Regarding the word אֲדֹנִי (adoni) in Psa. 110:1 (actually prefixed with -ל, i.e. לַאדֹנִי), translated as “my lord,” a self-professed Unitarian website states,1

Trinitarian commentators frequently argue that “my Lord” in this verse is the Hebrew word adonai, another name for God, and is therefore proof of the divinity of the Messiah. But not only is this not a valid argument, this verse is actually one of the great proofs of the complete humanity of the promised Messiah. The Hebrew word translated “my lord” is adoni (pronounced “Adon nee” 1 ) in the standard Hebrew texts. This word is always used in Scripture to describe human masters and lords, but never God. (emphasis mine)

Now, the Hebrew word אֲדֹנִי is simply the lemma or base form אָדוֹן2 with a 1st person singular pronominal suffix appended (i.e., “my”). The question, then, should not be limited to whether אֲדֹנִי is ever used in reference to Yahveh (God), but rather, whether אָדוֹן and any of its suffixed forms (including אֲדֹנִי) are ever used in reference to Yahveh. After all, couldn’t “lord,” “my lord,” “his lord,” “our lord,” and “their lord” all refer to the same “lord”?

  • The lord said to Abraham and Sarah,...
  • Abraham said to his lord,...
  • Sarah said to her lord,...
  • Sarah and Abraham spoke to their lord,...
  • Sarah and Abraham said, “Our lord...”
  • Abraham said, “My lord...”

In this context, the “lord” is the same person, regardless of the pronominal suffix. Hence, limiting the discussion to “my lord” is both arbitrary and disingenuous.

I encountered the word הָאָדוֹן in Mal. 3:1. This is simply אָדוֹן prefixed with the definite article הָ, meaning “the lord” (i.e., “the master”).

The Hebrew text of Mal. 3:1 states,

הִנְנִ֤י שֹׁלֵחַ֙ מַלְאָכִ֔י וּפִנָּה־דֶ֖רֶךְ לְפָנָ֑י וּפִתְאֹם֩ יָבֹ֨וא אֶל־הֵיכָלֹ֜ו הָאָדֹ֣ון אֲשֶׁר־אַתֶּ֣ם מְבַקְשִׁ֗ים וּמַלְאַ֨ךְ הַבְּרִ֜ית אֲשֶׁר־אַתֶּ֤ם חֲפֵצִים֙ הִנֵּה־בָ֔א אָמַ֖ר יְהוָ֥ה צְבָאֹֽות׃

which is translated into English as,

Behold, I am sending My messenger, and he shall prepare a way before Me, and the lord whom you are seeking shall suddenly come to His temple, and/even the messenger of the covenant whom you delight in. Behold, he comes," said Yahveh of hosts.

We note a couple of things during exegesis of Mal. 3:1:

  1. Yahveh of hosts is the speaker.
    • “I am sending My messenger” evidently refers to Yahveh sending His messenger (cp. 2 Chr. 36:15-16; Isa. 42:19).
    • Thus, first-person pronouns refer to Yahveh, such as “My messenger,” “before Me,” etc.

However, note the acute analysis of Carl Friedrich Keil in his commentary on Mal. 3:1:

“The Lord” ((hâ'âdōn)) is God; this is evident both from the fact that He comes to His temple, i.e., the temple of Jehovah, and also from the relative clause “whom ye seek,” which points back to the question, “Where is the God of judgment?” (Malachi 2:17).

The question: How do Unitarians refute the assertion that הָאָדוֹן (ha-adon) refers to Yahveh (God) in Mal. 3:1?


1 URL: http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/verses/psalm-110-1

2 meaning “master,” “lord,” “sir”


Keil, Carl Friedrich. Commentary on the Old Testament. 1900. Reprint. Trans. Martin, James. Vol. 10. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988. (458)


2 Answers 2


You ask "How do Unitarians refute the assertion that הָאָדוֹן (ha-adon) refers to Yahveh (God) in Mal. 3:1?"

The question seems to hold the hidden assumption that Unitarians need to refute the Trinitarian position in order to be a valid belief.

It also seems to hold the hidden assumption that Unitarians generally don't think that הָאָדוֹן (ha-adon) refers to God in Mal. 3:1.

I think both these assumptions are wrong. And so the short answer could be: "They don't generally refute that assertion". As @Cannabijoy a Unitarian who provided the previous answer made clear.

A slightly longer answer would be that they don't need to be able to refute the Trinitarian position in order for their position to be a valid alternative position. They can just prefer it over the Trinitarian position which they might find un-intuitive and lead to unique interpretations where a person using a word that normally indicates a relationship to another is actually referring to their self. They might question how they could justify to God why they thought God would have expected them to make such novel interpretations.

Regarding the assertion that הָאָדוֹן (ha-adon) refers to God in Mal. 3:1 :

They accept that it does, but reject that הָאָדוֹן (ha-adon) is the messenger of the covenant. On the basis that a messenger is one that carries a message for another. They can view Jesus as the messenger of the covenant for example.

It seems to me that they could also reject that it does, but I don't understand the Hebrew grammar issues so could be mistaken here. But it seems to me they could think that those questioning where the God of Judgement in Malachi 2:17 meant it more in the sense of asking why hasn't God made himself apparent. And therefore weren't thinking it was a matter of seeking him. The Lord that the people seek הָאָדוֹן (ha-adon) in 3:1 was the Messiah, and the reason it states his temple is because the verse relates to 2:17 and the God of Judgement that hadn't seemed to make himself apparent. So that it could be read as something like "And the Lord, whom ye seek, Will suddenly come to the God of Judgement's temple".

Those not being the only interpretations of that verse that would be available to them.


I think הָאָדוֹן refers to YHVH in Malachi 3:1. In Hebrew, it says:

הנני שלח מלאכי ופנה־דרך לפני ופתאם יבוא אל־היכלו האדון ׀ אשר־אתם מבקשים ומלאך הברית אשר־אתם חפצים הנה־בא אמר יהוה צבאות

Here is a literal translation, but I'll add punctuation:

"Behold! I send my messanger and he shall prepare the way before me. And shall suddenly come into his temple the Lord whom you seek; and the messanger of the covenant which you delight: behold, he shall come", saith YHVH of hosts.

I see two messangers in this verse. First, the messanger that prepares the way (John the Baptist). The second messanger is "the messanger of the covenant". This isn't John the Baptist because John did not deliver a message about a covenant.

Yeshua says:

"Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?

But he spake of the temple of his body." John 2:19-21

So the temple YHVH refers to is the body of Yeshua. This gives us:

"Behold! I (YHVH) send my messanger (John) and he (John) shall prepare the way before. And shall suddenly come into his (YHVH's) temple (Yeshua's body) the Lord (YHVH) whom you seek; and the messanger of the covenant (Yeshua) which you delight: behold, he (Yeshua) shall come", saith YHVH of hosts.

I don't know why that Unitarian site said adonai only applies to humans. Here are a few more occurrences that refer to YHVH:


As far as this question "After all, doesn't "lord," "my lord," "his lord," "our lord," and "their lord" all refer to the same "lord"?" I would have to say no. Even David called Saul "lord":

"David also arose afterward, and went out of the cave, and cried after Saul, saying, My lord the king. And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed himself." 1 Samuel 24:8

So maybe David was talking about king Saul when he write Psalm 110. But I think it's pretty obvious that David meant a different human lord though.

To assert that "the lord" and "my lord" should refer to the same entity is understandable, but this can be refuted in a logical manner.

Here are a few examples:

My cake is delicious because my mom made the cake with chocolate

In this example, "my cake" and "the cake" probably refer to the same cake

The cake fell on my cake

In this example, we seem to be missing some information; but it's pretty obvious that "the cake" is a separate cake from "my cake" because "my cake" cannot fall on "my cake. Perhaps there was a large vanilla cake made for my birthday party, but my mom made a chocolate cake specifically for me. With this information, the sentence makes perfect sense.

However, these examples involve an inanimate object. A "lord", especially in Psalm 110, is definitely a living being. So here is a closer example:

The boss said to my boss, "Stick with me and you'll be running this whole company one day."

If you heard this, you might be confused for a minute. But once you learn that there is a single owner of the company, and he has a single manager over his store operations, then it becomes clear that "the boss" is the owner and "my boss" is the subservient manager.

If somebody said "Let me get this straight, you have a single boss that exists as three persons, and the first person of your triune boss said to the second person of your triune boss..." Well...I'm not really sure how I would respond to that.

Despite all of this, David makes it easy on us by saying:

YHVH said unto my Lord...

YHVH is the name of the only true God, so there really isn't any kind of issue. This is like if somebody said:

Bob said to my boss...


The author of that article is mistaken. Adonai is used throughout Scripture to refer to both man and YHVH. I have no idea what this has to do with Psalm 110:1, but this is my personal Unitarian interpretation of Malachi 3:1.

  • 3
    I'm a bit confused about whether this actually answers the question that was asked or not. On this site we have a strict policy that answers much address questions from the specific scope that the question requests —in this case the question specifically requires a response _from a Unitarian viewpoint— and answers are not free to argue from other positions. Perhaps you could clarify your conclusion is here. Are you saying the article is mistaken because the Unitarian position is mistaken or that the article isn't representative of the actual Unitarian position on this issue?
    – Caleb
    Aug 8, 2016 at 10:33
  • Sorry @Caleb, I'm saying that the article does not represent the actual Unitarian position. However I can't really say that because I don't know that there is an "actual Unitarian position" since there are no official doctrines. Some believe in a preexisting Messiah, some in a virgin birth, and some (like me) just believe Yeshua was a man born of Joseph and Mary. I'll add that this is "my" Unitarian interpretation, and hopefully that will clear up any confusion. I think I still answered the question, even though I believe the question was asked with a false premise. Is that okay here?
    – Cannabijoy
    Aug 8, 2016 at 10:46
  • 1
    Hey @SimplyaChristian, It actually doesn't represent the Unitarian position because it represents a single Unitarian position. What I wrote is owned and operated by a Unitarian, and it is the exact opposite of what biblicalunitarian.com wrote. JW's are also Unitarian, and they believe Yeshua was the archangel Michael , so one could hardly say they also hold the official position.
    – Cannabijoy
    Aug 8, 2016 at 19:35
  • 1
    This website says the trinity is like H20- mgr.org/trinity.html and this website says comparing God to H20 is modalism- fervr.net/bible/is-the-trinity-like-h2o-an-egg-or-a-triangle Does that mean this position is both official and unofficial, shrouded in mystery? Yes I'm a bit confused about what you're asking. I answered the main question, but Psalm 110 should probably be a separate question. If you'd like, I'll edit my answer. Or if you want to ask a separate question, I'll provide an answer there. Either is fine with me.
    – Cannabijoy
    Aug 8, 2016 at 19:36
  • 1
    Arianism is definitely a form of Unitarianism- plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/unitarianism.html and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarianism#Christology However, JW's are distinct from Arianism because they believe Yeshua preexisted as the archangel Michael. Arius never taught that. I believe Yeshua was a man, I don't believe he preexisted, and I believe in YHVH so that makes me Unitarian. I couldn't answer your question because I disagree with the premises, but I did offer a Unitarian interpretation. Is there anything else I can add to make this answer acceptable?
    – Cannabijoy
    Aug 9, 2016 at 5:15

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