Rediscovering Divinity pt 2 - The Name EL

Published on 4 June 2023 at 08:43

The Name “El” - Exploring the Semitic Root for God

Introduction - Welcome back to our insightful series, "Rediscovering Divinity: A Reintroduction to the Names of God." We are indeed on a rewarding journey, uncovering the layers of significance embedded in the divine names. In our previous blog, we set the stage for this deep dive into the various names of God used in the scriptures, sparking a sense of anticipation and curiosity about the revelations yet to unfold. Today, we build upon that foundation as we turn our attention to a name that is arguably one of the most fundamental in scripture: "El." Just as a child grows to understand the complexity of their parents' roles—provider, protector, guide, and much more—we too, through this exploration, are expanding our perception of God, and in doing so, deepening our relationship with Him. This enriching exploration of "El" will not just be an academic exercise. Our aim is to foster a more profound, personal understanding of 

God's nature and character, seen through the lens of the ancient Israelites. We will dig deep into its origins, charting its roots back to the beginnings of Semitic language. We'll unearth its meaning, grasping the nuances of divine power and might it conveys. We'll reflect on its significance, revealing how this single syllable impacted and shaped the ancient Israelites' perception and understanding of God's nature. We'll weave together these threads of insight to form a comprehensive tapestry that displays God as "El" in all His majesty. Prepare to immerse yourself in the richness of divine revelation, as we venture deeper into the mysteries of God's names. Let's embark on this exciting journey, guided by the words of scripture and inspired by the Spirit's illumination. Welcome to the exploration of "El".


Origins and Significance of "El" 

In ancient Semitic languages, the term "El" is a generic word used to denote god or deity. It is used in a variety of contexts, often to denote any divine being, not necessarily the God of the Bible. For example, when King Saul went to inquire of Samuel from the witch of Endor, she saw Samuel’s spirit and called him an Elohim (1 Samuel 28:13). This broad usage reflects the term's ancient roots, tracing back to a time when polytheism was prevalent among Semitic cultures. But within the context of the Hebrew Bible, "El" assumes a far more profound and significant meaning. Here, it refers to the one true God, the Supreme Being. "El" is used over 200 times in the Old Testament to refer to God, setting a foundational understanding of the divine being for ancient Israelites. It's interesting to note the dichotomy of "El." On one hand, it conveys the universality of God, reflecting a divine entity recognized across various Semitic cultures. On the other hand, when used in the Hebrew context, it uniquely and distinctly points towards the God of Israel, denoting His singularity and supremacy.


El in Biblical Texts and Its Implications

Throughout the Bible, "El" is used both as a standalone name for God and as part of compound names. Each usage reveals something about God's nature and character. For example, in Genesis 14:18-20, Melchizedek, the king of Salem, refers to God as "El Elyon," meaning "God Most High." This name conveys God's absolute supremacy over all of creation. In Genesis 16:13, Hagar, in her despair, calls God "El Roi," meaning "the God who sees me," expressing her realization that God is an ever-present help in time of need. These instances illustrate how the biblical usage of "El" conveys a variety of attributes of God – His transcendence, omnipotence, omnipresence, and care for individuals. "El" acts as a versatile framework, accommodating various descriptions of God's character and actions, thus offering a rich, multi-faceted picture of the divine being.


El in Different Compound Names and Their Meanings

The potency of "El" becomes even more apparent when we explore its usage in compound names. When paired with other words, "El" forms descriptive titles for God, each one revealing a unique facet of His divine nature.

For instance:

  • El Shaddai means "God Almighty"
  • El Elyon means "The Most-High God"
  • El Olam means "The Everlasting God"
  • El Roi means "The God Who Sees me"

Each compound name enhances our understanding of God's character. El Shaddai signifies God's might and sufficiency, El Elyon denotes His supremacy, El Olam affirms His eternal existence, and El Roi reminds us of His intimate awareness of and care for every individual. In each name, "El" stands as a testament to God's divine essence, while the accompanying term provides a unique insight into His character and deeds.


Contemporary Reflections on El

Today, we stand thousands of years removed from the ancient Israelites who first understood God as "El." But despite the chasm of time and culture, the name "El" remains profoundly relevant and meaningful to our faith experience. In the face of personal challenges, we can find comfort in "El Roi," the God who sees us in our affliction, just as He saw Hagar in her moment of despair. In times of uncertainty or fear, we can draw strength from "El Shaddai," the God Almighty, who reassures us of His power and sufficiency to overcome our circumstances. When life seems transitory and fleeting, we can find stability in "El Olam," the Everlasting God, who remains constant despite the changing seasons of life. "El," in all its variations, serves as a bridge connecting the ancient faith experiences to our contemporary ones. It gives us a language to articulate our understanding of God and enables us to engage with Him at a more personal and profound level. Moreover, the name "El" and its derivatives can significantly influence our prayer life. Knowing that we approach "El Elyon," the Most-High God, can instill in us a sense of reverence and awe as we pray. Understanding God as "El Shaddai," we can pray with confidence, acknowledging His ability to meet our needs. Recognizing God as "El Roi" can provide assurance that our cries are not unheard, but rather they are seen by our attentive God. These names, therefore, not only enhance our understanding of God's character but also guide our interaction with Him.


Conclusion - Our exploration of "El" gives us a glimpse into the foundational understanding of God in the ancient Semitic world and biblical tradition. It reveals the versatility and depth of this simple yet profound name, which communicates the universality, supremacy, and multi-faceted character of God. It also unveils the enduring relevance of this ancient name, providing insights into God's nature that remain profoundly significant for our faith journey today. As we delve deeper into the study of God's names in this series, let's continue to allow these divine revelations to shape our understanding of God, inform our prayers, and deepen our faith. Join us in our next post, where we will explore another significant name - "Jehovah/Yahweh" - its origin, its significance in the biblical narrative, and its impact on our contemporary faith experience. We hope that through this journey, we continue to encounter God in new ways, broaden our understanding, and deepen our appreciation of His divine nature. Let's continue to rediscover the multi-faceted divinity of the Almighty God together!

Call to Action - Thank you for joining us in this enlightening exploration of the name "El." We invite you to continue this journey of rediscovery with us. Engage with the content, reflect on the relevance of these ancient names in your life, and let it enrich your understanding of God. As we move forward, take some time to meditate on "El," its various forms, and the attributes of God it brings to light. Consider how these insights could impact your relationship with God, your prayer life, and your personal faith journey. Don't forget to join us in our next post as we dive deeper into another significant name - "Jehovah/Yahweh." Share your thoughts, reflections, and experiences as we go along. Remember, your engagement not only enriches your understanding but also contributes to a shared learning experience for all our readers. So, let's continue on this shared journey of rediscovering the multifaceted divinity of the Almighty God together! Don't miss our next post. Join us at the Insight Club, follow us on our social media channels, and be part of this divine exploration. Let's grow together in our knowledge and love for God!

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