˒ĕlōhı̂m: Plural Persons, or Majesty?


The very first verse in the Holy Bible reads, “In the beginning ˒ĕlōhı̂m Created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1)

“˒ĕlōhı̂m” is not a Name of God, but more a description or identity of the Supreme Divine Being in the Old Testament. “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, is masculine in gender, and plural in number. It has most probably from the root “˒ēl”, or “˒ĕlōah”, both are also masculine, but singular.

How are we to understand the plural form “˒ĕlōhı̂m”? The Jews understand it to mean:

“The most common of the originally appellative names of God is Elohim (אלהים), plural in form though commonly construed with a singular verb or adjective. This is, most probably, to be explained as the plural of majesty or excellence, expressing high dignity or greatness” (Jewish Encyclopedia)

The Jews, it must be remembered, do not accept that the God of the Old Testament, is a “Plurality of Persons”. To them, God is just the One Person, Who is the Father.

Those who also reject that the God of the Bible is more than One Person, and anti-Trinitarian, are known as Unitarian, who, like the Jews, believe that God is just the One Person, Who is the Father.

The plural “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, as we are told here, by the Jews and Unitarians, is used to show the “Majesty”, and “Greatness”, and “Excellence”, of the God of the Old Testament. Some Hebrew grammarians call the plural “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, the “plural of Majesty”. There is no evidence in the entire Old Testament, to support this definition. It has been thought up by those, like the Jews and Unitarians, and others who reject that the God of the Bible is more than One Person. The evidence from the Old Testament, will show that “plural of Majesty”, is no more than human conjecture.

In the first place, “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, is not a unique word, that is used only for The One True God of the Old Testament. It is not the same as the Name of God, “Yehôvâh”, which is only used for The One True God of the Old Testament, and is always in the singular. Why was not the singular, “˒ēl”, or “˒ĕlōah”, not used in every instance in the Old Testament, for The One True God, as opposed to the false “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, idols, and human judges? Are we to assume, that it is only when “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, is used for “God”, that it means “plural of majesty”; but, the singular “˒ēl”, and “˒ĕlōah”, when used for “God”, does not mean, “Majesty”, or “Greatness”, or “Excellence”? We shall see, that there are clear places in the Old Testament, where the singular “˒ēl”, and “˒ĕlōah” are used, and the meaning does mean, “Majesty”, or “Greatness”, or “Excellence”.

Secondly, there are many instances in the Old Testament, where “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, is used for false “gods”. In Exodus chapter 20, when The Ten Commandments were Written by God:

“And God (˒ĕlōhı̂m) spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD (Yehôvâh) your God (˒ĕlōhı̂m)...“You shall have no other gods  (˒ĕlōhı̂m) beside Me” (verses 1-3)

And verse 23, “You shall not make gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m) of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m) of gold”

Does “˒ĕlōhı̂m” in all of these uses mean, “plural of Majesty”?

Another good example, is Psalm 82, which shows that the plural “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, cannot be used as “plural of majesty”.

Verse 1 reads: “God (˒ĕlōhı̂m) has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m) He holds judgment”

In verse 6 it says, “I said, “You are gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m), sons of the Most High, all of you”

verse 8, “Arise, O God (˒ĕlōhı̂m), judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!”

Here we have “˒ĕlōhı̂m” used twice for The One True God of the Bible; and once for false “gods”, and once for “judges”. Each time it is the same plural “˒ĕlōhı̂m”. Are we to understand that the same meaning, “plural of majesty”, is applied to the false gods, and human judges?

In other places we also have “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, used for humans who are “judges”

Exodus 21:6, “then his master must bring him to the judges (˒ĕlōhı̂m)” (KJV, NKJV, NET)

Exodus 22:8, 9, “then the owner of the house will be brought before the judges (˒ĕlōhı̂m)...come before the judges (˒ĕlōhı̂m), and the one whom the judges (˒ĕlōhı̂m) declare guilty ” (KJV, NKJV, NET)

“˒ĕlōhı̂m”, is also used for false idols, as in Genesis 31:30, 32 “And now you have gone away because you longed greatly for your father's house, but why did you steal my gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m)?...Anyone with whom you find your gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m) shall not live”. Genesis 35:2,4 “So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m) that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments...So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m) that they had”. Exodus 32:31, “So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m) of gold”

In Exodus 7:1, God tells Moses, “And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god (˒ĕlōhı̂m) to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet”

“˒ĕlōhı̂m” is used about 2600 times in the Old Testament for The One True God. However, as we can see, it is also used for false gods, false idols, human judges, etc. If, as those who argue that we are to understand the plural form of “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, to describe God’s “Majesty”, and “Greatness”, and “Excellence”; then are we to take these same meanings, for the false gods, false idols, human judges, etc? How exactly, can these be “majestic” or “great” or “excellent”? It is absurd!

I shall give examples from the Old Testament, where both the singular forms, “˒ēl”, and “˒ĕlōah”, and used for Almighty God, to describe His “Majesty”, and “Greatness”, and “Excellence”. So, why could these words have been used in every instance in the Old Testament, for The One True God? This would have made it very clear, that GOD in the Old Testament, is just One Person, Who is the Father.

For the singular, “˒ēl”, there are examples that show it is used to decrible God’s “Majesty”, and “Greatness”, and “Excellence”:

Genesis 14:18-22, “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High (‛elyôn) God (˒ēl). And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God ('êl) Most High (‛elyôn), Possessor of heaven and earth. And blessed be the Most High (‛elyôn) God (˒ēl)... But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the LORD (yehôvâh), God (˒ēl) Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth”

Deuteronomy 7:21, “You shall not be in dread of them, for the LORD (yehôvâh) your God (˒ĕlōhı̂m) is in your midst, a great and awesome God (˒ēl)”

Joshua 22:22, “The LORD (yehôvâh) God (˒ēl) of gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m), the LORD (yehôvâh) God (˒ēl) of gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m), he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD (yehôvâh), (save us not this day,)”

2 Samuel 22:33, “This God (˒ēl) is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless”

Psalm 18:2, “The LORD (yehôvâh) is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God (˒ēl), my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower”

Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from Everlasting to Everlasting you are God (˒ēl)”

Psalm 95:3, “For the LORD (yehôvâh) is a great God (˒ēl), and a great King above all gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m)”

Jeremiah 32:18, “Thou shewest lovingkindness unto thousands, and recompensest the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them: the Great (gâdôl), the Mighty (gibwōr) God,(˒ēl) the LORD (yehôvâh) of hosts, is His Name”

Isaiah 9:6, is a Prophecy of The Messiah, Jesus Christ. One of Names by which He will be called, is “’êl gib·bō·wr”, translated even in the New World Translation, as “Mighty God”. The same Hebrew is found in chapter 10:21; Jeremiah 32:18; Deuteronomy 10:17. It is clear that there are Two distinct Persons Who are Mighty God.

The same can be seen for the singular ˒ĕlōah:

Deuteronomy 32:15, 17, “then he forsook God (˒ĕlōah) which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation...They sacrificed unto devils, not to God (˒ĕlōah); to gods (˒ĕlōhı̂m) whom they knew not”

Job 11:7, “Canst thou by searching find out God (˒ĕlōah)? canst thou find out the Almighty (shadday) unto perfection?”

Job 22:26, “For then shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty (shadday), and shalt lift up thy face unto God (˒ĕlōah)”

Job 27:10, “Will he delight himself in the Almighty (shadday)? will he always call upon God (˒ĕlōah)?”

Job 33:12, “Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God (˒ĕlōah) is Greater (râbâh) than man”

Psalm 18:31, “For who is God (˒ĕlōah) save the LORD (yehôvâh)? or who is a Rock save our God (˒ĕlōhı̂m)?”

Psalm 114:7, “Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord ('âdôn), at the presence of the God (˒ĕlōah) of Jacob”

Isaiah 44:8, “Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God (˒ĕlōah) besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

In all of these examples, it is clear that both “˒ēl”, and “˒ĕlōah”, are used to describe “Majesty”, and “Greatness”, and “Excellence”, of The One True God of the Old Testament. So why would the plural “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, be used, for what the singular already does?

It is clear that the use of the plural “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, is not to describe the “Majesty”, and “Greatness”, and “Excellence”, of The One True God of the Old Testament, which is already done by the singular, “˒ēl”, and “˒ĕlōah”. There is also clear evidence in the Old Testament, to show that the plural “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, is used because The One True God of the Old Testament, is not One Person, Who is the Father.

If, as those who argue for Unitarianism, God is One Person, there can be no doubt, that Genesis 1:1, would have been written, “bərē’šîṯ bārā’ ’ĕl/˒ĕlōah ’ēṯ haššāmayim wə’ēṯ hā’āreṣ”, where the singular, “˒ēl”, or “˒ĕlōah”, would have been used instead of the plural “˒ĕlōhı̂m”; this would also agree with the singular verb, “bā·rā (Created)”. In the Book of Isaiah, we read, “Thus says God (hā·’êl, lit, The God), the LORD (yehôvâh), Who Created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and what comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it” (42:5). In referring to the Creation of the entire universe, as in Genesis 1:1, Isaiah uses the singular “’êl”, and not the plural “˒ĕlōhı̂m”.

From Genesis 1:2, onwards, we have a more detailed Account of the Creation of “the heavens and the earth”.

When we get to verses 26 and 27, it becomes clear why the plural “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, and not the singular “˒ēl”, or “˒ĕlōah”, is used in verse 1, and in over 2600 times in the Old Testament.

“Then God said, “Let Us Make man in Our Image, according to Our Likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”. So God Created man in His Own Image; in the Image of God He created him; male and female He created them”

In verse 26, we have “˒ĕlōhı̂m” (mas. plural), as the Speaker, Who says,  “let US make (na-‘ă-śeh, plural) man, in OUR Image (bəṣaləmēnû, plural) , according to OUR Likeness (kiḏəmûṯēnû, plural)

It must be asked, if God were Unitarian, then surely we would have expected verse 26 to read:

“Then God said, I have Made man in My Image, according to My Likeness”

In verse 27 it goes on to say, “So God (ĕlōhı̂m) Created man in His Own Image (bə·ṣal·mōw) ; in the Image (bə·ṣe·lem)  of God (ĕlōhı̂m) He created him”. As we read in Genesis 9:6, “for in the Image of God (bə·ṣe·lem ˒ĕlōhı̂m) made He man”. Why the plural in verse 26?

Those who reject the Plurality of Persons in “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, have suggested, as in the Jewish Palestinian Targum, “And the Lord said to the angels who ministered before Him, who had been created in the second day of the creation of the world, Let us make man in Our image, in Our likeness”. However, in verse 27, it reads, “And the Lord created man in His likeness: In the image of the Lord He created him”. In verse 26, God is supposed to be talking to His created “angels”, that He was going to Create humans, in OUR (God and His angels), Image and Likeness. But, in verse 27, and 9:6, it is clear, that humans are Created in the Image and Likeness of God, with no mention of the “angels”! Some have even suggested that God is here talking to His “divine council”. This is no more than human speculation, as there is not a single verse in the entire Old Testament, that even hints humans are Created in the Image and Likeness of God and His angels!

It is interesting, that in another Jewish Targum, The Jerusalem, verse 27 reads, “And the Word (Memra) of the Lord created man in His likeness, in the likeness of the presence of the Lord He created him, the male and his yoke-fellow He created them”. In the Targums, the “Memra of Yahweh”, is a Person, and Himself also Yahweh. Clear that the Jews themselves admit to Creation by more than One Person.

Some quote Malachi 2:10, as their “proof”, that the Father alone is the Creator; “Have we not all one Father (’e·ḥāḏ ’āḇ)? Has not one God (’e·ḥāḏ ’êl, sing) Created (bə·rā·’ā·nū) us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?”

Similarly, in Isaiah 51:13, “and have forgotten the LORD (Yehôvâh), your Maker (‘ō·śe·ḵā, sing), Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth”

But, in Job 35:10, it is very interesting, “But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night”. Here “God” is “˒ĕlōah”, masculine, singular; and “Maker”, “‘ō·śāy”, masculine, plural, literally, “God my Makers”. Again, why the singular “˒ĕlōah”, with the plural, “‘ō·śāy”? It is clear from this, that “˒ĕlōah”, is used to show the “Essential Unity”; and “‘ō·śāy”, for the “Plurality of Persons”. There is not other explanation for this. We should have expected, the singular “‘ō·śê·nî”. 

This is also seen in Isaiah 54:5, “For your Maker (‘ō·śa·yiḵ, plural, your Makers) is your Husband (ḇō·‘ă·la·yiḵ, plural, your Husbands), the LORD of Hosts is His Name (šə·mōw, sing); and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called”. Why not as in Isaiah 51:13, where we read the singular?

Likewise, in Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth”

Here “your Creator”, “bō·wr·’e·ḵā”, is the masculine, plural, “your Creators”. Why the plural?

Genesis 46:3, “Then he said, “I am God (hā·’êl), the God (ĕ·lō·hê) of your father”

Literally, “I am the God, the Gods”

Exodus 20:5, “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God”

“’ā·nō·ḵî Yehôvâh ’ĕ·lō·he·ḵā ’êl qan·nā”, literally, “I Yahweh your Gods God jealous” (also Deuteronomy 4:24, etc)

2 Samuel 22:32, “For who is God (’êl), but the LORD (Yehôvâh)? And who is a Rock, except our God (’ĕ·lō·hê·nū)?”


The singular ’êl, in these, and other passages, can only denote the “Essential Unity” of God; and the plural “˒ĕlōhı̂m”, the “Plurality of Persons”.

There is also clear evidence in the Old Testament, of more than One Person Who is The Creator.

In Job chapter 38 we read, “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said...Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (verses 1, 4)

And Isaiah 44:6, “This is what the LORD says, He who is the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of armies: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no god besides Me”

Here we have “Yehôvâh”, as The Creator, and the Eternal God.

In Isaiah 48:12-13, it says:

“Listen to Me, Jacob, and Israel, the one called by Me: I am He; I am the first, I am also the last. My own hand founded the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I summoned them, they stood up together”

verse 16 reads,

“Approach Me and listen to this. From the beginning I have not spoken in secret; from the time anything existed, I was there.” And now the Lord God has sent Me and His Spirit”

Here the Speaker (1st Person, singular), Who is Himself The Creator and the Eternal God, says, that “’ă·ḏō·nāy Yehôvâh”, is SENDING (šə·lā·ḥa·nî, 3rd person, Another Person) Himself and the Spirit (wə·rū·ḥōw 3rd person, Another Person). Verse 17 confirms Who the Speaker is, “Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go”

In Proverbs 9:10, we read, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight”

“the LORD”, “Yehôvâh”, masculine, singular

“the Holy One”, “qə·ḏō·šîm”, masculine, plural, “the Holy Ones”

Proverbs 30:3, “I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One”

“the Holy One”, “qə·ḏō·šîm”, masculine, plural, “the Holy Ones”

The evidence from the Old Testament is overwhelmingly against God being Unitarian. It is abundantly clear to those who want to know what the Bible really teaches, that “˒ĕlōhı̂m” is not a single Person.