Israel Drazin

What does “Man of God” mean?

The biblical book Kings describes the Deity as Y-h-v-h, as did the Five Books of Moses. It also calls the Deity Elohim, generally translated as “God,” as does the Five Books. Yet, it describes the prophet Elisha as a “Man of Elohim,” not a “Man of Y-h-v-h.” Why?

A related question. Are the many secular scholars correct when they claim that the biblical sections that mention Elohim and Y-h-v-h were written by different authors?

A third question. How should we understand the introduction to the Five Books of Moses?

It should be clear that secular scholars would agree that there is no conflict of writers in the story of Elisha, with some giving an Elohim interpretation of the tale, while, in contrast, others give another view when Y-h-v-h appears. I think the same applies to Moses’ Torah.

We can see the distinction between Elohim and Y-h-v-h in the introductory parable of the Torah as being similar to the following. Imagine a father who has a son, Jonathan. Father sends son to the store to buy milk and says Jonathan did so. In this example, the child is described in two ways: as a son and by name.

It is the same in Genesis 1:1-2 and 2:5. The first chapter can be translated as, “In the beginning when Elohim created the heaven and earth, the earth was unformed and darkness covered all, and the wind of Elohim blew over the water.”  The second chapter has “Y-h-v-h Elohim.”

Since El was used in ancient times to indicate something powerful, such as God, and the plural Elohim suggests something supremely powerful, there is a similarity to the use of “son” in the analogy. It describes the entity. Y-h-v-h is similar but more precise. It is not a name. It depicts the entity with a form of the Hebrew word meaning “being.” The Being “was, is, and will be.” Thus, like the analogy, we are first introduced to something (like the son in the analogy). This something, we are told by what it is called, is supremely powerful. Then, in chapter two, we are given more information. This all-powerful entity existed forever, exists today, and will continue to exist in the future. In short, the secular scholars are wrong. There are not two ideas about God. There are two descriptions of the Deity.

Regarding the third question, how to understand the Torah’s introduction, our understanding that Elohim means all-powerful leads us to translate the verse differently than is usually proposed. Instead of “the wind of Elohim,” the translation should be that “a very powerful wind blew over the water” before creation was completed.

About the Author
Dr. Israel Drazin served for 31 years in the US military and attained the rank of brigadier general. He is an attorney and a rabbi, with master’s degrees in both psychology and Hebrew literature and a PhD in Judaic studies. As a lawyer, he developed the legal strategy that saved the military chaplaincy when its constitutionality was attacked in court, and he received the Legion of Merit for his service. Dr. Drazin is the author of more than 50 books on the Bible, philosophy, and other subjects.