Why Does God Have So Many Names?

Learn two reasons why the Bible doesn't stop at "God."

Why-Does-God-Have-So-Many-Names
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Names have been a critical aspect of the human experience throughout history -- no surprise there. Our names are one of the elements that define us as individuals, which is probably why we have so many of them. You have your first and last name, for example, but you probably also have a few nicknames used by different friends and family members. You're also connected to secondary names such as your job title, your relationship status (Mr. and Mrs.), your education level, and more.

Again, names are important -- and not just for people. As we read through the Bible, we quickly discover that the Scriptures contain several different names for God. Some of these names or titles are evident in our English translations. Think of God being described as "Father," "Jesus," "the Lord," and so on.

Yet many of God's names are evident only in the original languages in which the Scriptures were written. These include names such as Elohim, Yahweh, Adonai, and more. In fact, there are literally dozens of different names used for God throughout the Scriptures.

The obvious question is: why? Why does God have so many names? Let's look at two primary explanations.

God's Honor and Majesty

One of the main reasons the Scriptures contain so many names for God is because God is deserving of honor and praise. The majesty of His Name, His Being, is worthy of recognition on several different fronts.

We see this with celebrities in our own culture -- especially athletes. When a person's achievements place them on a level high above their peers, we often respond by bestowing them names of praise. Think of Wayne Gretzky, for example: "the Great One."  Or think of Reggie Jackson for the Yankees of old: "Mr. October." And we can't forget one of my personal favorites as a boy growing up: "Air Jordan."

There has always been a sense that greatness demands to be recognized -- to be named. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that God's greatness, majesty, and power would overflow into an entire dictionary full of names.

God's Character

The primary reason why there are so many names for God recorded throughout the Scriptures has to do with God's nature and character. The Bible itself is meant to reveal who God is -- to show us what He is like and teach us what He has done throughout history.

We will never fully understand God, of course. He is too big for our comprehension, which also means He is too big for a single name.

The good news is that each of God's names in the Bible highlights a specific aspect of God's character. For example, the name Elohim highlights God's power as Creator. Fittingly, Elohim is the name of God found in Genesis 1:

In the beginning God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Genesis 1:1-2

Similarly, the name Adonai comes from a root term that meant "master" or "owner" in the ancient Hebrew language. Therefore, the name Adonai helps us understand that God is "Lord." The name teaches us about God's character, emphasizing that God is the Owner of all things and Ruler of the universe.

God was describing Himself as Adonai, the Lord, when He inspired the psalmist to write:

I have no need of a bull from your stall
    or of goats from your pens,
10 for every animal of the forest is mine,
    and the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know every bird in the mountains,
    and the insects in the fields are mine.
Psalm 50:9-12

When we understand how each of God's names reveals another aspect of His character, we can quickly see what a gift it is that He has so many names recorded in the Bible. Because the more we learn about those names, the more we learn about God.