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The Hebrew terms elohim ("God") and bene'elohim ("Sons of God") both seem to have a wide range of uses in the Bible (for example, elohim can be an alternate name for Yahweh or refer to pagan gods, and bene'elohim seems to be able to be angels or people). In Psalm 82:6, we have

א‍ני־אמרתי אלהים אתם ובני עליון כלכם

which seems to me to be making some kind of word-play between "elohim" and "elyown," such that it is almost equating "elohim" and "bene'elohim."

My main question is whether there is any linguistic precedent for conflating some "X" and some "bene'X" in Hebrew. If so, what is some other example?

I am also interested in any opinions about whether the references of elohim and bene'elohim are so broad that the terms could be interchangeable in some circumstances. (For example, in Exodus 12:12 "and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment", do you feel the same sense could be conveyed by "bene elohe misrayim" as by "elohe misrayim"?)

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  • By the way, I don't know if "bene elohe misrayim" is a grammatically correct hypothetical phrase. I hope you get my point though.
    – Michael
    Commented Feb 13 at 4:09
  • --which seems to me to be making some kind of word-play between "elohim" and "elyown," such that it is almost equating "elohim" and "bene'elohim."-- I'm not sure what you mean by this. What is the play on words here? The verse is saying that judges are like God in upholding the world, and like ministers of above (i.e angels). I'm not following the point you make where the bnei is interchangeable with the subject.
    – diyImma
    Commented Feb 13 at 11:43
  • @diyImma The words seem to have more of a common linkage rather than word-play.
    – Jason_
    Commented Feb 13 at 20:07
  • @diyImma - Well, I thought they might sound similar. There are other places in Hebrew with this wordplay, like the snake's "cunning" and the "nakedness" of Adam and Eve. And then the terms follow one after another, which is kind of like the poetic form of Hebrew in which things are said one way and then repeated with a different expression.
    – Michael
    Commented Feb 15 at 3:35
  • @Michael, agreed, Psalms frequently uses parallel phrases one after the other, to make a point. I don't see here a special connection between the words Elohim + Elyon, rather that the psalmist is praising honest judges as both Godly and heavenly.
    – diyImma
    Commented Feb 15 at 7:34

1 Answer 1

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Let me start with your second question about interchangeability, it's essential to consider context. When we do, these terms have distinct meanings and are used in different contexts to refer to different entities.

  • "Elohim" and "Bene Elohim" have distinct meanings.

Let's use Exodus 12:12 for example. It speaks of judgment against the gods of Egypt. Here, using "Elohim" shows God's authority being exercised over the Egyptian "gods". However, if we were to substitute "Bene Elohim" it wouldn't have the same meaning. Since it specifically refers to the Sons of God or beings associated with God, rather than the gods of Egypt themselves.

"Elohim" generally refers to God in the monotheistic sense. It can have a broader meaning such as "gods" (in the plural form), "judges," or "divine beings" IN CERTAIN CONTEXTS.

"Bene Elohim" specifically only refers to "Sons of God" or "Children of God," and its usage typically denotes divine beings or entities. In some cases, "Bene Elohim" may refer to angels or other divine beings who serve God.

To conclude. They are different. "Elohim" and "Bene Elohim."

In Job 1:6 and 2:1, "Bene Elohim" (Sons of God) appears alongside "Yahweh" in the context of a heavenly assembly where divine beings, including Satan, present themselves before God.

Job 1:6 New King James Version

6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.

Job 2:1 New King James Version

2 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.

This example, I believe, differentiates the words clearly and shows that they can't be used interchangeably lest the scriptures' meaning be changed.


The first question is a bit longer. Let's look at the word El:

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So what about Elohim and El Elyon

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I don't know if I would say word play, however, both words use "El" and are often used to refer to the same God: The God of Israel.

Genesis 6:2

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One other example of bene'X would be bene Yisrael or children of Israel.

Exodus 1:1-2 New King James Version

1 Now these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt; each man and his household came with Jacob: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah;

The original word "bene" means "son."

  • Part of Speech: Noun Masculine
  • Transliteration: ben
  • Phonetic Spelling: (bane)
  • Definition: son
  • bə·nê — 1283 Occurrences

Since "bene" means son it can be used for many people groups:

Bene Ammon (Deuteronomy 2:19)

Bene Heth (Genesis 23:10)

Bene Eber (Genesis 10:21)

Bene Ham (Genesis 10:6)


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  • Thanks. I don't speak Hebrew, so I don't know, but it seems from the English transliteration that Elohim and Elyown might have similar sounding pronunciation. Since the Hebrew contains wordplay in other situations, I thought this might be one. Thanks for your answers.
    – Michael
    Commented Feb 15 at 3:32
  • @Michael of course! If this answered your question please hit the check mark and consider up-voting.
    – Jason_
    Commented Feb 15 at 3:33

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