This last installment is where it will all come together and you should have a much better understanding of “Yahweh eloahim.”
The most difficult concept for many bible students to grasp is the fact that the Hebrew term “Yahweh eloahim” is not limited to father Yahweh or even to those known by the name Yahweh who are leaders in the eloahim.
The collective noun nature of the term eloahim makes Yahweh a family name. As noted in Part 2, this detail is specifically mentioned by the book of Ephesians:
For this cause I bow my knees to THE FATHER of our sovereign, Yahushua the messiah, FROM WHOM the whole family in the heavens and upon the earth is named. (Eph. 3:14-15).
Angels Not Allowed to Marry
Angels do not marry for they are already married in the eloahim (Matt. 22:30), thus the collective noun form. Therefore, when this eloahim family acts as a unit, at one with the father, the deeds of the leadership are attributed to the whole.
Accordingly, when Yahweh eloahim does or says something it is always an act carried out by those in the headship of the eloahim; nevertheless, it is attributed to the entire body of the eloahim.
Family Name Yahweh
The key difference is that, despite the fact that the family name of the greater eloahim is Yahweh, no one outside of those identified with the eloahi of the eloahim can “come” in the name Yahweh, saying “I am Yahweh”—Yahweh eloahi, as we will amply demonstrate in a different post, represents the headship of the eloahim.
Concept of Unity
The concept of unity in the eloahim is reflected in 1 Corinthians and other New Testament discussions about the body of the messiah. Each individual in the Assembly is defined as one of the many members of a single body and are unified (one) with Yahweh, as a husband is unified (one) with his wife (see 1 Cor. 6:15-17, 12:11-31; Eph. 4:1-7).
Therefore, it is taught that if the messiah died and was resurrected, and if we are members of his body, we died and were resurrected with him (Rom. 6:4-6).
Eloahim and Creation
Further, we know that all acts of creation are attributed to only two eloah beings: father Yahweh and his chief son, Yahu Yahweh (later given the earthly name Yahushua the messiah) (Gen. 1:1-26; John 1:1-3, 10; Col. 1:15-18; Eph. 3:8-9; etc.).
Nevertheless, while different acts of creation were being pronounced, the Masoretic Text (MT) and other Hebrew versions of Scriptures utilized the expression, “And eloahim said . . . (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9).”
The deed or act is attributed to the entire body of eloah beings—although only two beings (father Yahweh and Yahweh the son) were actually responsible and were active participants in the conversation. On the one hand, the acts of Yahweh eloahim were described in the singular:
And Yahweh eloahim (LXX “the deity”) planted a garden in Eden to the front, and put the adam (mankind) whom HE formed there. (Genesis 2:8)
Yet, the plural of Yahweh eloahim is clearly retained in this same creation story. Genesis straightforwardly states:
And eloahim (LXX “the deity”) said, LET US make Adam in OUR image, according to OUR likeness. (Genesis 1:26)
Even if, as is most likely, the conversation reflected in this above statement was solely between father Yahweh and his chief son, in Hebrew thought it represented an act of the entire family: as the mouth speaks, so says the entire body; as the hand creates, so does the entire body.
Yahweh and Targum Onqelos
One important variation found among the MSS of Genesis comes in the late second century C.E. Aramaic text called the Targum Onqelos. Although it derives from the Masoretic line of recension, at every point in Genesis 1:1-2:3, save one, where the term eloahim is used in the MT and Samaritan texts (the scribes belonging to both lines of recension being well-known for their proclivity to conceal the sacred name Yahweh by substitution)—33 times in all—we find the letters יוי (Y-u-y).
The letters יוי were a common Jewish circumlocution for יהוה (Yahweh) and were used everywhere throughout this translation for exactly that purpose.
Why then would they use יוי (Y-u-y) if the original was eloahim? All indications are that the scribes of this Aramaic edition followed a MT which used Yahweh at those places in Genesis 1:1-2:3 where we presently find the term eloahim.
“And Yahweh Said”
This detail clearly indicates that the original text had, “And Yahweh said, Let us make Adam in our image.” As we shall demonstrate in a forthcoming post, Yahweh eloahi is unified, just as an army or a husband and wife are unified. The point here is that Yahweh is often defined as eloahim and represents more than one eloah being.
The use of Yahweh eloahim as a collective noun by the Yahwehist writers of Scriptures, accordingly, is best understood as a body of beings governed in a hierarchy.
Let us give an example in our own English language. If two children were playing a game of hide-and-seek in the woods, one child might well be hiding behind a tree. The one seeking him subsequently sees a finger of the hidden child protruding alongside the tree. He then shouts out, “I see you.” By seeing part of the body he has seen the person.
It is the same with the collective noun Yahweh eloahim. If you have seen or talked to one eloahim being acting in the name of the whole, you have seen or talked with the entire body.
Take as another example the situation where an advance party of an opposing military expedition has been sighted. Those seeing this smaller part of the force will report back that they have seen the enemy, although they may never have seen most of the enemy or its general. If you have seen one, you have seen the body.
Angels Married to Father Yahweh
Politically, being at one (religiously married) with father Yahweh, the angels are part of his body, as a wife is unified with the body of her husband. Yet, these angels cannot speak for him unless they are sent by him. If sent, the act of one, under the authority of the father, is the act of all.
Therefore, statements such as “and eloahim said” are best understood as representing the entire family as one body; they are the words of father Yahweh or the words coming from him through one of his authorized spokesmen. When eloahim speaks, it is the word coming from the father, for the government speaks for the entire family (nation).
Yahweh is also treated separately from the rest of eloahim. In Exodus we read:
One sacrificing to eloahim will be destroyed unless it is to Yahweh only. (Exodus 22:20)
Adam and Eve
Another example comes from the statements made after Adam and Eve had sinned. When the serpent (ha-satan) tempted Eve to partake of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he told her:
For eloahim knows that in the day you eat of it (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil), then your eyes will be opened and you will be as eloahim, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5).
Eve, in turn, tempted Adam to eat from the same tree. Their rebellious deed was compared to the actions of some of those already within the greater eloahim.
And Yahweh eloahim said, Behold! the adam has become כאחד ממנו (ka-akhad ma-manu; AS ONE FROM AMONG US), to know good and evil. (Genesis 3:22)
To know is to experience. For that reason, in Scriptures, when a man becomes sexually intimate with a women, he is said to “know” her. To “know good and evil,” accordingly, is a Hebrew expression meaning to partake of, experience, or learn sin, and as a result to become cognizant of the difference between good and evil.
The LXX called the tree “the tree of learning the knowledge of good and evil” while Josephus speaks of its fruit as making “known what was good and evil,” something being used to “heighten their understanding (Jos., Antiq., 1:1:3).”
Such a deed cannot be attributed to father Yahweh or to his son, Yahu Yahweh, for neither have ever sinned . It is apparent, therefore, that the expression “ממנו (ma-manu; as one from among us)” is a reference to the sinning angels who came out from the Yahweh eloahim family.
To demonstrate this point, ha-satan is the father of a lie and was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Indeed, it was ha-satan who deceived Eve in the first place, bringing about the death of Adam and Eve and all of their descendants (Gen. 3:1-13; 2Cor. 11:3; 1Tim. 2:13-14).
Other angels, we are told, also gave up their original estate and sinned (Jude 6; 2Pet. 2:3-5). This body of fallen angels, therefore, began committing these sinful acts even before Adam and Eve trespassed against Yahweh. The adam (i.e., mankind, Adam and Eve), as a result, had become like the sinning angels who themselves had come out of the eloahim.
Moses and the Burning Bush
Another demonstration of the principle of unity in the eloahim comes with the story of Moses and the angel in the burning bush. Exodus, the book of Acts, Philo, and others, all inform us that it was an angel who appeared to Moses in a burning bush at Mount Sinai.
Yet, when the book of Exodus reports the words of this angel the text states, “And eloahim called to him from the midst of the bush and said, Moses, Moses (Exod. 3:4)!” There was only an angel (messenger) in the bush. Accordingly, he could not be father Yahweh (whose voice no man has heard) (John 5:37).
Nevertheless, eloahim spoke. This detail simply means that the angel (messenger) in the bush spoke as a representative of the eloahim family and, therefore, under direction of, and in unity with, father Yahweh.
Ark of the Covenant
The plural in Yahweh eloahim, as we briefly pointed out earlier, is also aptly demonstrated in 2 Samuel 4:1-8. In this story the Israelites went out to war against the Palestim. After an initial battle the Israelites decided that they had been beaten because they had failed to take “the ark of the covenant of Yahweh” with them.
The people then sent to Shiloh to retrieve the ark. When the ark of the covenant arrived in the Israelite camp a great shout went up. The Palestim heard the noise and looked to find that “the ark of the covenant of Yahweh of hosts who dwells between the kerubim (cherubs)” was now with the Hebrew army (1Sam. 4:3-6).
And the Palestim were afraid, for they said, Eloahim has come to the camp. And they said, Woe to us, for it has not been like this three yesterdays. Woe to us! who will deliver us out of the hand of THESE GREAT ELOAHIM. THESE ARE THE ELOAHIM WHO STRUCK EGYPT WITH EVERY PLAGUE IN THE WILDERNESS. (1 Samuel 4:7-8)
In this passage the words of the Palestim warriors are quoted. It is noteworthy that they use the expressions האלהים האלהים האלה (ha-eloahim ha-adirim ha-alah; the eloahim, the great, THESE) and אלה הם האלהים (alah ham ha-eloahim; THESE are the eloahim), each word of each phrase being stated in the plural.
The Palestim clearly understood that there was more than one eloah being called Yahweh represented by the ark of the covenant. Indeed, the plural is even retained in the LXX version of this passage.
The Covering Cherubim
What interests us even further is the fact that the statements of the Palestim found in Scriptures are framed in such a way that the plural is inclusive of Yahweh of hosts (father Yahweh), who although unseen sits upon the throne (mercy seat), while the two royal kerubim (cherubim) covering the mercy seat with their wings—visually seen and interpreted by the Palestim as idols—are altogether defined as “these.”
With this observation in mind, could it be that this plurality of deities (one unseen greater and with two seen but lesser) is our first indication that there are possibly three eloahi associated with the throne of Yahweh?
Well everyone, looks like it’s time to wrap it up and give a summation of Parts 1-3. Here is what we have when all the information is considered.
The evidence demonstrates that the generic term eloah stands for a single ruach being, while the terms eloahi and eloahim are plural in nature—although they can be used both as a simple plural or as a collective noun, more especially when speaking of the eloahim family of Yahweh.
Yahweh is the praenomen of the most high eloah, the most high el, and the most high Yahweh. All the angels in the Yahweh eloahim family, as a result, carry the name Yahweh as their cognomen (family name).
The eloahim family of Yahweh is a hierarchy, with father Yahweh at the top, his archangels beneath him, and then the main body of eloahim (angels) who are in subjection to them.
The generic term eloahim, accordingly, is applied to Yahweh in the sense that Yahweh eloahim is a unified body of eloah beings. Those angels who separate themselves from the unity of Yahweh eloahim, although called eloahim (deities), are no longer part of the true eloahim.
With these basics in mind, the important definitions for Yahweh eloahi, which includes the second level of royal authority within the greater eloahim will be addressed in a future post.