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|Part of Speech||Noun|
While El (א-ל), Eloah (א-לוה), and Elohim (א-להים) all share the letters aleph and lamed, the relationship between them is uncertain. Different theories have been propounded as to whether one of them (and which one of them) is the original term from which the others were derived.1
The term Eloah (א-לוה) is used exclusively to describe a deity – frequently God, but also sometimes in the generic sense to refer to other (heathen) gods. It appears only twice in Torah (both in the Song of Haazinu – Devarim 32:15,17), and not at all in Neviim Rishonim. 41 of its 57 occurrences are in the book of Iyyov.
El (א-ל) and Elohim (א-להים), in contrast, each have a number of Biblical usages:
1. Deity or celestial being
- God of Israel – Most occurrences.
- Heathen gods – Many other verses.
- Angels – Shofetim 13:22, possibly Tehillim 97:7.
2. Person possessing Divine traits or representing God
- Authority figure or ruler – Shemot 4:16, 7:1, 15:15, Melakhim II 24:15, Yechezkel 17:13.
- Judge – Shemot 21:6, 22:7-8.
3. Characteristics of the Divine
- Majesty, greatness – Yeshayahu 14:13, Tehillim 36:7, 80:11.
- Power – Bereshit 31:29, Devarim 28:32, Mikhah 2:1, Mishlei 3:27, Nechemya 5:5.
There are many instances where the meaning of the term is debated. Examples are: Bereshit 1:2 (see Radak), 1:27 (see Rashbam, R. Yosef Bekhor Shor), 9:6 (see R. Yosef Bekhor Shor), 27:7 (see Rashbam), Shemot 12:12 (see R. Yosef Bekhor Shor), 18:15-19, 22:27, 32:1 (see R. Yosef Bekhor Shor and Sin of the Golden Calf), Bemidbar 33:4 (see R. Yosef Bekhor Shor), Devarim 21:23, Shofetim 5:8, Shemuel I 2:25, Yonah 3:3, Tehillim 82:1,6, 97:7, 138:1.
In some cases, אֵל is merely an abridgment of אֵלֶּה.
- In God's presence – Tehillim 56:14.
- In front of the Tabernacle, ark, or altar – Divrei HaYamim I 13:8,10, 16:1.
- In Bereshit 6:11, Shemot 18:12, Yehoshua 24:1 (see Radak), Shofetim 21:2 (see Abarbanel), the meaning is disputed.
בְּנֵי אֵלִים, בְּנֵי הָאֱ-לֹהִים
- Angels – Iyyov 1:6, 2:1, 38:7.
- For controversial cases, see Bereshit 6:2,4, Tehillim 29:1, 89:7.
Relationship to Synonyms
Elohim vs. Hashem
See Shemot 18.