This is my second post in this series. I will be making a page with a table of contents shortly. Perhaps tonight or tomorrow time permitting. As discussed in the previous post, Hebrew words may have a plural morphology, yet mean a singular connotation based on the context in which it is used. For example, in English we have the word sheep. This can mean either a single animal, or a group of sheep and the only way to infer the author’s meaning is by the context of the words around it.
If I said there are many sheep in the pasture, how many am I referring to? Obviously with the usage of are and many, I am speaking of more than one sheep. If I said this sheep is sick, I am referring to a single sheep, rather than a flock.
Here are some other examples of Hebrew words which have a plural morphology and singular connotation:
- biuthim- terror, anguish
- chaim- life, refreshment
- megurim- dwelling place
- Mitsrayim- Egypt
- teunim- toil, labor
- tzaharyim- noon
- tsammin- snare, perdition
- shekulim- childlessness
- urim- enlightenment
- Yerushalayim- Jerusalem
A quote from Michael Heiser illustrates the point lucidly:
In the Hebrew Bible, there are roughly 2500 cases where elohim is used as a singular noun denoting the God of Israel (that figure is arrived at on the basis of grammar and logical context). It isn’t a guess.
Genesis 1:1 KJV In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
In this case elohim is singular because the verb (in red) is 3rd masculine singular in its grammar.
Genesis 1:26-27 TNK And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.”
Elohim (God) is singular because the verb is 3rd masculine singular. So why the plural pronouns “us” and “our”? You know I hold that those speak of the presence of the divine council here. How do I know elohim isn’t the referent? Keep going with the next verse:
TNK And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Three times we have a singular verb (create; Hebrew bara’). In verse 26 when we read “let US make mankind in OUR image,” if GOD were speaking [as though referring to himself as a plurality or to a group of the elohim, as though that’s what the word meant], we’d see PLURAL verbs here in v. 27, but we don’t.
Other examples in Genesis all point to a single God with none else beside Him. Please subscribe to my rss feed to stay updated with future articles.