Chapter 5: The Names of God

Table of Contents

When God gives names to persons or things, they are names which have meaning and give an insight into the nature of the persons or things designated. This also applies to the names which God has given Himself. Sometimes the Bible speaks of the name of God in the singular, and in such cases the term is a designation of the manifestation of God in general, especially in relation to His people (Exodus 20:7; Psalms 113:3); or simply stands for God Himself (Proverbs 18:10; Isaiah 50:10). The one general name of God is split up into several special names, which are expressive of His many-sided being. These names are not of human invention, but are given by God Himself.

1. The Old Testament Names of God

Some of the Old Testament names denote that God is the High and Exalted One.

‘El and ‘Elohim indicate that He is strong and mighty and should therefore be feared, while ‘Elyon points to His exalted nature as the Most High, the object of reverence and worship.

Another name belonging to this class is ‘Adonai, usually rendered “Lord,” the Possessor and Ruler of all men.

Other names express the fact that God enters into relations of friendship with His creatures. One of these, common among the patriarchs, was the name Shaddai or ‘El-Shaddai, which indeed stresses the divine greatness, but as a source of comfort and blessing for His people. It indicates that God controls the powers of nature, and makes them serve His purposes.

The greatest name of God, however, always held sacred by the Jews, is the name Jehovah (Yahweh). Its origin and meaning is indicated in Exodus 3:14-15. It expresses the fact that God is always the same, and especially that He is unchangeable in His covenant relationship, and is always faithful in the fulfillment of His promises. It frequently assumes a fuller form in “Jehovah of Hosts.” This calls up the picture of Jehovah as the King of Glory surrounded by angelic hosts.

2. The New Testament Names of God

The New Testament names are simply the Greek forms of those found in the Old Testament. The following deserve particular attention:

a. The name Theos. This is simply the word for ‘God,’ and is the most common name employed in the New Testament. It is frequently found with a possessive genitive as ‘my God,’ ‘thy God,’ ‘our God,’ ‘your God.’ In Christ God is the God of each one of His children. The individual form takes the place of the national form, ‘the God of Israel,’ so common in the Old Testament.

b. The name Kurios. This is the word for ‘Lord,’ a name that is applied not only to God but also to Christ. It takes the place of both ‘Adonai and Jehovah, though its meaning corresponds more particularly with that of ‘Adonai. It designates God as the Possessor and Ruler of all things, and especially of His people.

c. The name Pater. It is often said that the New Testament introduced this as a new name. But this is hardly correct, for the name ‘Father’ is also found in the Old Testament to express the special relation in which God stands to Israel, Deut. 32:6; Isa. 63:16. In the New Testament it is more individual in that it points to God as the Father of all believers. Sometimes it designates God as the creator of all, I Cor. 8:6; Eph. 3:14; Heb. 12:9; Jas. 1:17, and sometimes the first Person of the Trinity as the Father of Christ, John 14:11; 17:1.


To memorize:

Passages bearing on:

a. The name of God in general:

  • Exodus 20:7 – “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
  • Psalm 8:1 – For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!

b. Particular names:

  • Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
  • Exodus 6:3 – and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but [by] My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.
  • Psalm 86:8 – There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord, Nor are there any works like Yours.
  • Malachi 3:6 – “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.
  • Matthew 6:9 – “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
  • Revelation 4:8 – And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY [is] THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.”


For Further Study:

a. What light does Ex. 8:13-16 shed on the meaning of the name Jehovah?

Exodus 3:13-16 – Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations. “Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I am indeed concerned about you and what has been done to you in Egypt.

b. What name of God was rather common in the times of the patriarchs?

  • Genesis 17:1 – Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless.
  • Genesis 28:3 – “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples.
  • Genesis 35:11 – God also said to him, “I am God Almighty; Be fruitful and multiply; A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, And kings shall come forth from you.
  • Genesis 43:14 – and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”
  • Genesis 48:3 – Then Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me,
  • Genesis 49:25 – From the God of your father who helps you, And by the Almighty who blesses you [With] blessings of heaven above, Blessings of the deep that lies beneath, Blessings of the breasts and of the womb.
  • Exodus 6:3 – and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but [by] My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.

c. Can you give some descriptive names of God?

  • Isaiah 48:3, 15 – “I declared the former things long ago And they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. … “I, even I, have spoken; indeed I have called him, I have brought him, and He will make his ways successful.
  • Isaiah 44:6 – “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me.
  • Amos 4:13 – For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind And declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness And treads on the high places of the earth, The LORD God of hosts is His name.
  • Luke 1:78 – Because of the tender mercy of our God, With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3 – Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
  • 2 Corinthians 11:31 – The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.
  • Joshua 1:17 – “Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses.
  • Hebrews 12:9 – Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?
  • Revelation 1:8, 17 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” … When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,


Questions for Review:

  1. What does Scripture mean when it speaks of the name of God in the singular?
  2. Are the special names of God of human origin?
  3. What two kinds of names do we distinguish in the Old Testament?
  4. What is the meaning of the names ‘Elohim, Jehovah, ‘Adonai, ‘El Shaddai, and Kurios?
  5. Is the name Father ever applied to God in the Old Testament?
  6. In what different senses is this name used in the New Testaments?
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