Lord - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words

Usage Number: 1
Strong's Number: H113
Original Word: ’adôn
Usage Notes: or ’adonay
Usage Number: 2
Strong's Number: H136
Usage Notes: "lord; master; Lord." Cognates of this word appear in Ugaritic and Phoenician. The form ’adôn appears 334 times, while the form ’adonay (used exclusively as a divine name) appears 439 times.

Basically, ’adôn means "lord" or "master." It is distinguished from the Hebrew word ba‘al, which signifies "possessor" or "owner." ’Adôn basically describes the one who occupies the position of a "master" or "lord" over a slave or servant: "And the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master …" (Gen. 24:9). It is used of kings and their most powerful aides. Joseph told his brothers: "So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father [i.e., an adviser] to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt" (Gen. 45:8; cf. Gen. 42:30). Only once is this word used in the sense of "owner" or "possessor" (1 Kings 16:24).

’Adôn is often used as a term of polite address. In some cases, the one so named really occupies a position of authority. In Gen. 18:12 (the first occurrence) Sarah called Abraham her "lord." On the other hand, this may be a purely honorary title by which the speaker intends to indicate his submission to the one so addressed. Jacob instructed his slaves to speak to "my lord Esau" (Gen. 32:18); i.e., Jacob called his brother Esau "lord." In places where the speaker is addressing someone calling him "lord," the word virtually means "you." When applied to God, ’adôn is used in several senses. It signifies His position as the one who has authority (like a master) over His people to reward the obedient and punish the disobedient: "Ephraim provoked him to anger most bitterly: therefore shall he leave his blood upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him" (Hos. 12:14). In such contexts God is conceived as a Being who is sovereign ruler and almighty master. The word is often a title of respect, a term of direct address usually assuming a specific concrete lord-vassal or master-servant relationship (Psa. 8:1). In some cases the word appears to be a title suggesting God's relationship to and position over Israel: "Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord God" (Exod. 23:17). In such contexts ’adôn is a formal divine name and should probably be transliterated if the proper emphasis is to be retained. In the form ’adonay the word means "Lord" par excellence or "Lord over all," even as it sometimes does in the form ’adôn (cf. Deut. 10:17, where God is called the "God of gods, and "Lord of lords"; Josh. 3:11, where He is called the "Lord of all the earth").

The word ’adonay appears in Gen. 15:2: "And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless,…" This word frequently appears in Psalms (Psa. 68:17; Psa. 86:3) and Isaiah (Isa. 29:13; Isa. 40:10).

Usage Number: 3
Strong's Number: H3068
Original Word: ’adôn
Usage Notes: "Lord." The Tetragrammaton YHWH appears without its own vowels, and its exact pronunciation is debated (Jehovah, Yehovah, Jahweh, Yahweh). The Hebrew text does insert the vowels for ’adonay, and Jewish students and scholars read ’adonay whenever they see the Tetragrammaton. This use of the word occurs 6,828 times. The word appears in every period of biblical Hebrew.

The divine name YHWH appears only in the Bible. Its precise meaning is much debated. God chose it as His personal name by which He related specifically to His chosen or covenant people. Its first appearance in the biblical record is Gen. 2:4: "These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens." Apparently Adam knew Him by this personal or covenantal name from the beginning, since Seth both called his son Enosh (i.e., man as a weak and dependent creature) and began (along with all other pious persons) to call upon (formally worship) the name of YHWH, "the Lord" (Gen. 4:26). The covenant found a fuller expression and application when God revealed Himself to Abraham (Gen. 12:8), promising redemption in the form of national existence. This promise became reality through Moses, to whom God explained that He was not only the "God who exists" but the "God who effects His will": "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the Lord [YHWH] God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The Lord [YHWH] God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt: And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites…" (Exod. 3:15-17). So God explained the meaning of "I am who I am" (Exod. 3:14). He spoke to the fathers as YHWH, but the promised deliverance and, therefore, the fuller significance or experienced meaning of His name were unknown to them (Exod. 6:2-8).

Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words