Echad: One Means One

שמע ישראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד
Sh’ma Yisra’el YHWH eloheinu YHWH echad.
Listen Israel! YHWH your God, YHWH is one.

If you don’t recognize this verse, it’s Deuteronomy 6:4. It is the central creed of Judaism and the most important commandment according to Y’shua Messiah (Mark 12:28-29). There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding this verse ever since the Roman Empire took over the church in the 3rd century AD.

The point of contention is the Hebrew word echad. Trinitarians and Modalists alike argue that echad, in this immediate context, denotes a “uni-plurality” (multiple personas in one entity), but is this truth or merely biased assumption? For clarity’s sake, I will examine the hundreds of occurrences of echad in the Torah (around 400 in all) and the many ways they are used in the Hebrew text.

I have posted a copy of the entry for echad found in Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon as a point of reference (click the image to see it in full screen):

Below I have listed and given a link to every verse in the Torah that contains the word echad, that way you can double check my work to make sure it’s accurate. As you can see, I color coded each verse to match its function and usage in the Hebrew text. Since the numerical usages of echad are vast and self-explanatory, I will be focusing primarily on the minor verses, which are up for interpretation.

Echad as an ordinal
Echad as a numeral
Echad as a unity

Genesis 1:5, 9, 2:11, 21, 24, 3:22, 4:19, 8:5, 13, 10:25, 11:1, 6, 19:9, 21:15, 22:2, 26:10, 27:38, 44-45, 29:20, 32:8, 22, 33:13, 34:16, 22, 37:9, 20, 40:5, 41:5, 11, 22, 25-26, 42:11, 13, 16, 19, 27, 32-33, 44:28, 48:22, 49:16.

Exodus 1:15, 8:31, 9:6-7, 10:19, 11:1, 12:18, 46, 49, 14:28, 16:22, 33, 17:12, 18:3-4, 23:29, 24:3, 25:12, 19, 32-33, 36, 26:2, 4-6, 8, 10-11, 16-17, 19, 21, 24-26, 27:9, 28:10, 17, 29:1, 3, 15, 23, 39-40, 30:10, 33:5, 36:9-13, 15, 18, 21-22, 24, 26, 29-31, 37:3, 8, 18-19, 22, 39:10, 40:2, 17.

Leviticus 4:2, 13, 22, 27, 5:4-5, 7, 13, 17, 6:3, 7, 7:7, 14, 8:26, 12:8, 13:2, 14:5, 10, 12, 21-22, 30-31, 50, 15:15, 30, 16:5, 8, 34, 22:28, 23:18-19, 24, 24:5, 22, 48, 26:26.

Numbers 1:1, 18, 41, 44, 2:16, 28, 6:11, 14, 19, 7:3, 11, 13-16, 19-22, 25-28, 31-34, 37-40, 43-46, 49-52, 55-58, 61-64, 67-70, 73-76, 79-82, 85, 8:12, 9:14, 10:4, 11:19, 26, 13:2, 23, 14:15, 15:5, 11-12, 15-16, 24, 27, 29, 16:15, 22, 17:3, 6, 28:4, 7, 11-13, 15, 19, 21-22, 27-30, 29:1-2, 4-5, 8-11, 14-16, 19, 22, 25, 28, 31, 3436, 38, 31:28, 30, 34, 39, 47, 33:38, 34:18, 35:30, 36:3, 8.

Deuteronomy 1:2-3, 23, 4:42, 6:4, 12:14, 13:12, 15:7, 16:5, 17:2, 6, 18:6, 19:5, 11, 15, 21:15, 23:1624:5, 25:5, 11, 28:7, 25, 55, 32:30.

Each one of the verses listed in blue uses echad as the numeral one or eleven (one + ten), so there’s no point in splitting hairs over them. Similarly, the green verses use echad as the ordinal one (i.e., first), which cannot possibly denote a unity. The orange verses use echad ambiguously, while the red verses clearly denote a unified whole; these last two groups are the subject of my investigation.

Genesis 2:24
על־כן יעזב־איש את־אביו ואת־אמו ודבק באשתו והיו לבשר אחד

Trinitarians often enjoy exploiting this verse to further there assumption of a “uni-plurality” in their “Godhead”. However, cheap tactics and arguments from English grammar are not sufficient. So let’s get to demolishing this assumption:

Genesis 29:14, Judges 9:2, and 2 Samuel 19:12 all use basar (בשר) to mean one’s kindred or flesh and bone. The Trinitarian assumption is that if man and woman are echad in marriage, therefore three beings can all be echad, yet still maintain independently the attributes of each being “fully God” without being three gods.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that man and woman, though echad in purpose, are still two separate beings. A husband is not his wife and vice-versa. Husband and wife are neither “co-equal” nor “co-eternal”. They are one family. A man and woman come together to make a child, which is their flesh and bone.

Genesis 11:1
ויהי כל־הארץ שפה אחת ודברים אחדים

What do we know from this verse? At one point in time everyone spoke the same language, not a “uni-plurality” of languages. Otherwise, verse 7 makes no sense. You simply can’t confuse their language if they speak different languages. See Note (1) of Gesenius’ entry for echad here for his commentary on echadim.

Genesis 11:6
ויאמר יהוה הן עם אחד ושפה אחת לכלם וזה החלם לעשות
ועתה לא־יבצר מהם כל אשר יזמו לעשות

Here YHWH is speaking to his malakhim (messengers) about those building the tower at Babel. The people are am echad (one people) united in purpose and are of shaphah achat (one lip), meaning that they speak one language, not a unified multiplicity of languages. Therefore, YHWH says to his malakhim in the next verse: “Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language”. They spoke one singular language. There are some who would use the “us” of verse 7 to support a belief in a “uni-plural Godhead” and I addressed this point in a previous study.

Genesis 27:44
וישבת עמו ימים אחדים עד אשר־תשוב חמת אחיך

Here again echad has the masculine plural im suffix. Contrary to popular belief, this does not make echad plural. As Nehemiah Gordon stated in an article on the majestic plural, a numerically plural noun receives a plural suffix, verb, and adjective. Since yom (day) in this verse is in the plural form and echad (one) modifies yamim, therefore echad must take on the plural suffix. See Note (3).

Genesis 29:20
ויעבד יעקב ברחל שבע שנים ויהיו בעיניו כימים אחדים באהבתו אתה

The same principle holds true for this verse. Echadim (ones) is modifying k‘yamim (as-days); As Gesenius noted, this grammatical structure is equivalent to “a few days”. A grammatically plural adjective is modifying a plural noun.

Genesis 34:16
ונתנו את־בנתינו לכם ואת־בנתיכם נקח־לנו וישבנו אתכם והיינו לעם אחד

After S’khem the Hivite raped Ya’akov’s daughter Dinah (Gen. 34:1-2), the sons of Ya’akov deceitfully agreed to a treaty of sorts with S’khem and his people (Gen. 34:13-16); that, if they would all receive circumcision then Ya’akov and company would dwell therein with S’khem and become l’am echad (one people). In context, this is not a “uni-plurality”, rather numerically one (Gen. 34:20-23). In layman’s terms, they would assimilate into one another, making a new nation.

Exodus 24:3
ויבא משה ויספר לעם את כל־דברי יהוה ואת כל־המשפטים ויען כל־העם קול אחד ויאמרו כל־הדברים אשר־דבר יהוה נעשה

This is one of only three times in the Torah that echad is unambiguously used as a unified whole. However, it does not indicate a literal unity in persons, rather a unity in voice. For, “all the people answered with one voice, and said, ‘All the words which YHWH has spoken we will do’ “. Each person had their own mouth and their own tongue, they were not speaking with one mouth and one tongue.

Exodus 26:11
ועשית קרסי נחשת חמשים והבאת את־הקרסים בללאת וחברת את־האהל והיה אחד

YHWH commands Mosheh to to make fifty bronze clasps, to put the clasps into the loops, and to “couple the tent together that it may be one“. This is clearly not a quantity, rather a literal unified whole. Although it is not “uni-plural”, because the two curtains are to literally become one giant, interconnected curtain.

Deuteronomy 6:4
שמע ישראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד

Finally, we come to the central verse for which this word study revolves around. The question is, does the word echad leave room for a “uni-plurality” or should we understand it to be an absolute singularity? Seeing that only 3 of about 300 or more verses in Torah clearly denote a unity, it would no doubt be a stretch of imagination to believe this echad to mean a “uni-plurality”, much less a trinity.

(3 / 300) * 100 = 1. That’s a measly one percent! Comparatively, echad is used as a numerical, single one about ninety percent [(270 / 300) * 100)] of the time. Rather than leaving this study on a cliffhanger and assuming it to be a singularity by technicality and probability, I will present several verses from the Tanakh that show the clear, absolute, and indisputable singularity of YHWH:

Deuteronomy 32:12
יהוה בדד ינחנו ואין עמו אל נכר
Literally: YHWH alone he-is-guiding-him and-there-is-no with-him El-of foreigner.
Deuteronomy 32:39
ראו עתה כי אני אני הוא ואין אלהים עמדי אני אמית ואחיה מחצתי ואני ארפא ואין מידי מציל
Literally: see-you! now that I, I he and-there-is-no Elohim with-me I, I-am-putting-to-death and-I-am-making-alive I-transfixed and-I, I-shall-heal and-there-is-no from-hand-of-me one-rescuing.
2 Kings 19:19
ועתה יהוה אלהינו הושיענו נא מידו וידעו כל־ממלכות הארץ כי אתה יהוה אלהים לבדך
Literally: and-now YHWH Elohim-of-us save-you-us! please! from-hand-of-him and-they-shall-know all-of kingdoms-of the-earth that you YHWH Elohim to-alone-of-you.
Isaiah 43:10-11
אתם עדי נאם־יהוה ועבדי אשר בחרתי למען תדעו ותאמינו לי ותבינו כי־אני הוא לפני לא־נוצר אל ואחרי לא יהיה׃ אנכי אנכי יהוה ואין מבלעדי מושיע
Literally: you witnesses-of-me averment-of YHWH and-servant-of-me whom I-choose so-that you-shall-know and-you-shall-believe to-me and-you-shall-understand that I he to-faces-of-me not he-was-formed El and-after-me not he-shall become. I, I YHWH and-there-is-no from-apart-from-me one-saving.
Isaiah 44:6;8
כה־אמר יהוה מלך־ישראל וגאלו יהוה צבאות אני ראשון ואני אחרון ומבלעדי אין אלהים׃ אל־תפחדו ואל־תרהו הלא מאז השמעתיך והגדתי ואתם עדי היש אלוה מבלעדי ואין צור בל־ידעתי
Literally: thus he-says YHWH king-of Israel and-one-redeeming-of-him YHWH-of hosts I first and-I last and-from-apart-from-me there-is-no Elohim. Must-not-be you-are-being-afraid and-must-not-be you-are-fearing ?-not from-then I-announced-you and-I-told and-you witnesses-of-me ?-there-is Eloah from-apart-from-me and-there-is-no rock no I-know.
Isaiah 45:21-22
הגידו והגישו אף יועצו יחדו מי השמיע זאת מקדם מאז הגידה הלוא אני יהוה ואין־עוד אלהים מבלעדי אל־צדיק ומושיע אין זולתי׃ פנו־אלי והושעו כל־אפסי־ארץ כי אני־אל ואין עוד
Literally: tell-you! and-bring-close-you! indeed they-shall-be-consulted together who-? he-announced this from-aforetime from-then he-told-her ?-not I YHWH and-there-is-no further Elohim from-apart-from-me El righteous and-one-saving there-is-no except-me. Face-about-you! to-me and-be-saved-you! all-of limits-of earth that I El and-there-is-no further.
Hosea 13:4
ואנכי יהוה אלהיך מארץ מצרים ואלהים זולתי לא תדע ומושיע אין בלתי
Literally: And-I YHWH Elohim-of-you from-land-of Egypt and-Elohim except-me not you-shall-know and-one-saving there-is-no unless-I.
Malachi 2:10
הלוא אב אחד לכלנו הלוא אל אחד בראנו מדוע נבגד איש באחיו לחלל ברית אבתינו
Literally: ?-not father one to-all-of-us ?-not El one he-created-us for-what-reason we-are-being-treacherous man in-brother-of-him to-to-profane-of covenant-of fathers-of-us.

So is there any Elohim (Mighty One) aside from YHWH? No! He is the only true Elohim, aside from him there is no other. Notice the constant usage of singular pronouns (I, he, himme, etc). YHWH only refers to himself in plural pronouns when he is speaking to his malakhim (Gen. 1:26, 3:22, 11:7; Isa. 6:8), every other time (about 20,000 times) he refers to himself in singular pronouns. Why? It’s simple, he is one and ONLY one. That is the plain and simple reading of the text. Other explanations have to bypass the text and ignore the grammar altogether.

Barukh atah YHWH noten HaTorah!

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