Names of God

In English we use names as handles to identify each other. (Even though English names generally have meanings the meanings are not usually considered important.) The Bible uses the notion of a name more as a description than a handle. In the Bible names have meanings that are generally important to the story. When it comes to God there is more than a little confusion about the name of God these days. This stems from a general lack of understanding of the Jewish and Christian concepts of God and the use of names in the Bible. To the Jew and Christian, God is a God who is outside our physical reality yet condescends to reveal Himself to those of us who are inside of our reality. This God is unique and because of this understanding it is unnecessary to distinguish Him from any other gods there might be. So, from the perspective of most English translations, the Bible does not worry about God's name until we, along with Moses, arrive at the burning bush in Exodus 3. At this point in the story there is a need to distinguish between the God who is sending Moses to deliver Israel and the other gods there might be, specifically in this story, the Egyptian gods including Pharaoh himself. When Moses asks for God's name he gets a rather odd answer that has perplexed translators ever since:

13 Then Moses said to God, "When I come to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" 14 And God said to Moses, "Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh." He continued, "Thus shall you say to the Israelites, 'Ehyeh sent me to you.'" 15 And God said further to Moses, "Thus shall you speak to the Israelites: '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 will be my name forever,
This is my appellation [name or title] for all eternity. (Exodus 3.13-15 JPS)

God said his name is "Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh" which the Jewish Publication Society does not translate, perhaps because their target audience has some understanding of the following material. Most other English Bibles do translate the phrase, for example, the King James version renders it: "I Am that I Am" and subsequently uses the phrase as a proper name for God.  

Here is why there is a translation difficulty:  

Ehyeh is the first-person singular imperfect form of hayah, "to be" so, Ehyeh is usually translated "I will be." This is because the imperfect tense in Hebrew tells us that the action is not yet completed. Asher is a pronoun which can mean, depending on context, "that", "who", "which", or "where." So while Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh is generally rendered in English "I am that I am," it might be that a better renderings might be "I will be what I will be" or "I will be who I will be", or "I shall prove to be whatsoever I shall prove to be" or even "I will be because I will be." Other renderings include: "I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE"; "I Will Become whatsoever I please." Some of these will be familiar from footnotes in your Bible. The problem is not unique to English translations, the Greek phrase, Ego eimi ho on (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν), "I am The Being" is the translation used in the Septuagint, and the writings of Philo. The point being that God is wholly other, He is the self-existing one, The Being. Both Greek and English being somewhat more concrete than Hebrew. The phrase points to the uniqueness of God.

Assuming that we have all arrived at verse 15 we still need to tackle 'The Lord,' which is a substitution (rather than a translation) that appears in many Bibles. This substitution is used to indicate the Tetragrammaton, יהוה, (YHVH; Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei) which is really more a symbol than a name.

...Yod-Hei-Vav-Hei (YHVH).... is often referred to as the Ineffable Name, the Unutterable Name or the Distinctive Name. Linguistically, it is related to the Hebrew root Hei-Yod-Hei (to be), and reflects the fact that God's existence is eternal. In scripture, this Name is used when discussing God's relation with human beings, and when emphasizing his qualities of lovingkindness and mercy. It is frequently shortened to Yah (Yod-Hei), Yahu or Yeho (Yod-Hei-Vav), especially when used in combination with names or phrases, as in Yehoshua (Joshua, meaning "the Lord is my Salvation"), Eliyahu (Elijah, meaning "my God is the Lord"), and Halleluyah ("praise the Lord"). (Judasim 101)

At some point in history the Jews stopped pronouncing the name and so the original pronunciation is lost. The meaning, however, hearkens back to God's first answer God gave Moses which indicates that God is past, present and future all at once. All of this is really only part of the problem we limited imperfect creatures have trying to relate to our God and creator. This is why there are various "names" used for God in the Bible. Because God is more than we can comprehend there could not be one way to describe Him fully. Again we need to remember that the name in the Bible is more a description than a handle. 

Many of the names for God fall into broad categories that can be divided as follows:

Name Translation Rendered in many Bibles Comment
Adonai Lord, Master or owner  lord

Adonai is actually the plural form of Adon but it is functionally singular when used to refer to God.  In Hebrew the verbs and modifiers in the sentences must agree with the nouns.  When Adonai is used to refer to God the verbs and other modifiers are singular. Some call this an emphatic plural.

Some translations use Adonai to substitute for the Tetragrammiton (see below). 

El/Elohim The name of God as the creator and judge of the universe. God

Most commonly it is thought that Elohim is the masculine plural form of El. There are some who think that it is from Elo'ah or Eloi.  El is also sometimes used for the god of the Canaanites and elohim is sometime translated the gods. Depending on the context.  (see Words for God

Jehova or Yahweh

The Tetragrammiton
(Yod Hei Vav Hei)

This is the most common name used for God in the Hebrew Bible. In current Jewish practice this name is not pronounced. Although this has not always been the case and it is unclear as to when this taboo entered the tradition. Theophoric names containing the diminuative "Ja" are common.

In Jewish tradition, when this name of God occures in the text HaShem is substituted. 

HaShem The Name   Used in Jewish tradition as a substitue for the unpronounceable Tetragrammiton when reading scripture. This is likely the reason for the use of Lord described above.


In the Bible the above names are used with other modifiers to describe God as in the following table.  There are other descriptions of God that are more from context than from complex constructions that could be also be constreued names they are in the next table.  

Construction notice: As with most of this site I pinch much of this material from the references below paste it together and then work to harmonize it. This is often a messy process and these tables are proving to be a monumental task. As I am a language hacker rather than a language scholar the Hebrew transliterations are inconsistent a best and so the links do not line up with the table at this stage. 


Name Story Example
Hebrew English
Adon - lord
Adonai Lord  Israel Encouraged to Follow God's Guidance Gen 15.2 Dt 10:17
Adonai Tsuvah The Lord my salvation A Psalm of repentance: The whole psalm is a good example of how many of the names of God are used poetically and often interchangeably.  Ps. 38:22
Adonai-Tzva’ot Lord of Hosts The introductory section of Isaiah listing the national sins of Judah and proving the need for a prophet. Is 3:1
Adonai Yir'eh The LORD Will Provide Abraham - at the 'lifting up' of Isaac. The Lord provided the sacrifice to redeem Isaac,  so it is said in the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.  Gen 22.13-14
Adonai Rof'echah The LORD Who Heals you Israel on the receiving of the covenant. Ex 15.26
Adonai Nisi The LORD (my) Banner Moses - when the Amalekites are defeated Ex 17.15; 19.4-6
Adonai M'kadishchem The LORD Who Sanctifies (you) Israel - Reinforcing the sabbath during the construction of the tabernacle. Ex 31.13
Adonoi YHWH TSABA The Lord, the LORD Almighty The introductory section of Isaiah listing the national sins of Judah and proving the need for a prophet. Is. 3:1
Adonai Eloheinu The LORD (our) God The Shema Deut 6.4, 5
Adonai Roee The LORD (my) Shepherd David - the Shepherd Psalm Psalm 23
Adonai Tz'vaot The LORD of Hosts A Psalm of David Psalm 24
El - God
EL God This is the end of the story where Jacob meets Essau on his return from Haran.   Gen. 33:20
EL AMAN Faithful God This is part of the story where Israel is commanded to destroy the Canaanites and their idols Deut. 7:9
EL-BERITH God of the Covenant   Judges 9:46
EL CHUWL The God who gave you Birth   Deut. 32:18
EL DEAH God of Knowledge   1 Sa. 2:3
EL-ELYON Most High   Deut. 26:19; Ps. 18:13; Gen. 14:18; Nu.24:16
EL GADOL GIBOR YARE The Great, Mighty, Awesome God   Deut. 10:17
EL GHAH'Y Living God   Jos. 3:10
EL-GIBHOR Mighty God   Is. 9:6
EL G'MULAH JEHOVAH The LORD, God of Vengeance   Jer. 51:56
EL HAKABODH God of Glory   Ps. 29:2
EL KAHVOHD God of Glory   Ps. 29:3
EL MELECH God the King   Ps. 68:24
EL MOHSHAHGOTH God of Salvation   Ps. 68:20
EL NAHSAH God who Forgives   Ps. 99:8
EL NATHAN N'QAMAH God who Avenges for Me   Ps. 18:47
EL-OLAM Everlasting God   Gen. 21:33; Ps.90:1-3, 93:2; Is. 26:4
EL RACHUM Merciful God   Deut 4:13
El Roee The God who sees (me) Hagar - when she has been sent away Gen 16.13 
EL SHADDAI God Almighty   Gen 17:1
EL SEHLAG God my Rock   Ps. 42:9
El SIMCHAH GIYL God my Exceeding Joy   Ps. 43:4)
EL NASA Forgiving God   Ps. 99:8
ELOHIM God   Gen 1:1
ELOHIM BASHAMAYIN God in Heaven   Deut 4:39
Elohim Chayim The Living God Israel - Recalling the 10 commandments. Deut 5.24, 26
ELOHIM MISGAB God my Defense   Ps. 59:17
ELOHIM TSEDEQ God my Righteousness   Ps. 4:1
ELOHIM YAKOL God, the Most Able   Dan. 3:17
ELOHIM YARE God Most Awesome   Ps 68:35
ELOHIM YESHUA God my Salvation   Ps. 62:1
ELOHIM KEDOSHIM Holy God   Josh. 24:19
Tetragrammiton - יהוה
YHWH Self-Existing Lord  first used in Gen 3.4. Explained in the Burning Bush story of Ex 6 Ex. 6:2
YHWH AZAR The Lord my Helper   Ps. 30:10
YHWH AMAN The Faithful Lord   Is. 49:7
YHWH BORE The Lord Creator   Is. 40:28
YHWH GAAL The Lord thy Redeemer   Is 49:26
YHWH-JIREH The Lord will Provide Abraham's dedication/sacrifice of Isaac. Strictly speaking Abraham names the place YHWH-jireh. Gen. 22:1-14
YHWH-NISSI The Lord Our Banner Moses is on the hill holding the staff of God.  After the battle he builds an alter, the name of the alter is "the Lord my banner" Ex. 17:8–15
YHWH-M'KADDESH The Lord Who Sanctifies   ex 31.13 Lev. 20:8
YHWH ORI The Lord is my Light   Ps. 27:1
YHWH-ROHI The Lord Our Shepherd The Shepherd Psalm Ps. 23
YHWH-RAPHE The Lord Who Heals The Bitter made sweet at Marah Ex. 15:22-26
YHWH-Sabaoth Jord of hosts YHVH and Elohim occur with Sabbath over 285 times. It is most frequently used in Jeremiah and Isaiah. I Sam 1.3
YHWH-Shammah The LORD Is Present   Ezekiel 48:35
YHWH-Shalom The LORD Our Peace Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, The Lord Is Peace.  This is actually the name of the alter but by extension the name of the Lord. Judges 6:24
YHWH SHAPHAT The Lord our Judge   Is. 33:22
YHWH-TSIDKENU The Lord Our Righteousness  The Righteous Branch Jeremiah 23:6
YHWH TSUR The Lord my Strength   Ps. 144:1


Other "Names" - some from tradition 

Name Story Example
Hebrew English
Adon Olam Master of the World  Adon Olam is a short hymn that summerizes the Jewish understanding of G-d  
Abhir Mighty One Used in conjuction with another noun like Jacob or Israel. Gen 49 is the story of Israel blessing his sons. Gen. 49:24Ps.132:2
Abhir Yisreal Mighty One of Israel  Adonai-Tzva’ot Is. 1:24
ADDIYR JEHOVAH Glorious Lord   Is. 33:21
CETHER My hiding Place   Ps. 32:7
CHYAHLUTH My Strength   Ps. 22:19
EYALUTH Strength   Ps. 22:19
GELAH RAZ Revealer of Mysteries   Dan. 2:28
GAOL Redeemer   Job 19:25
K'dosh Israel The Holy One of Israel Isaiah -  Is 55.3-5 Ps. 71:22; Is. 40:25, 43:3, 48:17
KANNA Zealous   Ex. 20:5, 34:14; Deut. 5:9; Is. 9:7
MAGEN Shield   Ps. 3:3, 18:30
MELEK KABOWD King of Glory   Ps. 24:7
MARE' Lord   Dan. 2:47
OLAM ZEROWA The Everlasting Arms   Deut. 33:26
PALET Deliverer   Ps. 18:2
RAB Lord, Nourisher   Dan. 2:10
RUMN RO'SH The One who lifts my head   Ps 3:3
SHAPHAT Judge   Gen. 18:25
TSADDIQ Righteous One   Ps. 7:9
Tzur Israel The Rock of Israel David's song of praise when he had been delivered from his enemies - II Sam 22.47, 23.3
Uri Gol The New LORD for a New Era   Judges 5:14
YESHAU (Y'shua) Savior   Is. 43:3
Tzur Our Rock   Deut. 32:18; Is. 30:29
Tzur Israel Rock of Israel    



Aravat — "Father of Creation"; mentioned once in 2 Enoch, "On the tenth heaven is God, in the Hebrew tongue he is called Aravat".

Avinu Malkeinu — "Our Father, Our King"

Elohei Avraham, Elohei Yitzchak ve Elohei Ya'aqov — "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob"

Elohei Sara, Elohei Rivka, Elohei Leah ve Elohei Rakhel — "God of Sarah, God of Rebecca, God of Leah, and God of Rachel"

El ha-Gibbor — "God the Hero" or "God the Strong" or "God the Warrior"

Emet — "Truth"

E'in Sof — "Endless, Infinite", Kabbalistic name of God

HaKadosh, Barukh Hu (Hebrew); Kudsha, Brikh Hu (Aramaic) — "The Holy One, Blessed Be He"

HaRachaman — "The Merciful One"

Kadosh Israel — "Holy One of Israel"

Melech HaMelachim—"The King of Kings" or Melech Malchei HaMelachim "The King, King of Kings", to express superiority to the earthly rulers title.

Makom or HaMakom — literally "The Place", perhaps meaning "The Omnipresent" (see Tzimtzum)

Magen Avraham — "Shield of Abraham"

Ribono shel 'Olam — "Master of the World"

Ro'eh Yisra'el — "Shepherd of Israel"

— ""
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 Words for God

In the Hebrew Bible there are four words translated "God" El, Elah, Elo'ah, and Elohim.

  1. The oldest Semitic word meaning "God" is El. Linguists believe its base meaning is strength or power. "El" is the Strong One, or the Deity (God). It occurs 238 times in the Bible, and is first used in Genesis 14:18 in the phrase "God Most High" [El Elyon].

    The Canaanites called their chief deity El, the Mighty Bull. After the Israelites entered Canaan, they adopted this generic word "El" for their God, though "Elohim" took precedence. In some Canaanite myths, one of El's sons was the notorious Ba'al, the nemesis of the true God throughout much of Israel's history.

    In the Bible, El is often combined in proper names to produce theophorics: Isra-El; Shmu-El (Samuel); El-ijah; Immanu-El; Jo-El; Dani-El; Beth-El. It's also found in compounds: El Shaddai, El Elyon, El Roi, El Olam.

  2. Elah is the Aramaic word for "God" used in the Aramaic portions of Daniel and Ezra and one verse in Jeremiah (10:11). Its plural form Elahin is used at least once for the true God (Dan 5:23).
  3. The word Elo'ah is used some 57 times, mostly in the book of Job. It is likely the singular form behind Elohim.
  4. The generic term Elohim refers to the true "God" (2507 times), as well as to "gods," "goddesses," and things divine or mighty. In total, it occurs 2602 times in the Hebrew Bible.