The Oneness of the Creator
If there is a human being who had ever known the Oneness of the Creator, that was Mosheh. He was the only human being who had ever known the Creator so closely, to speak with Him mouth to mouth and face to face, yet, he simply said, “Listen up O Israel, YHVH is one!”
The common understanding of this appeal, known as Shema Israel, is the Oneness of Creator God, i.e. the oneness or unity of the Godhead, and the obedience of His people to His will. In Time of Reckoning Ministry, we believe that there is much more to the Oneness of the Creator than that, since there is no English word that remotely equals the Hebrew word echad “one” in its range of senses of one, first, only, united, etc.
In his last address to the nation of Israel, Mosheh bade the people to love YHVH with all their heart, with all their soul, and all of their diligence (Deu 6:4-6). But for the love of YHVH to be for the right reason, the people were to lay His commandments to heart and be the constant subject of thought and diligence, the commandments were to be a subject of consciousness, and not merely of the intellect.
The Oneness of the Creator in Shema Israel
Listen up, O Isra’el! Yehovah our Elohim, Yehovah is one! (Deu 6:4)
שְמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד
Shema Isra’eil Yehovah Eloheinu Yehovah Echad
Our teacher Mosheh began this proclamation with the word “shema” which can be translated properly to summit, to listen, to hear with understanding, to pay attention, to internalize, and ultimately to respond in deeds. Then, he said, “Yehovah our Elohim, Yehovah is one“. This proclamation is known as “Shema Israel”.
The question we need to ask is as to what Mosheh meant when he said “YHVH is one”. Did he mean that He is one, in the sense of Oneness of the Creator, i.e. “one entity”, or the first among others, as it is often implied by “number one”, or perhaps he meant “the only one and there are no others”?
But, neither is Elohim the first, because it will imply that there are “second” and “third”. In fact, there is no point in even assigning a number to Him, as in “God is one”, because numbers are assigned to finite things and to the Absolute One it is inappropriate and unlawful to even talk about numbers.
Nor is it appropriate or lawful to compass the Infinite One in finite categories, since the Creator fills all space and leaves no space for anything else, for He does not move from one corner of the universe to the other, as an entity would, but He is present everywhere at any time.
Nor can He be called “a single entity” either, unless someone is able to define the terms “singularity” and “entity” in reference to Him. But He can be called with the terms He called Himself: namely, YHVH Elohim, YHVH who stands alone and who is above matter, space, and time, and Elohim, the Absolute Existing Power that created and holds everything visible and invisible together.
The Creator is indeed one, but not “one” as in one deity which includes other deities. Nor is He “one” as in “unity” which includes various parts and dimensions, as a human body is.
Rather, the Oneness of the Creator is unlike any other oneness in existence and His unity is absolute. The Creator is beyond enumeration and dimensions.
If anything else exists, like matter, light, heavens and earth, celestial beings, etc., it exists only, because Elohim exists. As the sages rightfully said, “Elohim is the space of the world; the world is not His space”. [Genesis Rabbah 68:9]
The intriguing word echad, the key to the Oneness of the Creator
There is a rule of thumb in studying the Scripture that wherever a Hebrew word appears first in the text, this is the place where its meaning is first defined. In our study this is the word echad that will help us understand the Oneness of the Creator.
The Hebrew word echad first appears in Gen 1:5 in the account of the creation of the first day, “And there was evening and there was morning, one day”. However, if we read the text closely, we will find that there is something intriguing in this verse, namely the use of the Hebrew word echad “one”.
We will also find that the creation days two through seven are identified by their cardinal numbers—second, third, etc., but the only exception to this order is the first day which does not use the ordinal number rishon “first”, but instead uses the cardinal number echad “one”. Why?
We should also note here that whenever the text speaks of “the first day” of, i.e. the month, the word echad “one” is used instead of rishon “first” (See Exo 40:2, Exo 40:17, Lev 23:24, Num 1:1, Num 1:18, Num 29:1, Num 33:38, Deu 1:3).
This “irregularity” the sages explain thus: “According to the sequence of the language of the chapter, it should have been written, “the first day,” as it is written regarding the other days, “second, third, fourth.” Why did Scripture write “one”? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, was the only one in His world, for the angels were not created until the second day. [i.e., אֶחָד יוֹם is understood as ‘the day of the only One’] So, is it explained in Genesis Rabbah (3:8).”
What the sages are saying here is this: On the second day, the Creator created the angels. According to 2Enoch 29:1-4, on the second day He created from fire the orders of the ten troops of angels; on the fifth day: the fish and birds, and on the sixth day: the animals and humans.
But, on the first day He was the only One in the entire universe. Hence, they explain that the first day was “the day of the only One”, and for this reason the Hebrew word echad “one” is used instead rishon “first”.
Thus, we can interpret verse 5 as follows,
And Elohim called the light Day and the darkness He called Night and evening came into existence and morning came into existence, Day one, [the day of the only One]. (Gen 1:5)
In other words, the first day of the creation was named after Him Echad, YHVH Elohim.
The term “God” in the Hebraic mind
It may be a surprise for many to learn that in Hebrew there is no equivalent word to the Gentile term “God”. In the Gentile mind, the term “God” is used exclusively for a supernatural deity conceived as the perfect and omnipotent and omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, in the monotheistic religions, or in polytheistic religions: any supernatural being worshipped as “god” in some part of the world or some aspect of life or who is a personification of some kind of force.
However, in Hebraic, there is a word with a concrete meaning that is used inclusively to denote not only the Creator, but angels (Psa 8:5), pagan deities (1Ki 11:5, 1Ki 11:33), and even humans, i.e. judges (as seen in Exo 21:6, Exo 22:8-9, 1Sa 2:25). This Hebrew word is Elohim.
There are three different words that are translated as “God” in the Scripture: El, Eloah, and Elohim, where El is not a short form of Elohim and Elohim is not exactly a plural form of Eloah, yet, they have the same meaning which we will discuss below.
The Hebrew word אֱלֹהִים, elohim, plural of אֱלֹהַּ or אֱלוֹהַּ, eloah, (the form אֱלֹהַּ is used only in Deu 32:17 and 2Ki 17:31) is commonly translated as either “God” specifically used with the article of the supreme Creator, or “gods” in the ordinary sense used for the pagan deities.
Grammatically, the suffix ים im, in Elohim, identifies Eloah as a masculine plural: “powers”, but it is important to note here that in Hebrew, plurals can be quantitative, i.e. more than one, or qualitative: large or great. The verb will identify whether elohim is quantitative or qualitative; if the verb is singular, then Elohim refers to the Creator. But, if the verb is plural, then it refers to any elohim, i.e. the pagan “gods” or idols.
Also, the words that described YHVH such as adonai “masters”, and shaddai “mighty ones” are also plural. Hence, in Hebrew, Elohim, Adonai, and Shaddai are known as “royal plurals” which term is used to embody all the strengths, powers, and authorities of the King of the universe.
Both Hebrew words אֱלֹהִים, elohim, and אֱלוֹהַּ, eloah, come from the word אֵל, eil or el. The pictograph of El (letters aleph and lamed) is a picture of an ox head and a shepherd staff which together represent strength, as the ox is a strong animal and the shepherd’s staff (or, the king’s staff) is his authority over the flock. Combined these two pictographs mean “the strong authority” and can be anyone or thing of strong authority. Hence, El means one of a strong power and authority.
A related word to the word אֵל eil, is אַיִל eyil, which means strength and anything strong. With this literal meaning it is used specifically to denote anything that has strength and power, i.e. a chief (for his political power, see Exo 15:15, Eze 17:13); a ram (for his physical strength); a pillar (as a strong support, see Eze 40:14, Eze 40:16, Eze 40:48, Eze 41:3); an oak or other strong tree (for its strength, see Isa 1:29).
Eyil with its meaning of “ram” can be found in the scene of the offering of Yitschak before YHVH, as we read,
And Avraham lifted his eyes and looked and saw behind him a ram caught in a bush by its horns, and Avraham went and took the ram and offered it up for an ascending offering instead of his son. (Gen 22:13)
But all these Hebrew words come from the primitive root verb אוּל ul, which means to twist, that is, by implication be strong, as the twisted strands of a rope together are much stronger than the untwisted strands. This is known as “synergy effect” when the working together of two or more things produces an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects, hence, ul means strength.
We find this literal use of ul in, For death has no pangs for them, and their strength is firm. (Psa 73:4)
With that being said, the Hebrew word Elohim literally means “powers” and figuratively “one in power and authority”. We find this meaning, for instance, in the passage in which YHVH vested Mosheh with the power and authority to speak and do wonders before Pharaoh. Before Pharaoh Mosheh acted as “elohim”: one of power and authority. It is the improper translation in Exodus: “I have made you gods”, that brings confusion.
Therefore, the common idea is that each of these Hebrew words El, Eloah, or Elohim represents the strength, power, and authority of the absolute, infinite Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent YHVH, who is the Creator of the universe.
Hence, Elohim the Hebrew word for “God” is a term that can be translated as the unity of all powers in the universe, which sustains it. Interestingly, the Hebrew word Elohim can be presented by the scientific term “energy”, but for some interesting facts found in the Scripture, the reader is encouraged to refer to the article “Einstein’s formula encoded in Genesis“.
The Gentile term “God” cannot be equated with the Hebrew “Elohim”, neither in meaning, nor in concept, although it is its common translation.
So, why is the Hebrew word elohim used for the Creator, pagan deities, angels, and even humans? Because this word means one of power and authority: the pagan deities are the “powers” in pagan mythologies; the angels are vested with special rights to exercise power and authority; and the judges are the power and authority in the court of law; they are all elohim.
And ultimately, YHVH is the Elohim: The Absolute Power and Authority. That is why if we need to translate Elohim, in Time of Reckoning Ministry (TORM) we prefer translations such as “The Absolute Power” or “The Absolute One” which is better than the term “God” express who the Creator is.
Oneness of the Creator in the Hebraic mind
The Hebrew word echad is a key word to understand the Oneness of the Creator. It is interesting to note here that in the scribal tradition, the word אֶחָד echad, one, in the Shema Israel proclamation is written with a large “ד” dalet to emphasize that God is one and should not be mistakenly read as “acheir” אחר — “God is another”. Notice the difference between “ד” dalet and “ר” resh. It is this little point that distinguishes dalet from resh, which in Hebrew is called “the little horn”. This minute difference between them is probably what Yeshua the Messiah referred to when He said in His first address to the nation, “The Sermon on the mount”,
Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to complete. For truly, I say to you, till the heaven and the earth pass away, one yud or one tittle shall by no means pass from the Torah till all be done. (Mat 5:17-18)
The Hebrew word אֶחָד echad is a numeral of the primitive root verb אָחַד achad, to unify. Commonly it is rendered “united”, that is, one; or (as an ordinal) “first”.
When the Shema Israel says, Yehovah our Elohim, Yehovah is one!, this does not mean “Yehovah is one God”, or “Yehovah alone is God”, for in that case לְבַדֹּו יְהֹוָה Yehovah l’vado would be used instead of Yehovah echad, but that the phrase Yehovah echad forms one of the two main elements of the sentence.
The idea here is not that “God is one (the only) God”, either, because it does not say אֶחָד אֱלֹהִים Elohim echad, but the Shema Israel says “Yehovah is one” אֶחָד יְהֹוָה.
Hence, it is important to note that what is proclaimed in the Shema Israel is Yehovah is one, not “Elohim is one” and this does not relate to unity of “Godhead” in its “plurality”, but simply states that it is to the Creator alone that the Name יְהֹוָה Yehovah rightfully belongs, that He Yehovah is the Absolute Power (Elohim), to whom no other power(s) can be compared, because these “powers” simply do not exist.
The phrase Yehovah echad, therefore, denotes one Ever-existing יְהֹוָה since this is the literal meaning of the Name, “He who exists [forever]”.
For more knowledge of the Name of the Creator, the reader may refer to the series of articles dedicated to this topic, i.e. what is His Name, how to correctly pronounce it, are we allowed to pronounce it at all, and other topics. Read more here.
The Oneness of the Creator in the Shema Israel, therefore, is not to be understood in the sense that He, as Elohim (Powers), manifests himself in many different ways and all of His names found in the Bible (see the table below) are a reflection of these manifestations and they are all One, but one manifestation only, namely the manifestation Israel saw at Mount Sinai.
This manifestation is clearly seen in the statement of YHVH, Say this to the children of Israel: “You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from the heavens” (Exo 20:22), yet, they saw no form, they only heard a voice (Deu 4:12), although He spoke with them face to face (Deu 5:4).
This means that although YHVH used plurality for Himself, it is not referring to Him being a unity of more than one deities, but plurality of the Infinite One refers to the projection of His strength, power, and authority of the King on the finite world.
And indeed, the Name Yehovah never denotes merely a manner of manifestation in which the true Creator appears to the people, but that Yehovah as the absolute, infinite Omnipresent, Omniscient, Omnipotent Power, according to the absolute constancy of His actions of the Unchangeable One, never changes in His manifestation; He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
We should note also that the Shema Israel, which expresses the Oneness of the Creator, in Deuteronomy 6 follows the Covenant of YHVH in Deuteronomy 5. Therefore, when Mosheh proclaimed “Listen up O Israel, YHVH our Elohim, YHVH is one!, he meant the manifestation Israel witnessed at Sinai. There is no evidence in the Shema Israel that Mosheh meant “plurality of Godhead”, since he said “YHVH is one”, not “Elohim (God) is one”.
Hence, what is proclaimed in the Shema Israel, namely Yehovah is one, does not relate to “the unity of Godhead”, but simply states that (1) it is to Him alone that the Name Yehovah rightfully belongs, (2) He Yehovah is the one absolute Power Elohim, Yehovah Elohim, to whom no other power(s) can be compared, (3) and also Yehovah Eloheinu, literally “our Power” in a sense that YHVH is the only one on whom we can rely, as it is also said,
Who is like You, O Yehovah, among the elim? Who is like You, great in set-apartness, awesome in praises, working wonders? (Exo 15:11)
This theme of Oneness of the Creator is also the theme in Zec 14:9,
And Yehovah shall be King over all the earth. In that day Yehovah shall be one and His Name one. (Zec 14:9)
Here, the words “and His Name one” are added for more clarity to “Yehovah is one” and this can only signify that in that day when He will be acknowledged as the Absolute Sovereign and Sustainer, He Yehovah will be acknowledged also as the one Absolute Ever-existing Power over all the earth, and His Name alone will be mentioned and revered, as opposed to the many “names” the nations use for Him, and as opposed to the many “elim”, i.e. “gods” the heathens worshiped.
For Yehovah being the Absolute One, is not an abstract impression of “One God” as an absolute idea, but when it is said in the Shema Israel YHVH Elohim, it means nothing less than that Yehovah alone is the Absolutely Existing Power known through His mighty deeds.
Thus, Elohim, Power, is to be understood as the characteristic of YHVH, the Existing One, i.e. the Power and Authority of YHVH in His majesty and grandeur. This majesty and grandeur the Everlasting Creator revealed through His magnificent deeds in the creation of the universe and in the creation of life.
The unity of the Creator YHVH
In the article “Mystery of origin of life” we studied that the Creator YHVH formed man from the dust, breathed His Breath of life Neshamah, and a living human being nephesh was created (Gen 2:7). Furthermore, in Job 33:4 we found that the Ruach of Elohim, literally the Wind of power (aka Spirit), created the human being and the Neshamah gave the life in it,
The Wind (Ruach) of El has made me, and the breath (neshamah) of the Almighty gives me life. (Job 33:4)
What Job is saying is that the Wind of the Creator (Ruach) formed him and He breathed His breath (Neshamah) in him to give him life. In other words, the Ruach Elohim (aka “Spirit of God”) is the creative power of the creation (Gen 1:2) and of all breathing creatures (Gen 1:26), and the Neshamah (the Breath) of YHVH is the life-giving power (Gen 2:7, Job 33:4).
And we concluded that Neshamah, the Breath of YHVH is the Ruach Elohim in action, and as combined forces they both created and sustain all matter of the universe.
United as One, echad, in YHVH, the Neshamah and the Ruach are the Absolute Powers (Elohim) of YHVH. With this Absolute Power YHVH filled the universe with all matter: visible and invisible, living and non-living, and only by His will He sustains them.
We also studied that Ruach Yehovah (the Wind of YHVH) is the creative Power of the whole creative fullness of celestial powers. It is synonymous with the Ruach Elohim and Ruach haKodesh, which means the Wind of the Set-apart One or Wind of Set-apartness (the Holy Spirit), hence Ruach Elohim can be rendered literally the “Wind of Powers”.
This creative fullness of YHVH, Ruach Yehovah, is clearly revealed in the prophecy of the coming Seed of David (see again Isa 11:2) by six ruchot (spirits) that come forth from Him in three pairs: (1) of wisdom and understanding, (2) of counsel and might, and (3) of knowledge and of the awe of Yehovah (altogether they are seven powers), and fulfilled in Mat 3:16 when the Ruach Yehovah descended upon the Messiah like a dove.
Again, the Creator Yehovah is the One who possesses and radiates both the creative Power Ruach Elohim, the Wind of Elohim, and the life-giving Power Neshamah, the Breath of the Almighty. Together, Ruach and Neshamah are the life-giving forces of the One Yehovah, and both forces that come forth from Him created the universe and the life in it. This we all studied in the aforesaid article.
In conclusion, we are obliged to say that this study does not and cannot by any means preclude the debate over the “nature” (for the lack of a better term) of the Creator. Its purpose was not to give a definition of what He is, for such a definition is virtually impossible to create, but to touch, as long as it is given to the present author, this controversial to debate topic from a different point of view, namely from its Hebraic perspectives.
In this study not every aspect of the debate was elaborated, as it was impossible to do so in its scope.
However, what remains of the entire debate is this: Listen up, O Isra’el! Yehovah our Elohim, Yehovah is one! He is Elohim, He is the only Absolute Power to whom the Name יְהֹוָה Yehovah rightfully belongs, to whom no other power(s) can be compared; He divides His Power with no one, and the Oneness of the Creator is undivided. Therefore, we may also render the Shema Israel thus,
Listen up, O Isra’el! Yehovah our Elohim, Yehovah is undivided! (Deu 6:4)
YHVH as the only Absolute Power, Israel is to love as the only Existing One. The motive for this is to be found in the words “our Elohim”, namely in the fact that Yehovah had manifested Himself to Israel, as the only Absolute Power through the ten plagues He performed in Egypt, at the parting of the Red Sea, and ultimately in His revelation at Sinai.
If YHVH wills it, we will elaborate on the subject of the Oneness of the Creator and “I and My Father are one“.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.