Order of God’s Names


I noticed that within the Tanach that the term אלהים (Elohim) always seems to follow the Tetragrammaton of the four-letter Hebrew word יהוה. It never seems to appear the other way around (except Psalm 68:27 and when it reads אל אלהים יהוה, see Psalm 50:1 or Joshua 22:22).

Yet when we look at the word אדני it is often followed by the Tentragammon (with the exception of Psalm 109:21, 140:8, 141:8 and Habakkuk 3:19).

So when these words follow each other directly in a sentence, why is the order always as I described? I.e. why יי אלהים and not אלהים יי, and why אדני יי and not יי אדני?

There is probably a very simple grammatical explanation for it, but I was hoping you could share your insight on why it is written this way; in these orders.



  1. I’m sure you’re familiar with the Rashi at the beginning of בראשית:
    בראשית א:א – בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים; רש”י – ברא אלהים – ולא אמר ברא ה’, שבתחלה עלה במחשבה לבראתו במדת הדין, ראה שאין העולם מתקיים, הקדים מדת רחמים ושתפה למדת הדין, היינו דכתיב: ביום עשות ה’ אלהים ארץ ושמים (להלן ב:ד).
    That is, Hashem decided at some point to always present His attribute of רחמים first and foremost, whereas His מידה of דין is subordinate and secondary.

    But there may be a deeper message in their juxtaposition, and in the consistent placement of שם הוי”ה first. Note that Rashi cites Hashem’s “original intention” to create the world במדת הדין. This is relevant to us mortals, given to sin and iniquity, as follows. Had the world been created that way, ostensibly wherever one looked, he’d be reminded of the horrific penalties for mis-action. This may have led many to feel paralyzed, afraid to act at all for fear of the consequences of failure and committing impropriety, hence אין העולם מתקיים, because the world exists for the sake of human endeavor (Avot 1:2).

    Hashem therefore decided on “Plan B,” to make manifest, front and center, His מדת רחמים, thus proclaiming loud and clear that He is first and foremost a merciful God. That is, a mechanism for handling iniquity and failings –the human condition–exists, and one need not be afraid to act, because the One God is first Merciful, and only executes דין as a last resort.
    But the order אלהים יקוק is found even when ostensibly no רחמים is evident or seemingly even relevant, as in the case of the wicked Pharaoh, regarding the plague of hail:
    שמות ט:ל – וְאַתָּה וַעֲבָדֶיךָ יָדַעְתִּי כִּי טֶרֶם תִּירְאוּן מִפְּנֵי ה’ אֱלֹהִים.

    The author of גדולת מרדכי (R’ Mordechai Kahane, p. 91) explains that the selfsame message was broadcast even to the evil Pharaoh – I am a Merciful God, and it is never too late to change course. But Pharaoh’s mindset was fixed in paganism, polytheism: there is one god of judgment and another of judgment, and in his mind was dealing here with the angry, judging god, as evidenced by the multiple plagues already visited upon them:
    גדולת מרדכי (עמ’ צא) – …צריך להבין למה הוצרך לומר מפני ה’ אלהים… ולמה מוקדם כאן שם הוי”ה לפני שם אלהים… וז”ש ידעתי כי טרם תיראון מפני ה’ אלהים… עדיין אינם שמים לב להבין ולראות ה’ אלהים, שבתוך אלהים שהוא מדת הדין יש ה’ שהוא מדת החסד, ושאפשר להפוך את הדינים לרחמים ע”י התעוררות לתשובה. אלא שהם עוד מחזיקים בטעותם שיש פועל רע לחוד, ופועל טוב לחוד, זהו המטעה אותם מדרך האמת, ואינם יראים מפני ה’ שהוא אלהים.
    All this serves to accentuate the great good the Monotheism represents. That is, Mercy and Judgment exist, but God is the Master of both, and He Himself stresses the primacy of Mercy over Judgment, and the choice is ours, always.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team