Posts Tagged Plural of Majesty
Strange as it may seem, when one examines the evidence contained in Scriptures, it will reveal a surprising truth that many have never considered.
Simply put, the evidence will divulge that there are plural individuals in Scriptures referred to as Yahweh!
This concept will be demonstrated by addressing the issues surrounding the Hebrew generic terms representing “deity” and “divinity.”
We’re going to start by examining the singular form אלה (eloah), its common usage as the plural אלהי (eloahi) and as the collective noun אלהים (eloahim), as well as the scriptural concept behind the expression “Yahweh eloahim.”
Let’s proceed onward to examine the evidence.
The Hebrew word אלה or אלוה (eloah)—אלהא (eloaha) in Aramaic—is a generic term derived from the title אל (el; a mighty one) and means a “mighty living being.”
Further defining what an eloah being is, we are informed that the substance of the highest eloah being, father Yahweh, is ruach (spirit, an unseen force, energy) (John 4:23-24), and that he is also described as a being of light (1 John 1:5).
This most high eloah is also defined as a consuming fire (Isa. 30:30; Heb. 12:29), a being who dwells in a devouring fire which, for mankind, is an unapproachable form of light (Isa. 33:14; 1Tim. 6:16).
Yahweh is often referred to by the singular term eloah (Aramaic form, Dan. 2:19, 45, 47, etc.). In one of the Psalms, for example, we read, “For who is eloah besides Yahweh (Ps. 18:31).” Moses writes regarding Yahweh:
And he (Yeshurun = the Israelites) abandoned the eloah who made him, AND scorned the rock of his salvation. They aroused his jealousy with foreign things, with abominations they provoked him to anger. They sacrificed to demons not to eloah, to eloahim (deities) whom they did not know, new ones who came lately; ones your fathers had not dreaded. (Deuteronomy 32:15-17)
Father Yahweh is referred to in the Aramaic portions of Daniel and Ezra as “the most high eloaha (= Heb. eloah) (Dan. 3:26),” as “אלהך (eloah-k; your eloah) (Ezra 7:14),” and as “the living eloaha, your eloah (Dan. 6:20).”
Meanwhile, in the Hebrew Scriptures he is called “Yahweh, the most high el (Gen. 14:22),” “the most high el (Gen. 14:18-20),” and, as the head of the eloahim family, “the most high of eloahim (Ps. 78:56).”
There are also a number of examples where the singular term adon (sovereign) is used when speaking of only one eloah named Yahweh.
For example, in Joshua we read about the priests who were “bearing the ark of Yahweh, adon of all the earth (Josh. 3:13).” Similarly, in passages from the book of Psalms we are told:
The mountains melt like wax before the face of Yahweh, before the face of the adon (sovereign) of the whole earth. (Psalms 97:5)
The earth trembles before the face of the adon (sovereign), before the face of the eloah of Jacob. (Psalms 114:7)
Accordingly, Yahweh is regularly defined by the singular generic term eloah and by the singular titles el and adon.
Plural Forms: Eloahi and Eloahim
The plurality expressed by the generic terms eloahi and eloahim are well demonstrated throughout Scriptures, being used for both pagan deities and Yahweh alike.
As we proceed with our investigation, we shall deal with the collective noun forms of eloahim and eloahi when applicable only to Yahweh. For now, we need to first deal with the evidence for the plurality of these two generic forms.
When not referring to Yahweh, the simple plural form of eloah is אלהי (eloahi), meaning more than one eloah being. A simple plural represents two or more things expressed with a plural verb (e.g., are, were) and plural pronoun (e.g., they, them, these).
The collective noun form of eloah is אלהים (eloahim), although at times this term is also treated as a simple plural. A collective noun denotes a plurality of persons or objects in a single group (e.g., the English words family, government, clergy, sheep, army, seed).
As a single group, this noun requires a singular verb (e.g., is, was) and pronoun (e.g., he, his, this) despite the fact that there is a plurality within the group. When used as a collective noun, eloahim stands for a single group or family of eloah beings.
The simple plural of eloahi and eloahim is demonstrated in a number of ways. When speaking of pagan deities, for example, we find such expressions as “all,” “them,” “their,” and “these.”
We read of “ALL the foreign eloahi (Gen. 35:4), “ALL the eloahi of Egypt (Exod. 12:12),” “Yahweh is greater than ALL the eloahim, for in the thing wherein THEY dealt proudly (he was) above THEM (Exod. 18:11).”
Some typical examples of these expressions are found in Deuteronomy:
You will break down the carved images of their eloahi, and destroy THEIR names out of that place. (Deuteronomy 12:3)
. . . and has gone and served other eloahim, and bowed down to THEM. (Deuteronomy 17:3)
For they went and served other eloahim, and bowed down to THEM, eloahim whom they knew not. (Deuteronomy 29:26)
But if you turn away your lebab, and you will not listen, but are drawn away, and bow down to other eloahim, and serve THEM . . . (Deuteronomy 30:17)
There are nearly two hundred examples of the simple plural usage of eloahi and eloahim found in the Masoretic Text. All of these have been translated in the Greek Septuagint by the plural terms θεοῖς (theois), θεῶν (theon), and so forth, which mean “deities” or “divinities.”
Golden Calves and Ark of Yahweh
There are even references in Scriptures where Yahweh is understood in the simple plural. When the Israelites built the two-headed golden calf at Mount Sinai (SNY, p. 78, n. 13 and Fig. 2), for example, they made a festival to Yahweh and, as we twice read, they proclaimed, “THESE are your eloahi, Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt (Exod. 32:4, 8).”
Later, when the Palestim saw “the ark of Yahweh” being carried out by the Israelites to the battlefield against them, they shouted, “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 Sam. 4:5-8).”
In the days of King Jeroboam of Israel, the king built TWO golden calves representing Yahweh. Jeroboam then, pointing to these two idols of Yahweh before he placed one in Dan and the other at Bethel, notified the people, “Behold, your eloahi, Israel, which brought you out of the land of Egypt (1 Kings 12:28).”
In Hebrew, and only when used by those more correctly adhering to Yahwehism in reference to Yahweh eloahi in unity, the generic term eloahi, as well as eloahim, take on the qualities of a collective noun. As a result, in Hebrew the verbs and pronouns used for Yahweh eloahim and Yahweh eloahi are also singular.
As will be demonstrated in a forthcoming post, this approach is used for Yahweh eloahi to distinguish the special unity among the royalty within the greater body of the eloahim from their unity as expressed with the entire eloahim family. We will have more to say about this unity as we proceed with our investigation.
Indeed, the collective noun forms of eloahim and eloahi, when the reference is to Yahweh, explains why the Greek Septuagint translated these terms by the singular θεός (theos), which in turn came into English as the singular term God.
But over time the family and unity aspect of these two words have been, for the most part, lost in a movement toward strict monotheism (i.e., the notion that eloah, eloahi, and eloahim are all to be taken as only one personality in the deity) and later Trinitarian monotheism (three co-equal persons in the single god-head or deity).
For most readers, only the idea of singularity in the deity has generally been retained. This transformation of meaning has done substantial harm to any good understanding of just how these terms were originally used and has served to disguise the existence of more than one Yahweh (the greater and the lesser) standing in unity.
Not Plural of Majesty
The use of the plural forms eloahi and eloahim, meanwhile, cannot refer to a “plural of majesty,” as some strict Jewish monotheists advocate—a phrase invented as an attempt to explain away the plurality innate within the terms eloahi and eloahim, while maintaining the idea of monotheism as a single personality.
This hypothesis is impossible because the singular form “eloah” is often found applied as a direct reference to father Yahweh. If there was a plural of majesty (i.e., use of a plural to magnify the importance of Yahweh) the plural forms would be consistently utilized throughout Scriptures.
A plural of majesty also does not explain why the terms eloah, eloahim, and eloahi are often applied to Yahweh in the same discussion.
There is simply no consistency in Scriptures that would conform to this strained concept. Further, the clear statements, as mentioned above, to the plurality of Yahweh eloahi and eloahim also dismisses any strict monotheism (only one personality in the deity).
Rather, the collective noun attributes of eloahim and eloahi denote unity among different eloah personalities in the concept of deity.
Neither do these terms suggest equality among those personalities, as argued by Trinitarians. The evidence will prove that an entirely different construct is being utilized by the authors of Scriptures.
Furthermore, the plural form “eloahim,” when referencing Yahweh eloahim, does not express polytheism (many independent deities). Its use as a collective noun speaks of unity and not of independent actions.
Rather, the evidence, as we shall see, shows that Yahweh eloahim is a patriarchy: a family of ruach beings headed by father Yahweh, who created all the others and organized them politically into a hierarchy.
We must agree, therefore, with the conclusions of the Encyclopaedia Judaica:
It [the eloahim] is not to be understood as a remnant of the polytheism of Abraham’s ancestors, or hardly as a ‘plural of majesty’—if there is such a thing in Hebrew. (Encyclopaedia Judaica, 7, p. 679. 1972)
Time to take a break everyone. When you’re ready just proceed to Part 2 as we continue our investigation.