In honor of Israel’s 75th birthday, Israel365 is excited to launch a new series of essays that will unlock the secrets of the Hebrew Bible!Excerpted from Rabbi Akiva Gersh’s forthcoming book, 75 Hebrew Words You Need to Understand the Bible (available soon!) these essays illuminate the connection between related Hebrew words, revealing Biblical secrets only accessible through Hebrew.Enjoy the series – and happy 75th birthday to the State of Israel!
“When they saw this, all the people flung themselves on their faces and cried out: ‘Elohim is God, Elohim is God!’” (Kings I 18:39)
וירא כל העם ויפלו על פניהם ויאמרו יהוה הוא האלהים יהוה הוא האלהים.
“And Elohim created mankind in the Divine image, creating it in the image of Elohim, creating them male and female.” (Genesis 1:27)
ויברא אלהים את האדם בצלמו בצלם אלהים ברא אתו זכר ונקבה ברא אתם.
Elohim is one of the names of God that most commonly appear in the Bible. Simply understood, this name – the plural for “gods” – is deeply problematic. How can the world’s first monotheistic faith refer to the Creator as “gods,” in plural? But it actually makes perfect sense.
In ancient times, people treated the forces of nature as their gods, worshiping the sun, moon and stars, among other things. Abraham, who was raised in this pagan society, ultimately realized that all of these forces were actually under the control and will of one single God. He then began revealing this truth to all he encountered.
Abraham’s descendants continued his work and mission. Famously, the prophet Elijah challenged 850 idolatrous priests of Baal on Mount Carmel. After a Godly fire came down and consumed Elijah’s entire offering, the entire fell on their faces and cried out “Elohim is God, Elohim is God!” (I Kings 18:39). The people powerfully expressed their rediscovered belief that natural forces are not independent gods, but rather under the domain of the one true God.
This is illustrated beautifully by the numerical value of the word Elohim, 86, which is the same numerical value as the Hebrew word ha’teva, which means “nature.” This connection reminds us that God both created and controls all that is in nature. There is nothing separate from him and all natural forces are tools He built into the creation of the world.