Is Elohim a Plural Word?

Many readers of the Bible have noted that the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is plural given the -im ending and wondered how that squares with strict monotheism. Some, usually with a Christian agenda, have anachronistically read Trinitarianism into it. Some, usually with an counter-Christian agenda, have provocatively read polytheism into it. I would like to suggest both are mistaken.

Elohim is a plural word, but it functions as a plural or a singular word depending on the context. This is not as strange as it sounds. Consider the words: sheep, fish, squid, scissors and aircraft. They’re all words for which the plural and singular forms are the same.

Now let’s read Genesis 1:26-28, the source of this controversy, with this in mind.

Then Elohim said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness … So Elohim created humankind in his image, in the image of Elohim he created them; male and female he created them.

I would suggest that what we have here is a single person, God, addressing a group, the heavenly hosts or divine assembly, what these days we call angels. Then having made the announcement God goes ahead and acts – unilaterally. The others watch, just as they did when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4-7). Maybe that’s why Daniel calls them Watchers (Daniel 4:13,17).

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