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Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Definition of Hebrew Names

Elijah

By Jeff A. Benner

This name is written two different ways - אליה, pronounced as eliy-yahu or אליהו, pronounced as eliy-yahu. There are three components to this name. The first is אל (el) the Hebrew word for "power" and "authority" and is commonly translated as God or god. The י is a letter added to the end of a noun to mean "my" hence אלי means "my God". The י also doubles as the first letter of the next part of the name - יה (Yah) or יהו (yahu). Both yah and yahu are two different forms of the tetragrammaton יהוה (YHWH), the name of God. The root of YHWH as well as Yah and Yahu is היה literally meaning "to breath".

To the ancient Hebrews, only that which can be perceived through the senses (sight, feeling, hearing, smell or taste) is believed to exist. This is why the ancients usually erected statues of a god. When Moses asked God "who should I tell them has sent me?" God said, tell them ehyeh asher ehyeh has sent you. While this phrase is commonly translated as "I am who I am" it is better understood as "I breathe and I have breath". In the Hebrew mind that which "exists" has breath, this can be a god, man, animal or even a mountain. The breath (often translated as spirit) is the character of an individual or object. God may not be seen but he is breath and does exist.

When each of these components are combined the name means "my God is Yah". But as the word אל (el) means power and authority יהוה means "to have breath", we can see the meaning "My authority is the one who has breath".




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