Four Names of God and What They Mean

In Old Testament times, names were very significant. A person’s name often revealed something about their place of birth or character. It’s not surprising then, since names were so important to the Hebrew people, that God chose to reveal aspects of His nature to them through names with significant meaning. Each name is like a facet of a diamond, revealing a different aspect of the flawless, beautiful character of God.

Jehovah-Raah means “the Lord my Shepherd.” This is the name in the familiar first verse of Psalm 23. Jehovah is derived from a Hebrew word that means “the Self-Existent one” and suggests “to become known.” This name points to the fact that God is continually revealing Himself to mankind and wants us to know him. Throughout the Old Testament, Jehovah was combined with other words, such as Raah, to illumine God’s character traits.

Raah is derived from a word that means “shepherd” or “companion.” Since the psalmist, David, was a shepherd himself, he knew the kind of guidance, protection, and care a flock required. He observed how Jehovah Raahcared for His flock, the Hebrew people, and he recognized Him as the perfect Shepherd. Through the timeless words of the 23rd Psalm, David still speaks to us today, encouraging us to rest in the care of Jehovah-Raah, the perfect Shepherd:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.

 Jehovah-Raahcan also be translated “the Lord my Friend.”

El Shaddai means “God Almighty,” or “Giver of Strength.” Many people first learned this name of God when Amy Grant’s song, El Shaddai, became popular. When her Age to Age album went platinum, and ElShaddaiwon Song of the Year at the 1983 Dove Awards, El Shaddaibecame a household word for millions of people.

Elis derived from a word meaning, “to be strong, powerful.” As with the name Jehovah, Elis combined with other words to illumine specific aspects of God’s character. In this case, El is paired with Shaddai, which comes from a word that means “mountain.” Thus, the name El Shaddaidescribes God as awesome and powerful. When Abraham was 99 years old, God appeared to him and said, “I am El Shaddai…you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.”1 Only the “Giver of Strength” could enable a 99-year-old man to become the father of a “multitude of nations”! The takeaway for us today is that when we are weary or facing what seems like an impossible task, we can call upon El Shaddai, God Almighty, to help us tackle whatever obstacle may lie before us.

Jehovah-Shalom means “The Lord is peace.” The world over, people know that the Hebrew word shalom means peace. Most people, however, are unaware of the deeper meaning of the word. In its truest sense, shalom means complete peace: a sense of well-being, wholeness, contentment, security, harmony, and prosperity. It not only means the absence of war, but also a tranquil, safe, and orderly personal life that is free of agitation and discord. Shalom means that one is at peace within oneself, with those in the family and community, and at peace with God.

When a rift develops between friends or family members, or when our lives are weighed down with cares and troubles, Jehovah-Shalomcan guide us into shalom. This is the kind of peace the prophet Isaiah spoke of: “You [God] keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”2Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would be sarshalom, the perfect peace of God, in human form:

A child will be born for us.
A son will be given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
He will be named:
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Sar Shalom3

Today’s Name for God. In the present era, God is most commonly called Father. Though God is infinite, powerful, and all-knowing, He invites all who are His children through the finished work of Christ to call him Abba. Abba is a term of warm, heartfelt affection that is translated “Father.” Abba was the name Jesus used when he prayed in deep distress to his Father before he was crucified. This deeply personal name for God reveals the kind of relationship God desires to have with us all: “And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”4

  1. Genesis 17: 1-4
  2. Isaiah 26:3, English Standard Version
  3. Isaiah 9:6, Names of God Bible
  4. Galatians 4:6, New Living Translation

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