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Names of God in the Bible – What Do They Mean?

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December 17th, 2017
  

The Name of God Revealed in the Old Testament

God has always been in the business of revealing His character to humanity through various means. One of the most significant of which was through His name — or names. Read on to discover names of God in the Bible.

In Scripture and in the Hebrew culture, a name carries a concept of identity. It speaks of a person’s destiny, power, authority or calling.

For example, look at Jacob. His name meant ‘one who grabs the heel’. God renamed him ‘Israel’, the one who prevails (in a fight with God no less). God was unveiling a destiny. Not only of a man, but of a whole nation who would prevail.

I AM or YHVH

The first personal name God reveals to mankind in Scripture is perhaps the most significant of them all. In Exodus 3 God speaks to Moses through a burning bush. He tells Moses to go to Pharaoh to release His people from slavery.

With fearful hesitancy, Moses questioned by what authority he could approach the people of Israel and Pharaoh. After all, it was such a foreboding game plan. So, He asked God in what name he should tell the people he was sent.

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’… Say to this people of Israel: ‘I AM’ has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:13-14).

God revealed a name to Moses. And in that name, He would shake the dynasty of Egypt, part the Red Sea, and release the whole nation of Israel from slavery!

The Holy Name of God

This name of God appears in the Hebrew Scriptures over 6,000 times. That is over twice as many as all the other names and titles of God in the OT combined!

In Hebrew the name is spelled יהוה, which is often translated into English letters ‘YHVH’. The exact pronunciation of this name is debated. But its meaning derives from the concept of being or existence.

Jewish scholars considered the name to be too holy to utter. This is why when the Scriptures are read in synagogues, you will never hear the name said out loud. Instead, when the Word of God says YHVH, Jewish people say ‘Adonai’ instead.

God Is

Philosophically speaking, the great ‘I Am’ is foundational and sufficient. Before any other characteristic can be ascribed to God, He first is. He is before He can be anything else.

The YHVH letters are also extremely telling. The identifiers for the Hebrew future, present, and past are all represented in this name. It is not a biblical explanation, but one can notice the merging of all three tenses. Yehiye – will be, hove – to be (present), and haya – was.

In plain English, God’s name not only connotes His present existence. YHVH could mean that He has always existed and He always will!

Biblical Name of God: Holy One of Israel

A unique name of God is the “Holy One of Israel.” It shows God’s intimate relationship with the Jewish people.

Not only did He choose Israel as a people to be called by His name (2 Chronicles 7:14). But He also identified Himself by their name. The title Holy One of Israel expresses God’s relational heart!

This is very clearly displayed in 2 Kings 19:21-22, when the Lord rebukes the King of Assyria for his evil treatment and scorn of Zion and Jerusalem:

“Whom have you mocked and reviled? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes to the heights? Against the Holy One of Israel.”

God considered an attack against Israel to be a direct attack against Himself. And He used the title “Holy One of Israel” as the one who was insulted, to prove His point.

God’s Name in the New Testament

How did the Jewish people address God in the New Testament? The Gospels make it pretty clear that many were familiar with calling God ‘Father’.

But God’s character is perhaps ultimately revealed through the name of His Son. We know Him as Jesus, but in Hebrew His name carries a great meaning. Yeshua, Hebrew for ‘Jesus’, means ‘YHWH will save’ and ‘Salvation’.

In Matthew 1:21 we are introduced to this name and the powerful destiny attached to it:

“She will bear a son and you shall call His name Yeshua, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Yeshua: The Name Above All Names

In a final cosmic act of complete identification, Yeshua took on “human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross…

“God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess Yeshua [the] Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-10)

Everyone will bow at the name “YHVH Saves”. Every tongue will confess, “YHVH Saves” is Lord!

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord!

From just these three names we learn that God eternally exists. He is passionately relational and He is the Anointed Savior of the world.

There is something powerful about declaring a name. It commands attention and invokes authority based on identity.

Several FIRM Members have local congregations that identify with a name of God. They declare this aspect of His nature to the community around them. Check out a few of them below:

Adonai Roi – the Lord is my Shepherd

Beit Immanuel – the House of Immanuel, God with us

Ahavat Yeshua – the Love of Jesus

Melech HamlachimKing of Kings

Nachalat Yeshua – Yeshua’s Inheritance

Make the Name of God Famous in Israel by Transforming Lives

Are you looking for a way to impact Israel? FIRM has an opportunity for you to transform lives in Israel in the name of Yeshua (Jesus).

The Tribe is a passionate and faithful group of monthly donors on a mission to transform lives in Israel through the love of Jesus. Join the Tribe today: firmisrael.org/thetribe

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

FIRM is a global fellowship of Biblically-grounded believers committed to cultivating Messiah-centered relationships that bless the inhabitants of Israel—Jews, Arabs, and others—and the Jewish community around the world.
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