Names of God: El Elyon (Our God Most High)

This Tuesday we will conclude our study of Joanne Ellison’s book His Great Name.  Please read Chapter 11 (El Elyon) and Chapter 12 (Jehovah Rohi).  The name El Elyon, particularly as that name is disclosed in the Pentateuch, raises interesting issues as to the religion of the early Israelites and is the most enigmatic name we will study. The word “elyon” in Hebrew simply means most or highest.  For example, in Genesis 40:17, in the dream of Pharaoh’s baker, “the top (elyon) basket contained all types of baked goods.”  When paired with the generic word for God “El” the word literally means the “Highest God.”  In the Canaanite religions, El Elyon was the chief (of highest) God.  (Although we may not go there on Tuesday, Deuteronomy 32:8-9, makes a distinction between Elyon and Jehovah/Yahweh)

The only place in Scripture that “El Elyon” is mentioned (“Elyon” is mentioned elsewhere), is the story of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17-24.  Melchizedek (literally “King of Righteousness”) is the King of (Jeru)Salem (literally “peace”), and a priest of El Elyon. On behalf of El Elyon, Melchizedek blesses Abram.  The enigma is that in the Scriptures, all priests of God have a lineage going back to an ancestor who was blessed by God. See, Gen. 9 (Noah and Shem) Num. 18:7 (Aaron). Melchizedek lacks this lineage. It is also the first time that this name is disclosed in the Scriptures. This is problematic because there is a strange priest making a sacrifice to a strange God, and yet Abram accepts the blessing and makes a tithe to this strange God.  The text, by itself, gives no indication that El Elyon is equivalent to Jehovah or El Shaddai or any other name of the one true God.  To get around this problem, Jewish thought proposed two solutions. First, is that Noah’s son Shem is the same person as Melchizedek, and because Shem was blessed by God and knew God the problem goes away. This analysis is based upon the genealogy of Genesis 11 which shows that Shem lived for another 210 years after the birth of Abram.  The second means to resolve this issue of El Elyon and Melchizedek being a pagan god of a pagan priest, is that Melchizedek is an apocalyptic figure who discloses the true nature of God (as the highest). This understanding is contained in the Melchizedek Scroll found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. And therefore, in Genesis 14 we only catch a glimpse of this apocalyptic figure who lead the Sons of Light into battle.  I have attached our discussion of Melchizedek from 2013 which goes into greater detail about this unusual priest and his god.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is chicken corn chowder (with a vegetarian alternative). Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.

Zion hears about this and rejoices.
    The people of Judah are delighted with your judgments, O Yahweh.
You, O Yahweh Elyon, are above the whole earth.
    You are highest. You are above all the gods.
Let those who love Yahweh hate evil.
    The one who guards the lives of his godly ones
    will rescue them from the power of wicked people.
Light dawns for righteous people[a]
    and joy for those whose motives are decent.
Find joy in Yahweh, you righteous people.
    Give thanks to him as you remember how holy he is.

Psalm 92:8-12

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