A STUDY OF THE HEBREW WORD “ADONI”
I have in front of me quotes from four different Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. They each say, in effect, that “adoni” is never used in reference to God. This is important because Ps. 110:1 reads “Jehovah said unto Adoni, ….”. That is to say, “Jehovah said unto” Messiah, Christ Who in this verse is referred to as “Adoni”. If “adoni” never refers to God then that suggests, according to some, that the Messiah, Christ is not God. Before we get into our study of “adoni” may I say that the paper on this web-site called A Study Of Psalm 110:1 I shows from the seven times that this verse is quoted in the New Testament that it is used to prove that Christ is God, and that it is also used to prove that He is Man. There is, of course, no contradiction here because Christ is both God and Man.
The Hebrew “adoni” occurs 195 times. In every occurrence but two “adoni” is translated with the pronoun “my”. The translation of the related words (i.e. “Adonai: and the root “Adon”) never includes the pronoun “my”. The two verses where it does not appear that way in the KJV are Gen. 43:20 where it is translated “O sir” and II Kings 6:5 where it is translated “Alas master”. But in the NIV Hebrew English Interlinear it is “sir of me”, i.e. “my sir” or “my lord” in Gen. 43:20. And the NIV Hebrew English Interlinear has “my lord”. Because the meaning of any word is determined by usage, and because “adoni” is almost always translated “my lord” we know that “adoni” means “my lord”.
The main argument suggested by those who deny the deity of Christ in regard to “adoni” is that the word is “always” used of man. To begin, as the reader will see in this paper, that argument is not true, but let us consider that argument more thoroughly.
As stated above, the meaning of the word “adoni” is “my lord”, and the word itself does not mean “God” nor does it mean “man”. The context will reveal to whom the word refers,, i.e. whether it is used of God or of man. In short, we must not, as too many do, confuse meaning with interpretation. Again, the meaning of “adoni” is “my lord”, the interpretation must be taken from the context, and it is the context that will determine whether it is used in reference to God or to man.
Let us consider the Greek word “theos” translated “God” in relation to the argument stated above. The word is used hundreds of times. What is of particular interest in this study is that the first 245 times “theos” is used, it is used of God. But in the 246th occurrence, it is of man. We read in Jn. 10:34, “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, ‘Ye are gods’” (Gr. “theos“). It is clear that in this occurrence “theos” is used in reference to man. My point is this: the meaning of “theos” is “god”, the interpretation as to whether it is used of God or man is determined by the context.
So too, when considering “adoni” we must not confuse the meaning of the word with the interpretation. Again, the meaning of “adoni” is “my lord” the interpretation is determined by the context. It is only the context that will tell us whether the word is used of God or of man.
Before we look at two passages which, in my opinion, do indeed use “Adoni” in reference to God, we must understand that Christ is Jehovah of the Old Testament (please see the paper on this web-site Jesus Christ Is Both Jehovah And The Manifestation Of Jehovah) and at times He appeared to man in His bodily form. Jesus Christ was in bodily form in the Old Testament and took on human form when He was born of Mary at the beginning of the New Testament. How do we know that?
But God is spirit. And since man was created to look like God, God obviously must have taken on a bodily form, otherwise He could not have created man to look like Himself. Therefore, I am suggesting that Jesus Christ is Jehovah in bodily form.
Let us continue for now with the Scriptural evidence showing that Jehovah took on a bodily form in the Old Testament. In Gen. 3:8 we read, “And they (Adam and Eve) heard the voice (should be translated “footsteps” as in II Sam. 5:24, I Kings 14:6 and II Kings 6:32) of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”. Adam and Eve heard the footsteps of God walking in the Garden of Eden. They could not have heard His footsteps, if He was not in bodily form, i.e. having feet.
Gen. 18 describes the scene where Jehovah tells Abraham and Sarah of His plans to give them a son. In Gen. 18:2 we read of Abraham seeing three “men” and he ran up to them. “And said, ‘Jehovah, if now I have found favour in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray Thee, from thy servant; Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree” (Gen. 18:3-4). Note, Abraham was speaking to Jehovah and asked Him to stop and rest and wash His feet. Surely, this makes it clear that Jehovah took on a bodily form in the Old Testament.
Some have suggested that the One Abraham was addressing was not Jehovah, but a man sent by Jehovah. That however is not consistent with the fact that Abraham did, indeed address the One to Whom he was speaking as “Jehovah”. Also, consider that Abraham, when left alone with Him after the two others had left, spoke to Jehovah. To assume that Abraham was speaking to a man sent by Jehovah is simply conjecture and unwarranted by the Scriptural evidence.
Now that we have seen that Jehovah took on a bodily form in the Old Testament, we are ready to look at the two passages which, in my opinion, prove that “adoni” is indeed used in reference to God, i.e. Christ in bodily form
Joshua 5:14, :…..And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto Him, ‘What saith my Lord (adoni) unto His servant”. Now we must answer the question, “to whom was Joshua speaking when he said, ‘What saith my Lord”? I believe the context will show that it was to God in the form of a Man, i.e. Jesus Christ, to Whom he was speaking.
Let us go back to verse 13 where this Person is first mentioned. We are told that Joshua beheld “a Man”. In verse 14 we read that Joshua worshiped Him. And verse 15 is, in my opinion, very significant. “And the Captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, ‘Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy“. I’m sure this will bring to mind the event when Moses spoke with Elohim. Elohim told him to put off his shoe because that place was holy (Ex. 3:5). There is absolutely no Scriptural reason to conclude anything other than the fact that it was to God that Joshua was speaking when he said “what saith Adoni unto His servant?” because only God’s presence would have made the ground holy.
Add to that the fact that Joshua worshiped the One to Whom he spake, and I believe it is clear that that Person was God in the form of a Man, i.e. Christ.
The other passage where “Adoni” is used where I believe it refers to God in bodily form, i.e. Christ, is Dan. 10:16-12:8. Again, the context will prove conclusive. The One to Whom Daniel refers as “my Lord” in 10:16 first appears in 10:5 and is described in verse 6. “Then I lifted up mine eyes and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Phaz; His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude“. Note the description of Christ in Rev. 1:13-15 where we read that “the paps with a golden girdle“. “His eyes were as a flame of fire“. “His feet like unto fine brass“. “His voice as the sound of many waters“. This description of Christ in Rev. 1 is so much like the description of the “man” in Dan. 10 that it proves that it was Christ that Daniel saw. Because it was the same “Man” that was speaking to Daniel all the way to the end of the book of Daniel, obviously, every time Daniel addressed the “Man” as “my Lord” it was Christ to Whom he was speaking. But does this prove that “adoni” refers to God? Not really, but let us go on.
In Rev. 1:17 this Man with eyes “as a flame of fire” said to John, “I am the first and the last”. Who is the “first and the last”? If the “first and the last” is one of the titles of Jehovah, then we have proved again that “adoni” is used of God. And indeed three times in Isaiah do we read that Jehovah is the first and the last. Is. 41:4, “Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I Jehovah, the first and with the last, I am He”. Is. 44:6, “Thus saith Jehovah, the King of Israel, and His Redeemer the Lord of Hosts; ‘I am the first, and I am the last; and beside Me there is no God'”. Is. 48:12-13, “Hearken unto Me, O Jacob and Israel, My called; I am He; I am the first, I am also the last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand hath spanned the heavens; when I call unto them, they stand up together”.
In summary, may I offer the following reasons for my belief that “Adoni” can and does indeed refer to God in three passages, Joshua 5, Dan. 10-12 and Psalm 110:1.
1) The “i” does not change the basic meaning of the root “Adon”, it means simply “my“. That is to say, the “i” means “my” and does not imply that “lord” can not be God.
2) There are three passages that, in my opinion, “Adoni” does indeed refer to Christ as God. Those passages are: Joshua 5, Dan. 10-12 and Psalm 110:1
3) I believe that those who would like to prove that Christ is not God and point to the use “Adoni” in Psalm 110:1 have no case because . “Adoni” is used of God.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond to this study please write me at: firstname.lastname@example.org