Regarding the Translation and Interpretation of the Word “Elohim”


Erroneously, the translator often chooses to interpret and name the subject, rather than state the literal title being applied to the subject.

As an example: In the Scriptures, “Behemoth” (בהמות, “Beasts”) is a word used to describe plural animals, cattle, etc – but also applied as a title for a singular creature (somewhat comparable to “majestic plural”).

Behemoth is translated “Hippopotamus” in modern Hebrew.

However, Behemoth does not mean “Hippopotamus (singular)”, but “Beasts (plural)” – it is used as a title for the hippo, and therefore sometimes translated as hippo.

This is a case of the translator choosing to translate the subject (“hippo”), rather than the title of the subject (“beasts”).

Eloah (אלוה) is used to describe what we would call a god, and therefore often translated as a god.

Elohim (אלהים) is a plural title often referring to a singular god, or to multiple gods.
Elohim, as a title for a singular subject, would be referred to as a “He”, Elohim as applied to multiple gods would be referred to as “Them/They”.

When Elohim is correctly translated, in application to plural subjects, as a plural (“gods”), then it should be translated consistently, even when applied to a singular subject; the very same subject still being referred to as He in the singular.

However, is our YHWH (sing.) a “gods” (pl.) ? No.

This word is erroneously translated in reference to its subject (gods, or when applied to YHWH, “God”), rather than its literal meaning.

What is the literal meaning?

Whatever it is, we know it’s a plural word.

Elohim should be translated as a plural word, even though the subject is singular – compare with Behemoth.
Note also that many singular entities have plural names: for instance Joseph named one of his sons “Ephraim.”

By saying Eloah = god (sing.), YHWH as an Eloah would be “He, YHWH the God”, causing Elohim to be, if consistent with this translation, “He, YHWH the Gods”, which is obviously not correct.

He (sing.) is not “gods” (pl.), He is Elohim (pl.), forcing us to draw the conclusion “Elohim” does not mean “gods”, though it can describe them.

It is rather a term applied to god and gods, and erroneous translation has chosen to present the meaning and nature of the subjects, rather than state the literal meaning of the word “Elohim”.

It is as when the name Behemoth (literal meaning: “Beasts”) was applied to the Hippopotamus, and the name Behemoth therefore afterward translated as “Hippopotamus” (rather than “Beasts”).


“Elohim” cannot be accurately translated as “god” or “gods” – it is a title descriptive of a god, gods, powers and divinities, yet not having the literal meaning of “god” or “gods”.


This is my personal theory on the meaning of the word “Elohim.”

Eloah means (sing.) Power, Elohim means (pl.) Powers –

What we call god and gods in modern culture, the ancient peoples and ancient Hebrews would call power and powers. The gods were seen as the forces, power factors, energies, elements of might – the forces of nature would be synonymous, or in the same category.

Shema Yisrael – YHWH Eloheinu – YHWH Echad” (Deut. 6:4)

Eloheinu, “Our Eloah/Elohim” can be referring to the singular Eloah, but is probably referring to the plural Elohim, making the following statement of YHWH being Echad, (though He was just described as plural) more interesting.

I think the word Eloah means Power, making it an impersonal concept. YHWH can be many powers.

Both YHWH and one or more of his lesser angels can be called Power without being equal.

An angel can be called “El” as well as “Beney El(ohim)”, without a conflict of absolute meaning.

An angel is a relative, lesser Power, as well as being son of a higher, absolute Power.

A human king, judge or authority can also fulfill the relative function of a Power, in the sense of having physical or legal power.

Abel Zechariah, April 11, 2010

The modern definition of “god” (as applied to the Biblical God) is clearly not based on the historical meaning of the word, which becomes painfully obvious when discussing the gods of polytheistic religions, in which context we see the word used to describe supernatural, but for the most part, mortal (and otherwise limited) characters: most religions have stories of gods that die, such as Odin or Tammuz.
The Germanic word “god” and its equivalents in other languages doesn’t helpfully communicate the aspect of an omnipotent, almighty being, such as is described in the Bible, the modern definition seeming more fit to be applied to the name YHWH rather than the term god/Elohim.
Nevertheless the latter is a term which may describe the Biblical God, much as the term king or ruler can be used for him as well.
The wide variety of usage of the word (Elohim) can be compared to the Sanskrit Deva and the Japanese Kami, which may refer to God, gods, angels or spirits, from the smallest fairy to the greatest of deities.

AZ, Nov. 30, 2012

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3 Responses to Regarding the Translation and Interpretation of the Word “Elohim”

  1. Pingback: Honesty in the Free Will Debate, or the Lack Thereof | The Plan of God

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