Embraced  by  Truth . . .
                                    reflections on theology and life

THEOLOGY > God > Names of God > El and the Compounds 


El, the root form of Elohim and appearing some 225 times as a reference to God, is used in compound form with other words to create additional names or titles for God. Essentially, it is a generic term for God or for some deity, even used of the supreme god of the Canaanites. But this and similar designations were taken by the Hebrews and applied to the one true God who had revealed Himself to them.

The word “El” itself speaks of “power” or “might.” “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power (el) of your hand to do so” (Prov. 3:27). God is El, the One with power, the One who is power. David affirms: “It is God (El) who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect” (Ps. 18:32). In another Psalm we find: “You are the God (El) who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the people” (77:14).

El Elyon appears only in Genesis 14:18-22 and Psalms 78:35 and is translated “God Most High” in Genesis and “Most High God” in Psalms. Formed from El (God—the Strong One) and Elyon (Most High), the word speaks of the Strong One who is above all. God is the most high and exalted One. He is above all others. In Genesis “Most High God” is the Creator or Possessor of heaven and earth, the one who conquers enemies, the One who receives worship (Melchizedek was His priest), and the One who is the recipient of oaths. In Psalms “Most High God” is the redeemer of His people. Elyon is used at times alone, as in the following passages where the word serves as a name for God: Num. 24:16; Deut. 32:8; II Sam. 22:14; Ps. 7:10, 17; 9:2; 91:1; Isa. 14:14; and Dan. 7:18, 22, 25, 27.

El Roi appears only once in the Old Testament, Genesis 16:13. A compound formed from El (God—the Strong One) and Roi (sees), El Roi literally means the “Strong One Who Sees.” This was the affirmation of Hagar after the Angel of the Lord spoke to her, assuring her of life and fruitfulness even in the wilderness. God is also the One who sees us, therefore, our lives are not lived in secret, for all is known by Him. To know that God sees is to know that God knows—this fact brings to the believer’s life comfort during trouble and caution when faced with temptation. God sees.

El Shaddai appears initially in Genesis 17:1, where it is translated “Almighty God” in the NKJV. Either alone or in combination with El, the word, Shaddai, appears a total of forty eight times in the Old Testament and always refers to God; it appears over thirty times in the book of Job, more than in any other Old Testament book. Examples of the single appearance are found in Genesis 49:25 and Psalms 91:1. The origin of the word is indefinite, but the essential concept is that of “Almighty” in the sense that God is sufficient, sufficient to bless His people and to judge His enemies.

The two words, El Shaddai, are translated most often simply as “Almighty” in the KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASV, RSV, and NIV. In combination with El the word speaks of the “Strong One who is the Almighty One.” God is the Almighty God, the One who confirms covenant (Gen. 17:1-2), the One who blesses and makes fruitful (Gen. 28:3; 49:25), the One appearing to the patriarchs (Gen. 35:11-12; Ex. 6:3), the One who grants mercy (Gen. 43:14), the One who terrifies (Job 23:16), the One who gives bitterness (Job 27:2), the One who gives understanding and life (Job 32:8; 33:4), the One who is transcendent and exalted in power (Job 37:23), and the One who speaks (Ezek. 1:24; 10:5). The God of Scripture is able, He is capable, He is sufficient; He is the Almighty.

In the Septuagint El Shaddai is translated by Pantokrator, a Greek word used of Jesus and of God nine times in the Book of Revelation (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22) and translated “Almighty” in English versions. So, in this manner, Jesus is associated with the God of the Jewish people in the Old Testament. For Shaddai the Vulgate uses Omnipotens in the Pentateuch.

El Olam literally means the “Strong One who is Enduring.” It speaks of God as being of eternal duration, of being from everlasting to everlasting; in Genesis 21:33 the NKJV translates the name as “Everlasting God” (NIV, “eternal God”). In Psalms 90:2 God is said to be “from everlasting (olam) to everlasting (olam),” and in Psalms 103:17 God’s love is said to be “from everlasting (olam) to everlasting (olam).” The believer’s hope is in the One who is enduring. As El Olam, God transcends the natural, temporal order, the only Being that inhabits eternity.

Theos is the Greek word translated “God” in the New Testament in all modern translations; and in the Septuagint it is used to translate most frequently Elohim, also on occasion El and YHWH. It is a general word used for deity, and is also used of pagan deities.

Return to Names of God; Next Article: YHWH

For overview of THEOLOGY, see: Site Map - Theology
Copyright © Embraced by Truth
All rights reserved.
Materials may be freely copied for personal and academic use;
appropriate reference must be made to this site.
Links are invited.