Erkamka na Adonai

In two previous posts (see the links below), I discussed the meaning of the divine name El Shaddai.  When I wrote my first post, I mentioned that this name for God had inspired a beautiful Christian song by Michael Card titled “El Shaddai.”

This song has been popularized by Amy Grant.  The song is known and loved by many Christians and it is sung in Christian churches regularly.  The song begins with these words:

El Shaddai, El Shaddai, El Elyon na Adonai
Age to age You’re still the same
By the power of Your name.
El Shaddai, El Shaddai, Erkamka na Adonai
We will praise and lift You high
El Shaddai.

Although Christians love and sing this song often, few Christians know the meaning of the words “Erkamka na Adonai.”  I have asked several Christians if they know the meaning of “Erkamka na Adonai” and I have never found a person who knows the origin and meaning of these words.

In fact, when someone asked the meaning of Erkamka in Yahoo, the answer was: “This is a mixture of Hebrew and gibberish. It means nothing at all.”

After I finished writing my posts on El Shaddai, I decided to write a post on “Erkamka na Adonai” and explain the origin and meaning of these three words.  I will begin explaining these words in reverse order.

Before I explain the meaning of these words, it will be necessary to quote the Hebrew text in order to clarify the meaning of Erkamka na Adonai. If you do not see the Hebrew fonts as you read this post or if the words look like gibberish in your computer, you will need to download the Biblical fonts and install them on your computer.

Download the biblical fonts here.  If you install the Biblical fonts on your computer, you will always be able to see the Hebrew and Greek letters on your computer screen.  You will even be able to print Hebrew and Greek words.

Adonai (Hebrew: אֲדֹנַי):

The word “Adonai” is a title applied to God.  The word is translated “Lord” or “My Lord.”  In English translations of the Bible, it is necessary to differentiate between the words “Lord” and “LORD.”  Every time the word “Lord” is used in the Bible, the Hebrew behind the word is “Adonai.”  Every time the word “LORD” is used, the Hebrew behind the word is “YHWH.”

In the post-exilic period, most Jews refused to speak the divine name in public.  So, the Masoretes wrote the vowels of Adonai with the consonants for the divine name YHWH.  In translation, this hybrid name became “Jehovah” (see my post on “Jehovah” here).

Na (Hebrew: נָּא []):

The Hebrew word is a particle of entreaty or exhortation.  This means that when the word is used in the text, it carries the idea of  “please,” “I pray,” or “now.”  A good example of its use is found in Genesis 12:13.  Abraham, speaking to Sarah said: “I pray thee” (Genesis 12:13 KJV); “Please” (Genesis 12:13 NAS).

Another good example is found in Psalm 118:25, where the psalmist praying to the Lord said: “We beseech Thee, O LORD, save now” (Psalm 118:25 JPS).  The expression “save now” in Hebrew is hôshî‘ânā .  The same expression was used by the people of Jerusalem when they welcomed Jesus with these words: “Hosanna” (Mark 11:9), or as the Complete Jewish Bible translates: “Please! Deliver us.”

Erkamka

This word comes from the beginning words of Psalm 18:1.  In Hebrew, this verse reads:

אֶרְחָמְךָ֖ יְהוָ֣ה חִזְקִֽי

The transliteration of these Hebrew words into English reads as follows:

‘erḥāmeḵā yhwh ḥizqî

The English Bibles translate the expression as “I love you, O LORD, my strength” (Psalm 18:1 ESV).

The Hebrew word for love is רׇחַם ( rāḥam), a words that means “to have mercy,” “to be compassionate.”  This is the same root for the word translated “womb” in the English Bible.  Psalm 18:1 is the only example in the Hebrew Bible where Yahweh appears as the object of the verb rāḥam.  The use of the verb with the meaning of love appears to reflect the influence of Aramaic.  For this reason, some authors have proposed different readings, but these proposals have not found acceptance among scholars.

But how did the Hebrew ‘erḥāmeḵā become “Erkamka”?  It is possible that when the song was written, the author used the transliteration of the word found in the Strong Concordance.  Strong transliterates the word rāḥam as “rakham.”  Thus, the word ‘erḥāmeḵā would be translated “erkamka,” by dropping the “h” of “rakham” and by not using the half-vowel “e.”

The word Erkamka as it appears in the song has two problems.  The first problem is that the Hebrew letter ח should be translated with a “h” and not a “k.”  The second problem is that the second sheva in the Hebrew word is a vocal sheva and not silent, thus there should be a half-vowel (a small “e” after the מ), the “m” of Erkamka.

When asked for the meaning of “Erkamka na Adonai,” Michael Card wrote that the expression means “We will love You, Oh, Lord.”

The ESV translates Psalm 18:1 as follows: “I love you, O LORD.”
The Complete Jewish Bible translates the verse as follows: “I love you, ADONAI.”

The verb ‘erḥāmeḵā is first person.  The correct translation is “I love you,”not “we will love you.” The particle is not in the Hebrew text.  So, it is possible that the “” was introduced into the song under the influence of the English translation (the “O” in “O LORD”).

What is the lesson Christians should learn from the mistransliteration of Erkamka na Adonai?  The lesson is that when trying to discover how to transliterate Hebrew words into English, one must be aware of the problem in using Strong’s Concordance.

Source:
Card, Michael, Immanuel: Reflections on the Life of Christ. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1990. Pp. 200, 201.

Posts on El Shaddai:

El Shaddai – Part 1

El Shaddai – Part 2

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

Note:

If you are unable to see the Hebrew letters in the essay, download the Biblical fonts and install them on your computer. Download the fonts here.

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This entry was posted in Adonai, El Shaddai, Hebrew Bible, Names of God, Psalm and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Erkamka na Adonai

  1. Kim Biegacki says:

    Wow, this is a great post! I love reading your blogs and always learn something new. Thanks for sharing Dr. Claude Mariottini. Kim

    Like

  2. Lydia Bell says:

    Thanks so much for your post! I goggled these words to try to find the true meaning. I love the song “El Shaddai” and wanted to understand the true meaning. Glad I found this.

    Lydia

    Like

    • Lydia,

      Thank you for visiting my blog. I am happy to know that you enjoyed my post. If you look at the archive, I am sure you will read many posts that will help you gain a better understanding of the Old Testament.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  3. Freida says:

    I, like Lydia was looking for the true meaning of the words I was singing. I’m so happy that you were able to break it down for me.
    Thank you Mr. Mariottini!

    Freida~

    Like

    • Freida,

      Most people in the church of which I was a pastor did not know the meaning of those words either. I am glad to know that my post helped you. I hope you visit my blog often. I seek to write posts that clarifies difficult issues in the Bible.

      Thank you for visiting my blog.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  4. Anna Knafo says:

    I am a fluent Hebrew speaker. I knew the El Shaddai song when I was little and I liked it a lot. Back then I knew no Hebrew :), but I knew that El Shaddai was G-d’s name.
    Now after a lot of years I wanted to hear this song again, and I looked for its lyrics. The few versions of the word “Erkamka” or “Erkahmka”… It intrigued me, since it didn’t sound to me “love” (well, I know the spoken Hebrew, not the high Hebrew) I searched for more info. I knew there should be the “מך…” ending. First I got to PROZ.com website, where someone else asked teh same question, and in the answer your website was quoted.

    The explanation is really good and with the “true spirit of the Bible”.

    Like

    • Anna,

      Thank you for visiting my blog. I am glad to know that my post was helpful to you. Many people sing that song, but they do not know the meaning of the words.

      My blog has moved to my new web page. Visit the new site of my blog, read my post today, then subscribe to my blog and receive all my posts as they are published. My new site is Dr. Mariottini.

      Like

  5. crusader says:

    Chet ח is guttural, it does not sound like an “h”. ה has an “h” sound, not ח

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    • Claude Mariottini says:

      Crusader,

      I know that. However, I was using the transliteration that the author used to write his song.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  6. Aida says:

    Wonderful article! I pray you prosper in all you do so that those of us that are not as knowledgeable as you can continue to learn about the Word.

    Like

  7. C Taylor says:

    wow. thanks. my research stemmed from my research of my devotions this morning as I read Psalm 91. I read the reference for the Almighty…Shaddai. Then I remembered the song I used to love. I usually mumbled thought that part, but I went to YouTube to enjoy the song once more and found you. Thanks again.

    Like

    • Dear C. Taylor,

      Thank you for your comment. I apologize for the delay in answering your comment. My blog was out for several days for repairs.

      I am glad you found my blog. I write about Old Testament issues that are of interest to all. I hope you will visit again.

      Thank you for visiting my blog.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  8. John says:

    This is an excellent explanation of something that has bothered me for a long time. As a Hebrew fluent Jew, and lover of Jesus, the mistranslation in this, admittedly, beautiful song has made me crazy.

    Whales worse, there was no need for the mistranslation in order to keep the lyrics fluid. Erhameka Adonai would remain as fluid.

    Like

    • John,

      Thank you for your comment. I apologize for the delay in answering your comment. My blog was out for several days for repairs.

      The problem is that the writer probably did not know Hebrew and he depended on the Strong concordance to find out how the words were pronounced.

      The lesson I convey to my students: every pastors and seminary student should study Hebrew.

      Thank you for visiting my blog.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  9. Izabela says:

    Thank you so much for the explanation.
    I just wander as I really like the song, what translation would you suggest for this part singing in Hebrew? Would you change it all or just a little?

    Like

    • Claude Mariottini says:

      Izabela,

      Thank you for your comment. It is amazing how many people sing this song without understanding its meaning.

      It is impossible to make the correction in Hebrew because it would change the song completely. One would had to almost rewrite the song.

      Thank you for visiting my blog.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

      • Sharon Johnson says:

        I appreciate the the explanation of the name and how you arrived at it. I had just finished praying to God about my sister and asking him for mercy. The Holy Spirit requested El Shaddai. When I try to sing the song along with Amy. He had me stumble over the Erkamka na Adonai (as if something was not right). So, I went to the internet and found you. I know now that the Holy Spirit was leading me to the mercy of GOD. I recite and praise the names of GOD as part of my worship and prayers. I am led, by the HOLY SPIRIT to do this. Thank you. GOD bless.

        Like

      • Sharon,

        Thank you for your comment. I apologize for the delay in answering your comment. My blog was out for several days for repairs.

        It is amazing how the Holy Spirit works. Many times when we do not know what to do, the Spirit guides us to a place where we can find the answer. I am sure that God answered your prayer on behalf of your sister. The ministry of intercessory prayer is a ministry that more Christian should accept.

        Thank you for visiting my blog.

        Claude Mariottini

        Like

  10. Ilza Medeiros says:

    O senhor não sabe por quanto tempo eu procurei o significado dessa palavra. Sou de Natal -RN e congrego na Igreja Batista Regular Fundamentalista. Que o teu conhecimento aqui compartilhado redunde sempre em edificação para aqueles que dele se apropriam.

    Like

    • Ilza,

      Muito obrigado por suas palavras de afirmacao. Me alegro saber que o meu estudo serviu para clarificar o significado deste hino de louvor.

      Eu sou do Rio e agora ensino Velho Testament aqui nos Estados Unidos.

      Visite a minha blog con frequencia e vode aprendera mais do Velho Testamento.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  11. John Robert says:

    Am so grateful for your translation of this song. I only knew El shadai but could’t pronounce other words. God bless U

    Like

    • John,

      Thank you for your nice words. Many people sing this song without understanding the meaning of the words. I am glad to know you enjoyed the post.

      I hope you will visit my blog again.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  12. Pingback: Studies on the Name of God | A disciple's study

  13. Mike Botha says:

    Dear Claude,

    I have loved this song since I heard it for the first time. I like the musicality as well as the words. Being a Hebrew student, the word erkamka bothered me until I came across your blog. Thank you so much for enlightening this old student of the ancient words.We will be singing the corrected version in our congregation form now on.

    YHVH bless you in the work you are doing.

    Mike

    Like

    • Mike,

      I am glad to know that my post helped you understand the meaning of the word and also helped you sing that beautiful song with a better understanding of its meaning.

      By the way, welcome to my blog. If you go to Archive you will find many other posts that I know you will enjoy reading. Also, you can subscribe to my blog. This way you will receive all my posts by email.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

  14. Ann Tedrow says:

    I have been leading a class on the Hebrew Names of God, today is on El Shaddai. I listened to Amy singing the song and saw the Hebrew word, Erkamka na Adonai. Of course I wanted to know what it meant. Thank you for explaining it. I will take that knowledge to my class today. I love His Hebrew Names. I have found myself closer to my Father by learning more of Him. Ann

    Like

  15. Dawn Adell says:

    Wow! Thank you. I’m growing in grace daily and this is a wonderful eye opener. I’ve loved that song and today I woke up singing it…don’t know why other than God wanted to teach me more. I’m so glad my search engine brought up your article.

    Like

    • Dawn,

      This is a beautiful song that has helped many people to worship God in a better way.

      I am glad you found my blog. I hope you will subscribe to my blog so that you can receive all my posts by email.

      Claude Mariottini

      Like

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