Theophory in the Bible

Theophory refers to the practice of embedding the name of a god or a deity in, usually, a proper name.[1] Much Hebrew theophory occurs in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. The most prominent theophory involves names referring to:

  • El, a word meaning might, power and (a) god in general, and hence in Judaism, God and among the Canaanites the name of the god who was the father of Baal.
  • Yah, a shortened form of Yahweh.
  • Levantine deities (especially the storm god, Hadad) by the epithet baal, meaning lord. In later times, as the conflict between Yahwism and the more popular pagan practices became increasingly intense, these names were censored and baal was replaced with bosheth, meaning "shame".

El theophory

The following is an alphabetical list of names referring to El and their meanings in Hebrew:

Abdiel Servant of God
Abiel God my Father
Abimael A Father sent from God
Adbeel Disciplined of God[2]
Adiel Witness of God
Adirael Magnificence of God
Adriel Flock of God
Advachiel Happiness of God
Ambriel Energy of God
Ammiel People of God
Ananiel Rain of God
Arael Light of God or Vision of God
Ariel, Auriel Lion of God
Armisael Mountain of Judgment of God
Asmodel Greatness of God
Azael Whom God Strengthens
Azazel God Strengthens or Arrogant to God
Azrael Help of God
Barakiel, Baraquiel Lightning of God
Barbiel Illumination of God
Barachiel Kindness of God or Ray of God
Bardiel Humiliated Son of God
Bethel House of God
Betzalel Shadow/Path of God
Bithiel Daughter of God
Boel God is in Him
Camael He who Sees God
Cassiel Speed of God
Castiel Shield of God
Chakel Wisdom of God
Chamuel He who Seeks God
Denzel Fortress of God
Daniel Judged by God or Judgement of God
Elad God Forever
Eli a variant on the name of God, or "my God"
Eliana My God Answers
Elijah (Elias) Whose God is Jah, God Jah, The Strong Jah, God of Jah, My God is Jah. Reference to the meaning of both (Eli)-(Jah)
Elisha Salvation of God
Elishama My God Hears
Elishua God is my salvation
Eliezer My God Helps
Elimelech My God is King
Elizabeth My God is Oath
Elkanah God has Possessed, or God has Created
Emmanuel God is with us
Ezekiel God will Strengthen
Ezequeel Strength of God
Ezrael Help of God
Gabriel, Gavriel Man of God, God has shown Himself Mighty, Hero of God or Strong one of God
Gadreel, Gadriel wall of God
Gaghiel Roaring Beast of God
Gamaliel Reward of God
Hamaliel Grace of God
Hanael Glory of God
Immanuel God with us
Imriel Eloquence of God
Iruel Fear of God
Ishmael, Ishamael Heard by God, Named by God, or God Hearkens
Israel, Yisrael Struggles with God or Prince of God
Jekuthiel God will support
Jerahmeel God's exaltation
Jeremiel God's mercy
Jezreel God will sow
Joel Jah is God
Jegudiel Glorifier of God
Jophiel, Lophiel, Yofiel, Zophiel - Beauty of God
Katriel Crown of God
Kazbiel He who lies to God
Kushiel Rigid One of God
Lee-El, Lee-el, Leeel For God
Leliel Jaws of God
Lemuel Dedicated to God
Mahalalel The blessed God, The shining light of God, or The glory of God
Malahidael King of God
Matarael Premonition of God
Michael Who is like God? a question
Mishael Who is what God is? a question
Nathanael, Nathaniel Given by God or God has Given or "Gift of God"
Nemuel Day of God
Othniel Hour of God
Peniel, Penuel, Phanuel Face of God
Priel Fruit of God
Rachmiel God is my Comforter
Ramiel Thunder of God
Raphael God is Healing or Healing one of God
Raziel Secret of God
Remiel Mercy of God or Compassion of God
Reuel Friend of God
Sachiel Price of God or Covering of God
Salatheel I have asked God
Sahaquiel Ingenuity of God
Samael, Sammael Severity of God, see also Samael (disambiguation)
Samiel Blind God, epithet for Baal or the Demiurge
Samuel Name/Heard of God
Sariel Command of God
Sealtiel Intercessor of God
Shamshel Lonely Conqueror of God
Shealtiel I asked God [for this child]
Suriel Moon of God
Tamiel Perfection of God
Tarfiel God Nourishes
Tzaphkiel Beholder of God
Tzaphquiel Contemplation of God
Uriel Sun of God, Light of God or Fire of God
Uzziel Power from God
Verchiel Shining of God
Za'afiel Wrath of God
Zadkiel Righteousness of God (rabbibic)
Zagzagel Splendor of God
Zaphkiel Knowledge of God
Zeruel Arm of God
Zophiel Beauty of God

False El theophory

The name Abel, which appears to refer to El, in fact is not an instance of theophory. Abel can be translated as "breath", "temporary" or "meaninglessness" and is the word translated as "vanity" in Ecclesiastes 1:2 in the King James Version.

The name Jael also appears to refer to El in English, but contains ayin rather than the aleph of El.

The name Rachel also appears to refer to El in English, but contains chet.

Shaddai theophory

The following is an alphabetical list of names referring to Shaddai and their meanings in Hebrew:

Zurishaddai Shaddai is my rock

Yah theophory

The following is an alphabetical list of names referring to Yah/Yahweh and their meanings in Hebrew:

Abiah Yahweh is my father
Abijah Yahweh is my father (2 Chron. 13:3)
Adaiah ornament of Yahweh
Adalia Yahweh is just
Adonijah my lord is Yahweh
Ahaziah vision of Yahweh
Ahiah brother of Yahweh
Ahijah brother of Yahweh
Amariah Yahweh says; integrity of Yahweh
Amaziah strength of Yahweh
Ananiah Protected by Yah
Athaliah Yahweh is exalted
Azariah Yahweh has helped
Batyah Daughter of Yah
Bealiah Yahweh is Lord[3]
Dodavah(u) Beloved of Yahweh
Elijah (Elias) Whose God is Jah, God Jah, The Strong Jah, God of Jah, My God is Jah. Reference to the meaning of both (Eli)-(Jah)
Hananiah Yahweh is gracious
Gedaliah Yahweh is great
Hezekiah Yahweh has strengthened
Hodiah The splendour of Yahweh
Hodaviah Give thanks to Yahweh
Isaiah Salvation of Yahweh
Isshiah Yahweh exists
Jeconiah Yahweh has firmly established
Jedaiah Yah knows
Jedidiah Beloved of Yah
Jehoiachin Yahweh is firmly established
Jehoiada Yahweh knows
Jehoshaphat Yahweh is judge
Jehosheba Yahweh is my oath
Jehozadak Righteous is Yahweh
Jekamiah Yahweh raises
Jeremiah Yah exalts
Jeshaiah Salvation of Yahweh
Jesse Yahweh exists
Joab Yahweh is father
Jochebed Yahweh is glory
Joel Yahweh is El/God
John Yahweh is gracious
Jonathan gift of Yahweh
Joseph Yah has increased
Josiah supported of Yahweh
Malchijah Yahweh is king
Micaiah Who is like Yahweh
Matityahu Gift from Yah
Neariah Servant of Yahweh
Nedabiah Yahweh impels
Nehemiah Yah comforts
Nethaniah gift of Yahweh
Netanyahu gift of Yahweh
Obadiah Yahweh's servant or worshiper
Odelia Thanks to Yah
Pedaiah Redemption of Yahweh
Pelatiah Yah has delivered
Pelaiah Yah has distinguished
Pelaliah Yah has judged
Pekahiah Yah has observed
Rannaniah Yah is the reason I shout for joy, Yah is my Joy
Reaiah Yahweh has seen
Rephaiah Yah has healed
Seraiah Servant/prince of Yahweh
Shecaniah One intimate with Yahweh
Shephatiah Judged of Yahweh
Toviah Good of Yahweh or Yahweh is Good
Uriah My light is Yahweh
Uzziah Yahweh is my strength
Yehoshua (Joshua, Jesus) Yahweh saves, Yahweh is Saviour, Yahweh is my Salvation
Zebadiah, Zabdi Gift of Yahweh
Zedekiah justice of or righteous is Yahweh
Zephaniah Yahweh hides or protects
Zechariah Yahweh remembers

Baal theophory

Ba'al is a generic term meaning master; it can also be translated "Lord". In the Bible, it is frequently a reference to Hadad, although it is sometimes used to refer to other specific deities, including Yahweh, and on other occasions is used to refer to an arbitrary lord of this area.

The following is an alphabetical list of names referring Ba'al, and their meanings in Hebrew:

Baal master; lord
Baalah her lord; she that is governed or subdued; a spouse
Baalath a rejoicing; our proud lord
Baalath-Beer subjected pit
Baal-berith lord of the covenant
Baale same as Baalath
Baal-gad lord Gad, or lord of Gad, or lord of fortune/felicity
Baal-hamon he who rules a crowd
Baal-hanan Ba'al is gracious
Baal-hermon lord of destruction / of a cursed-thing
Baali my lord; lord over me
Baalim lords; masters; (later Jewish use: false gods)
Baalis a rejoicing/proud lord
Baal-meon lord/master of the house
Baal-Peor master of Peor; master of the opening
Baal-perazim lord of divisions
Baal-shalisha the lord that presides over three; the third idol
Baal-tamar master of the palm-tree
Baal-zebub lord of the fly (satirical corruption of Ba'al-zebul - lord of princes)
Baal-zephon the lord/possession of the north/hidden/secret
Jerub-baal the lord contends


In later biblical and Jewish writing, some of the theophories in Ba'al were bowdlerised, with ba'al replaced by bosheth ((the) shameful (thing)):

Ishbosheth, from Ishba'al, man of ba'al.
Jerubbeshet, from Jerubbaal "Ba'al contends"

Yam theophory

Yam is the Canaanite god of the Sea.

Abiyam My father is Yam (1 Kgs. 14:31)

Zedek theophory

Zedek (or Sydyk or Sedek) was the name of a Phoenician deity worshiped in Canaan. In Hebrew, "zedek" (from the root tz-d-k) means "righteous".

The following is an alphabetical list of names referring Zedek, and their meanings in Hebrew:

Melchi-zedek My king is Zedek
Adoni-zedek My lord is Zedek
Rabi-zedki My great one/master is Zedek (EA 170)


Apart from oblique references to Hadad by means of the word ba'al, some theophory references him directly:

Hadadezer - Hadad is my help
Rib-Hadda - Great is Hadad


Asenappar - Ashur is creator of an heir
Nebuchadnezzar - Nabu, preserve my firstborn son
Sennacherib - Sin has replaced brothers
Shalmaneser - Shulmanu is the best

See also


  1. From the Greek θεοφορία from θεοφόρος from Θεός "God" and φόρος "bearer" from φέρειν "to bear"; confer Φωσφόρος.
  2. "Adbeel" retrieved from "Strong's Concordance with Hebrew and Greek Lexicon"
  3. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, "Bealiah" (1915).
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