by Luke Wayne
The World Mission Society Church of God (WMSCOG) argues that the use of the word “Elohim” in the biblical creation account proves that there were actually two gods (God the Father and God the Mother) involved in creation. They write:
“The Hebrew Bible’s word used for “God” presents somewhat of a mystery for those who do not know God the Father and God the Mother. Rather than using “El” or “Eloah,” both singular terms for God, the original text of the Bible uses “Elohim.” Elohim directly translates to “Gods”—plural.”1
“We know God the Father exists, but since the term used to describe God is plural—more than one—there has to be another God present. The term “father” is used only among family. So if we look into the family system, we can understand who is missing.”2
Their entire argument hinges on the idea that, because “Elohim” is in the plural form, it must always mean more than one God. In Hebrew grammar, however, this is simply not the case. There are a variety of ways that the plural form of a Hebrew word is used. It does not always mean more than one thing the way it typically does in English. Even in English, we sometimes use plural forms for singular things. “People” is a plural form, but I can also refer to “a people,” as in, an ethnicity, a tribe, or a nation. The plural form can actually be a singular noun. If I say I am going to put on my “jeans,” you would not assume that I am going to put on more than one thing. “Jeans” is in a plural form, but it refers to a single article of clothing. Likewise, many English words you often use are in plural forms, and you don’t even realize it because their usage has changed over the centuries. “Agenda,” for example, is actually a plural form of the word “agendum.” Most people today no longer use the word “agendum,” however, and instead speak of “an agenda” as a singular thing. So you can see that, even in English, the plural form of a word does not always mean more than one thing.
In the English language, these are exceptions. In Hebrew, however, it is part of the normal manner of speech. For example, in Song of Solomon 5:16, the woman says of her beloved “he is wholly desirable.” The Hebrew word translated “wholly desirable” is “machamadim”. It is the plural form of “machmad,” which means pleasant, beloved, lovely, or desirable. The woman in Song of Solomon, however, is not saying that her beloved is “desirables.” She is saying that he is “wholly desirable” or “altogether lovely.” This is a case where the plural form is not meant to communicate a number, but rather to add emphasis and totality.
Another example would be in Isaiah 1:3, which reads:
“An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.”
The word “owner” here is in the singular, and clearly, in the context, we are talking about one person. Yet, in the clause “and a donkey its master’s manger,” the word “master” is the Hebrew word “adonim.” This is a plural form of the word “adoni” which means lord or master. The plural form here does not mean “masters,” since we are talking about a single owner. The plural, instead, denotes authority and respect. Dr. Michael Brown, a scholar in near eastern languages, notes that Abraham’s servant calls him “adonim” in Genesis 34, Joseph refers to Potiphar as “adonim” in Genesis 39, and King David is called “adonim” in 1 Kings 1:11. He goes on to explain:
“These examples, which are really very common, show clearly that compound plurals were often used to speak of leaders, owners, masters, or kings. How much more, then, could similar expressions be used to speak of the Lord, the Master, the King, and the God? To bring this out with my own hyper-literal translation, in Malachi 1:6 God asks, ‘If I am a Lords [adonim], where is my honor?’ while the psalmist exclaims in Psalm 8:1,9 ‘O YHWH [Yahweh, or Jehovah], our Lords [adonim],” and Deuteronomy 10:17 hails YHWH as ‘the Gods of Gods and the Lords of Lords.”3
One can see, then, that the plural form can also be used of a single individual to denote authority, superiority, rulership, and power. This is what we see in the word Elohim. The word sometimes means gods, as in more than one god. But it can also mean one singular God who has great authority. In 2 Kings 1:3, Baal-zebub is called the “god of Ekron.” The word for “god” here is Elohim. This does not mean that Baal-zebub was more than one pagan deity. He was not. Baal-zebub was a single false god. Baal-zebub is called the Elohim of Ekron because he is their chief deity. He is the highest and most authoritative god in their religion. Elohim, like many Hebrew plurals, can be used to refer to a singular thing.
So in what way is Elohim being used in the creation account in Genesis? This is actually very clear. In Hebrew, verbs also take singular and plural forms that help clarify meaning. While the word “Elohim” may be in the plural form, all the verbs in Genesis 1 are in the singular, showing that Elohim is referring to only one God. For example, Genesis 1:1 reads:
“In the beginning, God [Elohim] created [singular] the heavens and the earth.”
Because “created” is in the singular, we know that we are talking about one God creating and not many gods creating. If there were more than one god, then the Hebrew word for “creating” would be in a plural form. This is constant throughout the passage. So while the WMSCOG claims that “The Hebrew Bible’s word used for ‘God’ presents somewhat of a mystery for those who do not know God the Father and God the Mother,” this isn’t true at all. There is no mystery. Elohim often means only one God. But for those like the WMSCOG who falsely assert that there is a second God involved in creation, the singular verbs really are an unanswerable mystery! There is simply no room in Genesis 1 or anywhere else in scripture for a second creator God.
- 1. https://www.wmschurchofgod.org/heavenly-mother/elohim-god/ (Accessed 8/9/16)
- 2. ibid
- 3. Michael Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus – Vol. 2, (Baker Books, 2000) 9