EL ELYON: The Most High God
El Elyon is one of the truly exquisite names for God found in the Bible. Each of the divine names is given to reveal to man some quality or characteristic of God that cannot be found to the same extent in any other creature. Divine names, therefore, set God apart from and elevate Him infinitely higher than all other beings, whether in Heaven or earth.
The name El Elyon is translated in the Bible, “the most high God” (Gen. 14:18, 20, 22). “El” is a shortened form of Elohim and speaks of God’s strength. Elyon is like the superlative of “El” and could be translated “strongest.” El Elyon, therefore, is the strongest strong One, or “the most high God.” The Bible interprets this to mean that El Elyon is the “possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:19). El Elyon knows no bounds. The authority of the Most High God transcends boundaries between nations – between Heaven and earth – between spirit beings and physical beings – between angels and demons – and between humans and animals. His authority and dominion span time and distance alike. There is nothing and no one within an infinite universe that does not fall within His domain and jurisdiction. He is El Elyon, the Most High God – the strongest strong One – the possessor of Heaven and earth.
EL ELYON and the Pledge of Abraham
Abraham encountered the Most High God returning from the rescue of his nephew, Lot. The Bible says that, “. . . Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine; and he was the priest of the most high God” (Gen. 14:18). This king-priest blessed Abraham and said, “. . . Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:19). The reason given by Melchizedek for Abram’s victory over a much larger and superior force is this: “. . . the most high God . . . hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand . . .” (Gen. 14:20). And now Abram, for his part, pledged allegiance to “the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:22). Abraham had made enemies of the four kings from the east. He had humiliated them in the rescue of Lot, and one day ‘when kings go forth to war’ they would return seeking revenge. He had also alienated the king of Sodom by pledging allegiance to El Elyon and refusing any of the spoils of war.
With the passing of time Abraham began to question these earlier actions. Perhaps he had acted hastily. He had made enemies and turned down material wealth. The Bible declares that, “After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceedingly great reward” (Gen. 15:1). God never says Fear not to one of His own unless they are fearful. What a promise from El Elyon, the strongest strong One, the Most High God, the possessor of Heaven and earth. He would protect Abraham (“I am thy shield”). He would provide for Abraham (“I am . . . thy exceedingly great reward”). Here then was the ultimate life insurance policy – protection of life by the One who is the strongest strong One – and the best of pension plans. The One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills would be his “exceedingly great reward.”
EL ELYON and the Song of Moses
Moses was well-stricken in years and nearing the end of life. The great lawgiver would soon be gone. God commanded Moses to write a song before his departure. It was to be a reminder to Israel of what her God was like. It was to speak of His salvation, sovereignty and faithfulness. It was to be a testimony to Israel that the evils which would befall her through the ages could not be placed at the doorstep of her God – that their long, lonely trail of heartache and suffering would be the result of their own unfaithfulness and sin.
God commanded Moses, “Now, therefore, write this song for you, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel” (Dt. 31:19).
As Moses took up his pen to compose his song, he wrote, “When the Most High [Elyon] divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance” (Dt. 32:8-9).
With sovereign authority, Elyon, the possessor of Heaven and earth, partitioned off this planet. He set the bounds of the nations in relationship to the little land of Israel. Because Israel is God’s inheritance, she is the hub of the earth (Ezek. 38:12). Jerusalem is to be God’s home on this planet, and one day His ensign will fly over Zion. It is not without significance that He placed Israel on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea – that He gave her such varied topography and climate – that He made her the bridge between three continents, Africa, Asia and Europe – that He compacted her between four seas, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea (the latter with tremendous chemical wealth and enough fertilizer to meet the world’s needs for hundreds of years). Nearby, in Arab lands, He placed large reservoirs of oil. These things and more were placed by El EIyon, the possessor of Heaven and earth, in right amounts and in strategic places. He alone set the stage upon which the two-part drama (the first and second comings of Christ) of redemption will be played out to divine perfection.
EL ELYON and Demonic Activity
Since El Elyon is the Most High God, the strongest strong One, the possessor of Heaven and earth, it can rightly be assumed that His sphere of control extends beyond the physical realm to the unseen spirit realm. One day Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee into the land of the Gadarenes. Immediately He encountered a man who was demon possessed. Did the God of Abraham have authority outside the land of Israel? Did that authority extend to the demonic world? Jesus commanded that the demon (whose name was Legion, indicating that the man was indwelt by many demons) come out of him (Mk. 5:8). The demon “. . . cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the Most High God [El Elyon]? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not” (Mk. 5:7). Jesus commanded the demons to leave the man and enter a nearby herd of swine. They did, and the swine ran down a steep incline into the sea and drowned (Mk. 5:13).
Some years later, the Apostle Paul embarked on his second missionary journey. Having traveled through “. . . Phrygia and the region of Galatia . . . ,” Paul was forbidden to preach the Word in Asia (Acts 16:6). “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: there stood a man of Macedonia, beseeching him, and saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). And so Paul took the gospel to Europe as God directed, rather than to Asia where he had planned to go. Here was a critical turning point in human history. Few events affected the destiny of more men to a greater degree than this crossing into Europe with the gospel. But immediately Paul was confronted with a woman “. . . possessed with a spirit of divination . . .” (Acts 16:16). Here was demonic opposition to the spread of the gospel. This demon- possessed woman followed Paul harassing and interrupting his ministry, “. . . and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God [El Elyon], who show unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her. And he came out the same hour” (Acts 16:17-18). But the owner of this woman now delivered from demonic possession was deprived of income from her fortune-telling. And angered, rather than grateful, he had Paul and Silas thrown into prison. There the servants of El Elyon, the possessor of Heaven and earth, led the keeper of the prison and his family to faith in Christ (Acts 16:31-34). It was a new continent (Europe) and there was demonic opposition, but it could not successfully oppose the servants of El Elyon, possessor of Heaven and earth.
EL ELYON and Satanic Rebellion
There was an occasion before the advent of man when Lucifer, the son of the morning, the anointed cherub, evidently the highest of all created beings, rebelled against his Creator. Of this spirit being, it is recorded, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, who didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High [Elyon]” (Isa. 14:12-14). Five times Satan, lifted up with pride, said, “I will:” “I will ascend;” “I will exalt;” “I will sit;” “I will ascend:” “I will be like the Most High.” But there could be only one “Most High” – one strongest strong One, one possessor of Heaven and earth. So, from the authentic Most High came the irrefutable and inescapable decree, “Yet thou shall be brought down to sheol, to the sides of the pit” (Isa. 14:15). Satan could not successfully prevail against the Most High God. How final and triumphant the truth, “. . . greater is he [Jesus] that is in you, than he [Satan] that is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4).
EL ELYON and Paul at Athens
During Paul’s missionary journeys, it was his custom to enter the synagogue in each city he visited. There he would find Jews and Gentile converts to Judaism. Because they were students of the Old Testament Scriptures, there was a point of contact, a common denominator. Paul could put forth his argument that Jesus was the promised Messiah of whom Moses and the prophets of Israel wrote. His message of salvation by grace apart from the Law was welcomed good news received by many during these missionary journeys.
It was during his second missionary journey that some philosophers brought him to the Areopagus saying, “. . . May we know what this new doctrine, of which thou speakest, is?” (Acts 17:19). “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ Hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are very religious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom, therefore, ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:22-23). These Athenians were very religious. They constructed altars to their multitudes of gods. But, in case there was one they didn’t know about – one they missed and might possibly offend – they took out insurance by building an altar to “the unknown god.” Here was Paul’s opening, a logical point of contact. Concerning “the unknown god,” Paul declared, “. . .Whom, therefore, ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:23). And Paul identifies this God as the Lord of Heaven and earth (El Elyon) who dwelleth not in temples made with hands (Acts 17:24), and the One who “. . . made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). It is in the Most High God that men live, and move, and have their being (Acts 17:28). In response to Paul’s message of salvation, some said, we will hear you further, and some men, “. . . joined him, and believed . . .” (Acts 17:34). The Most High God – the possessor of Heaven and earth – could cross borders and penetrate heathen cultures.
EL ELYON and the Times of the Gentiles
Perhaps the most significant use of the name El Elyon is to be found in the Book of Daniel. In the second chapter, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, dreams of a great image of a man – its head was gold – its breast and arms were silver – its belly and thighs of brass – its legs of iron – and its feet a mixture of iron and clay (Dan. 2:31-33). There would be diminishing values in the metals – gold, silver, brass, iron and iron mixed with clay – as you came down the idol, but an increase in strength. Silver is stronger than gold; brass is stronger than silver; and iron is stronger than brass. This image depicts the “times of the Gentiles” and four great Gentile empires, all of whom would impact Israel – Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. This period of time would begin with the Babylonian captivity of Judah in 606 B.C. and end with the literal return of Christ to Jerusalem at the end of the age. During that period of time, it was foretold that “. . . Jerusalem shall be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Lk. 21:24). And in that period of time no descendant of Abraham (Gen. 12:7), of the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10) and of the family of David (2 Sam. 7:12-13) would prosper ruling over Israel.
In the image of Daniel chapter two, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon is revealed as the “head of gold:” “Thou, O king, art a king of kings; for the God of heaven [EIyon] hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wherever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heavens hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold” (Dan. 2:37-38).
Nebuchadnezzar was an absolute human ruler empowered under divine authorization, but Nebuchadnezzar exceeded his authority. He was lifted up with self-importance. “The king spoke, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). The Prophet Daniel had warned the king in the name of Elyon (the Most High) that he would go insane for seven years “. . . till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Dan. 4:25). Daniel counseled the king to repent of his pride, to break off his sins and to show mercy to the poor (Dan. 4:27). There was no repentance, and as foretold, Nebuchadnezzar, the head of gold of the Gentile world powers, went insane, living and acting like an animal for seven years (Dan. 4:33). When his sanity returned, it is said of Nebuchadnezzar, “. . . and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him who liveth forever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Dan. 4:34-35).
Nebuchadnezzar, a heathen king, finally came to understand what sophisticated twentieth- century man has not yet learned – that the God of the Bible, the God of creation, the God of history, the God of redemption, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ is El Elyon, the Most High God, the strongest strong One, the possessor of Heaven and earth. No one and nothing can resist His will.
Every instance where the name Elyon is used for God, universal, sovereign rule is in view. Abraham defeated four heathen kings through El Elyon, possessor of Heaven and earth (Gen. 14:19). According to Moses, it was Elyon who portioned out to the nations their geographical boundaries in relationship to Israel because Jerusalem is the capital city of the King of kings (Dt. 32:8-9). When Jesus passed into the land of the Gadarenes and Paul into Europe, there was demonic opposition, but it gave way to El Elyon, the strongest strong One (Gen. 14:18, 20, 22). When Paul stood on Mars Hill and spoke to the Greeks, he said it was Elyon, their unknown god, who “. . . made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth . . .” (Acts 17:26). When Satan tried to usurp El Elyon’s universal rule from the throne room of Heaven, he was sentenced to be cast into the pit (Isa. 14:15). And finally, Nebuchadnezzar, head of gold of the image of Gentile world powers, went insane until he acknowledged that El Elyon “. . . doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth . . .” (Dan. 4:35).
And so I commend to you El Elyon, the Most High God, the strongest strong One, the possessor of Heaven and earth. If He is your God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are resting on the one immovable point in a changing world. More secure is no one ever than the loved ones of the Savior.