From Praying the Names of Jesus Week One, Day One
Elohim is the Hebrew word for God that appears in the very first sentence of the Bible. When we pray to Elohim, we remember that he is the one who began it all, creating the heavens and the earth and separating light from darkness, water from dry land, night from day. This ancient name for God contains the idea of God's creative power as well as his authority and sovereignty. Jesus used a form of the name in his agonized prayer from the cross. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
GOD REVEALS HIS NAME
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light." God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, "Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters." God called the dome Sky.
And God said, "Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear." God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. Then God said, "Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it."
And God said, "Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night." And God said, "Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky."
And God said, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind."
Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. (Selected from Genesis 1 NRSV)
Elohim, Mighty One, you made everything out of nothing, imposed order on chaos, gave birth to beauty, and called it all good. Help me to know you as the one true God who created everything and everyone, the one who has placed me on the earth for a purpose—to magnify your name.Amen.
Understanding the Name
Elohim (e-lo-HEEM) is the plural form of El or Eloah, one of the oldest designations for divinity in the world. The Hebrews borrowed the term El from the Canaanites. It can refer either to the true God or to pagan gods. Though El is used more than 200 times in the Hebrew Bible, Elohim is used more than 2,500 times. Its plural form is used not to indicate a belief in many gods but to emphasize the majesty of the one true God. He is the God of gods, the highest of all. Christians may recognize in this plural form a hint of the Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Elohim occurs thirty-two times in the first chapter of Genesis. After that the name Yahweh appears as well and is often paired with Elohim and, in the NIV, the two together are translated "the LORD God."
Studying the Name
- "Genesis" is a word that can mean "birth," "history of origin," or "genealogy." What can you observe about who God is from this passage about beginnings?
- What can you observe about the world he has made?
- What do you think it means to be created in "the image of God"? How would your life change if you lived with the constant awareness that he created you to bear his image?
- God seems delighted by what he has made, proclaiming it good and even very good. How does God's assessment of creation shape your own attitude toward the world? Toward yourself?