ELOHIM In Hebrew is used in 82:1 as God, in 6 as gods & 8 as God - but in Hebrew the word is exactly the same, why changed in verse 6, is this bad or deliberate translation.

Psalm 82 1-8

1 God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods”: 2 “How long will you[a] defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?[b] 3 Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. 5 “The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’ 7 But you will die like mere mortals; you will fall like every other ruler.” 8 Rise up, O God, judge the earth, for all the nations are your inheritance.

  • I had an answer, but I thought I should ask a clarification question first: How would you translate it?
    – Walter S
    May 10 '20 at 18:29
  • @WalterSmetana everything should be consistent either all should be God, or god or gods - the same word in Hebrew should not be translated different to make verses justify a particular position. May 10 '20 at 18:41
  • The "particular position" of the Law, of the OT, and the NT, is monotheism, as in Deut 6:4. So it's not "justifying" a particular position, but rather simply expressing it as clearly as possible in translation. That Hebrew used the plural noun "Elohim" in at least two senses, to mean the one God, and also about plural men or angels, shouldn't force English to ignore that. In another word: the answer to your question "why?" is something called "context." John 10 also uses singular and plural Greek words for "God" to interpret Psalm 82. We have "G" and "g" too. I... don't mind your translation.
    – Walter S
    May 10 '20 at 19:08
  • 1
    Just because the noun is the same does not mean that the verbs are all in the same grammatical number. Then there is also the Greek of the Septuagint to consider, since the Hebrew of the Masoretic is not our only textual source.
    – Lucian
    May 10 '20 at 19:10

Verses 6-7 speak of multiple gods because it uses plural pronouns (אַתֶּם) and verbs (תְּמוּתוּן, תִּפֹּלוּ): "You (plural) are gods"; "you will die (plural) ... you will fall (plural)."

אֲֽנִי־אָ֭מַרְתִּי אֱלֹהִ֣ים אַתֶּ֑ם וּבְנֵ֖י עֶלְי֣וֹן כֻּלְּכֶֽם׃ אָ֭כֵן כְּאָדָ֣ם תְּמוּת֑וּן וּכְאַחַ֖ד הַשָּׂרִ֣ים תִּפֹּֽלוּ׃

Verse 8 uses singular verbs (קוּמָה, שָׁפְטָה, תִנְחַל ) and pronouns (אַתָּה), and so it speaks of one God: "Rise (singular) ... judge (singular) ... you (singular) will inherit (singular)."

קוּמָ֣ה אֱ֭לֹהִים שָׁפְטָ֣ה הָאָ֑רֶץ כִּֽי־אַתָּ֥ה תִ֝נְחַ֗ל בְּכָל־הַגּוֹיִֽם׃

  • Many thanks for your responses, should a sentence decide how it is used and should a capital E or a small ‘e’ make a difference May 11 '20 at 16:11
  • @anothertheory There is no difference in Hebrew, but the English convention is to translate multiple gods with a lowercase g and the one God with an uppercase G
    – b a
    May 11 '20 at 19:28
  • Many thanks appreciated May 11 '20 at 19:38

The question is based on the notion that all Hebrew words have a singular fixed meaning. This is untrue of Hebrew and most natural languages. The best contrast is actually in Ps 82;1 where "elohim" is used twice, once as God and the second time as "gods" meaning angels or supernatural beings in the council of heaven.

The operative word here is אֱלהִים (elohim) which is used in a range of meanings, (eg see Brown Driver Briggs) including:

  • The supreme being, God, eg, Gen 1:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Ps 82:1a, etc.
  • leaders or judges, eg, Ex 21:6, 22:8, Ps 82:6, etc.
  • False gods of the pagans, Judges 5:8, 2 Kings 18:33, etc
  • Other supernatural beings in heaven, Ps 82:1b, 138:1(?)

Thus, the meaning of "elohim" is broader than just "God". However, when the word is used of judges or leaders, it describes people who were supposed to represent God and His leadership or judgement, 2 Chron 19:4-10.

  • +1. Nice balanced answer.
    – user33125
    May 11 '20 at 1:32

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