De Moor IV:5: Hebrew Names for God: אֵל/El

Updated: Feb 24, 2019

Herman Venema

The several Hebrew Names of God lead us to His individual Attributes, observes our AUTHOR, as אֵל/El is derived from אול, or איל, and denotes strength. Indeed, our AUTHOR appears thus to think rightly; since this name occurs in the place of power and ability, Proverbs 3:27;[1] etc.: and, although the word אֵל/El, posited absolutely and used concerning God, in the singular designates only the true God according to the observation of the Most Illustrious VENEMA,[2] Commentario on Daniel 11:36, § CLXXXII, page 370, who hence in that place translates the text in Ezekiel 31:11, וְאֶ֙תְּנֵ֔הוּ בְּיַ֖ד אֵ֣יל גּוֹיִ֑ם, I shall deliver him into hand of the power of the nations; nevertheless, in the plural אֵלִים is found concerning δυνάσταις, powers, strengths, among creatures, whether it have regard to angels or to men, Ezekiel 32:21;[3] Exodus 15:11;[4] Psalm 29:1;[5] Daniel 11:36;[6] etc.; consult again VENEMA’S Commentarium on Daniel 11:36, § CLXXXIV, pages 372, 373. It seems that this Etymology is certainly to be preferred to the other, which nevertheless DEYLING[7] prefers, Observationibus Sacris, part I, Observation X, § 5, appealing also to the consent of SEBASTIAN SCHMIDT;[8] according to which Etymology אֵל/El is cut from אֱלוֹהַּ/Eloah, as this twofold derivation of this Name is mentioned by BUXTORF in his Lexico Hebraico on the word אֵל/El, and likewise in his Dissertatione de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 45; and by LEUSDEN in his Philologo Hebræo-Græco, Dissertation XXXI, § 7: but both lend their support to the former, just as BUXTORF has it in his Dissertatione de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 45, “The Name אֵל/El with respect to its form appears to derive its origin from Words quiescent in their second radical ו/waw or י/yod. Hence by most it is derived from אול/strength/solidity, whence in Psalm 73:4, וּבָרִ֥יא אוּלָֽם׃, and their strength is firm: or from אֱיָל or אֵל, strength, virtue, power, etc. Thus אֵל/ EL is properly the strong God, so called from His ultimate strength and power, whereby He is not only preeminent over all creatures, but is also the fountain and principium of all Virtue and Power in them: comparing Exodus 15:11; Psalm 89:7; Daniel 11:36, אֵ֣ל אֵלִ֔ים, El Elim, the strongest of all the strong, etc. This is the reason that by most Interpreters this name, when it is used of God, is not simply rendered God, but the strong/ mighty God, etc.” But thus, as the Most Illustrious VRIEMOET observes, in part I of Adnotationum ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, chapter III, pages 118-121, an anomaly will obtain in the proper names אֱלִיאֵל/Eliel, אֶלְנָתָן/Elnathan, אֱלִימֶלֶךְ/Elimelech, and others, in which the tzere (ֵ) of the Name אֵל/El is changed into a segol (ֶ) or hateph-segol (ֱ); which ought not to be done analogically, if the tzere (ֵ) is compensating for the defection of the letter י/yod. Hence Vriemoet believes that אֵל/El is nothing other than the pronoun אֵל/those, with which God might be distinguished κατ᾽ ἐξοχὴν, in a preeminent manner, as thus the Greeks and Latins are wont often to use αὐτὸς, he himself, ἐκεῖνος, that one, ille, that one, of someone on account of preeminent excellence. He does indeed see that the plural notion of the pronoun אֵל/those hinders somewhat: but he says that the reason for the plural number is the same here as in אֱלֹהִים/Elohim. That PLACÆUS[9] and GUSSETIUS[10] thought the same things concerning the Name אֵל/El, the Most Illustrious Man candidly relates: see the place: add part II of Adnotationum ad Dicta classica Veteris Testamenti, chapter X, pages 177, 178, in which this Celebrated Man explains the emphasis of the expression, when to the word אֵל is prefixed the article ה, הָאֵל, as it is in Psalm 68:19, 20,[11] which he renders, this very God, He Himself. But compare VAN ALPHEN in his Commentario on Daniel 9:4, pages 142-146, where he knowingly places his own considerations opposite to the arguments of Gussetius against the common derivation of this Name from the root איל, or אול. With respect to the anomaly