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Why Is God Described as God Most High?

 

Jessica Brodie

 

The phrase appears over and over throughout the Bible — God, “the” God, God the highest, the “most high”— and we understand from the very first page this is who God is. In Genesis 1:1, we’re told, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

The original Hebrew used here for God is the word Elohim, meaning the mighty, sovereign God, the great and majestic one, God above all others.

In fact, throughout the Bible, most of the time, “God” is used in a translation; the actual Hebrew is Elohim (other places use the simpler El). Therefore from the very start, we understand a core truth: the one who made it all is the mightiest, the most powerful, the supreme, and the “most high.”

Why, then, do we need to be continually reminded of this sovereign nature of God? Why is God so frequently described as “God Most High”?

It’s because we humans need a constant reminder of who we serve, how we need to prioritize God in our lives, and how He is insurmountably higher than all other beings in the universe that clamor for our attention.

Where Do We First See the Formal Title, ‘God Most High’?
While Elohim or El (or God) essentially means God most high, we first read the most formal of this title in Genesis 14. Abram (later renamed Abraham) has just rescued his nephew Lot after he’d been carried off from Sodom by enemy kings.

When Abram returns from the rescue, he is greeted by Melchizedek, king of Salem and also the king of Sodom.

We’re told Melchizedek is the priest of God Most High — the actual Hebrew used here for this special, more formal name is El Elyon — and Melchizedek requests blessings for Abram from this El Elyon (Genesis 14:18-19).

A few lines later, Abram himself informs the other king, the king of Sodom, that he is bound to “God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22).

Later, the writer of Hebrews reminds the people of this name (Hebrew 7:1).

Where Else Is God Called ‘God Most High’?
We see God again called “God Most High” in some of the psalms. In Psalm 7, the Hebrew used here is similar, Elohim Al, translating to “God Most High.”

In this Psalm, the psalmist writes, “My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart” (Psalm 7:10).

In Psalm 57, the psalmist uses the words Elohim Elyon, translating to God Most High, as he begs for help after fleeing inside a cave: “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me” (57:2).

In Psalm 78, a wisdom psalm to help the people understand God’s goodness and kindness, the psalmist uses El Elyon as he explains, “They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer” (78:35).

In Hosea, the prophet describes God’s displeasure about the people’s betrayal, as He tells them through Hosea, “My people are determined to turn from me. Even though they call me God Most High, I will by no means exalt them” (Hosea 11:7). Here, the Hebrew used is El Al, also meaning God Most High.

What Does it Mean That God Is ‘Most High’?
Most high means the very highest, higher than all other things. It’s what God is claiming for Himself in the Ten Commandments when He tells the people they should have no other gods before him.

By “gods,” we don’t know if God means other deities, false gods, or just that people should put nothing else — money, relationships, power — above Him. Here, He is saying He is the highest, the most high.

Elsewhere, in Exodus 34:14, God refers to Himself as jealous, ordering His people, “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

Height, here, conveys the idea that God is mightier, more powerful, stronger, more majestic, more… everything than anyone or anything else, period. Nothing should be set higher than Him, for He is better in every way.

Why Does God Care about Being Described This Way?
Some might wonder whether God is being petty — why would God, who is already the highest, care about being described as the highest? But God doesn’t need the descriptor for Himself. Rather, God wants His people to know the truth for our own good.

God designed us to be in a perfect relationship with Him, but we went astray in the Garden of Eden when the first man and woman disobeyed God’s direct command and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:6).

We were cast out, separated in sin from that perfect, beautiful existence. We were cursed to work the land. Sin wove its way through us ever deeper, even after God destroyed all except a remnant with Noah through the flood.

He attempted to help the Israelites understand how to live well with Him during their time in the wilderness after they fled Egypt, giving them laws and commands such as the Ten Commandments and telling them how to atone for their wrongdoings and get back in line with His will and His way. But we kept disobeying and veering away.

God knows us all, knows our desires and our weaknesses and our innermost thoughts (1 Chronicles 28:9). So He knows we need concrete directives sometimes, including special names that remind us He is and should be our top priority, that nothing else matters besides this.

Does the Fact That the Word Is a Plural Form Mean Anything?
Elohim is the plural form of El, and in some instances, means “gods.” In this case, though, scholars note the plural form does not indicate any type of polytheism or even that God comprises multiple Gods.

We could infer it is a nod toward the concept of the holy trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, three in one.

But here, the use of a plural form is simply a way via language to emphasize He is God over all gods, God “most high”— not that there are multiples.

Does God Have Other Names?
God does have other names used at various times throughout the Bible, and all describe an aspect of His nature and character. For instance, God is also called Yahweh, or YHWH, meaning “Lord.”

Other names include El Shaddai (Genesis 17:1), meaning “God Almighty,” Adonai (Judges 6:15), meaning “Lord,” El Roi (Genesis 16:13), meaning “God Who Sees Me,” Yahweh Rapha (Exodus 15:26), meaning “The Lord Who Heals You,” Yahweh Jireh (Genesis 22:14) meaning “The Lord Will Provide,” and many others.

We can never truly, in our human minds, understand the entire nature of God because of His power and might. But knowing some of His names helps us understand Him better and draw us ever closer.

The most important thing to understand about God Most High is that for whatever reason, He loves us, invites us into a deep relationship with us, and cares enough that He made a path to heaven for us through His son, Jesus Christ.

He knows our hearts and knows other distractions and concerns can get in the way, but we are to remember God Most High should have the highest place in our lives. He is the priority, and we are nothing without Him.

When we choose to repent, believe, and follow Jesus, we get to spend the rest of eternity in the kingdom of God Most High. What an honor and a blessing, and so worthy of remembering every time we use the name God Most High.

Matthias David
Matthias David
Working in His vine, as He does even more at mine.
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