There are numerous places in the Torah where the word "Elohim" אלהים does not mean "G-d", but rather a court.

Why are courts named after one of G-d's names, and considering that G-d has many names, why was this one specifically chosen?

  • 2
    Maybe God was named after the court? Why do you think the court is named after God?
    – Double AA
    Jun 28, 2017 at 14:03
  • 1
    Please provide a source where these "numerous places" where the Torah refers to courts. As far as I know there's only 1 place?
    – Aaron
    Jun 28, 2017 at 20:43

1 Answer 1


The term elohim means power which is also why idols are called elohim acheirim. Pagans regard their gods as beings which manifest various powers, somewhat like comic book characters (like the X-Men). They regard the concept of Hashem as too lofty to be connected to human beings and therefore worship the powers that have direct control or connection with the physical universe (see the Chabad citation at the end of this post).

In the case of the courts, they are a group of people who have been given the power by Hashem to enforce the rules of the Torah. Thus, their connection to Hashem gives them the name powers.


This name of G-d is based on the Hebrew word “el” which means simply “power” or “strength”. An example of this usage is in the description of Lavan’s pursuing and confronting Jacob during his return to the Land of Israel. Lavan says, “Yesh b’el yadi [sic] - It is in my power to do you harm, but the G-d of your father addressed me last night [in a dream] saying, ‘Beware of speaking with Jacob either bad or good’” (Gen 31:29). Rashi and Onkelus both explain “el” to mean power or strength.

The name “Elokim”, then, in reference to G-d, connotes His complete mastership and control over everything.

A third usage of this term refers to judges. For example, if on account of poverty or theft a Jewish man was indentured to work for a Jewish master, then chose to stay in servitude despite being given the opportunity to be released, he was to be brought before the “elohim” – judges – who would order that the man’s ear be pierced symbolically stating, “G-d says the Children of Israel are My servants; and this one chooses to be a servant of a servant!” (Ex. 21:6).

However, regarding this last usage, the commentaries suggest a relationship with “Elokim”. Namely, the Torah court of judges is called by the word for G-d since it carries out G-d’s laws on earth (Ibn Ezra). Alternatively, because G-d’s Presence and influence rests upon the judges (Ramban). This is based on the Sages’ explanation of the verse “in the midst of judges (elohim) G-d will judge” (Psalms 82:1).

Why is G‑d Called "Elokim"?

They knew of this concept of Havaya, but they considered it far too lofty an idea, seemingly inaccessible and irrelevant to their lives. Instead, they connected to the many forces of nature. They called these "Elohim"—meaning, "mighty forces."

That's why, as the Biblical commentator Baal HaTurim points out, the Hebrew letters in the name Elohim have the same gematria (numerical value) as "haTeva"—which means the natural order.

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