OT,Elohim and the plural passages

I'd like to discuss the Hebrew term Elohim as it is used in scripture and also discuss the 4 times in the OT that God uses plural pronouns such as "us" and "our." This is essentially directed toward m.g. as he stated in another thread that Elohim is evidence of the trinity ( or something along those lines) and I'm assuming he believes that the 4 plural passages (A."let us make... our image...", B. "as one of us...", C. "let us go down...", D. "who will go for us...") are also evidence of the plurality contained in God via the distinct persons of God. That being said, although m.g. is the prime target, anyone can add their understandings of Elohim and the plural pronouns provided they are relevant and conveyed without hostility.

The word Elohim is used 2250 times in the OT and indeed it is the plural form of the Hebrew word Eloah. However, Elohim is translated in various ways: God, god, gods, angels, judges, mighty, great. In each of these cases, its translation is determined by context and grammatical modifiers. In other words, when Elohim is used of the God of Israel it's translated "God." But when Elohim is used of a pagan god or gods it's translated as "god" or "gods" respectively. Also note, that Elohim is used of a pagan god even when referring to only one pagan god. In Exodus 22:20 and Deuteronomy 32:39 Elohim is in reference to pagan god. If indeed Elohim has to denote a plurality, then Eloah should have been used to denote a singular pagan god. Elohim is used of Moses, note there's just one Moses in Exodus 7:1 and also of humans in Psalm 82:6. Elohim is also used to denote judges in Exodus 21 and 22. Elohim is also translated as "mighty" and "great" a few times. All this has demonstrated is that Elohim, as a word, is used in a variety of different ways in Hebrew language and it's not simply limited to a plural function as sometimes indicated by proponents of the trinity. So if it doesn't mandate a plurality, then why use Elohim which is the plural form of Eloah? Glad you asked. While Elohim has the plural ending, similar to adding an "s" to English words, in the Hebrew, the plural ending can also denote an intensity. This would be similar to adding "est" to English words (brightEST, closEST, darkEST) making them the superior in a class. So that the Hebrew Elohim when used of God denotes a sort of magnifier or intensifier. And the plural ending can either mean more than one or a singular referent more intense. So that Elohim can be used when only God is in view or when multiple gods are in view. This is why Elohim can be used of Moses, judges, angels, mighty and great. In light of this, when God speaks in the OT, He uses singular pronouns, I, Me, My, Myself, Mine, etc, in 1000's of scriptures and not "we, us, our." And this flows quite nicely with the plural ending being understood as a mark of intensity. And this brings us to the second part... the 4 anomalies.

Actually, before moving on... does anyone care to dispute any of this? Does anyone still hold that Elohim must mean a plurality of persons despite the above info? I don't want to move too fast and miss something. If I've made a mistake I'd like to correct it before moving on. Thanks in advance!

Puzzled

I do not believe that Elohim must mean a plurality, so I agree with you SO far :)

Josh

That's cool Josh. Even if Elohim and the 4 plural passages in the OT aren't accepted as arguments for the trinity in the OT, it still doesn't invalidate the concept of the trinity. It simply means that the trinity's scriptural basis, and I believe you could build one via scripture (however weak :^p), is not founded upon Elohim and those 4 passages.

Puzzled

If this is really such a big deal, get your self to a Chabad House and learn Hebrew.

Puzzled,

I don't think that Elohim should be the biblical basis for the doctrine of the Trinity. However, it can lend theological support for the argument. Since the term in Genesis could be used in a variety of ways, and the term has been used in varied context throughout the OT, the proper interpretation of the Genesis verse is still open and is as valid as any other. But I agree, by itself it is no argument.

Mormons freqeuntly make a big deal about the plurality "elohim" thing. However, my understanding is that in Hebrew pluralizing a noun can be used to emphasize or augment it---not necessarily to represent more than one.

ms- If I can't trust current Hebrew scholars how would I trust a teacher of Hebrew, and how could I trust my own interpretation? I understand your suggestion but I don't think it's needed in this case.

mkirk, Tulkas agreed.

I'm still waiting to get the go ahead from m.g. begore posting on the 4 OT plural passages.

Thanks,

Puzzled

Puzzled,

I'm not basing the plurality of God on the word "Elohim"
This is a mistake on your part. I NEVER said that "elohim" was evidence of the Trinity.

I "specifically" said the USE of the plural pronoun. AND it should be noted that the plural pronoun is use specifically when God is talking to Himself.

In Genesis 1:26; 3:22, 11:7, Isaiah 6:8 when God was speaking specifically to Himself he used the plural pronoun. God when speaking of Himself is doing so with a plural pronoun. This suggest a "plurality". This plurailty is elaborated further in the N.T. (incidently note the word Elohim is used in the passage BUT it is only stated as means to identify who is speaking. The word in and of itself doesn't dictate the usage of the plural pronoun. Note that each of these four passage are quotes. That is God was hear speaking these words. The use of the plural pronoun directly is attributed to the words God chosed to use. In His speaking He used and referenced Himself with a plural pronoun)

The N.T offers even more insight to the use of the plural pronoun (also note the term Elohim is no where near the passage where the plural pronouns are used so there usage can't be related to the word)

When Jesus reference Himself and the Father in a collective sense He used a plural pronoun.

Jesus said that: "if a man keeps MY (possessive pronoun) words, MY (possessive pronoun) Father will love him and WE (plural pronoun) will come unto him and make OUR (plural pronoun) abode with him. (John 14:23)

When Jesus said WE and OUR He must be talking of someone besides Himself. The text tells us exactly who WE and OUR refers to: Jesus AND the FATHER.

Also note that this particular verse begans with a condition: "IF a man keeps..." and this condition when met will result in a specific and particular action: love from the Father AND an abiding presence of BOTH the Father and Jesus the Son: "My Father will love him and WE will come unto him and make OUR abode in Him"

Finally when Jesus prayed to the Father He asked that all those that believed in Him would be one just like He and the Father are one. And when refering Himself and the Father Jesus used a plural pronoun:

"That they all may be one as you Father are in me and I in you, that they also may be one in US that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one even as WE are one." (John 17:21-22)

Mat 19:4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made [them] at the beginning made them male and female,

"He" MG, singular made them. Not "us", "we" etc. Singular made plural.

Puzzled, please continue...

"Puzzled,
I'm not basing the plurality of God on the word "Elohim" This is a mistake on your part. I NEVER said that "elohim" was evidence of the Trinity.

I "specifically" said the USE of the plural pronoun. AND it should be noted that the plural pronoun is use specifically when God is talking to Himself."

Well... on mino's thread "Attn: those who know Hebrew" which focused on Genesis 1:1 and the always untranslated Hebrew word, I disagreed with the author's idea that Elohim (the plural for God) was evidence for the trinity. Mino stated that he hadn't made up his mind on the trinity reference either but that it wasn't the subject of the thread. m.g. responded with:

"I would say this does substantiate the trinity. But since you're not interested in that I'll leave that alone."

Whether you were responding to mino or myself is unclear, yet you felt that the author's statements in that thread were sufficient for establishing the trinity's presence and hence that ultimately led me to open up a dialogue on the subject on Elohim's apparent plural-ness and its context in scripture. There was no talk of plural pronouns on that thread, simply Elohim and the untranslated aleph-tau thingy. If I misunderstood you m.g. I'm sorry.

Irregardless, I'm now certain that you feel the 4 plural OT passages are valid OT scriptures for arguments for the trinity. And as such, I can now proceed to share my understanding of the 4 verses in question. Oh and for the sake of clarity, I'm limiting this thread to the OT passages. I fear going to broad by including every possible trinitarian passage in scripture and missing vital info possibly shared by all participating in the dust cloud.

I'm taking my wife out in a few moments and then visiting my mom in the hospital, so maybe I can post some stuff late, late tonight or tomorrow.

Puzzled

p.s. pray for my mom guys. Thanks!

Will do puzzled..."Lord Jesus, let your healing hand (spiritual, physical and emotional) be upon Troy's mom. Help her to feel your presence right now and move on her to bring her swift healing and relief. In Jesus name I pray!"

Okay, since I’m satisfied with the Elohim discussion thus far, let’s move on to the 4 anomalies. I call them anomalies because out of all the 1,000’s of scriptures where God speaks in the OT, these are the only 4 where plural pronouns are used when quoted from God. The scriptures, as already identified by m.g. are: Genesis 1:26, Genesis 3:22, Genesis 11:7, and Isaiah 6:8. One of the rules of biblical interpretation is allowing the clear scriptures to understand the seemingly obscure ones. So if you’ve got 4 photos of an activity and some of them are blurrier than others, it makes sense to use the clearer photos. So with that, I’d like to start with Isaiah 6:8. But before we get into the context of Isaiah 6, let’s first establish something else. Namely that God does indeed address the angelic host of Heaven. To establish this let’s look first at 1 Kings 22:19-22

1Kings 22:19 And he said, Hear therefore the Word of Jehovah: I saw Jehovah sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right hand and on His left.

(note that the prophet Micaiah saw the host of heaven standing around God-Jehovah)

1Kings 22:20 And Jehovah said, Who shall entice Ahab that he may go up and fall at Ramoth in Gilead? And one said this way, and another said that way.

(Note that here Jehovah-God is asking a question to His surrounding host and there even seems to be some discussion among them, as one angel says this and another says something else.)

1Kings 22:21 And there came forth a spirit and stood before Jehovah and said, I will entice him.

(Note that one angel came up and volunteered to tempt Ahab his self.)

1Kings 22:22 And Jehovah said to him, With what? And he said, I will go forth and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And He said, You shall entice him and succeed also. Go forth and do so.

(Note that God accepts the angels volunteering and it’s God that actually sends the angel and establishes that the angel will indeed “succeed.”)

This is an interesting portion of scripture because it shows God addressing the angels and actually asking for volunteers. There are other scriptures that reveal the host of heaven being around God and worshipping and conversations taking place, but this one is sufficient.

Now let’s look back at Isaiah 6:8 in context.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I then saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.

6:2 Above it stood the seraphs; each one had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

6:3 And one cried to another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of Hosts; the whole earth full of His glory.

6:4 And the doorposts moved at the voice of the one who cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

6:5 Then I said, Woe is me! For I am undone; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of Hosts.

6:6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, having a live coal in his hand, snatched with tongs from the altar.

6:7 And he laid it on my mouth and said, Lo, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.

6:8 And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I; send me!

6:9 And He said, Go, and tell this people, You hear indeed, but do not understand; and seeing you see, but do not know.

6:10 Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back, and be healed.

-CONT-

Note that in this passage, another prophet, Isahiah, saw a vision similar to Micaiah. Here again Jehovah is on the throne and there are angels-seraphs around Him. In light of Isaiah’s revelation that he was unworthy to speak in God’s presence, an angel brings a coal and purges Isaiah so that he could now speak. It’s here that Isaiah hears God ask “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” We’ve already established that God asks the angelic host for volunteers, and this seems like another one of those times. Nothing indicates in this passage that God is talking within Himself, or even that God is asking Isaiah directly. Isaiah “heard” God asking and he volunteered this time to deliver the message.

In addition, we know that God speaks using singular pronouns in thousands of times in the OT (I am the Lord, none beside Me, I alone, etc, etc) so the plural pronouns naturally indicate that God is including others in His address. And the grammar of the verse supports this idea. Note: “Whom shall I send (the pronoun “I” is singular and the verb is first person common singular), and who will go for us (here the pronoun is plural and the verb first person common plural)?" So the grammar mandates one talking and including others in the address. Only God does the sending but He’s including others in the “us.” If not, the verb “send” should be plural and it should read “Whom shall ((WE)) send and who will go for us?”

Well, that’s one down and three to go. Does that make sense for the first one guys? I know that’s a lot to read and I apologize for the size of this post. The others should be easier and smaller in post size I hope.

Give me some feedback guys, especially you m.g.

Thanks in advance!!

Puzzled

Puzzled,

My statement in the other thread was in reference to the pronoun and not the the word Elohim. I guess I should have clarified myself.

Aside from that let's look at your example. You're trying to fit the conditions and circumstances of each passage into one situation. But they don't go together.

In 1 Kings 22:19-22 God is speaking to the angels BUT no where does he refers to Himself and the angels as "US" or does He even use the term "US". In Isaiah 6:8
God makes a statement BUT no where does it state that this statement is directed to any angels or that any angels are present when God makes this statement.

If you look at what is stated in each text you'll clearly see the situation and the circumstances surrounding the situation are totally different. In one case (1 Kings 22:19-22) God is addressing (from a position of power) the host of Heaven (angels). In the other case (Isaiah 6:8) God is addressing Isaiah.

The plural pronoun isn't used in the former and the host of heaven (the angels) are not mentioned in the latter.

Now if you combined these two passage, yeah I could see where you're coming from. BUT neither of these two passage really go together because the central element that makes each unique unto themselves is missing in the other. You would have to making assumptions and "put" things into the text to make both of these passages fit together and mean what you claim. You would have to put the plural pronoun reference in 1 king 22:19-22 although it isn't originally there. AND you would have to put the host of heaven in Isaiah 6:8 although it isn't orignally in that text.

There is a term when you do that it is called esogesis. It means putting something or reading into the text that isn't there.

Thanks for the quick response m.g. Unfortunately, I think this is where the frustration is going to kick in. But this is good and the main reason why I didn't want to try to take on all the passages at once. Let's see...

"In 1 Kings 22:19-22 God is speaking to the angels BUT no where does he refers to Himself and the angels as "US" or does He even use the term "US"."

Well, it doesn't expressly say that God is speaking to the angels in 1 Kings, I think it's obvious given the description that the prophet gives us. It just says that angels were around and God asked. The angels discussed and one volunteered. But certainly you are correct in that God doesn't say "us" in the passage. I was drawing more from the similar situation than from the verbatim speech of God.

"In Isaiah 6:8 God makes a statement BUT no where does it state that this statement is directed to any angels or that any angels are present when God makes this statement."

Again, as in 1 Kings, God does not say "Hey angels, this is for you..." expressly, it's inferred from the situation. But certainly Isaiah saw Seraphims 6 winged angels present. One took a coal to Isaiah to purge him, remember. Look back at Isaiah 6.

"If you look at what is stated in each text you'll clearly see the situation and the circumstances surrounding the situation are totally different."

scratching head both are visions from prophets, both have angels present, both have Jehovah on the throne, both include Jehovah asking for volunteers, both have someone volunteering. Are we looking at the same two passages?

"In one case (1 Kings 22:19-22) God is addressing (from a position of power) the host of Heaven (angels)."

It doesn't say that, it's inferred. Though I agree w/you. Just don't miss the fact that's it's assumed and not expressly mentioned.

"In the other case (Isaiah 6:8) God is addressing Isaiah."

Actually, Isaiah says "I heard the voice of the Lord saying..." Isaiah overheard God speaking, to infer that God was specifically addressing Isaiah would be an inference. If God was asking Isaiah, why didn't He just ask him. You know..."will you go for us?" But God says "who will go for us?" Are you thinking that God is staring at Isaiah and asking "Whom shall I send, who will go for us?" All the while God stares directly at Isaiah? Furthermore, why would Isaiah respond with "Here am I, send me?" If God was asking Isaiah specifically then Isaiah could just say, "I'll go." What's with all the "I'm here, send me?" stuff.

And the word is eisegesis. And I think your interpretations have been less objective than mine.

Also, you haven't addressed the grammar of the verse. God goes from first person common singular "I send" to first person common plural "go for us." Why is that if God is speaking within Himself? If either of us starts using plural pronouns, one could naturally assume that we're including others in our address. The simplest explanation is that God is doing the same. Let me get your response back and then we'll move on to another passage.

Puzzled

Puzzled,

I'll cut right to the chase.

The text contains explict and implicted information.

Verse 19 of 1 Kings states: "I saw the Lord sitting on His throne and ALL the HOST OF HEAVEN standing by Him on His right hand and on His left"

This verse establishes the setting. It establishes that God is on His throne AND surrounding God, on both his right and left sides are ALL the host of heaven.

This is explictedly stated.

The next, verse 20, states: "And the Lord said 'Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one on this manner, and another said on that matter."

Implicted information can be easily derived from what is explictedly stated. God made a statement. It is clearly from the response of the "host of heaven" recorded in the last part of this verse that God's statement is directed to these "host of heaven".

So one can safely say based on the information given in the text that God's statement was directed to the "host of heaven" (angels) because:

1 All the host of heaven are surrounding the throne of God, as established in verse 19.

2 These "host of heaven" react to God's statement as estblished in the last part of verse 20.

3 One of these "host of heaven" response and action directly to God's statement.

Now, once again all this is derived from what is stated in the text. Once again it should be noted that God does NOT use the plural pronoun "us". You can't and shouldn't draw a conclusion that "US" in Isaiah 6:8 and other passage means and includes the angels from a passage that doesn't even mention or use the word. No where in that passage does it indicate that when God sates "US" He means Himself and the Host of heaven. You can't even come to that conclusion considering "us" isn't even used AT ALL to make one think that it could mean God and the host of heaven.

Lets look at Isaiah 6.

Verse 1 of this chapter describes the situation and setting. What is described is similar to 1 Kings 22:19. BUT their are some marked difference. Number no "host of heaven" are described to be surrounding the throne of God. What is decribed in the text is:

-God is sitting on His throne and His train filled the temple.

  • Above it (God's throne) stood seraphims. Each one of these seraphims had six wings each pair of wings had a specific duty.

  • One of these seraphim cried out to another and stated : Holy, Holy, Holy is te Lord of host: the whole earth is full of His glory.

So from the text we understand that God is on the throne in His temple and above his throne are seraphims stating God is holy. No mention of ALL the host of heaven surrounding the throne of God.

Verse 4-7 in essence describe how this setting had a powerful effect on Isaiah.

In Verse 8 God makes a declaration. Now the verse begins by saying "Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying". This indicates that the declaration wasn't being direct towards anyone in particular but rather spoken allowed as if one is voicing their thoughts.

Now the pivotal question is who is meant by "US". In other words who does "US" included. Well let's go through a process of elimination. Does "us" include the host of heaven? No it can't, namely because the text doesn't indicate the host of heaven are even present to be included as "US". Aside from the Seraphim whose only duty seems to be declaring God is holy the only one in the temple is God and Isaiah. Is Isaiah apart of "US"? I don't think so. "US" has to specifically deal with God. Now as for the switching from singular to plural I think it would be safe to say that one member of the Godhead or trinity is making the declaration concerning an action that is to be done on behalf of the whole.

LOL-so wanting to jump in...

"US" has to specifically deal with God."

Ahem. Well, now that that's settled, let's move on.

Puzzled

Although I’m certainly not satisfied with the conversations thus far, let’s look at the next plural occurrence. Let’s look at Genesis 11:7 in context.

Gen 11:4 And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

Gen 11:5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built.

Gen 11:6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

Gen 11:7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.

Gen 11:8 So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

I contend that the “US” referred to in verse 7 is more plausibly in reference to the angels for 3 reasons. Firstly, God normally speaks in singular language throughout the OT so the plural pronouns would normally indicate God is including others. Secondly, the angels are typically the agents that carry out God’s will and thirdly the grammar of the verse supports this idea.

For point #1, why would the God who typically speaks in singular language choose to speak in plural language only 4 times in the OT? Why would the God who said: “I am the LORD, and there is none else… , there is no God beside me:… I am the LORD, and there is none else…. I have made the earth, and created man upon it:… there is none beside me…. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any….”

How could a God who speaks like this throughout the OT speak using plural pronouns in 4 verses and we not look for others He’s including?

For point #2, it’s clear that angels are typically the agents of His will. Look at Genesis 18 and 19 for an example. In Genesis 18, we are told that the Lord appeared unto Abraham. And that Abraham looked and saw 3 men before him. Notice it doesn’t say that the Lord was accompanied by 2 angels, it simply says the Lord appeared and spoke with Abraham concerning his son and the state of Sodom and Gomorrah. It isn’t until the end of chapter 18 that we see 2 men going to Sodom as the Lord stays behind to debate with Abraham about how to levy his judgment. In chapter 19 we learn that the 2 men who accompanied the Lord were actually angels. Also notice from reading Genesis 18 that God says He’s going to investigate Sodom and yet it’s the angels that actually go to Sodom and experience Sodom’s wickedness first hand. So it shouldn’t seem strange to us, when God employs angelic assistance in this account either.

For point #3, the grammar of the verse indicates an imperative. “Go to(or “Come” depending on the translation), let us go down and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.” The “Come” is from the Hebrew yahab and is an imperative. In other words, God is giving a command. He’s not asking for assistance, He’s saying: “Hey, let’s go down there…” If this is actually the Father speaking in the presence of the Son and the Spirit, then we’d have the Father giving a command to the Son and the Spirit much like God commands His holy angels, which seems to contradict the typical understanding of the trinities co-equal status.

Puzzled