In Genesis 35:7 it says:

וַיִּ֤בֶן שָׁם֙ מִזְבֵּ֔חַ וַיִּקְרָא֙ לַמָּק֔וֹם אֵ֖ל בֵּֽית־אֵ֑ל כִּ֣י שָׁ֗ם נִגְל֤וּ אֵלָיו֙ הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים בְּבָרְח֖וֹ מִפְּנֵ֥י אָחִֽיו

הָֽאֱלֹהִ֔ים is clearly used in the singular sense of the word. So why is the verb נִגְל֤וּ in the plural?

3 Answers 3


Rashi writes,

נגלו אליו האלהים GOD WAS REVEALED UNTO Him — In many passages terms denoting Divine Power and Lordship are used in the plural e. g., (39:20) “Joseph’s master (אֲדוֹנַי)” (construct plural), and (Exodus 22:14) “If its owner (בעליו) be with it”, where it does not say בַּעֲלוֹ (the singular form). Similarly, forms of אלהים denoting Judge or Authority are expressed in the plural, but you will find none other of the Divine Names in the plural.

the Ibn Ezra writes,

[BECAUSE THERE GOD WAS REVEALED TO HIM.] Elohim (God) refers to angels.4Revealed (niglu) is in the plural. If elohim meant God then revealed would be in the singular (Cherez).

The Radak also points in the same direction:

כי שם נגלו אליו האלוקים, a reference to the angels ascending and descending the ladder whom he had seen in his dream. Alternatively, the meaning of the word ה-אלוקים is a reference to G’d, Himself, not an intermediary. The reason why he used the plural mode נגלו instead of נגלה when the subject is only G’d Himself, is that this is a form of great respect and honour for the subject [known as pluralis majestatis when a king refers to himself in the plural. Ed.] compare Psalms 149,2 ישמח ישראל בעושיו, “Let Israel rejoice in its Maker.” A similar construction is found in Job 35,10 איה אלו-ה עושי?, “Where is the Lord, My Maker?” There are more such examples in Scripture.

The Targum Yonatan reads, "אִתְגְלִיאוּ לֵיהּ מַלְאָכַיָא דַיְיָ" explaining the plural.


Rebbi Yochanan (b. Sanhedrin 38b) lists it as an example of a place where G-d accepts a plural verb (to this list, add 2Sam. 2:7) and many rishonim follow. Notably Onqelos (אתגלי), Neofiti (אתגלי), the Samaritan version (נגלה), the Samaritan Targum (אגלי), the Septuagint (ἐφάνη) the Vulgate (apparuit), and the Peshitta (ܐܬܓܠܝ) agree that it's singular. The first sources to understand it as an actual plural are ibn Ezra and the Midrash Lekah Tov.

As to why, I think any real answer would have to explain all the different examples of this, and I haven't seen one.


This is referring to the specific name of G-d associated with Beit El (בית-אל), namely the two part name אל שדי. This is like is found explicitly in the Torah, Shemot 6:3.

That in the small sum, Beit-El (with the briach) alludes to 11 with the kollel which is 12. And this is also the small sum of this specific two part name of G-d אל שדי. That this two part name is actually an expression of how G-d encompasses both Kindness (חסד), the quality associated with the name אל and also severity (גבורה) the quality associated with the name שדי. And in fact these two names are equated with each other when observing the small sum of the Miluy of the name שדי, as in (שי״ן, דל״ת, יו״ד). The small sum is 31, which is אל.

The beginning of the posuk states that Yaacov was calling, meaning praying to Makom with the indicative Heh. Like is stated in Sefer Kehillat Yaacov, under the heading of מקום, it explains that among other things, this term is referencing the quality of Kingship as in G-d's Kingship like is found in Zohar, parshat Pinchas, 225b.

And this to the root of this two part name, namely שדי:

which is comprised the leading letter Shin which is the form of G-d's name (יהוה) associated with Yaacov. This transformation is מצפץ which is gematria 300 or ש. This form of G-d's name is what we intend in the Amidah prayer when saying HaEl HaKadosh and HaMelech HaKadosh.

And the two final letters of Dalet and Yud which is specifically associated with the quality of Gevurah manifest at the beginning of Creation like is found for example in the name of Reish Lakish explaining the meaning of Bereshit 17:1 in tractate Chagigah 12a. This Gevurah aspect of the name pertains to the usage of Elohim cited in your question in the sense of a Judge (דיין) like Rashi explains to Shemot 20:1.

So the plural verb form of נִגְל֤וּ is appropriate for this two part name of אל שדי.

  • Usually אל שדי is singular. E.g. second to last pasuk of shishi of toldos. ואל שדי יברך אותך ויפרך וירבך
    – Heshy
    Nov 14, 2022 at 23:38
  • @Heshy In your example, Yitzchok is referring specifically to only one aspect of the two part name. This follows the explanation in Sefer Raziel that the letters of Miluy of שדי meaning (ין, לת, וד) are the gematria of פרו ורבו. That is the path of both the blessing and the Mitzvah. Nov 15, 2022 at 1:08

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