THE TYNDALE OLD TESTAMENT LECTURE, 1956
This lecture was first given in June 1956. I am bound, therefore,
to tender my apologies to the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Research for
allowing three years to elapse before preparing the manuscript for print. I
wish also to thank them, not only for the honour of their initial invitation,
but also for their patience with my dilatory ways.
However, it would be stupid not to try to gather some advantage
out of the intervening years, and, consequently, I have tried to improve the
lecture, both by paying attention to friends who have given the benefit of
their advice, and by including references to and quotations from more recent
books. While the substance of the lecture is unchanged, there have been some
alterations of arrangement, and some insertions.
My thanks are specially due to the Rev. J. Stafford Wright, the
Rev. G. T. Manley, Mr. D. J. Wiseman, and Mr. Andrew Walls whose time and
wisdom have been readily given and much appreciated.
J. A. MOTYER
THE REVELATION OF THE DIVINE NAME
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF EXODUS VI. 2, 3 IN THE STUDY
OF THE PENTATEUCH
Few verses can have exercised such a pivotal influence upon
biblical study as these two verses in Exodus. Their importance for the literary
study of the Pentateuch can best be shown by some representative quotations. A.
G. Hebert writes:
'The clue to the distinguishing of the various
documents was first given by Exodus 6. 3 where it is said that God was known to
the Patriarchs as El Shaddai and not by His Name Yahweh; yet in our book of
Genesis that Name is freely used.'
Since the finding of this 'clue' students have made continual
resort to it. John Skinner shows how it has been used:
'It is evident that the author of these
statements cannot have written any passage which implies on the part of the
patriarchs a knowledge of the name Yahweh, and, in particular, any passage
which records a revelation of God to them under that name.'
'It is not only possible, but certain
that at least two writers are concerned in the composition of Genesis. That is
an inevitable inference . . . from the express statement of Exodus 6. 2-3. The
writer of Exodus 6. 2-3 could neither have recorded previous revelations of the
Deity under the Name Yahweh, nor have put the name into the mouth of any of the
patriarchs. . . . Such passages cannot have come from the same source as Exodus
6. 2-3. . . . We are well on our way to a documentary theory of the
H. H. Rowley writes to the same point:
'Obviously it cannot be true that God was not
known to Abraham by the name Yahweh (Footnote 1. Ex. 6. 3) and that He was
known to him by that name (Footnote 2. Gen. 15. 2, 7). To this extent there is
a flat contradiction that cannot be resolved by any shift.'
He is emphatic about the 'contradiction', for he adds later:
'Behind that contradiction there is room for
'The contradiction arises because within the
Bible we have combined in a single account traditions which arose amongst once
Out of a great abundance of evidence for this interpretation we
offer a final quotation from McNeile:
'A signal instance of the way in which God leads
His people into a fuller understanding of His word is afforded by the fact that
it is only in the last 150 years that the attention of students has been
arrested by these verses. How is it that though God here says that up to this
point His name Yahweh has not been known, yet in the book of Genesis the
patriarchs appear to know it well and to use it freely? The question cannot be
answered except by the recognition that varying traditions have been
incorporated from different sources.'
In addition to the conclusion which they draw, these quotations
have one thing in common: they all start by taking the verses at their face
value as they stand in the English Version. Skinner speaks in a voice which
could not but win assent from the others:
'The verses distinctly state (1) that God had
revealed Himself to the three patriarchs under the name El Shaddai; (2) that He
had not disclosed to them His true name Yahweh; and (3) that this name is now
(for the first time) made known to Moses.'
If the English Version is unalterably correct, then we are
compelled to accept Skinner's three points, and to join him and the innumerable
company who have taken the high road to the
Once the literary unity of the Bible is thus abandoned in a
radical manner, the religious unity is bound to follow suit. When the documents
have been separated, nothing can be attempted in the way of Old Testament
Theology until historical judgment has been passed on the literary components.
Cunliffe Jones admits that as a result of 'the
labours of critical scholarship' 'the older theological unity of the Bible has
been shattered'. We may no longer presuppose a 'theological unity of the Bible
which, owing to the labours of modern critical scholars, no longer exists'. The
result of this break-up, in
connection with the particular part of Scripture which concerns
us, is well seen in an article by Eissfeldt entitled 'El and Yahweh'. Starting from the observation that we do not find in
the Old Testament any trace of a conflict between El and Yahweh such as is seen
in the case of Baal and Yahweh, Eissfeldt asks why this should be so. It will
be seen at once that such a question is only possible on the basis of the
historical judgment on the documents which we have amply illustrated above. As
it stands, the Bible presents a continuous revelation, first in terms of El to
the fathers, and then in terms of Yahweh to their children. However, following
the analysis and dating of the documents, this can only be judged a patent
rationalization of a later state of affairs.
Verses like Exodus vi. 2, 3 are the occasions where, so to speak, the mask of
the later writer slips. Seeing then that it is not possible to accept the
tradition on the point, the question remains: why did El and Yahweh not come
into conflict? Eissfeldt answers:
'Unlike Baal who threatened to become dangerous
to Yahweh by encroaching upon His monarchical status as God of Israel, El was
never conceived of as a rival to Yahweh. He was rather considered a figure to
acknowledge whose authority meant an enhancement rather than a restriction of
the authority of Yahweh.'
Yahweh, as the invader of Canaan, the realm of El, is placed in
the position of having to decide what His attitude shall be to the 'sitting
tenant'. Eissfeldt seeks to show that, first, Yahweh recognized El as supreme;
then began to adopt the name El for Himself; and finally 'progressively
supplanted him and became the highest and even the sole God'. The conclusion of
the whole matter is alarming, and suggests a grave misapprehension of the
nature of Israel's God:
'(Yahweh) received from (El) the impetus to an
evolution which meant the supplementation of the traits originally belonging to
him - a dangerous and bizarre character and jealous vehemence - by the
qualities of discretion, and wisdom, moderation and patience, forbearance and
Thus it was wholly to Yahweh's advantage to meet El, as Eissfeldt
emphasizes by quoting with approval the words of F. Løkkegaard:
'El is the special contribution of Canaan to the
world. He is fused with the stern God Yahweh, and thus he has become the
expression of all fatherliness, being mild and stern at the same time.'
What a notion of Yahweh this is! The opinion of G. E. Wright is
'Doubt must be thrown on any picture of the God
of Israel which attempts to portray Him as a purely localised, anthropomorphic,
nature deity, limited to tribe, shrine, or mountain, pacified by human
sacrifice, a crude, capricious little despot whose hate and cruelty are
unlimited by any moral consistency of character. It would be very difficult to
find a parallel to such a god among any of the gods of the time. One must
therefore become suspicious of the methodology which claims to discover such a
deity, and to examine more carefully the modifying and contrary evidence in the
oldest narratives and collections of law.'
It is just such a careful examination of Exodus vi. 2, 3 which we
now wish to undertake.
II. PRELIMINARY CONSIDERATIONS
Exodus vi. 2, 3 is a theological statement offering a summary of
the content of God's self-revelation between the call of Abram (Gn. xii) and
the call of Moses (Ex. iii). There are at least three factors in modern Old
Testament study which lay this field open for fresh and detailed examination:
the changing face of Pentateuchal criticism; the evidence of archaeology; and
the sharp opposition to the doctrine of religious evolution as the key to the
Old Testament. It is obvious that each of these represents a major field of
enquiry, and that, therefore, we cannot hope to do more than offer a brief
statement under each head.
a. The Pentateuch
The movement of scholarly opinion on the Pentateuch in the last
thirty years has been brilliantly surveyed by C. R. North in The Old
Testament and Modern Study. At the risk of
appearing to seize on anything favourable to our purpose and to ignore
everything else, we must be content to isolate a few items which are directly
germane to our study.
While, on the one hand, the tendency of the documentary theory has
been to increase the number of the components of the Pentateuch, Mowinckel, on the other hand, published in 1937 The
Sources of the Predeuteronomic Primeval History (JE) in
Genesis 1-11. Speaking of Joshua xxiv. 2-4
as 'E's recapitulation', he contends that E, knowing of Abram's life in
Mesopotamia, must have told of his coming to Canaan. The outcome of this
reasoning is that Mowinckel allots one of the J strata of the earlier chapters
of Genesis to E. Clearly this bears on the problem we have in hand: if E is the
author of what was once attributed to J, then E knew and used the Divine Name.
However, 'Mowinckel sees no objection to this: Exodus 3. 13f. "gives us no data
for anticipating the author's (E's) own usage before and after the revelation
on Horeb. In reality, it is not E's view that Yahwe is here revealing a
hitherto unknown name to Moses. Yahwe is not telling his name to one who
does not know it. Moses asks for some 'control' evidence that his countrymen
may know, when he returns to them, that it is really the god of their fathers
that has sent him. . . . The whole conversation presupposes that the Israelites
know this name already."'
In spite of his abandonment of the cherished documentary principle
of the testimony of the varying designations of the Deity, Mowinckel remained
within the documentary camp. However, the whole idea of 'documents' has been
heavily assaulted by the advocates of 'Traditio-Historical' criticism. North
has summarized the views of Ivan Engnell, and it
would be a wholly needless task to reproduce the material here. It must suffice
to mention Engnell's denial of the validity of the criterion of the differing
names of God. Engnell asserts - with perfect
truth - that if documents are to be disentangled, it can only be done by means
of 'a consistency of stylistic differences' or 'linguistic constants'. The
divine names (so-called) were supposed to be such constants, but in fact are
not. Engnell is on particularly weak ground when he supports his repudiation of
the name-criterion on the fact of Septuagintal variations from the
Massoretic Text. He urges that the variation of the 'names' in the
Hebrew is late and not original, and therefore useless for identifying
documents. This particular argument is by no means new, and was in fact given
its complete answer in 1914 when John Skinner wrote The Divine Names in
Genesis, to which reference has already been made. However, Engnell has a
positive view of the designations of the Deity in Genesis, which is worth
'The different divine names have different
ideological associations and therewith different import. Thus, Yahweh is
readily used when it is a question of Israel's national God, indicated as such
over against foreign gods, and where the history of the fathers is concerned,
etc., while, on the other hand, Elohim, "God", gives more expression to a
"theological" and abstract-cosmic picture of God, and is therefore used in
larger and more moving contexts.'
The same traditionist, therefore, will vary the designation
according to the requirements of his theme.
If further proof were needed that the face of Pentateuchal
criticism has altered in the last thirty years, and that there is nothing
alarming in a purpose to re-examine the evidence for the theological
relationship between Genesis and Exodus, it is furnished in an article by M. S.
Seale in The Expository Times for August 1956. The writer urges that
many of the criteria used to dissect Genesis are in fact simply the stylistic
idiosyncrasies of one author:
'The Book of Genesis has been somewhat
misunderstood and misjudged by Bible scholars and critics who built up
elaborate theories regarding the composition of the book which they ascribed to
an array of writers and redactors. We have tried to show that the key to the
book which the critics have missed is the writer's peculiar style and method,
use of glosses, explanations, and repetitions.
With this linguistic key in hand, I feel that we can speak more reassuringly
about the unity and antiquity of the first book of Holy Scripture and the
oldest prose work in the Hebrew language.'
Neither space nor competence allow the presentation of details
from the field of biblical archaeology, and we are therefore driven to the
briefer, and in this case safer, course of giving the conclusions of the
recognized experts. While archaeology has raised problems for the Old
Testament, there can be no doubt as to the total impact that it has made. H. M.
Orlinsky, having related how the 'old-fashioned
view of the Bible as a trustworthy history book of antiquity' fell before 'the
nineteenth century philosophies of evolution and scientific materialism',
states the new attitude following upon 'recent discoveries in the Near East':
'More and more the older view that the biblical
data were suspect and even likely to be false, unless corroborated by
extra-biblical facts, is giving way to one which holds that, by and large, the
biblical accounts are more likely to be true than false, unless clear cut
evidence from sources outside the Bible demonstrate the
The terms in which L. H. Grollenberg notes this same change of attitude are specially
significant for our study:
'The views (of the older documentary critics)
proceeded from a rather hasty application of the evolutionary pattern and were
based too exclusively upon textual criticism. Thanks to the work of the
archaeologist, the modem scholar is in closer contact with the actual world in
which Israel had its roots. . . . Today . . . many scholars feel a renewed
confidence in the skilful narrators of chapters 12-50 of Genesis, . . . the
stories of the patriarchs must be based on historical
What has archaeology in fact done, and what are the limits of its
powers? G. E. Wright answers:
'We shall probably never be able to prove that
Abram really existed . . . but what we can prove is that his life and times, as
reflected in the stories about him, fit perfectly within the early second
millennium, but imperfectly within any later period.'
There is no need to multiply quotations any further in order
prove what is well known and generally accepted.
c. The Evolution of Religion
We must now ask, what of the religion of the patriarchs? It is
presumably possible to rehabilitate the patriarchs historically and socially,
and yet to hold that the religious evidence of Genesis relates to some later
period at which these stories were committed to writing. The decline in the
fortunes of the evolutionary approach to the Old Testament makes it easier to
say that, seeing there is greater reliance on the social evidence of these
stories, there is no need to doubt that their evidential value in religion is
comparable. As long as evolution held the field, of course, this was not so,
but now, more and more, it is being realized that evolution is not the key.
Scholarly opinion is plentiful. U. E. Simon
'It was more or less taken for granted that,
since progress governs the evolution of the species, history, including
Biblical history, must display a tale of progress. Hence we were asked to infer
that the Old Testament also becomes better and better, though perhaps in a
somewhat faulty manner. References to high ethical ideals - to monotheism in
times which were deemed primitive, for instance - had to be deleted and "saved
up" for the so-called advanced epoch where they fitted in neatly. This particular legend of progress has now been
Or again, A. R. Johnson writes:
"There seems to be a real danger in Old
Testament study as a whole of misinterpreting what may be different but
contemporary strata in terms of corresponding stages of thought, which
can be arranged chronologically so as to fit into an over-simplified
evolutionary scheme or similar theory of progressive revelation.'
A very damaging blow against evolution as the key to the Old
Testament has been struck by G. E. Wright, in his book The Old Testament
against its Environment. It is tempting to quote largely, but we must be
content with two representative passages:
'In the first place, it is increasingly realised
today that the attempt to make of the Old Testament a source book for the
evolution of religion from very primitive to highly advanced concepts has been
made possible only by means of a radical misinterpretation of the literature. .
In the second place, we cannot assume that a
mere description of an evolutionary process provides the explanation for
matters which belong to the realm of religious faith. . . . How did Israel
become a nation with such a faith in its God that its very existence was
conceived to be a miracle of grace? The prophets did not invent this remarkable
conception since it existed before them. Sociological study cannot explain it,
since the change in material status from nomadic to agricultural life could
effect no such religious innovation. Nor can environment provide the answer,
since the Old Testament bears eloquent witness to the fact that Canaanite
religion was the most dangerous and disintegrative factor which the faith of
Israel had to face. Israel's knowledge of her election by God must be traced to
a theological reflection on the meaning of the Exodus from Egypt. It is a
primary datum in Old Testament Theology, and it belongs to a realm of religious
faith which cannot be described or understood by the criteria of
It is not a serious and responsible treatment of the Old Testament
to make it subserve the interests of an evolutionary theory when its
fundamental assertion is of the initiative of God in self-revelation; to treat
its characters as men with a genius for religion and bent on finding God, when,
for the most part, they are shown to us as possessing a genius for apostasy and
bent on backsliding; and to talk about man's need of being educated upward to
the knowledge of God, when God's own assessment of man is that he has sinned in
departing from a known ideal and needs to be redeemed. In the words of G. A.
Smith, therefore, 'we will go to the characters of the Old Testament as they
are, and treat them, not as our dead prey, but as our masters and brothers,
whom it is our duty to study with patience and meekness.'
III. DETAILED EXAMINATION OF EXODUS VI. 2, 3
It is convenient at this point to give some indication of the
course which our study will take. The starting-point is a retranslation of
Exodus vi. 2, 3, which reads as follows:
'And God spoke to Moses, and said to him: I am
Yahweh. And I showed myself to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob in the character
of El Shaddai, but in the character expressed by my name Yahweh I did not make
myself known to them.'
It will be seen at once that this alters the standard English
Versions in two important respects. It does not
deny to the patriarchs the knowledge of the name Yahweh, but only denies to
them knowledge of the significance of that name; it allows them to know the
name, but not to know the nature which the name implied. Consequently, this retranslation opens the way to a
synthesis of Genesis and Exodus different from that of the documentary theory,
a way which allows for a truly biblical progressive revelation. Our immediate
task therefore is to justify the terms of the proposed translation; and our
ultimate task is to attempt a synthesis of the relevant chapters of Genesis and
In seeking to justify the retranslation, we shall deal with the
items one by one.
a. The Reflexive Verbs: 'I showed myself', and 'I did not
make myself known'
Both these verbs stand in the niphal. In meaning, this conjugation
is 'primarily reflexive of Qal' and it is only 'in consequence of a looseness
of thought at an early period of the language' that the 'Niphal comes finally
in many cases to represent the passive of Qal'.
The decision between these and the other two possible shades of meaning allowed
by the grammarians is, of course, to be made on the basis of the needs of any
given context, and therefore some element of subjective judgment may be
The reflexive niphal of the verb ra'ah, 'to see' is well
established. (1.) There are five undoubted cases of its use. In Genesis xlvi.
29 we read that Joseph 'presented himself' to his father; in Leviticus xiii. 7
the verb is used of the suspected leper 'showing himself' to the priest; and in
1 Kings xviii. 1, 2, 15, Elijah is first commanded to 'show himself' to Ahab,
then goes to 'show himself', and finally promises Obadiah that he will 'show
himself'. It cannot be gainsaid that the translation 'to be seen' or 'to
appear' would in some measure pass in these cases, but the context is
infinitely better suited
by the reflexive. (2.) The verb is characteristically used in the
niphal of the appearing of God to man; there are about twenty-eight
instances. The reflexive force would be
especially suitable, though one cannot, of course, press for its absolute
necessity. It would, however, preserve the sense of divine initiative which is
the biblical emphasis. (3.) In this particular verb, the case for the reflexive
niphal is strengthened by the fact that the hithpael is not used re-flexively
but only to describe mutual action - 'to look one upon another'. A writer, therefore, desiring to express reflexive
action is confined to the niphal.
The reflexive niphal of yadh'a,'to know', is likewise well
supported, though in this case the element of interpretation possibly enters in
slightly more because the hithpael is also used reflexively. Once more the reflexive niphal is found well suited to
the self-revelation of God. There are nine cases in this category, and in each
case the reflexive translation finds good support among the commentators, as
well as being intrinsically suitable. Apart from
its use of God, the reflexive niphal is found in two other probable
cases, and in one undoubted case, Ruth iii. 3,
where Naomi warns Ruth: 'Make not thyself known unto the man.'
In pressing for the reflexive use of the verbs in Exodus vi. 3, we
cannot, therefore, be accused of asking anything very extravagant.
b. The translation,'In the character of El Shaddai, but in the
character expressed by my name Yahweh'
The translation given in the Revised Version is the one usually
accepted without significant alteration by those who make Exodus vi. 2, 3 the
basis of the alleged contradiction between Genesis and Exodus. 'I appeared ...
as El Shaddai, but by my name Yahweh.... There is an immediate objection
to this translation: it does not take account of the fact that, while El
Shaddai is governed by a preposition, here translated 'as', there is no
preposition in the Hebrew corresponding to the word 'by' which in the English
governs 'my name
Yahweh'. Some preposition is, of course, necessary, but the
preposition chosen depends on a prior decision respecting the syntax of the
1. 'In poetic parallelism the governing power of a preposition is
sometimes extended to the corresponding substantive of the second
member.' There are many illustrations of this
construction, but the practice is well
illustrated in Isaiah xlviii. 9: 'For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the
sake of my praise I restrain it for you.' The governing preposition, 'for the
sake of', is required twice in the English, but in the Hebrew it is found only
with the noun in the first member of the parallelism. The instances of this
construction share only one feature: in each case, the preposition extends to
the second word exactly the same force which it exercises over the first. If
Exodus vi. 3 affords another case of this - and there is no reason why it
should not - then we must treat 'my name Yahweh' as governed by the Beth
Essentiae in exactly the same way as El Shaddai is governed. In this verse
the Beth Essentiae is appropriately translated 'as', that is to say, it
is used with a view to concentrating attention on character or inner condition,
as distinct from outer circumstances or designation. When God revealed Himself
'as' El Shaddai, it was not with a view to providing the patriarchs with a
title by which they could address Him, but to give them an insight into His
character such as that title aptly conveyed. Likewise, in Exodus iii. 2, 'the
angel of Yahweh appeared ... as a flame of fire . . . .' The outward
circumstances may have served in the first instance to attract Moses' attention
- though this is not necessary, for his attention was, in point of fact, caught
by the continued existence of the bush in spite of the flame. The flame was the
appropriate characterization of God Himself, designed to provide a suitable
revelation of the divine Nature to Moses at that particular juncture of his
career. When we carry this force over to the
nouns 'my name Yahweh' we reach a conclusion in accordance with the translation
we are seeking to justify: 'I showed myself ... in the character of El Shaddai,
but in the character expressed by my name Yahweh I did not make myself
2. The syntax may be treated in another way: the words 'My
name Yahweh' in the second clause may be taken as an instance of
casus pendens, that is, a word or phrase taken out of its natural place
in a sentence and allowed to come at the beginning for the sake of emphasis,
thus strictly falling outside the grammatical framework. An example of this
which, in structure, corresponds well with the sentence we are considering, is
found in 1 Samuel xx. 23: 'As regards the matter about which you and I spoke,
behold, Yahweh is between us for ever.' If we give a parallel translation to
Exodus vi. 3, we find: 'As regards my name Yahweh, I did not make myself known
to them.' The difference between this and the alternative above is negligible.
In either case it is the character expressed by the name that was withheld from
the patriarchs and not the name itself. The Revised Version margin is probably
seeking to follow this reading of the syntax in its suggestion 'as to my name
3. If we accept the first treatment of the text as suggested above
then we are bound to exclude the bare translation 'by my name Yahweh' in so far
as it states that the name was a mere sound 'by' which Yahweh was distinguished
from other possible claimants to Israel's spiritual loyalty. Likewise, it is
extremely difficult to see how the casus pendens construction could be
brought to express this meaning. The conclusion, therefore, is that there is no
grammatical or syntactical justification for fastening this meaning on the
text. For a moment, however, let us assume that 'by my name Yahweh' is an
allowable translation, and let us ask what is meant when someone is said to
know another person 'by name'. There is in fact a well-exemplified usage of the
prepositional prefix, Beth, to express that 'by which' a person knows
someone or something. For example, Psalm xli. 11 (12): 'By this
(b[e]z'oth) I know that thou delightest in me ... .' But the question remains, Is this all that is required
when a person is said to know another 'by name'? Is the name in this case
merely a sound by which that other is fixed as a distinct object for the
person? That it is not so is shown decisively by the two occasions on which the
words 'by name' occur in conjunction with the verb of knowing. In Exodus
xxxiii. 12 Moses says to Yahweh: 'Yet thou hast said, I know thee by name, and
thou hast also found grace in my sight'; and in verse 17, Yahweh says to Moses:
'Thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name'
(b[e]shem). It is impossible that this should be so
attenuated in meaning as to signify merely that Yahweh is
acquainted with the sound 'Moses' and has learned to make that
sound in connection with a certain man. Such externality is unthinkable. To
know by name means to have come into intimate and personal acquaintance with a
The conclusion, therefore, concerning this part of our translation
of Exodus vi. 2, 3 is this: that on the one understanding of the syntax the
translation 'by my name' is impossible; on the other understanding it is
unlikely, inadequate, and misleading; and finally, even if it be accepted as a
translation (which it ought not to be), it cannot be understood as teaching
that it was the name as a sound which was denied to the patriarchs.
The accuracy of the proposed translation is further established by
its suitability to its context. The place of the verse in the scheme of
revelation, as we see it, is this: not that now for the first time the name as
a sound is declared, but that now for the first time the essential significance
of the name is to be made known. The patriarchs called God Yahweh, but knew Him
as El Shaddai; their descendants will both call Him and know Him by His name
Yahweh. This is certainly the burden of Exodus vi. 6ff. where Moses receives
the message he is to impart to Israel. The message opens and closes with the
seal of the divine authority, 'I am Yahweh', and on the basis of this authority
it declares the saving acts which, it is specifically stated, will be a
revelation of Yahweh's nature, for, as a result of what He will do, Israel will
'know that I am Yahweh your God'. These words tell us plainly that what Moses
was sent to Egypt to declare was not a name but a nature. Pharaoh and the
Egyptians, as well as Israel, will 'know that I am Yahweh', but, in point of fact, their knowledge will be, not the
name merely, but also the character of Israel's God. This meaning of the phrase
is consistent throughout the Bible. Ezekiel uses it to such an extent that it
is one of the distinguishing marks of his prophecy, but what can he mean by it except that divine action in
judgment and mercy is declarative of the divine nature? Likewise, for example,
Jeremiah xvi. 21 says definitely, 'I will cause them to know my hand and my
might; and they shall know that my name is Yahweh', but Jeremiah
has clearly more in mind than that the sound 'Yahweh' as a designation of the
Deity will fall on the ears of chastised and redeemed Israel! Identical is the
commission given to Moses: he is not a herald shouting a catch-phrase, he is a
prophet to whom Yahweh has made known His secret.
IV. THE WITNESS OF EXODUS III. 13-15
These verses are supposed by some to represent another tradition
of the occasion and manner in which the name Yahweh was first heard by human
ears. For example, McNeile, who allots the verses to E, says, when he is
commenting on Exodus vi. 6:
'A formula very frequent in the Holiness
legislation. Here, however, it is not a mere formula, but a specific statement,
parallel to 3. 14, revealing the Name for the first time.'
At first sight the question 'What is his name?' seems to be quite
conclusive evidence that the name was not known previously, and the witness of
Exodus iii. 13-15 would thus run counter to the conclusion we have sought to
establish concerning the meaning of Exodus vi. 2, 3. A hint from Martin Buber
suggested a study which goes far to establish a different understanding of the
question. Buber writes:
'The words of Moses are generally taken to mean
that he wished to learn the answer which he would have to give to the people if
they asked him to tell them the name of the God whose message he brought.
Understood in this sense, the passage becomes one of the chief supports of the
Kenite Hypothesis, since it is scarcely possible to imagine that any people
would not know the name of the God of their fathers. If you wish to ask a
person's name in Biblical Hebrew, however, you never say, as is done here,
"What (mh) is his name?" or "What is your name?" but "Who (mî) are
you?" "Who is he?" "Who is your name?" "Tell me your name." Where the word
"what" is associated with the word "name" the question asked is what finds
expression in or lies concealed behind that name.'
The truth or falsehood of this assertion can be ascertained only
by the laborious process of following through every case of the use of these
interrogative pronouns in the Old Testament. Most of the instances are, of
course, simple questions which reveal nothing either
way about the special force the pronouns may exercise. There are,
however, many cases which contribute significant evidence on the point in
question. It is convenient to divide these cases into four categories:
a. Categories of the same type as Exodus iii. 13: 'What is
There are three equivalent instances: 1. The most significant is
Judges xiii. 17, which is also probably the strongest single item of evidence
in favour of Buber's contention. Manoah asks the angel: 'What is thy name?' The
interrogative is mî. The context shows that Manoah merely wants a
name to attach to the angel so that any subsequent devotions may be properly
addressed. 2. In both Genesis xxxii. 27 and Proverbs xxx. 4 the pronoun
mh is used. If Buber is correct the emphasis should be on the
character of the person concerned, and not be a mere desire for a sound by
which to identify that person. In general, this interpretation can be
supported, though it must be said that the cases are not strong enough by
themselves to establish the usage. In Genesis xxxii. 27, the 'man' does not
give Jacob a new name just for the sake of replacing one sound with another. He
is careful to show that the new name indicates a new nature: to make Jacob
declare his old name was equivalent to exacting an act of repentance for his
previous life. The question 'What is thy name?' is, therefore, the same as
'What sort of person are you?' This interpretation is abundantly suited to the
place which this particular incident plays in Jacob's spiritual history. In
Proverbs xxx opinion is divided as to the meaning of the passage. Two
interpretations are possible: in verse 4, either Agur is seeking a man who can
tell him of God - in which case, first using the interrogative mî
he enquires for such a man who by his wonderful works is distinguished from
all other men, and then, using mh, he desires to know the inner nature and
intimate relations of such a man; or else, the questions in verse 4 refer to
God - in which case those introduced by mî (the first four) refer
to the works of God by which He is distinguished, and those introduced by
mh seek information about God in Himself. In general, therefore,
Proverbs xxx. 4 supports the usage about which we are enquiring.
b. Passages where mh and mî are used with personal
This category involves the use of mh against its natural
tendency - or rather, against what we would ordinarily conceive to be its
natural tendency. We are likely, therefore, to see here whether it has the
qualitative force which Buber attributes to it or not. For mh there
are seventeen significant cases and for
mî there are thirty-five, plus one parallel passage. In every case where mh is used with a personal
association it suggests enquiry into sort or quality or character, whereas
mî expects an answer instancing individuals, or, as in the case of
rhetorical questions, calling attention to some external feature - if not the
mere name, then, for example, the person's ancestry. Thus, Mephibosheth,
knowing that on every ground of family and history (i.e. every external
ground), he has no reason to expect the king's favour, asks incredulously if
the king sees some good in him which prompts the royal generosity: 'What is thy
servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?' On the other
hand, David, amazed at the grace of God promised to him, compares it, in a
spirit of reverent wonder, with his status before men: 'Who (mî)
am I, O Lord Yahweh, and what (mî) is my house . . . .'
c. Passages where mh and mî are used with impersonal
In this category we shall see - albeit in a single verse -
mî used against what we would consider its natural tendency. The
total evidence of the verses is again the same. In ten instances, mh
reveals that it consistently demands an exposition of character or inner
meaning, whereas mî seeks nothing
more than a non-committal recital of facts.
Hiram's question, in 1 Kings ix. 10, 'What cities are these ... ?' is not
provoked by lack of knowledge of what cities exactly Solomon had given to him,
but because he knew them
all too well, and wished to underline their condition. The two
cases of mî are in Micah i. 5. The question is 'What
(mî) is the transgression of Jacob? . . . what (mî)
are the high places of Judah?' and the context needs only a recital of items
and not a discussion of their nature.
Undoubtedly the force of this category is weakened by the paucity of reference
for mî, and because one may well ask how could the other group be
expressed except by using mh. Nevertheless, we cannot despise, or
underestimate, the cumulative force of this category along with the previous
d. There are exceptions to the general conclusion established
by the survey which is now completed
Exodus iii. 11 and 2 Chronicles ii. 6 both use mî in
questions which seem to require some discussion of the character of the people
involved. In Genesis xxxiii, 8, mî is used (presumably) in the sense 'what is the meaning of - a usage
which is always elsewhere confined to mh. The admission of exceptions will keep us from
dogmatizing, but at the same time the evidence of the usage warrants a general
assent to the distinction between mh and mî as proposed by
The contention that the question 'What is his name?', by its
formulation, requests an exposition of the character of the God of the fathers,
is supported by asking why Moses should suppose it likely that he would be
faced by such a question from the captive Israelites. We ought to notice very
carefully the way in which the question arises. This passage is often treated
as if Moses is seeking information for himself,
but in fact he is visualizing the Israelites in Egypt as
seeking that information from him. Why should he think that they
would do so? He is in a position (Ex. iii. 6) to come to them as the emissary
of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Why should he envisage them as asking
for a name? We must be frankly imaginative in our reply: if we suppose that the
'name' of the God of the fathers was a closely-guarded secret among the
Israelite slaves, then we can see that they would use it as a test of any
self-styled messenger of their God; or again, if Moses knew that Israel in
Egypt had lost - and knew that they had lost - a name of God once current among
their ancestors, he could foresee them as thus testing his credentials. But
either of these explanations of the situation demands a pre-Mosaic knowledge of
the name. What other possibility is there? Only to suppose that such a question
was the normal one under such circumstances, and was equivalent to asking: What
revelation of God do you bring? As we have seen, the form of the question
supports this interpretation.
Following on this, we must ask concerning the content of the
revelation of God in Exodus iii, and its relation to the subsequent revelation
in Exodus vi. The meaning of the expression 'ehyeh '[a]sher 'ehyeh,
by which God states His name to Moses, has always been a crux of
interpretation. The treatment given by A. B. Davidson, however, seems in every
way fair and judicious:
'To Moses, the name Yahweh, which he elevated
into such prominence, must have had a meaning of its own, and he is just as
likely to have connected that ancient name with the verb hayah as the
prophet Hosea, who certainly does so. It is to be noted that the Old Testament
connects the name with the verb hayah in its modem sense. The imperfect
qal of the verb hayah, as used in the time of Moses and Hosea, expresses
the meaning of Yahweh.'
Davidson then proceeds to assert that the imperfect of the stative
verb hayah must be taken as a future, and that, as regards the meaning
of the verb, care must be exercised to exclude the sense 'to be essentially'
because the verb properly means 'to be phenomenally', corresponding
to the Greek ginesthai, and not to einai. Metaphysics are not involved.
'The expression "I will be" is a historical
formula; it refers, not to what God will be in Himself; it is no prediction
regarding His nature, but one regarding what He will approve Himself to others,
regarding what He will show Himself to be.'
Coming to grips with the phrase, 'I will be what I will be', he
'It resembles the expression in Exodus 33. 9: "I
will have mercy on whom I will have mercy", the meaning of which would appear
better if it were read, "On whom I will have mercy I will have mercy"; I will
have mercy fully, absolutely ... it is ... the strong emphatic affirmation "I
will have mercy".'
Davidson's final word concerning the empirical meaning of the name
'The name is a circumference the contents of
which cannot be expressed. He who relies on the same has the assurance of one,
the God of the fathers, who will be with him. What He shall be to him when with
him, the memory of what He has been to those who have gone before him may
suggest; or his own needs and circumstances in every stage and peril of his
life will tell him. Or his conception of God as reposing on the past and on his
own experience, and looking into the future, may project that before his mind.
. . . The name is not one expressing special attributes of Yahweh; it is rather
a name expressive of that which all His attributes make Him - the same at all
times, the true in covenant, His ever being like Himself, the
This treatment of the Name commends
itself by its fidelity to the
context. The correctness of Davidson's treatment of the words
'what I will be', as expressing affirmation of the initial words, 'I will be',
is confirmed by the way in which the full statement 'I will be what I will be',
once stated, is immediately abbreviated into 'I will be' and then into
'Yahweh'. If the relative clause added anything to the meaning it could not
thus be immediately omitted. Not only so, but the whole context is shot through
with the promise of God's presence: in iii. 12 there is the promise from which
the name arises: 'I will be with thee'. In iv. 12 and 15, it is declared with
emphasis 'I will be with thy mouth'. The
assertion that the name is not metaphysical but dynamic is born out, not only
by these references, but also more especially by the 'token' in iii. 12: 'This
shall be the token unto thee that I have sent thee: when thou hast brought
forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain." The God
whose name is 'I will be' is One who calls His servants to a life of faith, and
who vindicates Himself and declares His nature in the event itself to the mind
of the authorized interpreter of that event. He is empirically revealed. In
particular, this is the message of the burning bush. Like all similar
manifestations, the purpose behind the 'flame of fire out of the midst of a
bush' was to declare the nature of God. And this
is the revelation: that the God who addressed Himself to Moses is the living
and indwelling God. We speak of the burning bush, but in point of fact the
notable thing was that the bush did not burn. The vision is rather of the flame
which needed no fuel to feed it because it contained all life within itself. So
God is revealed: the One who is All-sufficiency in Himself. But such a God
could be utterly remote in self-sufficient isolation; in that case He would not
be the God who showed Himself 'out of the midst of the bush'. This
all-sufficient God takes up His abode in the humble, and lowly, and ordinary,
and illuminates, but does not consume, them with His divine nature. Thus, He
can appropriately say: 'I will be with thee.'
In relation to this revelation of God, the passage in Exodus vi
largely recapitulation, for the sake of encouraging a disheartened
Moses. In the interval he has first been accepted by the captive Israelites,
but subsequently he has been decisively rejected by Pharaoh, and then by
Israel. He had spoken to Pharaoh 'in the name'[6l]
but the God, whose name promised action, has seemingly remained inactive. Not
so: 'Now' says Yahweh, you will see - but first
there is a renewal of the revelation. The word 'renewal' does not, however,
account for all the facts. There are two significant additions in Exodus vi,
over and above what is told in Exodus iii. There is explicit reference to the
covenant with the fathers, and the verb 'to redeem' is used. It is at this
point that the revelation of the divine name is both old and new. Under the
concept of the covenant, that which God is now doing for Israel is related back
to His ancient dealings with the fathers. From this point of view He is acting
as He has ever done, in loving faithfulness to those whom He freely chose. But
He is about to do - for Israel in Egypt - that which has barely been hinted
before: He is going to redeem. This is the heart of the Mosaic revelation of
Yahweh. His name means 'I will be'. It declares His sufficiency to meet His
people at every point of their need; but at this point above all, that when
they need redemption He shows Himself to be a Redeemer, and in doing so He
declares His name pre-eminently. Nothing will ever touch a deeper note of
revelation than this. Yahweh chose for Himself the basic definition of His
name: 'I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt', and this
was definition in the strict sense, for it marked out His uniqueness, and the
derivative uniqueness of His people, for 'there is none like thee, neither is
there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.
And what one nation is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to
redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name?'
V. EL SHADDAI TO YAHWEH
It would be pointless to spend time supporting a retranslation of
Exodus vi. 2, 3 by internal investigation and by appeal to the immediate
context if, in the long run, the evidence of Genesis refutes it. Can we find
support in the patriarchal narratives for the contention that they knew the
name Yahweh but not the inner significance of it;
and, if we can do this, can we go further, and trace the line of
progress from El Shaddai to Yahweh?
The facts about the occurrence and distribution of the name Yahweh
between Genesis xii. 1 and Exodus iii. 12 are as follows. The name is found on
a total of one hundred and sixteen occasions. They are not, of course, all of
equal evidential value for patriarchal knowledge. The largest groups - sixty
occurrences - can be classed as historian's use: that is, by themselves they
would tell us no more than that the writer of these chapters knew the name
Yahweh, and attributed certain actions and words to Him. There are forty-five cases which undoubtedly display
patriarchal knowledge of the name, either because they themselves use it, or
because it is used by God or man in addressing them. The remaining eleven cases may belong to either of
these classes: they consist of references to the building of an altar to
Yahweh, the calling on the name of Yahweh, the worshipping, entreating, or
enquiring of Yahweh. In all probability they show patriarchal knowledge of the
name, but they could conceivably illustrate nothing more than the historian's
The distribution of the name is interesting. In the stories of
Abraham it occurs seventy-three times, as compared with fourteen times in Isaac
and fifteen in Jacob. The decrease from Abraham to Jacob is significant. In
fact, apart from a few instances of historian's use and one occurrence in the
'blessing of Jacob', the name disappears from the time when Jacob returned to
Canaan from Paddan Aram until it is specially declared to Moses. This suggests
that when the patriarchal clans began to mingle more freely in the society of
their day, and specially when they settled in Egypt, the less known and private
name of their God was allowed to lapse in favour of such designations as were
more likely to be understood by their contemporaries. Thus, for example, Joseph
in Egypt constantly uses ' God' both when talking to Egyptians and later when
talking to his own brothers.
It is understandable that Jacob, returning to Canaan, would turn
to the use of El: not only would it ring in his ears from all sides, but also
it was the terminology of his own spiritual experience, and further it was
sanctioned by use in his own family back to the time of Abraham. In fact, the
religion of the patriarchs, as a practical issue, revolves round the worship of
El. Their religious experience found natural expression by elaborating the term
El so as to make it express different facets of the divine nature which were
revealed to them. There are six such elaborations, and this fact alone would suffice to mark patriarchal
religion as El-religion. When God declared that the revelation to the
patriarchs was in terms of El Shaddai, He was merely singling out the most
significant and relevant item in the general type of revelation which that
There are some outstanding features of the patriarchal
apprehension of God which these titles bring to our notice. In the first place
they show us revelation in terms of historical confrontation - God meeting
people at some point of awareness and revealing Himself more fully to them: the
same type of revelation which received its supreme Old Testament
exemplification at the Exodus. Thus, for example, the title El Olam, in Genesis
xxi. 33, arises in the context of the oath which Abimelech called on Abraham to
swear to him 'by God'. By what attribute is Yahweh able to superintend an oath
unto perpetuity? Only because He is an everlasting God. Or again, when Jacob
returned to Canaan, he built an altar to El Elohe-Israel
(Gn. xxxiii. 20). At Bethel, in the beginning, Jacob had
personally received the Abrahamic promise of possession of the land, and in return he had vowed that if God would preserve
him and bring him back safely, then 'Yahweh shall be my God'. He has now
returned. By his experience at Peniel he has come to recognize the hidden mercy
which has preserved him throughout, and he has received a new name, Israel. He
then claims this God as his God, incorporating his own new name in his personal
declaration of allegiance. If this is the correct interpretation, then it
serves to show us how the El-religion developed 'revelation-wise' as the
patriarchs meditated on their own experience. In the second place, these titles
show us that the patriarchs were interested in the 'quality' of God, and not in
some externality about Him. In revelation they saw into His nature, and they
gave Him qualitative titles. Thus, He is known as everlasting, most high, the
God who sees, or lets Himself be seen. Only in one case is the El given a
geographical designation, El Bethel, but even in this case it is clear that He
was not thought of as resident at Bethel, for He freely confronts Jacob in
Paddan Aram, and it is Bethel as a set of events
in his experience, and not as a mere place, which seems vital to the patriarch.
Indeed, the name Bethel itself is purposely contrived to express a spiritual
experience. The place as such was already adequately named. In the third place,
the titles suggest patriarchal monotheism, at least to this degree that there
is no suggestion that they considered themselves to be worshipping so many
local deities each differentiated by a title of his own. Thus, for example, El
Shaddai was the God of the Abrahamic covenant in its latest expression (xvii.
1); when the covenant was renewed with Isaac it was done by 'the Elohim of
Abraham thy father' (xxvi. 24); and when Jacob in his turn inherited the
promises, the covenant was made with him by 'Yahweh, the Elohim of Abraham thy
father, and the Elohim of Isaac' (xxviii. 13); and finally when he returned
from Paddan Aram, the covenant is renewed with him by El Shaddai (xxxv. 11).
Again the interleaving of the name Yahweh with these titles speaks to the same
point. When Abram met Melchizedek he is careful to preserve his independence,
and, in this interest, to modify Melchizedek's title for God. 'Blessed be Abram
of El Elyon, possessor of heaven and earth ...' says Melchizedek; but Abram
says later: 'I have lifted up my hand to Yahweh, El Elyon . . . .' Later, Abra-
ham's experience with Abimelech leads him to the worship of
Yahweh, El Olam. In the same way Jacob
identifies Yahweh with the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and with El Bethel who
called him back to Canaan. In all these three
respects the revelation to the patriarchs was of the same type as, and
preparatory for, the great revelation of the Exodus, and therefore they are the
essential background to the revelation of the divine name.
The main item in the background, however, as Exodus vi. 3 tells,
was the revelation of El Shaddai. Can we come any nearer to the picture of God
given by this title?
No great profit can be gained by discussing what Shaddai as a word
might mean. Presumably for the patriarchs it had some specific meaning, as the analogy of the other titles would lead us to
expect, for they are all meaningful terms. Rather than follow this line of
investigation, we will do better to follow two other avenues suggested by the
same analogy. In the case of the other titles, we saw that they are
qualitative, declaring something of the nature of God. This
must be so with El Shaddai also. Secondly we noticed that each was
taught in the context of patriarchal experience at some particular moment. We
can only ask, then, what need was met by the revelation of El Shaddai?
Fourteen years at least had elapsed
between the original promise of descendants to Abram and the time when next God
spoke to him about the matter. The passing of the years, and the manifest
failure of man-made alternatives to God's declared plan, had the effect of underlining human powerlessness. It
is in this context that El Shaddai reveals Himself, and this same
characteristic - ability to transform situations of human helplessness - is
found in other passages also. Thus, when Jacob sends his sons back to Egypt,
committing them to the capricious power of the ruler of the land before whom
they are helpless, he commends them to El Shaddai. In the same spirit, later, Jacob identifies El Bethel
with El Shaddai, for what could be more hopeless
than the situation of Jacob as a homeless wanderer and outcast. And again, in
the blessing, the dying patriarch invokes blessing on Joseph in the name of Shaddai, for of all the brothers he had
gone lowest into human despair and weakness, and was the outstanding
illustration of El Shaddai's transforming power. El Shaddai, then, is, first of
all, the God who takes over human incapacity and transforms it. But also there
is a consistency of suggestion as to the method of His working. The three
patriarchs are either named or renamed by El Shaddai. El Shaddai, therefore, performs His wonders on the
basis of a miracle worked on the individuals primarily concerned; the
transformed human situation is a by-product of a transformed human nature. The
third consistent feature of the revelation of El Shaddai is that He covenants
to the patriarchs boundless posterity and inheritance of the land of
promise. This is in accord with the previous two
points: it was the claim of El Shaddai to be powerful where man was weakest,
and He exerts this claim supremely by promising to an obscure and numerically
tiny family that they should one day possess
populate a land which, in their day, was inhabited and owned by
people immeasurably their superiors in number and power.
There is no need to show how all this revelation was suited to the
fuller revelation to come. El Shaddai undergirded that which later was shown to
be at the very centre of the nature of God. But, in all this revelational
material, there is no revelation of 'Yahweh'. He is known; the patriarchs
worship Him; they know that He is El Shaddai, El Olam, El Bethel, and El
Elohe-Israel; they know these facts about Him, but what is the meaning of His
name they do not know. Yahweh declares to Abram:
'I am Yahweh that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees' - a form of words
distinctly similar to the later definition 'I am Yahweh thy God who brought
thee out of the land of Egypt' - but the calling and leading out of Abram was
not a revelation of the name, and was never claimed to be such. Where specific revelation is involved, other
designations and the name itself disappear into those couched in terms of
El, and by these only is the nature of God
But, as so often in the Bible, the light which will shine in
fullness only at some future date is too strong wholly to be restrained from
earlier ages, and here and there breaks through in hints and suggestions which
are only appreciated when at last the moment of unveiling comes. Once in
Genesis such a beam of light fell. When Abraham, on the mountain, found that
God had indeed provided a sacrifice, and when he offered the ram in manifest
substitution for his son, then, for a brief second he caught and expressed the
truth, 'Yahweh sees, Yahweh provides.' Here only
is the divine name elaborated in pre-Mosaic religion, and Yahweh is declared to
be the God who meets His people in their extremity, when the chosen seed is at
the point of extinction, and Himself provides
the redemption price.
The mountain-top scene could hardly be expounded even in this
detail except that the full light was later unveiled, and God showed His
nature. The exodus is, on a large scale, what Mount Moriah is in miniature. The
same God who provided the ram provided also
the Passover Lamb. There is, no further truth about God ever to be
revealed; even we, who have been permitted to see the light of the knowledge of
the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, see only the truth of the exodus
- ' his Exodus which he would accomplish at Jerusalem' - and when, in God's mercy, we meet the Lord in the
air, it will be to discover that once again God has done that which His name
declares: He has gone down to Egypt to redeem His people: for this is His name
for ever, and this is His memorial unto all generations.
 The Authority of
the Old Testament, 1947, p. 30.
 The Divine Names
of the Book of Genesis, 1914, pp. 12, 13.
 Op. cit., p.
 The Biblical
Doctrine of Election, 1950, pp. 25-29; see also The Rediscovery of the
Old Testament, 1945, p. 60; The Growth of the Old Testament, 1950,
pp. 20, 21; The Unity of the Bible, 1953, p. 25; The Faith of
Israel, 1956, pp. 41, 42.
Westminster Commentary, 1908, p. 34; see also p. cxiii.
 Skinner, op.
cit., pp. 12, 13.
 A recent statement of
the same viewpoint is provided by B. W. Anderson, The Living World of the
Old Testament, 1958, pp. 35ff.
 McNeile, op.
cit., would settle the matter once and for all by his acceptance of
the LXX reading: 'My Name Yahweh I did not show to them.' Reading
hôdha'tî for nôdha'tî.
 Cunliffe Jones,
The Authority of the Biblical Revelation, 1945, pp. 75, 76; cf. pp. 29,
 Journal of
Semitic Studies, Vol. I, January 1956.
 See also Rowley,
Faith of Israel, p. 52: Ras Shamra has exposed the polytheism of
Israel's Canaanite neighbours. Exodus vi. 2 is a 'clear case' of syncretism
working 'to equate the once separate deities with Israel's God'.
 Journal of
Semitic Studies, ut sup., p. 37.
 G. E. Wright,
The Old Testament against its Environment, 1951, p. 13.
 The Old
Testament and Modern Study, Ed. H. H. Rowley, 1951, pp. 48-83.
 Eg. R. H. Pfeiffer,
Introduction to the Old Testament, 1948, pp. 159ff. Pfeiffer himself
isolated the document 'S' ('from South, or Seir, the probable place of its
origin'), i.e. parts of Gn. i-xi, xiv-xxxviii. He also discusses Smend's
separation of J[l] and J, and Eissfeldt's sponsoring of
the of 'L' (Lay-source in contrast with P, the priestly source) for
J[l]. See also O.T.M.S., pp. 56ff.
pp. 64ff. The opposition of the 'Oral Traditionists' to the older documentary
analysis is splendidly set out by E. Nielsen, Oral Tradition, 1954
Special reference should be made to the examination by Nielsen of the
'masterpiece of modern criticism', the distinction of the sources of Genesis
vi-ix (pp. 95-ff.). It touches the present enquiry in that Gunkel maintained
that 'the surest indication of the distinction of the sources is the
designation of the deity'. Nielsen shows, beyond contradiction, that this
simply is not so.
 It is worth
remarking that the Bible knows nothing of different 'names' of God. God has
only one 'name' - Yahweh. Apart from this, all the others are titles, or
descriptions. This fact is often imperfectly grasped.
 See this view
developed and demonstrated in relation to Deuteronomy by G. T. Manley, The
Book of the Law, 1957, pp. 37ff. North is inclined to be sceptical, but the
illustration he chooses in order to justify his scepticism is not, for him,
happy. 'Granted that different divine names have "different ideological
associations" is there any reason why, when Abraham lied to Pharaoh (Gen. 12.
10-20) the emphasis should be on "Israel's national God" while, when he
similarly lied to Abimelech of Gerar (Gen. 20) it should be more "theological"
and "abstract-cosmic"?' Contrary to North's expectation we would reply in the
affirmative. In Gn. xii. 17 the name Yahweh occurs in a purely descriptive way:
He is described as exercising a providential oversight of the sanctity of the
elect race, jeopardized by Abram's deceit, a truly suitable occasion for the
intervention of 'Israel's national god'. In Genesis xx, however, there is a
conversation between Abraham and Abimelech, in which Abraham testifies to the
divine impulse behind his nomadic life. A public title 'God' is clearly more
suited to this conversation with a non-Yahwist than the private 'name' would
have been. We may put the matter thus: had Abram entered into a conversation
with Pharaoh, we would expect that he would have spoken to Pharaoh of 'God'.
See, further, pp. 26, 30 below.
 H. M. Orlinsky,
Ancient Israel, 1954, pp. 6ff.
 L. H. Grollenberg,
Atlas of the Bible, 1957, p. 35.
 G. E Wright,
Biblical Archaeology, 1957, p. 40.
 Eg. R. K. Harrison,
History of Old Testament Times, pp. 55-74, esp. p. 63; D. J. Wiseman,
Illustrations from Biblical Archaeology, 1958, pp. 24ff.; A. R. Johnson,
Sacral Kingship in Ancient Israel, 1955, p. 43; W. F. Albright, From
Stone Age to Christianity, Second Edition 1957, pp. 2, 81, 200, etc. The
most valuable single article on this topic is undoubtedly H. H. Rowley's essay
on 'Recent Discovery and the Patriarchal Age' in The Servant of the Lord,
1952, pp. 271ff.; see also his remarks, O.T.M.S., xxi; and The Biblical
Doctrine of Election, p. 24, for discussion of the historical credibility
 U. E. Simon, A
Theology of Salvation, 1953, pp. 8, 9.
 Eg. H. W. Robinson,
Inspiration and Revelation in the Old Testament, 1946, pp. 22, 23,
disposes of Amos iv. 13, v. 8, and ix. 5 chiefly because 'the concept of
creatorship first becomes explicit in Deutero-Isaiah'. Contrast Albright,
Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, Second Edition, 1946, p. 116:
the first tenet in early Israelite faith was belief in 'only one God, Creator
of the world . . .'; or again, From Stone Age to Christianity, p. 2: 'I
insist on the antiquity of the higher culture'.
 A. R. Johnson,
The Vitality of the Individual in the thought of Ancient Israel, 1949,
 G. E. Wright,
The Old Testament against its Environment, pp. 12, 13.
 G. A. Smith, The
Preaching of the Old Testament, 1901, p. 49.
 See, however,
 Cf. A. B. Davidson,
The Theology ot the Old Testament, 1904, p. 68.
Hebrew Grammar, 1910, paragraphs 51c and e.
 Gn. xii. 7, xvii.
1, xviii. 1, xxvi. 2, 24, xxxv. 1, 9, xlviii. 3; Ex. iii. 16, iv. 1, 5; Lv. ix.
4; Nu. xiv. 14; Dt. xxxi. 15; Jdg. vi. 12, xiii. 3; 1 Sa. iii. 21; 2 Sa. xxii.
11; 1 Ki. iii. 5, ix. 2, xi. 9; 2 Ch. i. 7, iii. 1, vii. 12; Ps. cii. 16 (17);
Je. xxxi. 3; Zc. ix. 14.
 Gn. xlii. 1; 2 Ki.
xiv. 8, 11; 2 Ch. xxv. 17, 21.
 Gn. xlv. 1; Nu.
 Ps. ix. 16 (17),
xlviii. 3 (4), lxxvi. 1 (2); Is. xix. 21, lxvi. 14; Ezk. xx. 5, 9, xxxv. 11,
 Pr. xiv. 33; Ps.
para. 119 hh.
 E.g. Gn. xlv. 8;
Jb. xv. 3, xxxiv. 10; Ps. cxli. 9; Is. xv. 8, xxviii. 6, xxx. 1, xl. 19 (?),
xlii. 22, xlviii. 9, 14, lviii. 13, lxi. 7; Ezk. xxxvi. 4, etc.
 Other examples of
Beth Essentiae: e.g. Ex. xviii. 4: 'The God of my father was (as) my
help' i.e. revealed Himself to me in those terms. Ps. liv. 4 (6): 'The Lord is
(in character as one) of them that uphold . . .,' etc.
 E.g. Gn. xv. 8,
xxiv. 14, xlii. 33; Ex. vii. 17; Nu. xvi. 28; Jos. iii. 10; Jdg. viii. 16,
see 1 Sa. ii. 12: the sons of Eli 'did not know (verb, yadh'a) Yahweh' -
they had not that intimate, personal knowledge of Him which would have
transformed their lives. They knew the name as a sound, but not as a personal
revelation. Again, 1 Sa. iii. 7. See, however, also Ex. v. 2 where 'I know Him
not' need mean nothing more than 'Never heard of Him!'
 E.g. Ex. vii. 5,
17, viii. 22, x. 2, xiv. 4, 18, xvi. 12, xxix. 46, xxxi. 13.
 Ezk. vi. 7 is the
first of about sixty examples.
 A. H. McNeile,
'Exodus' (Westminster Comm.), ad loc.
 M. Buber, Moses,
1946, p. 48.
 Gn. ii. 19 is
probably relevant to this category. The animals are brought to Adam to see
'what' (mh) he will call them. Verse 20b indicates that qualitative issues
are present. There are many examples of mî in asking for a mere
name: Gn. xxvii. 32, etc.
 Ex. xvi. 7, 8; Nu.
xvi. 11; 2 Sa. ix. 8; 2 Ki. viii. 13; Jb. vii. 17, xv. 14, xxi. 15; Ps. viii. 4
(5), cxliv. 3; Ct. v. 9 (twice); Is. xlv. 10 (twice); La. ii. 13 (twice); Ezk.
 Gn. xxiv. 65; Ex.
x. 8, xv. 11, xxxii. 26; Nu. xxii. 9; Dt. iii. 24, iv. 7, 8, v. 26, xx. 5, 6,
7, 8; Jdg. ix. 28, 38, x. 18, xxi. 5, 8; 1 Sa. xviii. 18 (tr. 'what is my
kindred, even my father's family . . . ?' See comm.), xxv. 10; 2 Sa. vii. 18,
23, xxii. 32; 2 Ki. vi. 11, ix. 5; 1 Ch. xvii. 21; Jb. v. 1, xxxiv. 7; Pss.
xxiv. 8, 10, xxv. 12, xxxiv. 12 (13), lxxxix. 48 (49); Is. xlviii. 14, l. 1;
Ezk. xxvii. 32.
 Davidson, Hebrew
Syntax, 1896, para. 8 Rem. 2 notes Dt. iii. 24, iv. 7; Jdg. xxi. 8; 2 Sa.
vii. 23 and 1 Ch. xvii. 21 as instancing anomalous uses of mî. As
we see, this is probably not so.
 1 Ki. ix. 13; Zc.
i. 9, 19 (ii. 4), iv. 4, 11, v. 5, 6, vi. 4; Est. ix. 26 (twice).
 Mi. i. 5
 There is always the
temptation to emend the Micah text because this use of mî sounds
so strange to us. Such an action would be against the run of the evidence. lxx,
of course, offers no help.
 So, at least,
Brown, Driver, and Briggs, sub voc. (a).
 E.g. Ex. xii. 26;
Dt. vi. 20, xxix. 24; Jos. iv. 6, etc.
 E.g. B. W.
Anderson, The Living World of the Old Testament, p. 35, writes that
'apparently the presupposition of the E passage in Exodus 3. 13, 14, in which
Moses asks for the name of the God of the fathers, is that the name had not
been introduced before that time'. H. H. Rowley, The Faith of Israel, p.
42, sees it as a proof of the genuineness of the Mosaic tradition at this point
that Moses complicates his task by coming to the slaves with a name which they
did not know but which he had learned for himself. Th.C. Vriezen, An Outline
of Old Testament Theology, p. 235: 'Moses asks to be allowed to know God's
name so that he may refer to it when confronted with the Israelites. He wants
to have a convincing legitimisation in case they should not believe him.' But
how could an unknown name provide any legitimization?
 A. B. Davidson,
The Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 54-56, 57 (cf. p. 70),
 On this
understanding, the lxx ho õn is impossible.
 Writers consulted
more recently have not added materially to what Davidson wrote. Albright, From
Stone Age to Christianity, pp. 15, 16, 260, insists that 'the enigmatic
formula . . . must be understood in the light of treating Yahweh as hiphil of
the verb HWY "to fall, become, come into existence".' Thus, transposed into
third person singular, it means 'He causes to be what comes into existence' and
Albright quotes Egyptian texts of the second millennium bc to justify such a
seemingly abstract designation of the Deity. Other writers, treating the verb
as qal, still insist on the activity which it implies: U. E. Simon, A
Theology of Salvation, p. 89, 'not "I shall be" in a philosophical sense,
but "I shall act"' - the active presence of God whereby He shall make Himself
known; Ryder Smith, The Bible Doctrine of Man, 1951, p. 44: 'the
fundamental meaning of this name is "the active one".' Th. C. Vriezen, An
Outline of Old Testament Theology, p. 147: the name conveys 'both the idea
of nearness, of being present, and the idea of mystery'. This latter idea
appeals to Vriezen: on p. 235 he avers that 'God here emphatically keeps His
name a secret, so that these words mean "it does not concern you who I am".'
The edge is taken off this rebuff by the immediate promise '"I myself am here,
count on Me!"' Moses, when asked for the name, is to reply 'I am there'. 'God
can only be denoted as the Real One according to the functional character of
His Being, not in His Being itself.' B. W. Anderson, The Living World of the
Old Testament, p. 34, warns us to resist any reference in the name to God's
changeless being: 'In Israel's faith the emphasis is upon divine
activity, not passive, eternal being. . .. The Hebrew verb has a dynamic
meaning.' Anderson, too, likes the suggestion that God's reply is evasive. When
man enquires into the mystery of the divine nature, the information is
withheld, and instead Moses is assured that 'he would know who God is by what
He brings to pass . . . the question "Who is God?" would be answered in events
that would take place in the future.' L. Koehler, Old Testament
Theology, 1953, p. 242, confesses '"I am who I am" defies explanations. God
does not reveal to Moses the secret of His nature (= His name). Moses will see
who God is from His works.' Koehler says '"I am who I am" is ... Deus
Absconditus in the strictest sense.'
 Emphatic personal
 E.g. Jos. v. 13-vi.
5. Jos. vi. 1 is parenthetic, as in rv. The Captain of v. 14 is Yahweh of vi.
2. God reveals Himself as exactly suited to the needs of His people.
Explanations of Ex. iii - as that the burning bush is Israel persecuted but not
consumed - miss the point that all these cases are self-revelations of God. Cf.
p. 14 supra.
 Ex. v.
 Ex. vi. 1.
 2 Sa. vii. 22,
 Gn. xii. 1, 4, 7,
17, xiii. 10 (twice), 13, 14, xv. 1, 4, 6, 18; xvi. 7, 9, 11, 13, xvii. 1,
xviii. 1, 13, 17, 19 (twice), 20, 22, 26, 33, xix. 16, 24 (twice), 27, xx. 18,
xxi. 1 (twice), xxii. 11, 15, xxiv. 1, 21, 26, xxv. 21, 23, xxvi. 2, 12, 24,
xxviii. 13, xxix. 31, xxxi. 3, xxxviii. 7 (twice), 10, xxxix. 2, 3 (twice), 5
(twice), 21, 23 (twice); Ex. iii. 2, 4, 7.
 Gn. xiv. 22, xv. 2,
7, 8, xvi. 2, 5, 11, xviii. 14, xix. 13 (twice), 14, xxii. 14, 16, xxiv.
3, 7, 12, 27 (twice), 31, 35, 40, 42, 44, 48 (twice), 50, 51, 56, xxvi. 28, 29,
xxvii. 7, 20, 27, xxviii. 13, 16, 21, xxix. 32, 33, 35, xxx. 24, 27, 30, xxxi.
49, xxxii. 9, xlix. 18. In the light of these verses how are we to understand
L. Koehler's, question (Old Testament Theology, p. 44): 'Why is it that
no traces remain of the knowledge of this name before Moses' day?' He urges
that Gn. iv. 26 is the only exception, and is 'to be explained as a naive
application of a later usage to earliest times by an author who is not
concerned with questions of history and theology.' B. W. Anderson, The
Living World of the Old Testament, p. 35, treats Gn. iv. 26 as a
theological use of the name intended to magnify the glory of Yahweh by
portraying Him as active from the beginning. He agrees with Koehler in holding
that the use is historically astray. These writers also concur in seeking to
prove pre-Mosaic ignorance of the name by the fact that (in Koehler's words) '
it is in Moses' time . . . that the names compounded with Yahweh begin to
appear; there are none before that time'. Koehler notes the exception of Moses'
mother, Jochebed. However, the post-Mosaic use of Yahweh in compounding names
is explicable without the inference that the name was unknown previously. The
Mosaic revelation, and the historical marvel of the exodus on which that
revelation was based, are enough to guarantee the use of the name of the
Redeeming God. Koehler (p. 45) explains Mosaic knowledge of the name by the
Kenite Hypothesis, which U. E. Simon (A Theology of Salvation, p. 88)
has justly described as ' the acme of liberal inventiveness '.
 Gn. xii. 7, 8
(twice), xiii. 4, 18, xxi. 33, xxiv. 52, xxv. 21, 22, xxvi. 22, 25.
 El Elyon: Gn. xiv.
18, 19, 20, 22; El Shaddai: Gn. xvii. 1, xxviii. 3, xxxv. 11, xliii. 14,
xlviii. 3 (cf. xlix. 25); El Bethel: Gn. xxxi. 13; El Roi: Gn. xvi. 13; El
Elohe-Israel: Gn. xxxiii. 20; El Olam: Gn. xxi. 33.
 E.g. compare Gn.
xiii. 14ff. with xxviii. 14ff.
 Gn. xxxi.
 Westphal and Du
Pontet, The Law and the Prophets, 1910, p. 23, state the older approach
to this verse: 'The name Yahweh was unknown before the time of Moses. . . .
Gen. 14. 22 is only one of many instances where the compiler has endeavoured to
harmonise two distinct traditions.' Contrast Buber, Moses, p. 30:
'Abraham . . . finds it important to identify the God of his community, who
leads their wanderings, with that particular one among the gods of the settled
people who is recognised by them as "Most High God".' He adds in a footnote:
'v. 22, which repeats the name of God given in v. 19, but extends it
emphatically.' Cf. also Wright, The Old Testament against its Environment,
p. 17: 'The powers of the great gods were cosmic in extent. . . . Each
religion comprehended the universe.' Albright, Stone Age, pp. 170, 184,
192; Orlinsky, Ancient Israel, p. 28.
 Gn. xxi.
 Gn. xxxii.
 Albright, From
Stone Age to Christianity, pp. 244, 247, 271, 300 affirms that the word
Shaddai means 'the one of the mountains' and that Shaddai was a mountain or
storm God. G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology, p. 52, stresses that such
a title would be given out of appreciation of the character of the god
concerned: 'The symbol of a mountain was often used in antiquity to point to
the might and awe-inspiring majesty of a particular deity. The translation
"almighty" for Shaddai is thus not far from the original thought contained in
the title.' As we show above, Shaddai is certainly an almighty God, but the
concept of almightiness is somewhat clarified and set in specific contexts.
There is no trace of any mountain or storm association. L. Koehler, Old
Testament Theology, p. 40, makes a wise statement about the relation of
philology to theology: 'The meaning of the majority of divine names was a dark
mystery to their respective worshippers and a matter of indifference. The
important thing theologically in the matter of a divine name is not what its
essential and original meaning is, but only what realm of ideas and confession
and revelation the worshippers associate with their god's name.' His contention
is that while the title remains, it may substitute for its philological content
an entirely new theological content. So with El Shaddai.
 Gn. xvi. 16-xvii.
 Eg. Gn. xvi. 5, 12,
 Gn. xliii. 14.
 Gn. xlviii.
 Gn. xlix.
 Gn. xvii. 5, 15,
19, xxxv. 10, 11.
 Gn. xvii. 5-8, 19,
21, xxviii. 3, 4, 13 (cf. xlviii. 3), xxxv. 9-13, xlviii. 15-19.
 This fact very much
impressed later writers: Dt. vii. 7; Ps. cv. 11, 12; Is. li. 2.
 Gn. xv. 7 compared
with Ex. xx. 2.
 Comparison of Gn.
xv. 7ff. with Exodus vi. 3ff. makes this abundantly clear.
 For the
subordination of Yahweh to El in revelation, see, e.g. Gn. xvi. 13, xvii. 1,
etc. 'Yahweh' appears and says 'I am El Shaddai'. In the case of Elohim, e.g.
xxxv. 11, xlvi. 2, 3. In each case Elohim speaks, and says 'I am El . . .
 Gn. xxii.
 Compare the action
of 'Yahweh' in Gn. xii. 17. See p. 8 supra.
 Lk. ix. 31
 Ex. iii.
Originally published in 1959 by The Tyndale Press and reprinted
in 1970. Prepared for the web in March 2005 by Michael Farmery & Robert I
Bradshaw. Reproduced by kind permission of the author.