De Moor IV:5: Hebrew Names for God: עֶלְיוֹן/Elyon

[D] עֶלְיוֹן/Elyon, lofty, high, the highest, according to BUXTORF, Dissertatione de Nominibus Dei Hebraicis, § 61, and BUDDEUS, Institutionibus Theologiæ dogmaticæ, book II, chapter I, § 3, page 252: it is more correctly referred to the Epithets of God, than to His Names; with LEUSDEN dissenting, Philologo Hebræo-Græco, Dissertation XXXI, § 10, according to whom עֶלְיוֹן/Elyon, at least in many passages is a divine Name, and the reasons that appear to urge to the contrary do not appear to him to be of such weight that for that reason it would be necessary to prefer the opposite opinion. Otherwise, concerning the derivation and signification of this word no controversy is able to be allowed. For it is derived from עָלָה, to ascend; and God is denominated by the word עֶלְיוֹן/ Elyon from the Height and Loftiness, both of His heavenly Habitation, Psalm 113:4-6, and of His Perfection above all creatures, Job 11:7, 8, and of His Power over these, Psalm 97:9, and of the Glory and Praise proper to Him, Psalm 8:1.


In this same sense and from the same root God is perhaps called עָל/Al, יָשׁ֣וּבוּ׀ לֹ֣א עָ֗ל, they returned, but not to the Most High, Hosea 7:16; likewise also in 2 Samuel 23:1, in which is הֻ֣קַם עָ֔ל, who was appointed or raised up by the Highest, and appears to correspond to מְשִׁ֙יחַ֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב, the anointed of the God of Jacob. In any event, this acceptation of the word עָל/Al our AUTHOR, both on the passage cited from Hosea, and on 2 Samuel 23:1, prefers to others in his Exercitatione on 2 Samuel 23:1, which is Exercitation XII, Part II, Exercitationibus textualibus, where, after having made mention in § 1 of the less credible expositions of the Septuagint and Vulgate, which in this place took על as a preposition to be referred to the following words,[1] and of those that follow these translations; in § 2 he explains the opinion of those that take עָל either as an adverb, highly, on high; or as an adjective, high, lofty; in both which manners the עָל is suitably referred to David himself, lifted by royal dignity above all the rest of the people unto the sublime, as the immediately following things more expressly declare: nevertheless, in § 3 he indicates that it is more satisfying to him that the name עָל/Lofty be here referred, not to David, but directly to God Himself, of which Lofty One David is said to be established, or lifted up, or confirmed:


1. Because God is quite frequently addressed by עֶלְיוֹן/Elyon and similar names, Lofty, even עִלָּיָא or עִלָּאָה, the Most High, in Daniel 3; 4; 7: and by this word עָל God is called the Lofty One in Hosea 7:16, where it is pointed with a Qametz (ָ), and in Hosea 11:7, where it is a Patach (ַ).[2] The Name of the Lofty One is suited to God with the greatest emphasis, which emphasis, if it is able to be done, is rather to retained than that we might here refer the word עָל/Lofty to a man. Especially when the establishment of the King is treated, in which God most clearly demonstrates His own loftiness, Daniel 4:17, 25, 32; 5:18, 21.


2. Because הֻקַם, the one that was raised up, is pointed with a Patach (ַ), which leads us to the construct state. “I know,” says our AUTHOR, “that this word is usually held as the past perfect, inasmuch as the present participle in the Hophal is less common; nevertheless, because thus an ellipsis of the relative pronoun is obliged to be placed here, and then, not the words, but the names of anointed and sweet correspond to that, I am completely convinced that this is the present Participle, or a participial Name thence arising, which in its absolute form differs from the past tense by a Qametz (ָ) subscripted in the place of the Patach (ַ), as with Kimchi Buxtorf formerly noted in a general way concerning this sort of participle:” see BUXTORF’S Theses Grammaticas, book I, chapter XVIII, page 139, chapter XLI, page 224, “Whence, since there is a Patach (ַ) here, not a Qametz (ָ), it appears that הֻקַם is not here joined by apposition, but rather governs the following עָל as its Genitive. Which bears the most apt sense, namely, that David is called a man, whether now established, or lifted and raised up, or confirmed of the Lofty One, that is, by the Lofty One, so that he might act the part of His vicarious king, as it were, over the Israelite people for His glory.”


3. Because thus this description in substance and in the manner of its construction elegantly agrees with what follows, namely, the Anointed of the God of Jacob; yet in such a way that a sufficient distinction remains in the manner of signification. That is, there in the place of the participle of the one raised up is the Name of the Anointed; so that we might know that not whatever sort of establishment or lifting up is noted, but rather Kingship, and that sufficiently solemn through the application of oil also, which truly happened to David. Moreover, in that place is subjoined in the Genitive, in the place of the Name of the Lofty One, which is able to have regard to all creatures as subject to God, the other Name of the God of Jacob, which expresses God’s special relationship to Israel; so that the kingdom of David might be declared unto this nation, and God’s special care of it, from which that Anointing of David had flowed.


In a similar manner, among the Gentiles Jupiter is called Altus/ High/Lofty, in OVID’S Metamorphosibus, book XV, verse 866, and in general the high Gods,


…King and Father of the High Gods,


in Fastis, book III, verse 334. And, just as God is called עֶלְיוֹן/Elyon, among other things, from the loftiness of His authority, so Jupiter in HESIOD’S Θεογονίᾳ, verse 529, is also called Ζεὺς Ὀλύμπιος ὑψιμέδων, Olympian Zeus ruling on high.

[1] 2 Samuel 23:1: “Now these be the last words of David. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob (הֻ֣קַם עָ֔ל מְשִׁ֙יחַ֙ אֱלֹהֵ֣י יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב; ὃν ἀνέστησεν κύριος ἐπὶ χριστὸν θεοῦ Ἰακὼβ, whom the Lord raised up to be the Christ of the God of Jacob, in the Septuagint; cui constitutum est de christo Dei Jacob, to whom it was appointed concerning the Christ of the God of Jacob, in the Vulgate), and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said…”


[2] Hosea 11:7: “And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High (וְאֶל־עַל֙ יִקְרָאֻ֔הוּ), none at all would exalt him.”

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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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