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By Tyson Thorne

September 27, 2018
 

NoG Adonai Large

As mentioned elsewhere, Adonai was used as a substitute for the speaking of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) and occurs 315 times in the Old Testament. The name itself expresses authority and the exalted position which God alone holds. The Hebrew word Adon is the singular of Adonai, and had a range of meaning. To the Jews the word could be used of men, angels, or gods — anyone of great authority or who might be called "master". Adonai, like Elohim, is plural but when used with other singular verbs it was understood to be the name of the God (a being) who relates to people (creatures).

Perhaps the best way to understand the meaning of Adonai is to review David's use of the name. I aprticularly like Psalm 8.1: "O Adonai, our Adonai, how magnificent is your reputation throughout the earth! You reveal your majesty in the heavens above!"

The word might have been borrowed from the other nations around them, as Adon was used by many pagan cultures as a generic name for God. For example, the Phoenicians used adon for their god Tammuz, and of course the famous Greek god Adonis stems from this word too. Regardless of the origins, Adonai is the second-most used name of God in the Hebrew Bible, and was the most used spoken name of God up until near the time of Jesus. Eventually the name fell into disuse as it, like YHWH before, was viewed as too holy to speak aloud, according to Josephus.

Adonai is also used in compound names of God, and in such cases should be translated as "Master" It is often used with Elohim, Adonai-Elohim, usually translated as "Lord God" should probably be translated as "our Master, God". of the 282 times Adonai-Elohim is used in the Old Testament, the vast majority of them (222) are found in Ezekiel. Read Ezekiel and the reason will become clear, for a primary emphasis is God's soveriegnty and his right to judge Israel. The book states multiple times (in 13.9, 23.49, 24.24, 28.24 and 29.16), "Then they will know that I am the Adonai-Elohim.’” The lesson all Israel needed to learn is that God is the Master of the universe, and as his created creatures we ought to be his servants.

A.W. Tozer understood the lesson of Ezekiel and discusses it in chapter 8 of his book (titled "Restoring the Creator-Creature Relation"), The Pursuit of God. We think of ourselves as a person, but in the eternal reality the only Person is God himself. Everything else is a creation of his, and living creations are creatures. This puts our lives in proper perspective. We are not a person as God is a Person, for that would elevate us to his divine level. This is the meaning of Ezekiel, and what Adonai is meant to remind us of.

 
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