There is great power in a name. Names have a way of creating an identity and it’s how we are known by those around us. So what’s in a name? A lot, especially when it comes to God and his character. Learning to know God by his names opens up the door to a deeper relationship with him. It creates deeper initamcy, trust, and understanding. The Old Testament of the Bible is especailly rich with meaningful names used for God. Names had special meanings or purposes attached. For example, God changed Abram’s (meaning multitude or many) name to Abraham (meaning father of many) not only to give him purpose but also to remind him of God’s promises to make him a father of many nations. Here are 10 Old Testament names of God you need to know:
Elohim (Creator God)
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired His understanding is inscrutable.” Isaiah 40:28, See also Genesis 1:1 and Deuteronomy 32:6.
Elohim is found on the very first pages of the Bible in the Old Testament book of Genesis, and is how God first introduces himself to us. When the Bible is translated from its Hebrew and Greek roots, Elohim is found over 2,532 times in the Bible. It is the first name that gives us something tangible about God’s character. It describes his ability to speak and light goes forth. It establishes his sovereignty, creativity, and power. He is the creator and the living God. The word Elohim also translates to “gods” and reminds us that God is three in one: Father, Holy Spirit and Son.
El Roi (The God who sees me)
Hagar was a servant to Abraham and Sarah. After Sarah couldn’t provide a son to Abraham, they used Hagar as it was not uncommon to provide an heir in this fashion. However, after Hagar birthed Ishmael, she was scorned by Sarah to the point that she ran away. In the desert where she thought she would die, an angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar to tell her God had heard her desperate cries. Even though Hagar was alone in the wilderness, God was aware of her hurts, her thoughts, and needs. Hagar then named God, El Roi, “The God who sees me.”
There are many moments in our Christian walk where we feel alone, desolate and invisible; whether it’s in the trenches of motherhood, at work, waiting to find our spouse, God sees us, he knows our needs. It’s astonishing to think the God of the universe cares about what you are doing right now, that he sees you and is watching over you.
El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
“Here my prayer Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob. Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. Lord Almighty blessed is the man who trusts in you.” Psalms 84:8, Psalm 84:10-12
El Shaddai is the Hebrew translation for Almighty God. The first occurrence is found in Genesis 17:1. “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ' I am El-Shaddai— God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life.” It is found a total of 48 times in the Bible. In contrast to the with the numerous gods surrounding God’s people, God was known as the Almighty God who reigned over all. He is all powerful and nothing is impossible for him. There is no act of strength that is too much for him. Knowing God in this manner gives us a deeper sense of awe and reverence. It also provides a foundation of hope.
Yahweh Rophe (The Lord Heals)
The name Yahweh Rophe in Hebrews means to cure, heal, and make whole or to restore. Yahweh Rophe appears only once in the Bible and it is the second name God used to reveal himself to his people in Exodus 15:26. We are reminded that God himself is the great physician who has the power to heal our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. He is our mighty healer.
Yahweh Yireh (The Lord will Provide)
‘Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the LORD will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” Genesis 22:14. See also Deuteronomy 15:4-5.
In the Old Testament, Yahweh Yireh was an actual place in the land of Moriah. It was the location where God provided a ram caught in the bushes as Abraham’s faith was tested when he was asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac. God is the God who provides all that we need in his timing and his way. When we are struggling with bills, needs, health, or whatever else it may be, we can pray to the God who has faithfully provided in story after story in the Bible and in our lives from the moment we were conceived.
Yahweh Shammah (The Lord is There)
“The distance around the entire city will be 6 miles. And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The Lord Is There.’” Ezekiel 48:35
The name, Yahweh Shammah occurs only once in the Bible in Ezekiel 48:35. It is a symbolic name for the earthly Jerusalem. Yet, it holds significance to Christ followers because it reminds us God has not abandoned Jerusalem. It’s a reminder he has not abandoned us in our darkest hour either. It’s a reminder that God reveals himself to us unceasingly. He is always there.
Yahweh Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
“Moses built an altar there and named it Yahweh-Nissi (which means “the Lord is my banner”). He said, “They have raised their fist against the Lord’s throne, so nowthe Lord will be at war with Amalek generation after generation.” Exodus 17:15-16.
In an epic battle in the book of Exodus, the chapter recounts that Israel had the advantage over Amalek only if Moses held his staff up high. It was their first battle after being freed from Egypt. When Moses’ arms grew heavy, his brother and sister helped him keep the staff in the air. After their enemies were defeated, Moses built an altar and called it “God our Banner.”
It was a reminder of God’s leadership and protection. The saying, “The Lord is my banner” is a way of the Israelites and modern-day Christians identifying themselves as followers of the Lord God. The banner also functions as a rallying point. It reminds us we are rescued by him and identified in him.
Yahweh-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Psalm 23:1.
The name Yahweh-Raah translates to “the lord shepherds me,” and is found in Psalm 23. Further study of Raah is Rea meaning friend or compassion. It can be translated as “The Lord my friend.” In this passage we are reminded of just how much God cares for us. He is our friend, our confidant, our leader, provider and Shepard. This passage is perhaps one of the best know scriptures of the Bible because it is one of comfort and a reminder of who God truly is to us.
In that day," declares the LORD, "you will call me ‘my husband'; you will no longer call me ‘my master. ‘.. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the LORD. Hosea 2:16, Hosea 2:19-20
In Hebrew, Ish translates to husband and is used in the books of Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Whether your marriage is a good one or you’re single, God is the ideal husband. It is the perfect reflection of his love for us. He is your protector, provider, lover, and companion. God is first introduced in the book of Hosea as Ish when he tells Hosea to marry a prostitute. Hosea’s life becomes a representation of God and Israel. The people of Israel wander away from God and commit adulterous acts such as worshiping idols. Instead of turning his back on us, God woos Israel back with his love just as Hosea does with his wife Gomer. God knows us so deeply and intimately; he wants to be known as Ish to you.