Anything that is worshiped can be termed a god, inasmuch as the worshiper attributes to it might greater than his own and venerates it. A person can even let his belly be a god. (Ro 16:18; Php 3:18, 19) The Bible makes mention of many gods (Ps 86:8; 1Co 8:5, 6), but it shows that the gods of the nations are valueless gods.
Hebrew Terms. Among the Hebrew words that are translated “God” is ʼEl, probably meaning “Mighty One; Strong One.” (Ge 14:18) It is used with reference to Jehovah, to other gods, and to men. It is also used extensively in the makeup of proper names, such as Elisha (meaning “God Is Salvation”) and Michael (“Who Is Like God?”). In some places ʼEl appears with the definite article (ha·ʼElʹ, literally, “the God”) with reference to Jehovah, thereby distinguishing him from other gods.
The plural form, ʼe·limʹ, is used when referring to other gods, such as at Exodus 15:11 (“gods”). It is also used as the plural of majesty and excellence, as in Psalm 89:6: “Who can resemble Jehovah among the sons of God [bi·venehʹ ʼE·limʹ]?” That the plural form is used to denote a single individual here and in a number of other places is supported by the translation of ʼE·limʹ by the singular form The·osʹ in the Greek Septuagint; likewise by Deus in the Latin Vulgate.
The Hebrew word ʼelo·himʹ (gods) appears to be from a root meaning “be strong.” ʼElo·himʹ is the plural of ʼelohʹah (god). Sometimes this plural refers to a number of gods (Ge 31:30, 32; 35:2), but more often it is used as a plural of majesty, dignity, or excellence. ʼElo·himʹ is used in the Scriptures with reference to Jehovah himself, to angels, to idol gods (singular and plural), and to men.
When applying to Jehovah, ʼElo·himʹ is used as a plural of majesty, dignity, or excellence. (Ge 1:1) Regarding this, Aaron Ember wrote: “That the language of the O[ld] T[estament] has entirely given up the idea of plurality in . . . [ʼElo·himʹ] (as applied to the God of Israel) is especially shown by the fact that it is almost invariably construed with a singular verbal predicate, and takes a singular adjectival attribute. . . . [ʼElo·himʹ] must rather be explained as an intensive plural, denoting greatness and majesty, being equal to The Great God.”
The title ʼElo·himʹ draws attention to Jehovah’s strength as the Creator. It appears 35 times by itself in the account of creation, and every time the verb describing what he said and did is in the singular number. (Ge 1:1–2:4) In him resides the sum and substance of infinite forces.
At Psalm 8:5, the angels are also referred to as ʼelo·himʹ, as is confirmed by Paul’s quotation of the passage at Hebrews 2:6-8. They are called benehʹ ha·ʼElo·himʹ, “sons of God” (KJ); “sons of the true God” (NW), at Genesis 6:2, 4; Job 1:6; 2:1. Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, by Koehler and Baumgartner (1958), page 134, says: “(individual) divine beings, gods.” And page 51 says: “the (single) gods,” and it cites Genesis 6:2; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7. Hence, at Psalm 8:5 ʼelo·himʹ is rendered “angels” (LXX); “godlike ones” (NW).
The word ʼelo·himʹ is also used when referring to idol gods. Sometimes this plural form means simply “gods.” (Ex 12:12; 20:23) At other times it is the plural of excellence and only one god (or goddess) is referred to. However, these gods were clearly not trinities.
At Psalm 82:1, 6, ʼelo·himʹ is used of men, human judges in Israel. Jesus quoted from this Psalm at John 10:34, 35. They were gods in their capacity as representatives of and spokesmen for Jehovah. Similarly Moses was told that he was to serve as “God” to Aaron and to Pharaoh.
In many places in the Scriptures ʼElo·himʹ is also found preceded by the definite article ha. (Ge 5:22) Concerning the use of ha·ʼElo·himʹ, F. Zorell says: “In the Holy Scriptures especially the one true God, Jahve, is designated by this word; . . . ‘Jahve is the [one true] God’ De 4:35; 4:39; Jos 22:34; 2Sa 7:28; 1Ki 8:60 etc.”
The Greek Term. The usual Greek equivalent of ʼEl and ʼElo·himʹ in the Septuagint translation and the word for “God” or “god” in the Christian Greek Scriptures is the·osʹ.
The True God Jehovah. The true God is not a nameless God. His name is Jehovah. (De 6:4; Ps 83:18) He is God by reason of his creatorship. (Ge 1:1; Re 4:11) The true God is real (Joh 7:28), a person (Ac 3:19; Heb 9:24), and not lifeless natural law operating without a living lawgiver, not blind force working through a series of accidents to develop one thing or another. The 1956 edition of The Encyclopedia Americana (Vol. XII, p. 743) commented under the heading “God”: “In the Christian, Mohammedan, and Jewish sense, the Supreme Being, the First Cause, and in a general sense, as considered nowadays throughout the civilized world, a spiritual being, self-existent, eternal and absolutely free and all-powerful, distinct from the matter which he has created in many forms, and which he conserves and controls. There does not seem to have been a period of history where mankind was without belief in a supernatural author and governor of the universe.”
Proofs of the existence of “the living God.” The fact of the existence of God is proved by the order, power, and complexity of creation, macroscopic and microscopic, and through his dealings with his people throughout history. In looking into what might be called the Book of Divine Creation, scientists learn much. One can learn from a book only if intelligent thought and preparation have been put into the book by its author.
In contrast to the lifeless gods of the nations, Jehovah is “the living God.” (Jer 10:10; 2Co 6:16) Everywhere there is testimony to his activity and his greatness. “The heavens are declaring the glory of God; and of the work of his hands the expanse is telling.” (Ps 19:1) Men have no reason or excuse for denying God, because “what may be known about God is manifest among them, for God made it manifest to them. For his invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable.”
Jehovah God is described in the Bible as living from time indefinite to time indefinite, forever (Ps 90:2, 4; Re 10:6), and as being the King of eternity, incorruptible, invisible, the only true God. (1Ti 1:17) There existed no god before him.
Infinite, but approachable. The true God is infinite and beyond the mind of man fully to fathom. The creature could never hope to become equal to his Creator or understand all the workings of His mind. (Ro 11:33-36) But He can be found and approached, and He supplies his worshiper with all that is necessary for the worshiper’s welfare and happiness. (Ac 17:26, 27; Ps 145:16) He is ever at the zenith of his ability and willingness to give good gifts and presents to his creatures, as it is written: “Every good gift and every perfect present is from above, for it comes down from the Father of the celestial lights, and with him there is not a variation of the turning of the shadow.” (Jas 1:17) Jehovah always acts within his own righteous arrangements, doing all things on a legal basis. (Ro 3:4, 23-26) For this reason all of his creatures can have complete confidence in him, knowing that he always abides by the principles he establishes. He does not change (Mal 3:6), and there is no “variation” with him in the application of his principles. There is no partiality with him (De 10:17, 18; Ro 2:11), and it is impossible for him to lie.
His attributes. The true God is not omnipresent, for he is spoken of as having a location. (1Ki 8:49; Joh 16:28; Heb 9:24) His throne is in heaven. (Isa 66:1) He is all-powerful, being the Almighty God. (Ge 17:1; Re 16:14) “All things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him,” and he is “the One telling from the beginning the finale.” (Heb 4:13; Isa 46:10, 11; 1Sa 2:3) His power and knowledge extend everywhere, reaching every part of the universe.
The true God is spirit, not flesh (Joh 4:24; 2Co 3:17), though he sometimes likens his attributes of sight, power, and so forth, to human faculties. Thus he speaks figuratively of his “arm” (Ex 6:6), his “eyes,” and his “ears” (Ps 34:15), and he points out that, since he is the Creator of human eyes and ears, he certainly can see and hear.
Some of God’s primary attributes are love (1Jo 4:8), wisdom (Pr 2:6; Ro 11:33), justice (De 32:4; Lu 18:7, 8), and power (Job 37:23; Lu 1:35). He is a God of order and of peace. (1Co 14:33) He is completely holy, clean and pure (Isa 6:3; Hab 1:13; Re 4:8); happy (1Ti 1:11); and merciful (Ex 34:6; Lu 6:36). Many other qualities of his personality are described in the Scriptures.
His position. Jehovah is the Supreme Sovereign of the universe, the King eternal. (Ps 68:20; Da 4:25, 35; Ac 4:24; 1Ti 1:17) The position of his throne is the ultimate for superiority. (Eze 1:4-28; Da 7:9-14; Re 4:1-8) He is the Majesty (Heb 1:3; 8:1), the Majestic God, the Majestic One. (1Sa 4:8; Isa 33:21) He is the Source of all life.
His righteousness and glory. The true God is a righteous God. (Ps 7:9) He is the glorious God. (Ps 29:3; Ac 7:2) He enjoys eminence above all (De 33:26), being clothed with eminence and strength (Ps 93:1; 68:34) and with dignity and splendor. (Ps 104:1; 1Ch 16:27; Job 37:22; Ps 8:1) “His activity is dignity and splendor themselves.” (Ps 111:3) There is glory of splendor in his Kingship.
His purpose. God has a purpose that he will work out and that cannot be thwarted. (Isa 46:10; 55:8-11) His purpose, as expressed at Ephesians 1:9, 10, is “to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” By means of Christ all intelligent creation will be brought into full harmony with God. (Compare Mt 6:9, 10.) None existed before Jehovah; therefore he has seniority over all. (Isa 44:6) He, being the Creator, existed before any other gods, and ‘none will exist after him,’ because the nations will never produce a real, live god that is able to prophesy. (Isa 43:10; 46:9, 10) As the Alpha and the Omega (Re 22:13), he is the one and only Almighty God; he will bring to a successful conclusion the issue over Godship, being forever vindicated as the only Almighty God. (Re 1:8; 21:5, 6) He never forgets or forsakes his purposes or covenants, which makes him a God of dependability and loyalty.
A communicative God. Having great love for his creatures, God provides ample opportunity for them to know him and his purposes. His own voice has been heard by men on earth on three occasions. (Mt 3:17; 17:5; Joh 12:28) He has communicated through angels (Lu 2:9-12; Ac 7:52, 53) and through men to whom he gave directions and revelations, such as Moses, and especially through his Son, Jesus Christ. (Heb 1:1, 2; Re 1:1) His written Word is his communication to his people, enabling them to be completely equipped as his servants and ministers, and directing them on the way to life.
Contrasted with the gods of the nations. The true God, the Creator of the glorious heavenly bodies, has glory and brilliance beyond the ability of fleshly sight to endure, for “no man may see [God] and yet live.” (Ex 33:20) Only the angels, spirit creatures, have vision that can behold his face in a literal sense. (Mt 18:10; Lu 1:19) Nevertheless, he does not expose men to such an experience. In loving-kindness he enables men to see his fine qualities through his Word, including the revelation of himself by means of his Son, Christ Jesus.
God gives us an idea of the effect of his presence in the book of Revelation. The apostle John had a vision that approximated seeing God, in the sense that it revealed the effect of beholding him on his throne. God was not like a man in appearance, for he has not revealed any figure of his to man, as John himself said later: “No man has seen God at any time.” (Joh 1:18) Rather, God was shown to be like highly polished gems, precious, glowing, beautiful, that attract the eye and win delighted admiration. He was “in appearance, like a jasper stone and a precious red-colored stone, and round about the throne there [was] a rainbow like an emerald in appearance.” (Re 4:3) Thus, he is lovely in appearance and pleasant to look at, causing one to lose oneself in wonderment. About his throne there is further glory and an atmosphere of calmness, serenity; the appearance of a perfect rainbow of emerald indicates that, reminding one of the enjoyable quieting calm that follows a storm.
How different the true God is, therefore, from the gods of the nations, who are often depicted as being grotesque, angry, fierce, implacable, merciless, whimsical as to their favors and disfavors, horrifying and fiendish, and ready to torture earthly creatures in some kind of inferno.
“A God exacting exclusive devotion.” “Even though there are those who are called ‘gods,’ whether in heaven or on earth, just as there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords,’ there is actually to us one God the Father.” (1Co 8:5, 6) Jehovah is the Almighty God, the only true God, and he rightfully exacts exclusive devotion. (Ex 20:5) His servants must keep others out of, or excluded from, his proper place in their hearts and actions. He requires his worshipers to worship him with spirit and truth. (Joh 4:24) They should stand in reverent awe of him alone.
Among other mighty ones called “gods” in the Bible is Jesus Christ, who is “the only-begotten god.” But he himself plainly said: “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.” (Joh 1:18; Lu 4:8; De 10:20) The angels are “godlike ones,” but one of them stopped John from worshiping him, saying: “Be careful! Do not do that! . . . Worship God.” (Ps 8:5; Heb 2:7; Re 19:10) Mighty men among the Hebrews were called “gods” (Ps 82:1-7); but no man was purposed by God to receive worship. When Cornelius began to do obeisance to Peter, that apostle stopped him with the words, “Rise; I myself am also a man.” (Ac 10:25, 26) Certainly the false gods invented and fashioned by men down through the centuries since the rebellion in Eden are not to be worshiped. The Mosaic Law warns strongly against turning from Jehovah to them. (Ex 20:3-5) Jehovah the true God will not forever tolerate rivalry from false, worthless gods.
After Christ’s Millennial Reign, during which he brings to nothing all authority and power that is in opposition to God, he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, who will then become “all things to everyone.” (Ro 8:33; 1Co 15:23-28) Eventually, all those living will acknowledge God’s sovereignty and will praise his name continually.