During the creation account it only says that אלהים created the heavens and the earth, it is not until Genesis 2:4 that it is stated that it was יהוה, the אלהים who did it.

ברא' 2:4: "אֵ֣לֶּה תוֹלְד֧וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֛יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ בְּהִבָּֽרְאָ֑ם בְּי֗וֹם עֲשׂ֛וֹת יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶ֥רֶץ וְשָׁמָֽיִם׃" Gen 2:4: "These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens," RSV

I think y'all are well acquainted with passages like psalm 82 or John 10:38 stating that there are other Elohim.

תהל' 82:1: "א  מזמור לאסף אלהים נצב בעדת-אל    בקרב אלהים ישפט" Ps 82:1: "God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:"

תהל' 82:6: "ו  אני-אמרתי אלהים אתם    ובני עליון כלכם" Ps 82:6: "I say, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you;"

תהל' 86:8: "ח  אין-כמוך באלהים אדני    ואין כמעשיך" Ps 86:8: "There is none like thee among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like thine."

Ιω 10:33: "Απεκριθησαν προς αυτον οι Ιουδαιοι, λεγοντες· Περι καλου εργου δεν σε λιθοβολουμεν, αλλα περι βλασφημιας, και διοτι συ ανθρωπος ων καμνεις σεαυτον Θεον." John 10:34: "Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’?"

Then at Genesis 3:22 Yahweh says:

ברא' 3:22: "כב ויאמר יהוה אלהים הן האדם היה כאחד ממנו לדעת טוב ורע ועתה פן ישלח ידו ולקח גם מעץ החיים ואכל וחי לעלם" Gen 3:22: "Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever” —"

The 'behold' already implied that Yahweh was speaking to other being(s), but the 'us' make it explicit and clear.

Who is the 'us' Yahweh is telling to 'behold' here, other Elohim?


5 Answers 5


Again, the short answer to this question is, We are not told.

However, the two most common way to understand this plural "us" in Gen 3:22 are these:

1. Plurality of Persons in the Godhead

This idea is based on the common doctrine of the trinity and thus, Gen 3:22 is sometimes quoted as evidence of that doctrine. I do not believe such can be deduced from this verse for the second reason below.

2. Other Heavenly Beings

It is obvious that when YHWH is speaking in Gen 3:22 He is speaking to someone else and the simplest understanding is the someone else is just the other heavenly beings that usually surround God. These are referenced in several places in the OT such as:

  • Ps 8:5 - Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [אֱלהִים = God or heavenly beings] and crowned him with glory and honor. Compare Heb 2:7.
  • Ps 82:1 - God presides in the divine assembly; He renders judgment among the heavenly beings
  • Ps 22:22 - I will proclaim Your name to my brothers; I will praise You in the assembly. [Cited in Heb 2:12.]

The important point in Gen 3:22 is that Adam and Eve, by sinning had become aware of sin. Previously they had only known good, but when they sinned, they we then aware of both Good and Evil. The heavenly beings and God had already witnessed this with Satan's downfall and thus God could say to the other heavenly beings: "man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil".

  • Though we will doubtless have our areas of disagreement over who/what the other heavenly beings are, this seems a very even-handed presentation of a somewhat unclear (and doctrinally loaded!) verse; upvoted +1 Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 1:35
  • 2
    ”The heavenly beings and God had already witnessed this with Satan's downfall and thus God could say to the other heavenly beings” There is zero evidence that satan had already fallen. That is pure speculation and unnecessary for God to know good and evil. Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 3:04
  • @NihilSineDeo - So, when do you believe Satan fell? And who tempted Eve?
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 10:47
  • 1
    @NihilSineDeo - are you suggesting that Satan was tempting beings (incl Adam and Eve) but was not yet fallen?
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 21:05
  • 1
    @NihilSineDeo - it one of my little bugbears that people who downvote do not explain why they do so. I do not mind downvotes but wish to learn from them so that I can better understand and improve my own knowledge.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 22:25

The use of a plural noun for an emphatic singular noun is a Hebrew idiom. This idiom is a figure of speech called heterosis of number, in which the plural is put for the singular when great excellence or magnitude is denoted. E. W. Bullinger notes in Figures of Speech Used in the Bible regarding the use of this figure that “Our attention is thus called to the importance of the thing or matter concerning which the statement is made.” In Genesis 1:1 it is “God”—the figure of speech calls our attention to the importance of God. This plural form of words is not uncommon in Hebrew. Other Hebrew words also occur in the plural to denote magnitude; however, the plural is not always reflected in English in the King James Version of the Bible. In this same verse, Genesis 1:1, the Hebrew word translated “heaven” is plural.

Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar by Wilhelm Gesenius, a German pioneer of critical Hebrew lexicography and grammar, states this about the various uses of the plural form: “The plural is by no means used in Hebrew solely to express a number of individual or separate objects, but may also denote them collectively.…A variety of the plurals…in which the secondary idea of intensity or of an internal multiplication of the idea of the stem may be clearly seen, is…the pluralis excellentiae [plural of excellence] or pluralis maiestatis [majestic or royal plural].” In England, the queen may say, "We the queen...."

Another supporting element to the word Elohim being understood as a singular noun in Genesis 1:1 is that its corresponding Hebrew verb translated “created” is singular. Dr. J. H. Hertz, a Biblical scholar, was the chief rabbi of the British Empire from 1913-1946. He was also the editor of The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, which states regarding the word “created” in Genesis 1:1, “The Heb.[Hebrew] word is in the singular, thus precluding any idea that its subject, Elohim, is to be understood in a plural sense.”

The Jewish Encyclopedia, in the entry “Names of God,” states this regarding Elohim: “The most common of the originally appellative names of God is Elohim..., plural in form though commonly construed with a singular verb or adjective. This is, most probably, to be explained as the plural of majesty or excellence, expressing high dignity or greatness.…”

The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, states, “The plural name Elohim is not to be understood as a remnant of polytheism, of which the form Eloah is the singular. The plural number indicates either eminence and supremacy, or fullness and abundance of powers and resources.” Without a realization of this Hebrew idiom, people can err in their understanding of Deuteronomy 6:4, which clearly says, “…The Lord our God [Elohim] is one Lord [Jehovah].” The reason why Elohim is plural is again to emphasize God’s magnitude.


Who is 'us', that Yahweh said to 'behold' men has become like us

The "Us" is in reference to the angels present in God's heavenly court.

In verse 24, God sends out cherubim, a type of angel, from His presence, and places them in the Garden of Eden to guard the Tree of Life.

Gen. 3:22 & 24
22Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’—
24So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

God also uses the term "Us" in the presence of and in reference to the seraphim, another type of angel.

Isa. 6:2 & 8
2Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.
8Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

Here is some clarification on the term Elohim for those who might not know, since the Biblical usage is quite varied. Elohim literally means mighty ones.

Ps. 82:1 fn.
"... Heb. elohim, lit. mighty ones or gods."
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)

It is the plural form of the term Eloha.

Strong's Hebrew
"אֱלֹהִים 'ĕlôhı̂ym el-o-heem' ― Plural of אֱלוֹהַּ; gods in the ordinary sense;"
(Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, by James Strong, S.T.D., L.L.D., New York: Barnes & Noble, 2017.)

The term is used as a majestic plural when used to describe the true God.

New Cath. Ency. Vol. 5, p. 287
"The form Elohim, when used of the God of Israel, is a plural of majesty, ... The Israelites, however, used Elohim for their one and only God, who excludes all other genuine deities."
(New Catholic Encyclopedia. Nihil Obstat: John P. Whalen, M.A., S.T.D., Censor Deputatos. Imprimatur: Patrick A. O’Boyle, D.D., Archbishop of Washington. Palatine, Illinois, U.S.A.: Jack Heraty and Associates, Inc. 1967.)

The majestic plural is customary in Biblical Hebrew to denote excellence and respect to an individual.

Ency. of Heb. Lang. & Linguistics, Vol. 3, p. 145
"The term ‘majestic plural’ or pluralis majestatis refers to the use of a plural word to refer honorifically to a single person or entity. It is also called the ‘plural of respect’, the ‘honorific plural’, the ‘plural of excellence’, or the 'plural of intensity.’"
(Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics. Geoffrey Khan, Gen. Ed. Leiden Boston: Brill, 2013.)

King David, for example, is called "adoneinu" which is the plural form of the Hebrew term for "lord" in the first-person plural possessive.

―I Kings 1:43―
And Jonathan answered and said to Adonijah, Verily our lord king David hath made Solomon king.
(The Holy Bible: King James Version. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962.)
―I Kings 1:43―
ויען יונתן ויאמר לאדניהו אבל אדנינו המלך־דוד המליך את־שׁלמה׃
(The Westminster Leningrad Codex. Retrieved from www.biblegateway.com)

When used to describe other beings, the word Elohim can refer to heathen gods, supernatural beings or judges.

Oxford Dict., p. 542
"ELOHIM (Heb. אֱלֹהִים, lit. 'gods'). Used occasionally in the OT of heathen gods, supernatural beings, or earthly judges,"
(The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, England: Oxford University Press, 1997.)

The usage in Psalm 82, which Jesus quotes in John 10:34, is a reference to the judges, through whom God speaks.

―Ps. 82:1―
God stands in the congregation of the mighty; He judges among the gods.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
―Ps. 82:1―
God stands in the congregation of God; in the midst of the judges He gives judgment:
(The Berkeley Version in Modern English. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959.)

The mention in Psalm 86 refers to so-called gods, which Paul differentiates from the one God, the Father.

―Ps. 86:8―
Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord; nor are there any works like Your works.
(Holy Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982.)
―I Cor. 8:5-6(a)―
For even if after all there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, just as there are many gods and many lords, yet to us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we are for him,
(Lexham English Bible. Bellingham, Washington: Logos Bible Software, 2011.)

Paul identifies these so-called gods or idols as demons.

I Cor. 10:19-20
19What then shall we say? That an offering to an idol is anything? Or that an idol is really anything? 20On the contrary, what the heathen sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have communion with demons.
(The Centenary Translation of the New Testament. Pennsylvania: The American Baptist Publication Society, 1924.)

In other words, while there are "other Elohim," none are like God. Just thought we'd make that clear for our readers.

  • +1 Very nice presentation of the heavenly court option. Commented Jun 3, 2021 at 21:32

There is no such thing as a 'plural of majesty' in Biblical Hebrew.

The gods (elohim) are deliberating and discussing the punishment for humankind in the divine council (as they did earlier during the creation of the cosmos and the creation of man). It seems that here Yahweh is at the head of the council.

While often it is Yahweh who is the chief judge, it is not certain that every biblical tradition/passage reflects this.
For example, in Deut 32, Elyon (עֶלְיוֹן) is the name of the top god. This could be an epithet of Yahweh, but it may possibly be a different god altogether.


Who is the us referring to?

It is tempting to consider the whole divine council, or God and other heavenly hosts but for reasons I will explain, this is limited only to the Godhead.

On other occasions where God invokes the divine council and inquires of His councilmen, advice with respect to a decision, God decrees but someone other than God enacts the decree.

On this occasion whomever God was speaking to, also acted on the decision

We observe that it was God

“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—”” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:22‬ ‭

And it was God who drove man out

“therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭

And this is repeated

He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:24‬ ‭

And just to emphasize that it wasn’t a heavenly being, we are introduced to Cherubim who are given tasks but not that of escorting Adam out.

This is not unusual to see God speaking to God

Psalm 82 which was cited shows another example

Elohim stands in the divine council v6 the divine beings are children of Elyon and v8 Elohim is told to judge the nations and to inherit them.

And psalm 45

“you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭45:7‬ ‭

In summary, while it would not be out of order for God to speak to the divine council, on this occasion God was addressing God only. And God Himself escorted Adam and Eve out. Were God speaking to a heavenly being, it would not follow that God would then also escort Adam and Eve out.

  • 3
    You seem confused regarding who is who in the Ps 45 ref. There are two 'persons' mentioned - "you" (twice, which we know to be a King, later ascribed to Jesus in Heb) and God. "Therefore God, your God" is one individual. Who IS God, and IS the God of the 'you' (who is not God). God is certainly NOT addressing God! The rest is pure speculation and unnecessary interpretation.
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 3:58
  • Without fail @user48152 you come to the rescue of your creed. Spin it how you will but it’s still God speaking to God even if your creed disagrees with the original. “But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭1:8-9‬ let’s refrain from inferring I’m confused for not agreeing with you but agreeing with the text. Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 4:26
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    We were talking about Ps 45 - which you have grossly misrepresented. I thought perhaps carelessly, but obviously not. (I don't know what creed you speak of)
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 4:29
  • We indeed were, as was Paul. Surely Paul knew a little about the Hebrew in psalm 45 and a little about the Greek to untangle any confusion future theorists who argue from translated texts, and who would try to promote a strange idea, a creed in fact, one that would deny God His divinity, Jesus that is. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 4:32
  • :) seriously! It was also Paul I believe who said something about, "there is but one God the Father', but what would he know?
    – Steve
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 4:41

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