Yahweh Elohim: Greater Than Space, Time and Number

John C. Rankin

(April 4, 2014)

The Hebrew word for God in the first sentence in the Bible is Elohim. The English word “God” comes from the German word Gott, a form of greeting in the sense of giving a blessing.

In Genesis 1 we have the grand design of creation, and in Genesis 2 we have the first covenant between the Creator and man. Genesis 2 actually takes place within the theological structure of Genesis 1, on the sixth day.

In Genesis 1:

Elohim as the Creator of all mankind is used as a title.

Across the Hebrew Bible:

The use of Elohim carries with it this assumption as the one true Creator that all people recognize, including polytheistic Gentiles.

In Genesis 2:

The compound Yahweh Elohim is introduced, where Yahweh is the personal name of the covenant keeping Creator.

Across the Hebrew Bible:

The stand-alone personal name of Yahweh refers to his specific covenant- keeping identity, as the Hebrew people recognize, but not by the Gentiles as they migrate away from the assumptions of Genesis 1-2.

Across the Hebrew Bible:

With the great frequency of the compound name, Yahweh Elohim, in the minds of the Hebrew peoples, both factors combine – personal name and title.

Yahweh is grammatically a unique term, being very close to the infinitive tense of the verb “to be.” That is, the original Existence and Presence who is greater to and prior to, and thus defines, space and time.

Elohim is grammatically a unique term. It is a masculine plural (known also as the honorific plural in contrast to the singular el). But Elohim is only used with the singular case when referring to the one true Creator. This means the singular Elohim is greater than the concept of number.

Thus, the name Yahweh Elohim in totality means the One who is greater than space, time and number.

In Exodus 3, Elohim appears to Moses and calls him to go to Pharaoh and bring the people of Israel out of bondage. Moses balks, having already failed in his prior human attempt. As we read in verses 13-15:

“Moses said to Elohim, ‘Suppose I go to the the sons of Israel and say to them, “The Elohim of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’

“Elohim said to Moses, ‘Ehyeh (I AM, who was and is and is to be).” This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel: Ehyeh has sent me to you.’

Elohim also said to Moses, ‘Say to the sons of Israel, “Yahweh (HE IS), the Elohim of your fathers – the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac and the Elohim of Jacob – has sent me to you.” This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.’ ”

In the Hebrew, Ehyeh is, grammatically, the first person masculine singular imperfect of the verb “to be.” Thus, the translation of “I AM” in the sense of a Divine Presence, a Divine Ontology of HE who is greater than the past, present and future. And, in the Hebrew, Yahweh is the third person masculine singular imperfect of the verb “to be,” this “HE IS.”

Thus, here in Exodus 3, Elohim gives his covenant name Yahweh to Moses. He is drawing Moses back accordingly, he who promises the seed of the Messiah through Abraham – the beginning of the Hebrew people. Yahweh in the Hebrew is the third person reference (“He is”) to the name of the first person reference of “I AM WHO I AM,” or simply the “I AM,” a reference to that which greater than the human concept of the infinitive tense of the verb “to be.” The Divine Presence, the Divine Existence is he who is greater than space, time and number. And also we see Jesus calling himself the I AM (ego eimi in the Greek) thirty-one times in the Gospel of John, he who calls himself Ehyeh, whom we call Yahweh, the one who has also come into space, time and number in order to redeem the fallen children of Adam.