους/called Gods,[11] for example, in אֱלֹהֵינוּ, our God, אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, your God: for thus in this elliptical manner of speaking one might just as well use אֱלֹהֵינוּ, our God, as the God of our Gods: in which manner the pious would also be acknowledging Idols as their Gods. 3. Thus the God of Gods certain should be expressed אֱלוֹהַּ אֱלֺהִים, and not in the plural, אֱלֹהֵי הָאֱלֹהִים: however, you read the latter expression in Deuteronomy 10:17;[12] Psalm 136:2,[13] while the former never occurs in the Sacred Codex. 4. With this Ellipsis posited, what will be made of adjectival nouns and words constructed in the plural number with אֱלֹהִים/Elohim, where mention is made of the true God? for example, when you read אֱלֹהִים חַיִּים, the living God, אֱלֹהִים קְדֹשִׁים, the holy God, whether it be not so that, with the singular name אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah understood to designate the true God, those called God, Idols, will be called Living and Holy? etc.: see GUSSETIUS’ Commentarium Linguæ Hebraicæ, pages 60, 61; CALOVIUS’ Biblia Illustrata on Genesis 1:1, tome I, page 216; VAN ALPHEN’S Commentarium on Daniel 9:3, page 125.

Nor, β. by a singular Mystery, to indicate the Plurality of Persons in the one divine Essence; which is nevertheless satisfying to great Theologians, whom I will show not to lack their reasons, indeed plausible ones, Chapter V, § 14.

David Kimchi

But, γ. by a Hebraism familiar in other words also, in which plural Nouns with a singular signification are made use of for the sake of excellency, or which denote dominion: in which way we may aptly be led to God’s highest and most excellent dignity, majesty, power, and efficacy: see BUXTORF’S Theses Grammaticas, book II, chapter II, page 326, 337, 338, chapter IX, page 406, 407. Thus Kimchi,[14] in his libro Radicum on the word אָדוֹן/Adon/Lord, writes, אֲדֺנָי בִּלְשׁוֹן רַבִּים לְכָבוֹד, Adonai is in the plural number for the sake of honor. In Michlol,[15]וְיֵשׁ שֶׁיָבוֹא הַיוֹד וְהַמֵּם בִּלְשׁוֹן תִּפְאֶרֶת עַל הַיּחִיד, there are those on whom the י and ם, that is, the plural number, come upon the singular for the sake of honor. And concerning the Names of the Lord in general Jarchi,[16]כָּל־לְשׁוֹן אַדְנוּת קָרוּי בִּלְשׁוֹן רַבִּים וַאֲפִילוּ יחִיד, Every term for God is expressed in the plural number, even concerning a singular. Add BUXTORF’S Dissertationem de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 43, 44; and LEUSDEN’S Philologum Hebræo-Græcum, Dissertation XXXII, pages 334, 335.

Jean Le Clerc

LE CLERC,[17] in his Commentario on Genesis 1:1, and in his Disseratione de Lingua Hebraica, prefixed to his Commentary on Genesis, expresses the opinion that the Hebrew Language is no other than that of which the Canaanites formerly made use: and that these, being idolaters and worshipping many gods, also used the word אֱלֹהִים/Elohim in the plural number, which the Hebrews retained; yet in such a way that they attributed to his plural word, אֱלֹהִים/Elohim, a singular meaning, as their doctrine concerning the one supreme God was requiring. But, 1. The learned Man thus assumes what is not yet placed beyond controversy, that the Canaanite Language was totally identical to the Hebrew Language. 2. Who would believe that Moses, who on all occasions leads the souls of the Israelites away from idolatry, wished to grant this to the Language of idolaters, that he would speak of God in exactly the same way as that? Indeed, this would have been the clearest possible path to instill in the minds of the Israelites a persuasion of πολυθεότηος/polytheism: to the declining of which rather, he ought to have rejected completely the Name in the plural number as a designation for the true God; unless its perpetual use and reception from the first origin of the hum race had prevented. 3. It would have been altogether absurd, if a word, which among the Canaanites, not only in termination, but also in signification, was only of the plural number, he had will to use to signify the one God. For, while the Canaanites, and the rest of the Heathen, were using the names of gods in the plural number, they were expressly professing their πολυθεότητα/polytheism. Learned Men observe that it is not able to be proven by even a single example, that by a Name in the plural number they were wont to designate one and the same true God. 4. And finally, what necessity had compelled Moses to this, since a Name in the singular number was not wanting, by which he might express the one and true God? Which strictures against Le Clerc I owe to the Most Illustrious BUDDEUS, Theologiæ dogmaticæ, book II, chapter I, § 3, page 261, tome I. The Most Illustrious VAN ALPHEN undertook painstakingly and earnestly to refute this opinion of Le Clerc, in his Commentario on Daniel 9, pages 119-125; and likewise DEYLING, in his Observationibus Sacris, part II, Observation II, § 16-26, pages 22-30. More, in whose works this opinion of Le Clerc is able to be found refuted, the Most Illustrious VRIEMOET supplies, Adnotationibus ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, part I, chapter III, page 125, who in part II, chapter XII, pages 326, 327, advises that Le Clerc in his hypothesis concerning the expression, to be the God of someone, derived from the household Gods of the Gentiles, acknowledged Liberium de Sancto Amore in Epistolis Theologicis, pages 285, as leading the way, adding: “Some believed that he (namely, Liberius) was Le Clerc himself, although he denied it, as the author of the Description of his Life testifies.” Against Ramsay, also comparing here the Gentile manner of speaking with that of the Hebrews, LELAND[18] disputes, de Utilitate et Necessitate Revelationis Christi, part I, section II, chapter XIV, pages 421, 422.

[1] Jacob Martini (1570-1649) was a Lutheran theologian. He served as Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at Wittenburg, and later as Professor of Theology (1623-1649).

[2] Marcus Marinus (1541-1594) was an Italian polyglot and a canon of Saint Salvatore in Brescia. He published his Hebrew lexicon, Arcam Noæ, in 1593.

[3] Peter Lombard (c. 1096-c. 1164), although of relatively humble birth, became a renowned theologian in Paris. His Four Books of Sentences served as a standard theological text at medieval universities.

[4] Johannes Cocceius (1603-1689) was born in Bremen, Germany, and went on to become Professor of Philology at the Gymnasium in Bremen (1630), held the chair of Hebrew (1630) and Theology (1643) at Franker, and was made Professor of Theology at Leiden (1650). He was the founder of the Cocceian school of covenant theology, bitter rival to the Voetian school.

[5] Thomas Erpenius (1584-1624) was a Dutch Orientalist, and was instrumental in establishing the study of Arabic in the West. He published a massively important Arabic grammar, and served as Professor of Arabic and Oriental languages (1613-1620), and Professor of Hebrew (1620-1624), in Leiden.

[6] Edward Pococke (1604-1691) was an English Orientalist, manuscript collector, and churchman. Archbishop Laud created a Chair of Arabic at Oxford, and Pococke was the first to fill it.

[7] Johann Heinrich Hottinger (1620-1667) was a Swiss Reformed theologian philologist. He served as Professor of Church History, Oriental Languages, and Rhetoric at Zurich (1642-1655), and later as Rector of the same (1661-1667), with a brief stay in Heidelberg as Professor of Oriental Languages (1655-1661).

[8] Abraham Calovius (1612-1686) was a champion of Lutheran orthodoxy. He served the University of Wittenberg as Professor of Theology, and later as general superintendent. He opposed Socinians, Roman Catholics, and Calvinists, denying the possibility of the salvation of any of these. His Systema locorum theologicorum stands at the apex of Lutheran scholastic orthodoxy.

[9] From his Animadversionibus philologicis in Jobum.

[10] Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) distinguished himself in the field of international law, but he was interested in many fields of learning, including Christian apologetics, theology, and Biblical criticism and exegesis. His dual interest in international law and theology caused him to run afoul of civil authorities: Embracing Arminian doctrine, he was imprisoned from 1618-1621 after the Synod of Dort declared against the position.

[11] See 1 Corinthians 8:5: “For though there be that are called gods (λεγόμενοι θεοί), whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many)…”

[12] Deuteronomy 10:17: “For the Lord your God is God of gods ה֚וּא אֱלֹהֵ֣י) הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים), and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward…”

[13] Psalm 136:2: “O give thanks unto the God of gods (לֵֽאלֹהֵ֣י הָאֱלֹהִ֑ים): for his mercy endureth for ever.”

[14] David Kimchi (c. 1160-1235) was a famous Spanish Rabbi. He wrote a commentary on the entire Old Testament and a Hebrew grammar, as a result of which he has long been respected for his profound scholarship.

[15] Michlol is an “encyclopedia” of Hebrew grammar written by Rabbi David Kimchi.

[16] The details of the life of Rabbi Salomon Jarchi (Solomon Jarchi ben Isaac) have been obscured by the mists of time. It is relatively safe to associate him with the eleventh century. He commented on the Talmud, and on the whole of the Hebrew Bible, the principal value of which is its preservation of traditional Jewish interpretation.

[17] Jean Le Clerc (1657-1736) was educated in Geneva, under the tutelage of Philippe Mestrezat and Francis Turretin, and ordained circa 1680. His sympathy for the theology of the Remonstrants made it impossible for him to continue in Geneva. He settled as Professor of Philosophy at Amsterdam (1684-1731). In his Sentimens, Le Clerc finds fault with much of Richard Simon’s work, but his critical approach to the Scripture is similar to that of Simon.

[18] John Leland (1691-1766) was an English Presbyterian minister. The focus of his authorship is the opposition of Deism.

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