Notes by Autumn Light

On Hebrew, English, translation, editing, and more—by Jonathan Orr-Stav

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How do Elohim and Yahweh differ?

Elohim was the name of God for the Israelite (northern) tribes.

IHVH was the name of the God of the Judeans (southern tribe).

Since both religions were based on the belief in a single, Creator, God, the two traditions were knitted into one when the refugees of the northern kingdom were absorbed into Judea following the destruction of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians around 725 BCE, at the instruction of the Judean King Ezekiah.

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Why is “אלוהים” translated as “God” in the singular, when it is actually plural – “Gods”?

This is one of those fun questions, like “Mummy—how do babies come into the world?”, or “How does Santa deliver our presents when we have no chimney?” The actual history is a lot more prosaic but more interesting than the pat answers, such as that the Hebrew words for water (mayim) and sky (shamayim) are also seemingly plural but are not (actually they are, as they use plural adjectives as well, and if quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck—it’s a duck). Talmudic tradition of centuries of pilpul is capable of much greater feats than that—such as why placing restrictions on women is really a sign of respect, or why there are several different answers to what happens when Two Men Come Down The Same Chimney.

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According to the Bible, did God speak only Hebrew (and not other languages)?

(My answer to this question at

There are many jokes based on the idea that Hebrew is God’s native language—and inasmuch as all three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) regard the biblical God as God, in a way it is…

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