What does the Hebrew word “achad/echad” mean?
One of the most frequently recited verses in Scripture is Deuteronomy 6:4. In other words, that verse is spoken – out loud from memory – on an extremely frequent basis. For example, observant Orthodox Jews will recite that verse at least twice a day – once in the morning, and once in the evening.
The Hebrew in that verse is pronounced as follows:
“Shama Yasharal Yahuah Aluhaynu Yahuah achad”.
Here is the translation of that verse, from the English version of the Bible:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, is One Lord.
All of the other common English translations of the Bible have extremely similar renderings of that verse.
Deuteronomy 6:4 is sometimes referred to as “the shama” (or “the shema”) – since it is referenced so frequently.
Interestingly, Yahusha/Jesus himself also recited the shama. Note the following passage:
Mark 12:28-30, 28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Yahusha/Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: Yahuah (The Lord) our Aluhym (God), Yahuah (the Lord) is one. 30 And you shall love Yahuah (the Lord) your Aluhym (God) with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
At this point, the obvious question is: why is that verse recited so frequently? The general answer to that question is that the shama very succinctly summarizes the difference between the God of the Bible – Yahuah – and the pagan gods of other religions.
Basically, that verse explicitly states that there is only ONE Almighty God. This is in stark contrast to the multiple, competing gods, in the pantheons of most other religions.
This of course is one of the main reason that the Jewish people will not accept Christianity or the Messianic movement because in most cases these groups will believe in either a Twinity (Belief that God is 2 separate beings), or they will believe in a Trinity (Belief that God is 3 separate beings). Both of these beliefs are not scriptural in any way.
As a result, reciting the shama is a very simple, convenient way for a person to re-confirm that he believes Yahuah in the God of the Bible – rather than believing in multiple, pagan gods.
The Hebrew word “achad/echad”
The very last word in the shama is the Hebrew word achad. That word is rendered as “one” in most English translations of the Bible; some translations use “alone” instead. In either case, the straightforward, common-sense understanding of achad in the shama tells us that only one person is Almighty God – and that one person is our Heavenly Father – Yahuah.
Some groups have an alternate belief about achad, though. In essence, those groups assert that achad refers to a “compound unity”. In other words, they believe that achad refers to one group, which contains multiple members. For example, they state that achad means “one” as in “one baseball team”; as opposed to “one” as in “one chair”.
So, according to that understanding of achad, the shama could be translated this way:
“Hear, O Israel: Yahuah (The Lord) our Aluhym (God), Yahuah (the Lord) is a compound unity.”
Of course, the reason why this alternate understanding of achad is important is because it allows some groups to “spin” the shama – into an endorsement for the Twinity or Trinity! In other words, some groups state the following:
“The shama tells us that God is one. That is true – but that “one” refers to a compound unity. So, the shama is telling us that there is only one God – but He is comprised of multiple persons.”
How is achad actually used in Scripture?
The crux of the above argument is that “achad” refers to a “compound unity”. Of course, in order to determine if that argument has any merit, it is necessary to examine how that word is actually used in Scripture.
The word achad (and its feminine version achat) appears 970 times in Scripture.
In the vast majority of cases – over 600 times – the word achad explicitly refers to a simple, unitary one. In other words, in almost every case, achad refers to one single item – rather than to one group of items.
This concept is usually expressed in English translations with the word “one”; but the words “single”, “unique” and “first” are used as well, depending on the context. Here are some examples of achad meaning a simple, unitary one:
And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one (achad) place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:9)
So, the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one (achat) of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. (Genesis 2:21)
We are all sons of one (achad) man. We are honest men. Your servants have never been spies.” (Genesis 42:11)
“My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one (achad) shepherd. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes. (Ezekiel 37:24)
It [the Passover meal] is to be eaten in a single (achad) house (Exodus 12:46)
I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single (achad) day (Zechariah 3:9)
For it will be a unique (achad) day which is known to the Lord (Zechariah 14:7)
But my dove, my perfect one, is unique (achat) (Song of Solomon 6:9)
The name of the first (achad) [river] is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. (Genesis 2:11)
And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first (achad) day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen. (Genesis 8:5)
Clearly, all of the above examples refer to one single person, place or thing – not to one group of items.
What about these cases?
As mentioned, in the vast majority of cases, achad refers to one single item.
However, in a small minority of cases, achad refers to one group of items. Here are three examples of this:
Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one (achad) flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first (achad) day. (Genesis 1:5)
And they came to the Valley of Eshcol and cut down from there a branch with a single (achad) cluster of grapes (Numbers 13:23)
Here is a “summary” of the above examples:
Example 1: Achad is used to describe a husband and a wife – together – as one flesh.
Example 2: Achad is used to describe an evening and a morning – together – as the first day.
Example 3: Achad is used to describe a single cluster of grapes.
Some groups point to those specific examples, to try to prove that achad – in the shama – refers to the Twinity or Trinity. In other words, they assert the following:
Achad, in the shama, is used to describe the Trinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit – together – as one God. Or
Achad, in the shama, is used to describe the Twinity of the Father and the Son -together- as one God.
However, is the above assertion really true?
Do the three examples listed above actually describe the doctrine of the Trinity/Twinity?
Consider those three examples again.
In example 1, Scripture states that a husband and wife – together – become “one flesh”.
This means that the husband – by himself – does not fully comprise the one flesh; and that the wife – by herself – also does not fully comprise the one flesh. Instead, the husband and the wife, by themselves, are only parts – or “halves” – of the one flesh. That explains the phrase “Other half” commonly used between husband and wife.
In example 2, Scripture states that an evening and a morning – together – became the “first day”. This means that the evening – by itself – does not fully comprise the first day; and that the morning – by itself – also does not fully comprise the first day. Instead, the evening and the morning – by themselves – are only “subsets” of the first day.
The same principle applies to example 3. One single grape – by itself – does not fully comprise the entire cluster; one grape is just a single member – a subset – of a cluster of grapes.
The reason why the above items are important is because the doctrines of the Trinity/Twinity asserts the following:
The Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, and the Holy Spirit is fully God.
However, there are not three Gods, but one God. Of course, that doctrine is entirely different than the examples provided above.
Consider example 1 again – it states that the husband and the wife – by themselves – are NOT fully the “one flesh”. The Trinity doctrine, though, states that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – by themselves – ARE fully the “one God”.
To make the contrast even more clear, consider the following: In order to cause example 2 to agree with the Trinity/Twinity doctrines, Scripture would have to say something like this:
"The evening fully comprised one entire day, and the morning fully comprised one entire day." However, there were not two days, but one day.
Of course, the above assertion is pure nonsense.
What Scripture actually states is that the evening was just part of the day, and the morning was just part of the day – and that the two of them, together, comprised one full day.
Now, consider this: In order to cause the Trinity/Twinity concept to agree with the examples above, one would have to say something like this:
The Father is “one third” of God, the Son is “one third” of God, and the Holy Spirit is “one third” of God; and the three of them – together – comprise one God.
However, most Trinity/Twinity proponents strongly disagree with the above statement. This is because they are completely focused on the idea that each “person” of the Trinity/Twinity is fully God – and that there are not three Gods, but one God. That concept is not expressed by the word achad at all – not in any of the places where it appears in Scripture.
Some mainstream expositors make the following type of blunt assertion, whenever they discuss the shama: Achad means a compound unity – period.
The implication of that assertion, of course, is that achad only means a compound unity. In other words, that assertion implies that in every case where achad is used, it always refers to one group of items – rather than to one single item. However, as mentioned above, in the vast majority of cases, achad actually refers to just one single item.
So, the implication that achad always refers to a “compound unity” is demonstrably false.
Not only that, but even in the minority of cases where achad does refer to a compound unity, the meaning still does not conform to the doctrine of the Trinity/Twinity. Basically, in the cases where achad refers to one group of items, it is clear that each member of the group is only a subset of the listed “compound unity”.
For example, Scripture states that a husband and a wife – together – become “one flesh”. This indicates that the husband and wife are each “subsets” of the one flesh – but that together they comprise a “complete” one flesh. This is the opposite of the Trinity/Twinity doctrine – which states that the Father, Son and or Holy Spirit are each fully God – but there is still just one God.
The information in this article will hopefully prove useful, if one encounters the argument of “Achad in the shama proves the Trinity or Twinity” or a Plurality of persons as some may say.