For my WIP, In the Shadow of Jezebel, my editor and I have talked, discussed, surmised, harrumphed, and shrugged about this question:
Is it appropriate for priests and Temple guards to call Yahweh’s High Priest, “my lord”?
But it’s a question that needs an answer, so I thought we’d include readers in the conversations!
LORD, Lord, and lord
(Unfortunately, my default font uses all caps for headings, so it’s hard to see the differentiation between LORD, Lord, and lord. It works in the paragraphs. 😀 )
My favorite Bible translation is The New International Version [1984; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan], but most English translations spell the title, “lord,” in three ways.
- LORD – specifies the Hebrew God’s self-revealed divine name, YHWH (Yahweh).
- Lord – is used for God’s Hebrew name Adonai or Adonay.
- lord – is the designation for a human authority figure.
Yahweh is clearly Yahweh
It’s easy to find Yahweh in Scripture, very obvious when our one-of-a-kind God is up to something big, in a clash with an enemy, or working on behalf of His chosen people!
“Obadiah was a devout believer in the LORD. While Jezebel was killing off the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.” 1 Kings 18:3-4
“Lord” Is a Little Tricky
A term that may not have come into use until the postexilic (around 590± BCE) period, Adonai (or Adonay) became the Hebrew “go to” word used instead of the unspeakably holy name of YHWH.[i] We do, however, see the Old Testament author of Exodus use both names together:
“Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me?’” Exodus 5:22
So When is “lord” Appropriate?
In several resources, “lord” was used to address an owner, master, husband, or god (pagan)—anyone who possessed power or authority or to whom respect was due.
“Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder…The servant hurried to meet her and said, ‘Please give me a little water from your jar.’ ‘Drink, my lord,’ she said.” Genesis 24:15,17,18
The soon-to-be king of Aram shows his respect for a Yahweh prophet:
“‘Why is my lord weeping?’ asked Hazael.
‘Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,’ [Elisha] answered.” 2 Kings 8:12
Abigail hears of David’s plan to massacre her foolish husband and household:
“When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed…and said: ‘My lord, let the blame be on me alone…May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal…But as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my master sent.” 1 Samuel 25:23-25
I love and respect my husband GREATLY, but it’ll be a cold day in…Miami…when I call my sweet husband lord or master. It’s a cultural thing, right? So, let’s talk about culture…
Our Christian Culture and the Title “Lord”
In both Old and New Testament times, “lord” was used to show respect to a superior—much like we use “sir” today. However, after the Resurrection, the term “Risen Lord” became more than just a term of respect. It was holy. Revered. Paul even attaches a three-fold significance to the phrase, “Jesus is Lord,” assuring eternal life if we accept it, cursing if we deny it, and undeniable proof upon our arrival in eternity (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11).[ii]
Should We Call Jehoiada, “my lord”?
Here’s a sample section of In the Shadow of Jezebel:
“My lord?” A heavy hand fell on Jehoiada’s shoulder, startling him. The young guard stood behind him, eyes red-rimmed and swollen. “I offer my resignation. Again.” He inhaled deeply, looking to the ceiling, fighting back emotions that seemed to be drowning him. “I’m not worthy to serve Yahweh. I failed Him.”
- Does it work for the guard to call Jehoiada “my lord”?
- In this (and other) biblical novel(s), is the term “my lord” acceptable when referring to kings, high priests, governors, or other high-ranking officials? Why? Why not?
- If you DON’T like that title, do you have an alternative that you believe would work better?
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- In a biblical novel, should priests address their high priest as “my lord” or by another title?
- Offer your advice today on Mesu Andrews’ current WIP, In the Shadow of Jezebel.
- Find out what’s different about LORD, Lord, and lord in your Bible!
[i] Myers, A. C. (1987). The Eerdmans Bible dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.