Jehovah is the name of God in the Old Testament (which was originally written in Hebrew). It is a contraction of a Hebrew phrase which means: "The One who was, is, and who ever will be". As the years passed, the notion began to develop among the Jews that it was irreverent to pronounce the name Jehovah, and so they addressed God as Adonai, which simply means “Lord”. Most English Bibles followed the same convention and translated Jehovah in the Hebrew Bible as LORD. Hence, the name Jehovah is not well known.
The Bible teaches that God is one, and yet there are three persons in the Godhead: God the Father, God the Son, who came down to earth as Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit. The word “Trinity” has been invented to describe this concept. The Trinity is hinted at in the Old Testament, and explained more fully in the New.
Our observation of the Trinity in the Old Testament will be enhanced by learning a few things about Hebrew:-
- Number is singular (one), dual (two), or plural (three or more). (In contrast, English has only singular and plural).
- There are two Hebrew words for "one": ehad refers to a single but composite entity. In Genesis 1:5, the one [ehad] day is made up of evening and morning. In Genesis 2:24, the husband and wife form one [ehad] flesh. In Ezra 2:64, the whole [ehad] assembly was made up of 42,360 people. In contrast, the Hebrew word "Yahid" refers to a single undivided entity.
- Verbs in the past tense can be singular or plural – unlike in English; the same form of the verb "go" is used irrespective of number. "He went and they went"
- The Hebrew words "El", "Eloah" and "Elohim" are all rendered "God" in our English Bibles. The first two are singular, while the third is plural. The third is also rendered "gods" in some cases.
- In Biblical Hebrew, there is no clear occasion where the first person plural is used to refer to the singular as a colloquialism. So when the first person plural is used, we take it as genuinely plural.
The Bible begins by saying:
“In the beginning, Elohim [plural] created [singular] the heavens and the earth...And Elohim [plural] said, Let us [plural] make [plural] man in our image [singular]” (Genesis 1:1, Genesis 1:26).
Note the consecutive occurrence of singular and plural. The Trinity occurs right in the first chapter of the Bible, which was written shortly after creation!
"Hear O Israel: Jehovah our Elohim [plural] is one [ehad] Jehovah...Jehovah your Elohim [plural], He [singular] is Elohim [plural], the faithful El [singular] ..." (Deuteronomy 6:4, 7:9)
Again, the interplay of singular and plural hints at the plurality of persons in the God-head.
God is love (1 John 4:8) and also eternal (Isaiah 41:4) and unchanging (Malachi 3:6). However, love is a transitive verb. Whom did God love in eternity (before He created everyone)? Answer: there always been more than one person in the Godhead!
Having established the plurality of persons in the Godhead, let us identify these persons. One of these persons is the Spirit of God, who is mentioned explicitly in Genesis 1:2, Judges 13:25, Psalm 51:11, etc.
There is one entity in the God-head who cannot be seen by sinful humans - we would die instantly (Exodus 33:20). There is another entity who can be seen face to face, as a man talks to a friend (Exodus 33:11) [Note: friends don't use mirrors in conversation, so this is not just an image or mirror reflection of God]. This entity is called El Shaddai (God Almighty) 48 times in the Old Testament (the first occurrence is Genesis 17:1). He is also called the Angel of Jehovah [Angel means messenger]. In Genesis 16:7-8, he appears and speaks to Hagar. In Genesis 16:13, she refers to him as Jehovah himself [she didn't die when she saw him!]. Similarly, Israel refers to God and the Angel synonymously (Genesis 48:15-16).
We also meet the Angel in Exodus 23:20-21 - God's name is in him and he has the authority to forgive sins, and thus must be God himself (Mark 2:7). This Angel (Sent One) is the Son and King who is referred to in Psalm 2:7-12, Daniel 7:13-14 and Proverbs 30:4.
Thus, there are three persons in the Godhead
– the Spirit of God, the Visible One, and the Invisible One. Their more familiar names are: the Holy Spirit, the Son and the Father. In fact, the Son is called "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15).
"I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I; and now the Lord Jehovah and His Spirit, have sent me" (Isaiah 48:16)
Here again, we see the three persons, with one of them being sent. Sent where? To earth! The Bible teaches that He came to earth as Jesus Christ
. All the above passages were written before 600 BC.
It is also interesting to see the terms for God used by Job, that ancient non-Israeli follower of the true God. In Job 1:21, he uses the term Jehovah. He uses the plural "Elohim" in Job 28:23, the singular "Eloah" in Job 29:2, and the singular "El" in Job 31:28. He also occasionally refers to God as Shaddai, the Almighty One (Job 27:10). Thus, Job was aware of the trinity. Look at Job's knowledge:-
"I know that my redeemer lives and that he shall stand in the latter day upon the earth. And after my skin has been struck off, yet in my flesh I shall see Eloah" (Job 19:25-26)
In the New Testament, the trinity is implied in verses such as Hebrews 9:14, Ephesians 2:18, Matthew 28:19, John 14:26, 15:26, 2 Corinthians 13:14, 1 Peter 1:2 and 1 John 5:7. In some of these verses, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are merely mentioned - this is enough to establish that each of them is divine, since God does not take kindly to putting divine and human persons on the same level (see Matthew 17:4-5). You may also want to check: Distinct functions of the persons of the trinity