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THEOLOGY > God > Names of God


The name, especially in Hebrew thought, has always been a partial reflection of the person who had the name. To know the name, therefore, was to know the person, not fully but really. For example, Abram, meaning “Exalted Father,” was changed to Abraham, meaning “Father of a Multitude,” when God informed him that He would make of him “a father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5). The new name witnesses to the fact that Abraham would be exceedingly fruitful and kings would come from his loins and that he would be the father of many who would believe (Rom. 4:16-17). Another example is Rachel and Jacob. Before dying in childbirth Rachel named her son “Benoni,” meaning “the son of my sorrow”; Jacob, however, changed the name to “Benjamin,” meaning “the son of my right hand” (Gen. 35:18).

To know the name is to know something about the person; it provides additional insight into the person’s character or nature, or the events surrounding the person. This association of the person with the name caused Jacob after wrestling all night with “a Man” to inquire of Him His name (Gen. 32:29), for to know the name was to know the “Man.”

So it is with God. To know His name is to know Him, because the name constitutes what God is revealing about Himself; for in revealing His name, God is revealing Himself. “The name of God is His self-revelation” (Berkhof, ST, 47). Through the various revealed designations, God is providing man with multiple insights into the Divine Essence and into the manner by which God relates to His creation, particularly His own chosen people, Israel in the Old Testament and the Church in the New Testament, concepts which are really one and the same.

To know the names of God is to know God; “God’s Name is God revealed” (Hoeksema, RD, 63). Holy and awesome is God, and “holy and awesome is His name” (Ps. 111:9). To His name “glory” is to be given because of God’s love and faithfulness (Ps. 115:1); to give glory to His name is the same as giving glory to God; to call upon God’s name is to call upon God; and to curse God’s name is to curse God. The name of God manifests God!

The designations do not reflect the best of men’s thoughts as they have endeavored to understand God and His relationship to the universe. The designations are not of men but of God, in other words, the names given to God did not arise out of man’s evolving consciousness of himself and his world. They do not represent man’s explanations of the events in his own historical development: man did not initially postulate a supreme being and then develop concepts related to this supreme being from his own reflection about the supreme being. Rather, God revealed Himself to man in some revelatory, historical incident; and out of that experience the recipient of the Revelation recorded the Truth about God received by him through the event. Out of the historical incident, insight into the nature and conduct of God was received; and the name coming out of the situation reflects that insight.

God reveals Himself in the divine designations but not all of Himself. What is revealed is accurate information, even though it is not exhaustive information. Man, in fact, is not capable of exhaustive knowledge and cannot even comprehend that which already has been revealed. God does not provide a full revelation of Himself in the depths of the Divine Essence, but He does provide a reliable witness to the Divine Essence and one that is consistent with the Divine Essence. As has been said, the revealing God is also the unfathomable God; that is, the God who makes Himself known cannot be known completely. Though what we know of God is not complete, it is true.

The adequacy of God for the needs of man is revealed in the names: His character, His ability, His position, and His providence. The man of faith, through the names, comes to know God, not in an intellectual manner but in an experiential manner. The believer comes to know God as the One he needs—his very existence and sustenance are dependent upon the God who has revealed Himself.

To know the names or titles used of God is to have a deeper comprehension of His person and His relationship to His creation. To understand the meaning of the names is to be more at rest.

Articles related to the Names of God:

    Elohim and Theos

    El and the Compounds   


    YHWH and the Compounds

    Adonai and Kurios

    Ab and Pater

    Names (Genesis to Deuteronomy)

    Names (Joshua to Song of Solomon)

    Names (Isaiah to Malachi)

    Names (Matthew to John)

    Names (Acts to Revelation)

For Quotes related to the Names of God, see: Quotes - Names of God

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