The term “Lord of Hosts” is used 282 times in the Bible. It is a military term meaning “God of Battles”. It is a rendering of the Hebrew tsebaoth “of hosts, armies,” plural of tzaba “army,” from tzaba “he waged war, he served.” The Septuagint often leave the word untranslated, as in 1 Samuel 1:11 and 17:45.
It captivates His sovereignty over all spiritual and physical armies. He is Lord of the hosts of the angels, the multitude of the heavenly host, that do His good pleasure, fighting under His direction, and for His purposes.
“We are to understand the word “hosts” in the most comprehensive sense. Although there are a few references where Yahweh Sabaoth is associated with human wars, in the great majority of passages where the title is found there is no allusion to war.”
– Herbert Lockyer, c. 1975
The title seems to also point to the relation of God to His people when gathered together for service or worship. Our Lord spoke of those who “gather in His name” and His name alone should be our gathering Name. Although Jesus didn’t come to bring peace but a sword (Matthew 10:34), He also came to gather (John 12:32). The greatest instance of Yahweh gathering is reported of in Genesis 2:7, where He gathers the dust of the earth, breathes into it His breath and creates a living being. Later on, He tells Abraham that his progeny would (also) be like the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16), and Paul explains that those who believe are the progeny of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). And just as Yahweh has done, Jesus gathers the dust of the believers, and creates the living Church (Acts 2).
From tests such as Psalm 24:10’s incantation “Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory”, we observe:
“Yahweh of hosts conveys the concept of glorious king. Yahweh is king of the world (Zechariah 14:16) and over all the kingdoms of the earth (Isaiah 37:16) […]. Although the title [Sabaoth] has military overtones, it points directly to Yahweh’s rulership over the entire universe. He continually rules, but at times he directly intervenes to secure his own victory and insure the direction of history for the salvation of his people. In Amos 4:13 [Sabaoth] is associated with his creating the mountains and wind and his ability to control nature. He is master over every force; he alone secures peace.”
– R. Laird Harris, c. 1980
- Isa 31:5 – “Like flying birds so the Lord of hosts will protect Jerusalem. He will protect and deliver it; He will pass over and rescue it.”
- Jeremiah 11:20 – “But, O Lord of hosts, who judges righteously, Who tries the feelings and the heart, let me see Your vengeance on them, for to You have I committed my cause.”
- Malachi 3:5 – “Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the Lord of hosts.“
He is Lord of the hosts of heaven, the sun, moon, and stars, whom He has named and numbered from the largest Red Giant, to the smallest distant comet, and controlling the order of the smallest quarks and leptons.
When Jesus ordered the wind to be still, the disciples said to each other, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:41). The obvious answer would have come from Amos 4:13, and the author of Mark makes a deliberate point to equate or at least align Jesus with “Sabaoth.”
In Isaiah 44:6 – “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me. Comparing Scripture with Scripture we find that in Rev 22:13 that Jesus identifies Himself as “I am the Alpha & the Omega, the first & the last, the beginning & the end,” which clearly parallels this passage and affirms Jesus as Yahweh Sabaoth. He is similarly affirmed in Revelation 1:17 and 2:18.
Hannah wanted so much to have a child but she was barren. Her battle was not a physical one, but rather a biological obstacle. Hannah committed her struggles to the Lord of Hosts who answered her with the birth of Samuel, who would later become one of Israel’s greatest prophets.
- 1 Samuel 1:11 – “She made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.'”
- James 5:4 – “Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”
Isaiah further helps us understand the the LORD of hosts:
Isaiah 6:3 – “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord (Jehovah) of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.”
“A person who has sensed what Isaiah sensed will never be able to joke about ‘the Man upstairs’ or the ‘Someone up there who likes me.’ My brother or sister, there is something about our God that is different, that is beyond us, that is above us—transcendent. We must be humbly willing to throw our hearts open and to plead, ‘God, shine Thyself into my understanding for I will never find Thee otherwise.'”
– A.W. Tozer, “Whatever Happened to Worship”
O Lord of Hosts, to Thee I Cry
How Dear to Me, O Lord of Hosts
O Lord of Hosts, Whose Glory Fills
O Lord of Hosts, Almighty King
O Lord of Hosts, How Lovely
Lord God of Hosts in Mercy
O God of Hosts, the Mighty Lord
O Lord of Hosts, Who Didst Upraise
– Henry Burton, c. 1887
James M. Boice, comments on the LORD of Hosts that:
“Hosts refers to the armies of Israel, on the one hand, and to the angelic armies of God, on the other. This makes the Name especially apt in this psalm, since the psalm is based on a historical deliverance of the people from earthly armies, whatever their origin, and also looks forward to a final deliverance when God will subdue the hostile forces of rebellious man forever. It is a particularly striking name in this psalm because the name Jehovah does not occur much in this second book of the psalms the name is usually Elohim.”
– J.M. Boice, “Psalms 42–106: An Expositional Commentary“
And finally, He is Lord of the hosts of nations, of every corner of the earth, who are all under His rule and government, and among whom He acts according to his sovereign will and pleasure. There is a very real way wherein the office of “Creator” issues the force that counteracts the second law of thermodynamics. For those unfamiliar, this law spitulates that the entropy of a closed system should always increase. In other words, everything in creation should fall apart.
And yet, in the economy of God’s universe, life and culture do not evolve (micro) this way. God is responsible for the material universe and thermodynamics. And God as Yahweh created life out of the dust of the earth, that God as Elohim had made. And God as Sabaoth created order out of living things.