God’s Names and Titles

One God, Called by Many Names

God teaches us who He is by revealing His nature in His names. In many cultures, a name is given to a person to describe their character or the aspirations of parents to see certain character developed in the life of their children. Throughout the Scriptures, God is described by various names and titles which emphasize specific things which are true about God.

There are many names of God in Scripture. This is because there is much we can know about God. Also, since God relates to His people in so many different ways, there are many names that describe His relationships with people. The significant names of God in the Old Testament tend to fall into two groups. First, the primary names of God are so named because they stand alone in describing God. The compound names of God are derived from the primary names and describe God in a more specific way.

There are three primary names of God in Scripture. The name Elohim, translated “God,” is by far the most-often-used name of God. This name describes God as the Strong One who manifests Himself by His Word. This is both the first and last name of God used in Scripture (Gen. 1:1; Rev. 22:19). The name Jehovah (translated LORD) is sometimes called the covenant name of God because it is most often used in a context of God relating to His people. It is based on the verb “to be” and may be translated “I am” or “I will become.” Some Bible teachers see this name as a promise that God “will become” what is needed most in the life of His people. The third primary name of God is Adonai which means Lord or Master. This name tends to emphasize the authority of God over that which He possesses.

The compound names of God are composed of a primary name of God and a verb or descriptive phrase about the nature of God.

The Names of Elohim

El-Shaddai: The Almighty God

The primary names of God are sometimes used with other names to identify a specific characteristic of God. The name El-Shaddai means “the Almighty God.” This name speaks of God’s all-sufficiency. When Abraham was ninety-nine years old and still without an heir, “the Almighty God” renewed his covenant with him (Gen. 17:1, 2). This was the God who was able to overcome any obstacle to keep his promise. The term Shaddai means “rest or nourisher.” It comes from a root word that means “breast or strength given or sustainer.” Though translated “the Almighty God,” it also means “the all-sufficient God.” Today we can claim the psalmist’s promise, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty [El-Shaddai]” (Ps. 91:1).

El Elyon: The Most high God

This name is used to identify God, particularly to polytheistic Gentiles. The idea in this name is that the true God of Israel was above all other false gods of the Gentiles. This title is first used in the Scriptures to identify Melchizedek, “the priest of the most high God” (Gen. 14:18). At that time, Melchizedek attributed Abraham’s recent military victory to El-Elyon (the most high God). He is also understood to be “the possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:22).

El-Olam: The everlasting God

In his experience with God, Abraham also came to know him as “the everlasting God” (Gen. 21:33). This name indicates God is not limited by time, for he is eternal. Moses wrote, “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Ps. 90:2). The name El-Olam personifies a that is true about the eternity of God.

The Names of Jehovah

Jehovah-Sabaoth: The Lord of hosts.

This name emphasizes the power and glory of God. The word “hosts” is used in the Bible to refer to heavenly bodies (Gen. 2:1), angels (Luke 2:13), saints (josh 5:15), and sinners (Judg. 4:2). It implies the power of the heavenly beings who serve the Lord. As the Lord of hosts, God is working through all these “hosts” to fulfill his purposes. The Christian can be encouraged today as he claims the promise, “The Lord of hosts is with us” (Ps. 46:7).

In discussing the second coming of Christ, David asked and answered a very important question. “Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory” (Ps. 24:10). The expression “Lord of hosts” is used over 170 times in Scripture to identify the Lord.

Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord shall provide.

Probably the single greatest test of faith in the life of Abraham occurred when God called him to sacrifice his son. When Isaac asked his father about the sacrifice animal, Abraham responded, “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen. 22:8). Later that same day, God honored the faith of Abraham and prevented the death of Isaac, providing a ram in his place. “Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh [the Lord shall provide]” (Gen. 22:14). In the New Testament, Paul may have been thinking of this name of God when he asked, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

Jehovah-Rapha: The Lord that healeth.

God always wants the best for his people. When he brought Israel out of Egypt, he wanted his People to live full and healthy lives. “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt ii(i that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians; for I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Exod. 15:26). name of God emphasizes God’s concern for our good health.

God is certainly able and does on occasion heal people miraculously, but that is only part of what this name teaches. The context of the revelation of this name is preventive medicine more than curing. No doctor has found a cure for the common cold, but the mother who bundles up her children with scarves, mittens, boots, and snowsuits on a cold winter day has “cured” her children’s cold by preventing it. Here God has promised to heal us from the diseases that plagued the Egyptians by providing the resources that are available to those who obey the Lord. Obedience will produce good health.

Jehovah-Nissi: The Lord our banner.

When God gave Israel the victory over Amalek, “Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-Nissi” (Exod. 17:15). The name Jehovah-Nissi means “the Lord is my banner” or “the Lord that prevaileth.” The emphasis of this name for the Christian is that we are not in the battle alone. As soldiers, we march under the banner and colors of God. The battle itself belongs to God, and victory is already guaranteed. The Christian can therefore serve the Lord with complete confidence in the outcome.

Jehovah-Shalom: The Lord our peace.

When God called Gideon to deliver Israel from the oppressive Midianites, “Gideon built an altar there unto the Lord and called it Jehovah-Shalom” (Judg. 6:24). The name Jehovah-Shalom means “the Lord is our peace.” The building of that altar before the gathering of an army or forming of a battle plan was an act of faith on Gideon’s part. The only way one can know Jehovah-Shalom is by faith. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). As we seek, to live for God consistently, the Bible says, “The God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9).

Jehovah-Tsidkenu: The Lord our righteousness.

When the Lord returns to this world at the end of the age, many Jews Will recognize their Messiah and turn to him as Savior. At that time they will know a name of God that every Christian knows experientially, “the Lord our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6). Our admission into heaven is not dependent upon our personal righteousness but rather the righteousness of God applied to our account. Someday this will also be the experience of national Israel and “the Lord our righteousness” will be the prominent name of God in that day.

Jehovah-Shammah: The Lord is there

As Ezekiel concludes his discussion of the eternal city, he records, “and the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there” (Ezek. 48:35). This name of God emphasizes his presence. When God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, he promised, “Certainly I will be with thee” (Exod. 3:12). As we are faithful today in presenting a greater deliverance to the lost by preaching and teaching the gospel, Jesus has promised, “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world [age]” (Matt. 28:20). The Lord is present.

There are many other names of God used in Scripture. Each of these names tells us something unique about God which we could not otherwise have known. As we learn more about God, we should be eager to let that knowledge change our life. The more we know about who God is and how He relates to us, the more we will be able to trust Him and worship Him for who He is.

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Dr. Elmer Towns is a college and seminary professor, an author of popular and scholarly works (the editor of two encyclopedias), a popular seminar lecturer, and dedicated worker in Sunday school, and has developed over 20 resource packets for leadership education.His personal education includes a B.S. from Northwestern College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a M.A. from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary also in Dallas, a MRE from Garrett Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, and a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.He is co-founder of Liberty University, with Jerry Falwell, in 1971, and was the only full-time teacher in the first year of Liberty’s existence. Today, the University has over 11,400 students on campus with 39,000 in the Distance Learning Program (now Liberty University Online), and he is the Dean of the School of Religion.Dr. Towns has given theological lectures and taught intensive seminars at over 50 theological seminaries in America and abroad. He holds visiting professorship rank in five seminaries. He has written over 2,000 reference and/or popular articles and received six honorary doctoral degrees. Four doctoral dissertations have analyzed his contribution to religious education and evangelism.

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