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The Elim (gods)

Who is like unto thee, O Jehovah, among the gods? Who is like thee, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11, ASV)

In the passage above, from the song of Moses, is the word "gods," but this time it is not the word Elohim, but the word Elim. Previously we discussed the etymology of the word Elohim, which is the plural form of the word Elo'ah, Elo'ah being derived out of the word El, meaning "one of power and authority" or "mighty one." The plural form of the word El is Elim-mighty ones.

The song of Moses is making a comparison between Yahweh and the other Elim, and recognizing that Yahweh is more glorious and holy than the other Elim. This begs the question, is Yahweh an El among the Elim?

In Genesis 31 Jacob wrestles with, what is called, a messenger[1] of Elohim. This messenger then tells Jacob "I am the El of Beytel." Beytel is the name of a city in Canaan and therefore, this messenger is claiming to be the El (mighty one) of that city. In Deuteronomy 33:26 we read, "There is none like the El of Yeshrun." Yeshrun is a symbolic name for Israel and this El is claiming to be the El of that nation.

The monotheistic view that there is only "one" God forces the reader to assume that every occurrence of "the god of" some city or nation is the same God and prevents us from seeing what the text is actually telling us, there are many gods of different cities and nations. And the translations don't help either as they are being translated from a monotheistic view as well. But when we remove the veil of the translations and look at the Hebrew text for what it says, we find that there is more than one El.

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. (Exodus 6:3, KJV)

This translation supports the monotheistic view that there is only one God, but if we examine the Hebrew for what it says, we find a very different opinion of what God or gods are being indentified in this verse.

And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob with the El of Shaddai, and my name is Yahweh, I did not make myself known to them.

The "I" that is speaking is Yahweh and claims to have appeared to Abraham with the El of Shaddai. All of the translations ignore the grammar of the Hebrew b'El shaddai which can only be translated as "in the El of Shaddai" (which contextually does not make sense) or "with the El of Shaddai." The King James Version actually inserts the words "the name of" in an attempt to "fix" the text. "Shaddai was an Amorite city on the banks of the Euphrates river in Northern Syria and this El who is with Yahweh, is identified as the El of that city. Could this Yahweh and the El of Shaddai be two of the three "men" that "appeared" to Abraham in Genesis 18:2?[2]

Here is a complete list of the Elim as found in the Hebrew Bible.


El of Elyon

Genesis 14:18

El of Ro'i

Genesis 16:13

El of Shaddai

Genesis 17:1

El of Olam[3]

Genesis 21:33

El of Beytel

Genesis 31:13

El of Qaneh

Exodus 20:5

El of Rucham

Deuteronomy 4:31

El of Emunah

Deuteronomy 32:4

El of Yeshrun

Deuteronomy 33:26

El of Hhai

Joshua 3:10, Hosea 2:1

El of Beriyt

Judges 9:46

El of De'ut

1 Samuel 2:3


[1] Most translations use "angel" but the Hebrew word literally means "messenger."

[2] It is pretty clear from the text that Yahweh was one of the three as only two of the men, later identified as messengers in Genesis 19, arrived in Sodom, while Yahweh remained with Abraham

[3] Possibly the same place where the warriors were from in Gen 6:4.