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12 Names of God and what they mean

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God has many names in the Bible, with each one signifying a different aspect of His nature and character. In this article, we’ll look at the meaning of some of God’s most common and well-known names—and there are more than you might think!

From the beginning of creation, God has endeavored to reveal his nature and character to man. He is not a hidden and inaccessible God. 

Quite the opposite! He has always shown himself to mankind through his words and through his deeds. From the first verse of the Bible (Genesis 1:1) we find his indications, names, or attributes that help us understand what God is like and how he wants to work in our lives.

In biblical times the name was very important and special care was taken when choosing the name of the children. The name was seen as a statement about the person’s nature, character, or function

This is why when God called Moses to free the Hebrew people from slavery, Moses insisted that God tell him his name. He wanted to make sure that he could present his “credentials” to the people of Israel without question.

But Moses insisted: Suppose I stand before the Israelites and say, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you.” What do I answer if they ask me: “And what is his name?”?
“I AM THAT I AM,” God replied to Moses. And this is what you have to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.”
Furthermore, God told Moses: Tell the Israelites this: “The LORD, the God of his ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my eternal name; this is my name for all generations.”
(Exodus 3:13-15)

In that account, God uses YHWH as his name (LORD; I AM THAT I AM). Strictly speaking, it could be said that this is the name of God. «This is my eternal name; this is my name for all generations,” said God.

However, there were times when God – speaking about himself – emphasized one of his specific characteristics. He sought to reveal something special about his person that would bring confidence and peace. We see an example of this when God confirmed his promise to Moses (Exodus 6). God mentioned that when he appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he presented himself as God Almighty ( El Shaddai ).

Exodus 6:2-3

On another occasion, God spoke to Moses and said, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob under the name of Almighty God, but I did not reveal my true name, which is the Lord.
(Exodus 6:2-3)

God is much more than we can imagine! There is no language in the world that can define the totality of what he is like. But we can get to know him better by studying some of his names and seeing the characteristics of him that they reveal to us. Let’s see some of the names of God that we find in the Bible, their meaning, and the importance they have for us.

The 2 main names of God

It is possible that the names that are most used in the Bible to refer to God are two: Elohim and YWWH.

1. Elohim, El [ ‘elôhîm, ‘el, ‘elah, ‘eloah ] = God: In the Bible, we often find the name ‘El and other names beginning with that root. This is so because that was the most common term used in the Middle East to refer to divinity.

The root ‘el was used in combination with other words to more effectively distinguish and identify the deity being spoken of. For example, in Genesis 33:20, when Jacob built an altar for God he called it El-‘Elohê-Israel. That phrase means “God, the God of Israel” or “mighty is the God of Israel.” He thus specifically identified in honor of whom the altar was erected: in honor of the God of Israel, who is a mighty God.

The first time the term Elohim appears in the Bible is in Genesis 1:1 and refers to the Creator God. Elohim is the plural of ‘eloah. Its use gives us to understand both the meaning of the triune God (God in three Persons), as well as the variety of characteristics found in the Creator and Almighty God.

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2. YHWH [ Yahweh, YHWH ] = I AM WHO I AM, the LORD: This is another of the most used names in the Bible when speaking of God, and it is the one that appears most frequently ( YHWH , Jehovah or the LORD ). This word is used only in the Bible. This was the name that God chose to present himself to Moses.

We do not know its exact pronunciation since, out of respect, it has been kept without vowels. The Hebrews considered God’s name too sacred to say. But YHWH implies that God is a present God, attentive to what happens. The first time we find this name in the Bible is in the second chapter of Genesis:

This is the story of the creation of the heavens and the earth.
When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens…
(Genesis 2:4)

In that verse, YHWH appears right next to the word Elohim. It may be intended to emphasize the indisputable reality of his presence during creation and to express that YHWH is the name of the Creator God.

10 other names of God and their meaning

In the Bible, we find other names that reveal special characteristics of God. Each name shows us something about his nature, something that helps us draw closer to him and trust him more. Let’s see some of them.

1. Adonai ‘adonay, ‘adôn ]: Lord, Master.

Adonai began to be used as an alternative term to YHWHAdonai communicates the idea of ​​God as the Lord and Master, the owner of everything. He speaks of God’s authority and the position he occupies with respect to his people. He is the one who can reward those who obey him and punish those who do not.

To meditate:

Then Moses bowed to the ground and prayed to the Lord as follows: Lord, if I really have your favor, come and stay among us. I recognize that this is a stubborn people, but forgive us our iniquity and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.
“Look at the covenant I make with you,” answered the LORD. In the sight of all your people I will do wonders that have not been done before any nation in the world. The people among whom you live will see the awesome works that I, the LORD, will do for you.
(Exodus 34:8-10)

2. Abba [ ‘ab ]: Father, Dad, Daddy.

The word Abba affirms the great paternal love that God feels for his people. He not only created the human being but he wants to have a close relationship with each one of us, just like a loving father and his children have.

God is love (1 John 4:8) and this is how he treats us: with love and with great compassion. He created us and is always with us, attentive to the needs of each one of his children. Let’s take time to feel fatherly love from him!

To meditate :

“Father of orphans and protector of widows is God in his holy dwelling” (Psalm 68:5).

1 John 3:1a

See what great love the Father has given us, that we be called children of God! And we are!
(1 John 3:1a)

3. YHWH-Rapha [ Yahweh Rafa ]: the LORD who heals, the LORD your healer.

God wants to bring well-being and healing to all areas of our lives, he is not limited only to the spiritual realm. He is a healing God and his power extends to our entire being: spirit, soul, and body. He wants to heal the diseases that afflict our soul, our emotions and also our body. This is because healing is part of his nature.

To meditate :

“He said to them, ‘I am the LORD your God. If you listen to my voice and do what I think is right, and if you keep my laws and commandments, I will not bring any of the diseases that I brought on the Egyptians. I am the LORD, who restores them to health.”
(Exodus 15:26)

Certainly he bore our sicknesses and endured our pains,
but we consider him wounded, beaten by God, and humiliated.
(Isaiah 53:4)

 

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4. YHWH-Shalom [ Yahweh shalôm ]: the LORD is peace.

The peace that God gives us is one that seems illogical in the eyes of others. It is not based on circumstance or the absence of war but is based on total confidence that God is with us and that he will work for us at his time. The peace that comes from God is complete, it encompasses every corner of our being.

To meditate :

Don’t worry about anything; rather, on every occasion, with prayer and supplication, present your petitions to God and give him thanks. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7)

Peace I leave you; I give you my peace. I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not be distressed or cowered.
(John 14:27)

5. YHWH-Rohi [ yahweh rohi ]: the LORD my Shepherd.

The Lord is the Good Shepherd who protects his sheep and carefully guides them along the path of life. He is very vigilant, always ready to defend us from the enemy (the devil) who wants to attack us and steal us from his fold. As the Good Shepherd that he is, God also provides for our needs.

To meditate :

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep.
(John 10:11)

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep, and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know him, and I give my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this fold, and I must bring them also. So they will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
(John 10:14-16)

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing; in green pastures he makes me rest. Beside still waters he leads me.
(Psalm 23:1-2)

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6. YHWH-Sabaoth [ yahweh sebaot ]: the LORD of hosts. Some translations use the LORD Almighty.

God is the LORD of hosts in its broadest sense. He has all power and rules over all the armies of heaven, earth, and the entire universe, the armies that we can see and those that we cannot. He is Lord over everything and everyone! The name expresses the immense majesty, authority and power of God and gives us the assurance that we are in the best hands.

To meditate :

The LORD Almighty is with us; our refuge is the God of Jacob.
(Psalm 46:7)

Who is this King of glory? The LORD, the strong and brave, the LORD, the valiant warrior.
Raise, doors, the lintels of it; Rise up, ancient gates, for the King of glory is about to enter.
Who is this King of glory? He is the LORD Almighty; he is the King of glory! Selah
(Psalm 24:8-10

7. YHWH-Nisi [ yahweh nissi ], the LORD is my banner or the LORD is my banner.

This phrase appears in Exodus when the people of Israel won a battle against the Amalekites. Moses built an altar to recognize that they had overcome because they carried the flag or banner of the LORD God Almighty.

Moses built an altar and called it “The LORD is my banner.” And he exclaimed, “Lay hold on the banner of the LORD! The war of the LORD against Amalek will be from generation to generation!”
(Exodus 17:15-16)

It is in the name of the LORD and thanks to him that we obtain the victories in our lives . We must always give him the glory.

To meditate :

May he grant you what your heart desires; that makes all your plans come true. We will celebrate your victory, and in the name of our God we will unfurl the flags. May the Lord fulfill all your requests!
(Psalm 20:4-5)

He took me to the banquet room, and over me he raised his banner of love.
(Song 2:4)

8. YHWH-Jireh [ yahweh yir’eh ]: the LORD provides, the LORD will provide.

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Here the sense is that God can see everything: the present, the past, and the future. He is the best supplier because he knows in advance what we are going to need. We can have the confidence to approach God with our requests and be sure that he will provide everything needed, in His perfect time and according to his will .

That is the confidence that Abraham had in his heart as he walked toward the mountain hand in hand with his son, ready to offer sacrifice to the LORD.

Abraham looked up and, in a thicket, he saw a ram caught by the horns. It was then that he took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering, instead of his son. Abraham named that place “The LORD Provides.” That is why to this day it is said: “On a mountain the LORD provides.”
(Genesis 22:13-14)

To meditate :

So my God will provide you with everything you need, according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:19)

I am the bread of life,” Jesus declared. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never thirst again.
(John 6:35)

9. El Elyon [ el ‘elyôn ]: The Most High, Supreme Being, The Most High God.

There is not, nor will there ever be, any god or man above our God. He is the highest, he reigns over everything and has all the control. His power and His majesty will never end, they are everlasting. When we refer to God as El Elyon (Most High God) we are exalting him, acknowledging that he alone is worthy of worship.

To meditate :

I will praise the Lord for his justice! To the name of the most high Lord I will sing psalms!
(Psalm 7:17)

Let them know that you are the Lord, that this is your name; let them know that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.
(Psalm 83:18)

10. El Shaddai ‘el shadday ]: Almighty God.

This term speaks of God as the one who has all the strength and all the power. He is the only one invincible and in whom we find all the care and all the protection we need. Some think that he presents the image of a mountain or a large, solid mount, in which we can take refuge. God presented himself to Abram with this name.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said,
I am God Almighty. He lives in my presence and be blameless.
(Genesis 17:1)

To meditate :

Woe to that day, the day of the Lord, which is drawing near! It will come as devastation from the Almighty.
(Joel 1:15)

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High welcomes himself in the shadow of the Almighty.
I say to the LORD: “You are my refuge, my fortress, the God in whom I trust.”
(Psalm 91:1-2)

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Final Words:

Although we can’t know God in full, we can still learn what names of God and what they mean to teach us about the nature of our Creator. In this article, We’ve shared with you the 12 names of God and what they mean as revealed in Scripture, as well as our understanding of how to apply those lessons to our lives today.

  • Which of these names caught your attention the most?
  • With which is it easier for you to identify God? Which one do you have the hardest time relating to?
  • Give thanks to God for all that he is and all that he means to you.