We’ve begun looking at the names of God and how his names help us understand him better. We’ve seen that God is called ‘The Father’, ‘Son’ and ‘Holy Spirit’ and unpacked what those names teach us. We’ve also looked at what we can learn from the names ‘God’ and ‘Lord’.
Today I want to look at the name, ‘LORD Almighty’. This name is an English translation of two Hebrew words used to refer to God:
(i) ‘YHWH’ (the name of God usually translated as ‘LORD’ but sometimes translated as ‘Jehovah’ or ‘Yahweh’ – we’ve looked at this word previously);
It’s this second word, ‘tsavaot’, that I want to focus on today. In Hebrew, the word can refer to ‘armies’, that is, military troops. For example: ‘The LORD is angry with all nations; his wrath is upon all their armies (tsavam)’ (Isaiah 34:2). It can also refer to the stars in the heavens as in Deuteronomy 4:19: ‘And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars– all the heavenly array (tsava)– do not be enticed into bowing down to them.’
So what does it mean when God is the LORD of ‘armies’?
The name can refer to the fact that God is over the armies of Israel. When David confronted Goliath he said: ‘You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty (tsavaot), the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied’ (1 Samuel 17:45).
But probably the most obvious reference is to the armies of angels that serve God. Micaiah the prophet says he saw this army with God: ‘I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host (tsava) of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left’ (1 Kings 22:19). The Psalmist also refers to the angels in this way: ‘Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts (tsavayw), you his servants who do his will’ (Psalm 103:20-21).
So what do we learn from this name for God? At a minimum, we learn that he is the leader of a powerful army of angels and therefore he is indeed ‘Almighty’.
This is why the NIV translation decided to translate the Hebrew word ‘tsavaot’ as ‘Almighty’. Older and modern translations, like the KJV and ESV, translate the word as ‘Hosts’. Thus the full name is ‘the LORD of Hosts’. This is because the English word ‘hosts’ can refer to a large number of people or things. In this case, ‘hosts’ gives the idea of the many angels of God.
But the NIV translators tell us they translated ‘tsavaot’ as Almighty because for most readers today the phrase ‘the LORD of hosts’ has ‘little meaning’. Whereas ‘Almighty’ conveys ‘the sense of the Hebrew, namely, “he who is sovereign over all the ‘hosts’ (powers) in heaven and on earth, especially over the ‘hosts’ (armies) of Israel.”’
We may not agree with the NIV translators, but at a minimum we must all understand that this name tells us that God is powerful and you wouldn’t want him as your enemy. And thankfully, despite our sin, if we trust in Christ we can have God as our ruler rather than our foe. Have you trusted in Christ and so the name the ‘God Almighty’ fills you with joy, not fear? Joel Radford