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ELOHIM = The Plural God

Written by: Unknown    Posted on: 05/07/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

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                          ELOHIM = The Plural God

  "Without claiming too much, I think is is fair to say that [the] opening chapters of Genesis do seem to indicate a reciprocal plurality in God.  They do not state it or conclusively imply it, but they at once take us by surprise and prepare for further disclosures on the subject.  Everytime we read, "And God said," "God saw," "God made," "God created," it is the plural ELOHIM with a singular verb. What is even more arresting is that each time we have the compound name, JEHOVAH ELOHIM, Jehovah is singular yet is linked with the plural, ELOHIM, surely suggesting a divine unity.  And, perhaps most strikingly of all, that uni-plurality is again expressed in connection with man's expulsion from Eden.  See chapter 3:22-24: "And Jehovah [singular] Gods [plural]...so He [God: singular pronoun] drove out the man, and He [God: singular] placed...cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life."  To say the least, it seems persuasively indicate that God is somehow a plurality in unity.


  Weighty confirmation of this comes in the declaration of Deuteronomy 6:4,5, which the Jews have always taken as their prime proof-text that God is an absolute numerical one.   "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and thou shalt love the LORD with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy might."   That is the wording as in our King James Version and in other standard versions, except that some give the name, JEHOVAH, instead of "LORD" in capitols.

  This is the great SHEMA, or "Hear..." with which the Jewish synagogue starts the daily liturgy morning and evening, and which every Jew is suppose to repeat at least once daily.  It comes second in the 'Thirteen Principles of Jewish Faith' as drawn up by Maimonides in the twelfth century.  Our Lord Jesus Himself has set His seal that this is the foundation pronouncement and the "first commandment" of the Mosaic law (Mark 12:29,30).  It is the basis of both Jewish and Christian monotheism; and by both Jewish and Gentile unitarians it has been seized upon as being supposedly fatal to our Christian doctrine of the divine tri-unity.  "There, now" they say, "nothing could be plainer.  God is a moneity, not a plurality.  He is one, not three, for Deuteronomy 6:4 says, 'Jehovah our God is ONE Jehovah.'"   Yet the stubborn fact is that he Hebrew wording of this bedrock statement gives us one of the clearest pointers to the triunity of God anywhere in the Bible.  Few Jews (and perhaps far too few Christians) know the exact meaning of the original Hebrew word, for it is partly lost in translation.  A literal translation of verse 4 would read:

  "Hear, O Israel: Jehovah [singular] our Gods [plural] is Jehovah ECHAD [echad--a unity].

  Does the Hebrew really say "our Gods" (plural)?  It does.  The Hebrew plural for "our Gods" is ELOHENU, from ELOHIM which is the plural of ELOAH. Just as IM is the Hebrew plural in words like seraphin, and cherubim, so is ENU the plural possessive pronoun-suffix denoting things which belong to us, as for instance ABBOTHENU (our fathers) in Numbers 20:15, and PESHA'ENU (our transgressions) and AVONOTHENU (our iniquites) in Isaiah 53:5.  So Deuteronomy 6:4 does indeed say, "Jehovah our Gods."

  Now look at that Hebrew word, ECHAD: "Jehovah our Gods is Jehovah ECHAD." Admittedly it is right to translate it as "Jehovah our Gods is ONE Jehovah," so long as we understand that ECHAD means "one" collectively or unitedly, not one as an absolute digit.  That adjective, ECHAD, derives from ACHAD which means to unify or to collect together.   On looking it up in the Old Testament, I find that it occurs well over SIX HUNDRED TIMES, so we easily can ascertain its common use and meaning.  The Hebrew language has an alternative word for "one," i.e., YACHID (feminine, YACHIDA) which does not often occur in our Old Testament but is the word used whenever an only one is meant, or a single unit, as when Isaac is called Abraham's "only son," and Jephthah's daughter his "only daughter."  Even that word can and sometimes does mean a kind of group one, though more loosely than ECHAd.  Its main emphasis is that of a single enitity; and presumably that is the word that would have been used in Deuteronomy 6:4 if a mathematical oneness of God had been meant.

  We come back, then, to that word, ECHAD.  Those who insist it always means a uni-plurality (so it seems to me) are over-streching, for again and again it is used of a single thing or person; but this is certainly true, that when a compound "one" is meant to be emphasied, ECHAD is the word used.  It is used to express the oneness of evening and morning in one day, as in Genesis 1:5, "There was evening and there was morning, ONE day"; ALSO THE DUAL ONENESS OF WEDLOCK, AS IN GENESIS 2:24, "THEY TWO SHALL BE -ONE- FLESH."    It denotes a multi-unit in Genesis 11:6, "Behold, they are ONE people," as it does also several times in Exodus 26, "And thou shalt make fifty clasps of brass and put the clasps into the loops and couple the tent together that it may be ONE."  It is the word used in such phrases as "ONE cluster of grapes" (Numbers 13:23), "ONE company" (1 Samuel 13:17), "One troop" (2 Samuel 2:25), "ONE tribe" (1 Kings 11:13), "ONE nation" (1 Chronicles 17:21).

  That is how it must be taken in Deuteronomy 6:4, after the plural ELOHENU ("our Gods").  What that great Shema says is "HEAR, O ISRAEL, JEHOVAH OUR GODS IS JEHOVAH A UNITY."

We may well appeal to the millions of Jews who still believe in the authentic inspiration of Tenach (our Old Testament) to take careful note of ECHAD and the plural ELOHENU (our Gods) in Deuteronomy 6:4.  In the THIRTEEN PRINCIPLES OF JEWISH FAITH, which is meant to be the standard guide for all Jews, why have the Jewish scholars who framed it changed that ECHAD in Deuteronomy 6 to that other word, YACHID?  They were Hebrew specialists. They well knew the difference between ECHAD (a plural unity) and the other word, which denotes a single unity.  As already mentioned, ECHAD is from the root ACHAD which means to collect together; and to this day ACHAD retains that meaning; for a Hebrew dictionary recently published (1949) in the new State of Israel gives the English equivalent of MU'ACHAD as "collective."  Why then was ECHAD changed to YACHID in the THIRTEEN PRINCIPLES OF JEWISH FAITH?  Undoubtedly that switch has much influenced general Jewish thinking as to the being of Jehovah.

  In the "Authorized Daily Prayer Book of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Empire," sanctioned by the late Chief Rabbi, Dr. N.M. Adler, YACHID is used of the eternal one, whereas Tenach (the Old Testament) never uses that word of Jehovah.  Strikingly enough, though, there is one instance in which it is used of the Messiah, and where it remarkably confirms what we are saying here.  The passage is Zechariah 12:10-14.  We Christians believe that the "pierced" one in verse 12 is our Lord Jesus Christ.  As we put in capitols, for it is the Hebrew YACHID.

  "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they mourn for Him as one mourneth for His ONLY Son, and shall be in bitterness for His firstborn."   And on the heels of that see chapter 14:9, where twice in one verse the collective unit, ECHAD, is used of Jehovah as being a compound or collective "one."   "And Jehovah shall be King over all the earth.  In that day there shall be ONE Jehovah, and His Name ONE."   In view of such ample evidence, let it be grasped once for all that what Deuteronomy 6:4 really says is "HEAR, O ISRAEL, JEHOVAH OUR GODS IS JEHOVAH A UNITY."  Through defective transmission of its meaning, Jewish thought about God has been diverted from trinitarian monotheism to unitarian monotheism

  Most Jews think that we Christians are tri-theists, worshiping a trinity of deities of whom two are not truly God.  What we must keep telling them is that we are as monotheistic as the most orthodox Jew, that we worship the same eternal Jehovah and that our trinitarian worship of Jehovah we own origianlly to their own Jewish Scriptures.   I have seen the surprise among Jewish friends when the wording of their great "Shema" (Deuteronomy 6:4,5) has been truly interpretated to them.  That solemn word of God through Moses was DIRECTED NOT ONLY AGAINST POLYTHEISM BUT AGAINST MONOTHEISTIC UNITARIANISM, i.e., the worship of God as numerically one instead of complexly one.

My special thanks to J. Sidlow Baxter....'Majesty: The God You Should Know'

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