In the Bible, names are not just used to identify someone, but often describe certain qualities and characteristics of the person who bears the name.
For instance, the Hebrew name Jacob (Genesis 25:26; Genesis 27:36) means “taking hold of the heel, supplanter, layer of snares.” When we read Jacob’s story, we find that this name perfectly describes his character throughout much of his life (Genesis 25-32).
However, after Jacob wrestled with God all night, God changed his name to Israel (which means “struggle with God” or “he prevails with God”) (Genesis 32:28).
Therefore, in the Bible names reveal important information about the person or being.
The Bible uses many names of God. Below are the various names of God listed in the order of their first appearance in the Bible.
First seen in Genesis 1:1 – Used 2599 times in the Bible
The first word translated as God in the Bible is found in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God here is from the Hebrew word Elohim. It is the most-often-used Hebrew word translated as God in the Old Testament. It is translated as God well over 2,300 times. This name shows that God is the majestic ruler over all. Elohim is actually a plural word and it’s use as the first name of God and sets him high above all other gods. It also foreshadows the later revelation of the triune Godhead – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The fact that Elohim is a plural word also reveals a vital truth about the true God. It shows us that there is more than one member of the Godhead. We see this understanding of the plural nature of Elohim in Genesis 1:26:
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,* and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)
First seen in Genesis 2:4 – Used 6519 times in the Bible
The most often used name for God is translated as LORD in the Old Testament. The first time it occurs is in Genesis 2:4. It occurs over 6,500 times. It consists of four Hebrew consonants, which have been represented in English in various transliterations: YHVH, JHVH, IHVH, JHWH and YHWH.
The Hebrew language consists of 22 consonants (most Bibles list these consonants in Psalm 119 as subheads over every eight verses). Vowel sounds are indicated by placing various dots or small lines around these consonants.
The Jewish scribes who preserved the Hebrew Scriptures by hand intentionally left off the vowel points for this word from their manuscripts—leaving only the four consonants (YHWH). Therefore, there is no definitive pronunciation of this word. Commonly used pronunciations like Jehovah or Yahweh are just guesses. Most scholars believe “Yahweh” is probably a more likely pronunciation, since the hard j sound isn’t used in the Hebrew language.
The meaning of YHWH is similar to the meaning of “I AM.” Its basic meaning is “the self-existing One” or “the Eternal.” It emphasizes that God has lived for eternity—He had no beginning and will have no end. He was not brought into existence at any point in history by any other being—He is self-existent.
List of the Names of God