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Israel, JEHOVAH, our Elohim, is one Jehovah. Which is rendered, “ Hear, O Israel, the LORD ! our God is one LORD."
It does not affect my present argument, how much difficulty the English reader of this text will be in, to know whether the word LORD here be taken from JEHOVAH, which is peculiar to Deity; or from ADONI, which implies lordship, dominion, or government, and is not peculiar to God alone; though by retaining the word JEHOVAH, as in several other texts, it would have been evident. What especially concerns my purpose, is the evidence of a divine plurality so plain in the face of the text, had it not been obscured, or rather quite lost, by using the word God, which is by no means a proper translation of the word ELонім.
Nor need I here stay to prove that Elohim is of a plural signification. This is acknowledged by the Jews, who best know the meaning of their own language; and likewise by christians, who know the Hebrew, and are under no temptation to impose a false meaning upon it. Any thing that has been advanced to the contrary is so trifling, as to be unworthy of notice. Even the impartial English reader will readily see, that the very sense of the phrase necessarily leads him to seek for a plural interpretation: for if the word Elohim in the text be of a singular signification, then the word God, by which it is translated, will evidently point out the unity of the divine Being, and so would introduce an insipid repetition of the same thing. The text would convey no other idea, than that the one divine Being, is the one divine Being. It must appear to be a low conceit of the consummate wisdom of God, to imagine that he would give us a revelation of so small consequence. For
if the word Elohim is singular, the text is no more than a revelation that one is one. But as it is demonstratively evident that Elohim is of a plural signification, it must follow, that the word God cannot convey a suitable idea of the sense of this expression used here by the divine Spirit.
The true sense of this term, if attentively considered, is of great importance in the present argument of proving a divine plurality, which it puts beyond dispute: "It is also a key to open many passages of scripture, which, without the right understanding thereof, appear dark, and ready to be misapplied.
But as there are several false ideas, which some may, perhaps, affix to the word Elohim as a plural, it will be therefore necessary to remove these, that the true sense may appear with more evidence to be the only one, and of that consequence it really is, for the right understanding the character of God given us in revelation.
1. As Elohim is a plural, it cannot be a general name to denote the one divine Being, such as the word God is; nor can this be a proper translation of it, for these two reasons --First. As Elohim is plural, it must of necessity convey the same idea to the Hebrews, that Gods do to Englishmen; which introduces a palpable contradiction into revelation, that the divine Being should constantly teach therein, that there is only one God; and yet wherever he speaks of himself, to call himself Gods. It is a poor shift to alledge, that the author of revelation took up with the word which he found in use among men, to convey the idea which the word GOD doth to us. For, besides that it will be hard to say what that idea was, or how they came by it, previous to revelation: the plural termination would still so perplex the idea of unity he was inculcating, that had all the subtle doctors and metaphysical divines, which have been since the apostles' days, existed at that time, their whole fund of definition could not have furnished a salvo.
But secondly. Another reason why the divine Being would not adopt a plural word to denominate himself by, is the remarkable proneness of these ages to polytheism. Would not boundless wisdom and goodness carefully avoid every word or phrase that favored their corrupt bias? A bias which was so offensive to him, and which cost his people so dear, on account of their obstinacy in that very point: or would he not only use the plural word, which carried such a snare in it, but have embarrassed the idea of unity still more, by constructing it with plurals, both verbs and nouns? May we not venture to determine it is impossible?
2. Now, as Elohim cannot be a name that stands for the unity of the divine Being; neither can it be a word substituted to express the different characters of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in which the divine Being has manifested himself in revelation. These are so distinguished by the different lights in which omnipotence is displayed by each of them, that one common name is not sufficient to convey an adequate idea of these distinctions. They are designed to be kept always intelligibly distinct in the conceptions of mankind; whereas a common name can convey no separate views of their peculiar characters and operations.
3. Neither can the name Elohim import all, or any of the perfections or attributes common to each of the three who are one; for that would infer all that might be said of the impropriety of the word Gods. And sure nobody would choose to say
infinite WISDOMS, or infinite GOODNESSES, any more than they would say Gods. Whether we express attributes separately or complexly, it still runs us up (when we consider it with attention) to the same idea of a plurality of beings, possessed of these perfections; and strongly insinuates, that there are more than one to be worshipped and adored.
And since none of these can be the signification of the word Elohim, there is only one we can possibly rest in, which is, that in its signification it refers to a TRANSACTION common to all the three who are one; and must be a common designation of all the THREE, as stated in that transaction. I say, a transaction (for it cannot allude to attribute or perfection) common to all the three, and which they themselves acted in with regard to one another. I say with regard to one another; because all their actions towards men, are applicable to one or other of the different relations they manifest themselves in to us.
And this TRANSACTION, so plainly intimated in divine revelation, is the basis of the whole future manifestation of the divine glory discovered to, and applied for, the benefit of man.
And as the word Elohim intimates the obligation of that transaction among the divine three, so it always suggests the character of God in revelation to us in that view, as the most comfortable, and at the same time, awful light in which he can state himself to mankind; and may with some propriety be expressed by the English word, the SWEARERS,
* The genius of the Hebrew language is such, that significant words are always framed from routs which have some certain and. fixed idea, and thereby convey a determinate meaning. The root Elah, means an oath or adjuration, an execration made to affect the breaker of a covenant, And as the singular admits of this meaning, one that hath taken upon him an oath, the plural, Elohim, must denote more than one under that obligation, or entering into covenant or agreement together,
which, on the whole, makes an undeniable argu. ment for a divine plurality.
The strength of this argument in favor of a divine plurality, will appear still more conspicuous, from the different forms of construction in which the word Elohim is found in revelation. The manner of speaking the several penmen have used, lead naturally into the notion of a divine plurality. This is most remarkable in Moses, a great part of whose writings are evidently designed to guard | against polytheism, or a plurality of gods, which the Jews were far too fond of: yet his stile in manifold instances plainly conveys the idea of a divine plurality. The first appellation he gives to
This idea may seem strange at first view, but it will become more familiar, if we consider that on many occasions in sacred writ, Jehovah is said to swear,—to swear by himself for conformation of future events, to create absolute certainty, and reliance on his promise. And since Jehovah represents himself in this light, as binding himself by oath to the performance of his promises, it need not seem strange, that he calls himself the God bound by outh, engaged by mutual obligation to fulfil his promises.
This plainly accounts for the scripture phraseology of joining relatives to the term Elohim:—Why Jehovah describes himself as the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, &c. and why his people call him my, thy, our, their Elohim. And if Jehovan is pleased to represeut himself under the obligation of a covenant, for the benefit of mankind; surely the addressing him under the terin Elohim, denoting the notion of Fæderatores, must command their serious attentiou,--raise their most thankful sentiments of bis mercy and goodness,--strengthen their confidence in his favor,--and at the same time, warn them of the great danger of trausgressing bis Jivine laws,