Justice and Mercy

The Divine Name appears in the Bible in various forms which have specific meanings. In particular "Elohim" (God) means "Justice" and "YHWH" (Lord) means "Mercy". When we say "Lord God" we are addressing the Merciful Judge. Other Names are "El Shaddai" (God Almighty) and "El Elyon" (Most High God).


Elohim - God of Justice

The name "Elohim", commonly translated "God" denotes justice and judgement. It is used in the Bible, not only as a name or title of God, but also occasionally as the title of those in judicial authority over Israel, for example the Judges appointed over Israel in the days of Moses. (Exodus 21:6, 22:8-9).

The word "Elohim" is used exclusively througout the story of Creation in Genesis 1, the implication being that God created the universe and all that is in it according to strict order. We know that there are certain rules that apply everywhere throughout the whole universe, for example Newton's Laws of Motion and Einstein's Theory of Relativity. We might not understand everything about these laws, but we know that they apply everywhere, holding the universe together and enabling planets to orbit around their suns.

Genesis Chapter 1 covers creation of the world, including plant and animal life, and also human life, all according to the same strict created order. However, the story of human creation is repeated in Genesis 2, with the introduction of a new name of the Creator, because man became a living soul.


YHVH - Lord of Mercy

YHVH is the unpronouncable Divine Name, known as the tetragrammaton. It means "the one who exists", but it conveys the nature of Mercy. It cannot be pronounced because it has no vowels, although some Hebrew Bibles insert vowels so that it can be pronounced YAHWEH or JEHOVAH. The Jews do not pronounce it at all, for fear of inadvertently using the Name of the Lord in vain, and use the substitute word "Adonai".


Both YHVH and Adonai mean "Lord", and this is how it is translated in most Bibles. Adonai is the plural of "Adon" which means a temporal lord, or a person in authority, just as "Elohim" is the plural of "Elah". This does not imply that there is more than one Lord, or more than one God. There is one Lord God with multiple natures or personalities.

The Jews have such respect for the name of the Lord, that sometimes they do not even write it out in full, either as YHVH or Adonai. Instead, they just write two "Yodh" characters.

Two yodh characters pronounced Adonai

Thus, when we have the traditional Jewish prayer for Shabbat, "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine", the title "Adonai Eloheynu" (Lord our God) is written:

Adonai Eloheinu

In the Bible, we sometimes see "Lord" and "God" in isolation, and sometimes together as "Lord God", written as follows:

Adonai Elohim

Wherever the Jews see the tetragrammaton, they pronounce it "Adonai", so that this phrase becomes "Adonai Elohim", meaning "Lord God". Throughout the rest of this article, we will use "Adonai" wherever the tetragrammaton appears.

"Adonai Elohim" first appears in Genesis 2:4 where it says:

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

The remainder of the chapter tells how the Lord God created man out of the dust of the ground, and made him a living soul. Then the Lord God took one of his ribs and made it into a woman. The title "Lord God" is used consistently, and "God" does not appear in isolation even once.

Why does it have to be "Lord God" and not just "God"? The reason is that everything else could be created in strict order, with the attribute of justice, but the creation of man as a living soul, capable of error, required the attribute of mercy.

The title "Lord God" appears consistently until Genesis 3:23, with the exception of the temptation of the serpent in Genesis 3:1-5.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die, for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Notice how the word "Lord" is dropped as soon as the serpent begins to speak. He doesn't want to acknowledge the Divine attribute of mercy. He wants both the man and the woman to go to hell. Even the woman herself has been taken in by this, and she has also dropped the word "Lord". Finally, the serpent promises that they could be as "gods", in place of "Elohim", and there is no room for mercy or compassion in the hopeless struggle for power that was intended.

Fortunately for them, the Lord God appeared with his attribute of mercy:

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. (Gen 3:8).

Calling on the Name of the Lord

After the serpent's temptation, the title "Lord God" appears consistently until Genesis 3:23, then it changes to "Lord", and continues until Genesis 4.25 when it changes abruptly to "God", on one occasion, as follows:

And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.

This is the first time that "God" had been used, since the temptation, without the combined attribute of mercy. People were afraid of the concept of justice without mercy, and when Seth's son was born, they felt the need to call on the name of the Lord.

And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord. (Gen. 4:26)

The context makes it fairly obvious that the people calling on the name of the Lord were Cain and his descendants, who felt the reproach of the murder of Abel. The whole of Genesis 4, except for the last two verses, is about the story of Cain and Abel. Cain had been sent "out from the presence of the Lord" (Gen. 4:16). Lamech, the fifth-generation descendant of Cain also killed a man, and was afraid that his punishment would be even greater. The suggestion that the God of Justice had brought Seth into the world as a substitute for Abel, and then the birth of Enos, would have increased their reproach even further. There was the prospect of a whole tribe developing who would remind the descendants of Cain of their guilt. They called on the name of the Lord, because they wanted to get back into the presence of the Lord, who they knew had the attribute of mercy.

There are other occasions when men called on the name of the Lord. For example, the Lord appeared to Abram, without giving any particular name or title. In those days, it was important to know the name or the attributes of the One who appeared, so Abram felt the need to call on the name of the Lord, hoping that the Lord had come with the attribute of mercy.

And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord. (Gen. 12:7-8).

Some time later, Abram and Sarai went to Egypt and got into trouble with Pharaoh, because Abram had passed off Sarai as his sister and not as his wife. When they returned, Abram felt the need to call on the Lord's mercy, because he knew he had sinned.

And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai, unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the Lord. (Gen. 13:3-4).

As we go further on through Genesis, the words "Lord" and "God", and the combined title "Lord God" appear more or less at random and appear to have less significance than the early chapters. In Genesis 17:1, the Lord appeared to Abram and called himself "El-Shaddai", meaning "Almighty God", a subject we will look at later. One of the results of this encounter was to change Abram's name to Abraham. The absence of the word "Lord" did not in itself prompt Abraham to call on the name of the Lord, but he felt the need to do it after he had sworn by "God" that he would live in peace with a Philistine King called Abimelech and sorted out a dispute regarding a well of water.

And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines' land many days. (Gen. 21:33-34).

The title "El-Olam" (Everlasting God) occurs only twice in the Bible, the other occasion being Isaiah 40:28. However, the word "everlasting" is associated with God's name in other ways, particularly in relation to the covenants that God made with Noah and with Abraham.

And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. (Gen 9:16).

And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. (Gen. 17:7).

It seems that Abraham, having sworn by the name of God, whose nature is justice, felt that he had to call on the name of the Lord, to make sure that mercy would be associated with the oath that he had sworn. He was living among the Philistines, and he wanted the Lord's mercy so that he could live in peace. The term "Everlasting God" was definitely a reminder about the everlasting covenant.

The next person to call on the name of the Lord was Isaac, the son of Abraham and heir of the covenant.

And the Lord appeared unto him the same night, and said, I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and I will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake. And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac's servants digged a well. (Gen. 26:24-25).

Why did God tell Isaac not to fear? What was there to be afraid of? It seems that Isaac might have been afraid because the Lord had appeared to him as "God" with the attribute of justice. The title "God of Abraham" was no reassurance because God had appeared to Abraham either with no name at all, or as "El Shaddai" which means "God Almighty". Adonai was still apparently absent, so Isaac felt the need to call on the name of the Lord. Then he dug a well, feeling that he would be able to live there in peace, under the protection of the Lord's mercy.

Eventually, the Lord revealed himself to Jacob, with the title "Adonai Elohim" (Lord God), and there was no need to call on the name of the Lord, because the Lord was already there.

And behold, the Lord stood above it [Jacob's ladder], and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; ... And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven ... And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, if God will be with me ... then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give a tenth to thee. (Gen. 28:13-22).

This is a dream of mixed emotions, where Jacob has an experience of the "house of Elohim" (the dwelling place of the God of Judgement) and feels afraid, but he is reassured because he knows that "Adonai" (Lord of Mercy) is also there. He knows that they are one and the same, but with different attributes, so he says "then shall the Lord be my God".

Why did the Lord introduce himself to Jacob as the "Lord God" of Abraham, but just the "God" of Isaac? It is arguable that the term "Lord" does not need to be repeated because it applies to both the "God of Abraham" and "God of Isaac". It could also be argued Isaac was under the covenant that was given to Abraham, so he inherits the "Lord" because of the covenant. This latter proposition, if correct, can also be applied to Japheth, who dwelt in the tents of Shem.

The Lord God of Shem and the God of Japheth

Noah had three sons, Ham, Shem and Japheth. After the flood had subsided, Noah planted a vineyard and became drunk with the wine, and he was naked in his tent. Ham came in and looked at him, but instead of covering him up as an act of modesty, he went out and told his two brothers, as if it was something to joke about. Shem and Japheth didn't consider it to be funny, and they walked in backwards and covered him with a garment. Ham's behavour was probably more than just a casual glance. It is more likely to have been incestuous, although we can't know this for certain. In response, Noah pronounced a curse on Ham, and a blessing on both Shem and Japheth.

And he said, Cursed be Canaan [meaning Ham, the father of Canaan], a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
(Gen. 9:25-27).

From Ham descended the Egyptians, Ethiopians and Babylonians. They were in Babylon when they were building the tower, but they were scattered during the general dispersion that occured about 100 years after the flood. The descendants of Ham went to Africa where they have been perpetually subjugated and made into slaves. The descendants of Shem populated the Middle East and probably most of Asia. The descendants of Japheth populated Greece and probably most of Europe and Russia.

Notice how Shem and Japheth are blessed unequally. Shem has the "Lord God" but Japheth only has "God". How does Japheth obtain the Lord of Mercy? Does he have to live in fear of the God of Judgement, without the attribute of Mercy? No, he obtains mercy by dwelling in the tents of Shem.

How do the Gentiles obtain salvation? They have to dwell in the tents of Shem. The Israelites are the descendants of Shem, and we are told that "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). They have shown us the way of salvation, by giving us the Bible and the Messiah Yeshua. The Western World derives its culture from the Hellenistic Greeks who had a multitude of pagan gods that needed to be appeased. Their gods were no gods at all, and they knew nothing of the Lord God whose nature is to be merciful. The Western nations have derived their knowledge of the Merciful Lord only by their association with the Jews.

El Shaddai

El Shaddai - The Covenant-Making God

El Shaddai means "Almighty God", and appears a number of times in the Bible, but there are only two occasions where the Lord introduces himself as "El Shaddai":

The Covenant with Abram

And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee... And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God. And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised... And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her... Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael ... I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac... And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. (Gen. 17:1-23).

Notice how the Lord appears as usual, but does not introduce himself as the Lord. Instead he calls himself "El Shaddai", which means "Almighty God". From that point onward, he is known as "God" throughout the entire chapter, and "Lord" does not appear once. God wanted Abraham to be circumcised, together with all his household. Was there a timescale for completing all these circumcisions? Not as far as we know, but Abraham didn't wait to find out. He performed all the circumcisions the same day. This was Elohim speaking, the God of Judgement, and Abraham went straight to work on the circumcisions because he was terrified.

The Covenant with Jacob

And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padan-aram, and blessed him. And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob; thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel. And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; and the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land. And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him. (Gen. 35:9-13).

This is not just a repetition of the covenant that God had made with Abraham. The covenant with Abraham was also with his wife Sarah, so that Isaac inherited the covenant and not Ishmael. The covenant with Jacob resolved an ambiguity regarding his brother Esau who had sold his birthright for a pot of soup. God was making it clear that the covenant was with Jacob and not with Esau.

Again, we see that the word "Lord" is missing, and "God" appears a number of times. However, this encounter is not as traumatic as the time when "El Shaddai" appeared to Abraham. No specific demands were made, except that Jacob should change his name. Also, Jacob had already encountered "Elohim" (God) during his dream of the ladder to heaven and he knew that "Adonai" (Lord) was also there, because they were one and the same. He knew about the Lord God who always appears with both Justice and Mercy, so he was less concerned about names than his predecessors.


Adonai - the Covenant-Keeping Lord

God made his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, using the name "El Shaddai" (Almighty God), but the covenant was not fulfilled immediately. There was a famine, so that the sons of Jacob had to go to Egypt to get grain. To cut a long story short, they became captives in Egypt. Then the Lord called Moses and sent him to Pharaoh, to demand the release of the Israelites, but Pharaoh would not listen.

And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go. (Exodus 5:1-2).

Pharaoh, instead of letting them go, made their work harder so they had to make bricks without straw. Moses was discouraged and began complaining against the Lord.

And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? Why is it that thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all. (Exodus 5:22-23).

After that it was time for action, and the Lord introduced himself again exclusively with the name that the Patriarchs had all been waiting for, announcing that there will be no more delay.

Then the Lord said unto Moses, now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land. And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name The Lord was I not known to them. And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan... and I have remembered my covenant... I will give it to you for an heritage: I am the Lord. (Exodus 6:1-8).

Adonai (The Lord) had appeared, discarding all other names, and from that time onward things started hotting up for Pharaoh. Moses went in with his rod which turned into a serpent, and he defeated the Egyptian magicians. Then the ten great plagues began, culminating in the death of the firstborn of Egypt. The Lord opened up the sea so that the Israelites could cross over on dry land, then closed it up again and drowned the Egyptian army that came in pursuit.

The Lord brought them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, which they gained possession during the days of Joshua, the Judges of Israel, and King David.

Did the Patriarchs not know the name of the Lord? Of course they did, and sometimes they called on the name of the Lord. Were they searching for some sort of mystical knowledge? No, they knew who the Lord was, and they wanted him to reveal himself with that name, so that there would be mercy, compassion, deliverance and the fulfilment of the covenant.

Taking the Name of the Lord in Vain

After the Lord had revealed himself to Moses exclusively as "Adonai", there was no more "calling on the name of the Lord", at least not in the Old Testament. Instead, there were repeated instructions not to take the name of the Lord in vain, starting with the Ten Commandments.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (Exodus 20:7).

El Elyon

El Elyon - The Most High God

The title "El Elyon" (The Most High God) is never used by God himself. He never introduces himself as the Most High God. This is a man-made title, to distinguish him from other gods in a pagan culture. It does not imply that the Most High God is a big chief among a pantheon of minor gods, because to do so would be blasphemous. Instead it separates him from them.

Abraham and Melchizedek

The first appearance of this title is when Abraham meets Melchizedek, King of Salem.

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the Most High God. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth: and blessed be the Most High God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all. And the king of Sodom said unto Abram, Give me the persons, and take the goods to thyself. And Abram said to the king of Sodom, I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, the Most High God, the possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoelatchet, and that I will not take any thing that is thine, lest thou should say, I have made Abram rich... (Gen. 14:18-23).

Abraham had returned from a battle where he had rescued his nephew Lot, and a number of other people who had been captured. He also took some goods, and the king of Sodom came out to meet him, offering appeasement of some sort, saying Abraham could keep the goods if he gave back the people. Abraham gave back the goods instead, saying he didn't want a reputation for getting rich from the spoils of war.

At the same time, Abraham met a king/priest called Melkizedek. This is a dual name Melki-Tzedek which means King of Righteousness. It is unusual for someone to be both a king and a priest, because a king might have to spill blood during war, therefore he cannot be a priest. The only other king/priest is the Messiah. Abraham must have seen many people performing acts of worship to different gods among the Caananite tribes, but on this occasion he recognised Melki-Tzedek as a priest who worshipped the true God, the creater of the world. There was nothing they could do about the Canaanite gods at that time, because there was no Kingdom of Israel. All they had were the places where they dwelt, among the Canaanites, and Melki-Tzedek had possession of a small hill which later became known as Jerusalem.

The title "Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth", means that the Lord is not just another territorial spirit with jurisdiction over a small area, but is the God who possesses everything, because he created all of it. Thus, Abraham was able to boast before his enemies, that they can have their kingdoms only as long as the Most High God allows them to, because ultimately it all belongs to the Most High God himself.

Baalam and the Moabite King

Baalam is known as the "mercenary prophet" because he made an agreement with Balak, a Moabite king, to curse Israel. However, when he was on his way to a place where he could curse Israel, an angel stood in the way of his donkey. Baalam at first couldn't see the angel, but then his eyes were opened so he saw the angel and he knew he had to bless Israel and not curse. In the dialogue that followed, Baalam said:

And now, behold, I go unto my people: come, therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days. And he took up this parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the Most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. (Num. 24:14-17).

Here we have the title "Most High" associated with the name "God" and also associated with knowledge of some sort. Is this some kind of mystical knowledge, difficult for us to grasp? Not really. The "Most High God" is the possessor of heaven and earth, as we have already seen, who decides how the earth is to be divided up into kingdoms. The "vision of the Almighty" is nothing less that the covenant that "El Shaddai" made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The "Star out of Jacob" and the "Sceptre" is the Messiah. The covenant will be ulimately fulfilled in the latter days, when the Messiah comes again, not as the Suffering Servant, but as the King.

The nature of the Most High, as the one who divides up the nations, is confirmed in Deuteronomy 32:8.

When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.

Justice and Mercy in the New Testament


Theos - God


Kurios - Lord

The Greek words "Theos" and "Kurios" are respectively translated "God" and "Lord", and are similar in meaning to "Elohim" and "Adonai", although not exactly the same.

"Theos" is an appelative rather than a name, denoting status as an object of worship. The pagans had many gods of greater or lesser importance, but the Christians had only one God, who was supreme.

"Kurios" is also an appelative, denoting a master of slaves. The Christians used this word, without the definite article, to refer to their Heavenly Lord. With the definite article it becomes "The Lord" which means Yeshua the Messiah.

There is no distinct difference between "Theos" and "Kurios" in the New Testament, and they appear to be interchangeable. However, they sometimes take on a meaning that is similar to "Elohim" and "Adonai" in the Old Testament.

Calling on the Name of the Lord

When the word "Lord" is used twice, it appears that people are calling on the name of the Lord.

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt. 7:21-23).

Yeshua was talking about people who call on the Lord of Mercy, but don't want to know about the God of Justice and don't want to obey his commandments. The situation he describes is typical of some churches today where they raise their hands in the air and say "Lord we love you, Lord we worhip you", repeating the word "Lord" as many times as possible, but they only talk about "God" when something falls on their foot and they say "Oh my God". They come out with "words from the Lord" which are nothing more than the products of their own imagination. They perform fake healings and miracles, and cast out demons that don't exist, using techniques of auto-suggestion. They use a Christianised version of Hindu Shamanism to make people fall over on the floor. No wonder the Lord condemns them as workers of iniquity.

There is, however, a genuine calling on the name of the Lord in the New Testament. For example, the Apostle Paul called on the name of the Lord at the time of his conversion.

And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (Acts 9:4-5).

The question "Who art thou, Lord?" has puzzled many theologians because it looks as if Paul is asking for a name which he already knows. He is not asking for a name. Instead, just like the Patriarchs, he knows that this is a Divine visitation, and he wants to know the nature of the one who has come. He knows that he has done wrong, so he calls for the attribute of Mercy. The visitor introduces himself as "Jesus", and offers Mercy by appealing to his pricking conscience.

Not only did Paul call on the name of the Lord, but it seems that all the church in Jerusalem was doing it.

But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem... (Acts 9:21).

Then, at a later date, Paul gives an account of his conversion, and says how he called on the name of the Lord.

And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our Fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldst know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:12-16).

The title "God of our Fathers", means the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The phrase "thou shouldst know his will" means this is the God of Justice who has certain expectations and must be obeyed. The "Just One" is Yeshua, in his capacity as the representative of the God of Justice. Then Paul is instructed to "call on the name of the Lord" because he has persecuted the church and needs Mercy.

Calling on the Name of God

Although others might call on the name of the Lord, there is only one who could call on the name of God.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias. (Matt. 27:46-47).

The phrase "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani" is Aramaic, the language that was spoken in Galilee and much of Judea at that time. The word "Eli" is derived from "Elohim" and means "God". The name of the prophet Elijah is also derived from Elohim, which is why some people thought he was calling for Elijah.

He was actually quoting Psalm 22:1, a prophetic psalm in which David cries out to God in his time of distress. This is a curious Psalm which must have puzzled many Jews, because a man who has sinned would have called out to the Lord of Mercy, not the God of Justice. David called out to God, because his psalm was prophetic and he was looking forward to the time when the Just One would call out to the God of Justice, knowing that it would be denied because the Lord of Mercy was having compassion on all who called in his Name.

Justice and Mercy in the Talmud

"What, the Talmud! Why are you reading the Talmud?", I hear the Christians say. "Why are you reading that book that denies Yeshua?". I agree that we can't rely on it as a source of doctrine, but at least we can give the Jews credit for knowing the Hebrew language. It was from the Talmud that I learned that "Elohim" comes with Justice and "Adonai" comes with mercy, and then when I checked it out in the Bible it all panned out.

.... THE LORD GOD [MADE EARTH AND HEAVEN]. This may be compared to a king who had some empty glasses. Said the king: ' If I pour hot water into them, they will burst; if cold, they will contract [and snap]. ' What then did the king do? He mixed hot and cold water and poured it into them, and so they remained [unbroken]. Even so, said the Holy One, blessed be He: ' If I create the world on the basis of mercy alone, its sins will be great; on the basis of judgment alone, the world cannot exist. Hence I will create it on the basis of judgment and of mercy, and may it then stand!’ Hence the expression,’ THE LORD GOD. (Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XII:15)

The footnote to this passage says:

The Rabbis hold that "Adonai" (the Tetragrammaton) refers to God under His Attribute of Mercy, while "Elohim" describes Him as a God of judgment.

Another passage tells how even the Lord of Mercy can be provoked to anger if our wickedness is great enough, and the God of Judgement will be merciful if we are righteous.

Woe to the wicked who turn the Attribute of Mercy into the Attribute of Judgment. Wherever the Tetragrammaton [‘Lord’] is employed it connotes the Attribute of Mercy, as in the verse, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious (Ex. XXXIV, 6), yet it is written, And the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great (Gen. VI, 5), And it repented the Lord that he had made man (ib. 6), And the Lord said: I will blot out man (ib. 7). Happy are the righteous who turn the Attribute of Judgment into the Attribute of Mercy. Wherever Elohim (God) is employed it connotes the Attribute of Judgment: Thus: Thou shalt not revile Elohim- God (Ex. XXII, 27); the cause of both parties shall come before Elohim-God (ib. 8); yet it is written, And Elohim heard their groaning, and Elohim remembered His covenant (ib. II, 24); And Elohim remembered Rachel (Gen. XXX, 22); AND ELOHIM REMEMBERED NOAH. (Midrash Rabbah - Genesis XXXIII:3).


The Lord God reveals himself in the Bible using names and titles that have specific meanings. In particular, "Elohim" (God) has the attribute of Justice and "Adonai" (Lord) has the attribute of Mercy. This distinction persists throughout the Bible, including the New Testament, and in particular the early chapters of Genesis.

The names "Lord" and "God" are nevertheless used interchangeably in many passages and it is not possible to claim that somebody is in error by using the wrong name during prayer, study and worship. However, we can greatly enrich our understanding of the Bible by considering the meanings of the Divine names and titles wherever they occur, since there might be a reason why a particular name or title is used.

Copyright 1998

Mike Gascoigne
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