The Revelation of the Divine Name

Rev. J.A. Motyer, B.D., M.A.

Vice-Principal of Clifton Theological College
and later Principal of Trinity Theological College, Bristol

[Reproduced by permission of the author]
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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
Clifton Theological College,
Bristol, 9.
June, 1959.

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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.'[1]

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.'[2]

And again:

'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 Pentateuch.'[3]

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.'[4]

He is emphatic about the 'contradiction', for he adds later:

'Behind that contradiction there is room for study.'

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And again:

'The contradiction arises because within the Bible we have combined in a single account traditions which arose amongst once separated groups.'

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.'[5]

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.'[6]

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[7] who have taken the high road to the Documentary Theory.[8]

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[9] 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

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connection with the particular part of Scripture which concerns us, is well seen in an article by Eissfeldt entitled 'El and Yahweh'.[10] 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.[11] 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 mercy.'

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.'[12]

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What a notion of Yahweh this is! The opinion of G. E. Wright is worth recording:

'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.'[13]

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.[14] 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,[15] Mowinckel, on the other hand, published in 1937 The Two

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Sources of the Predeuteronomic Primeval History (JE) in Genesis 1-11.[16] 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,[17] 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.[18] 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

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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 recording.

'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.[19]

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, and his

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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.'

b. Archaeology

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,[20] 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 reverse.'

The terms in which L. H. Grollenberg[21] 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 memories.'

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.'[22]

There is no need to multiply quotations any further in order to

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prove what is well known and generally accepted.[23]


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[24] says:

'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.[25] This particular legend of progress has now been exploded.'

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.'[26]

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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 growth.'[27]

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.'[28]


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

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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[29] 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.[30] 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 Exodus.

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'.[31] 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 present.

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

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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.[32] 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'.[33] 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.[34] 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.[35] Apart from its use of God, the reflexive niphal is found in two other probable cases,[36] 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

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Yahweh'. Some preposition is, of course, necessary, but the preposition chosen depends on a prior decision respecting the syntax of the sentence.

1. 'In poetic parallelism the governing power of a preposition is sometimes extended to the corresponding substantive of the second member.'[37] There are many illustrations of this construction,[38] 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.[39] 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 known.'

2. The syntax may be treated in another way: the words 'My

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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 Yahweh'.

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 ... .'[40] 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

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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 person.[41]

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',[42] 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,[43] 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

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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.'[44]

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.'[45]

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

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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 his name?'

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 . 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 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 (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.[46]

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b. Passages where mh and mî are used with personal associations

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[47] and for there are thirty-five, plus one parallel passage.[48] In every case where mh is used with a personal association it suggests enquiry into sort or quality or character, whereas 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 . . . .'[49]


c. Passages where mh and mî are used with impersonal associations

In this category we shall see - albeit in a single verse - 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,[50] whereas seeks nothing more than a non-committal recital of facts.[51] 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

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all too well, and wished to underline their condition. The two cases of are in Micah i. 5. The question is 'What () is the transgression of Jacob? . . . what () are the high places of Judah?' and the context needs only a recital of items and not a discussion of their nature.[52] Undoubtedly the force of this category is weakened by the paucity of reference for , 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 two.


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 in questions which seem to require some discussion of the character of the people involved. In Genesis xxxiii, 8, is used (presumably)[53] in the sense 'what is the meaning of ’- a usage which is always elsewhere confined to mh.[54] 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 as proposed by Buber.

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,[55] but in fact he is visualizing the Israelites in Egypt as

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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.'[56]

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.[57] 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.'

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Coming to grips with the phrase, 'I will be what I will be', he contends that

'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 is that

'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 unchanging.'

This treatment of the Name[58] commends itself by its fidelity to the

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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'.[59] 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.[60] 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 is

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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'[62] 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?'[63]


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;

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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.[64] 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.[65] 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 knowledge.[66]

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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,[67] 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 title represents.

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

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(Gn. xxxiii. 20). At Bethel, in the beginning, Jacob had personally received the Abrahamic promise of possession of the land,[68] 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,[69] 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 . . . .'[70] Later, Abra-

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ham's experience with Abimelech leads him to the worship of Yahweh, El Olam.[71] In the same way Jacob identifies Yahweh with the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and with El Bethel who called him back to Canaan.[72] 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,[73] 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

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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[74] 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,[75] 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.[76] In the same spirit, later, Jacob identifies El Bethel with El Shaddai,[77] 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[78] 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.[79] 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.[80] 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[81] family that they should one day possess and

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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[82]: '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.[83] Where specific revelation is involved, other designations and the name itself disappear into those couched in terms of El,[84] and by these only is the nature of God known.

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.'[85] 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,[86] 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

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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'[87] - 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.[88]


References:

[1] The Authority of the Old Testament, 1947, p. 30.

[2] The Divine Names of the Book of Genesis, 1914, pp. 12, 13.

[3] Op. cit., p. 171.

[4] 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.

[5] 'Exodus', Westminster Commentary, 1908, p. 34; see also p. cxiii.

[6] Skinner, op. cit., pp. 12, 13.

[7] A recent statement of the same viewpoint is provided by B. W. Anderson, The Living World of the Old Testament, 1958, pp. 35ff.

[8] 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.

[9] Cunliffe Jones, The Authority of the Biblical Revelation, 1945, pp. 75, 76; cf. pp. 29, 31.

[10] Journal of Semitic Studies, Vol. I, January 1956.

[11] 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'.

[12] Journal of Semitic Studies, ut sup., p. 37.

[13] G. E. Wright, The Old Testament against its Environment, 1951, p. 13.

[14] The Old Testament and Modern Study, Ed. H. H. Rowley, 1951, pp. 48-83.

[15] 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[2], 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.

[16] O.T.M.S., pp. 53f.

[17] O.T.M.S., 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.

[18] 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.

[19] 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.

[20] H. M. Orlinsky, Ancient Israel, 1954, pp. 6ff.

[21] L. H. Grollenberg, Atlas of the Bible, 1957, p. 35.

[22] G. E Wright, Biblical Archaeology, 1957, p. 40.

[23] 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 of Abraham.

[24] U. E. Simon, A Theology of Salvation, 1953, pp. 8, 9.

[25] 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'.

[26] A. R. Johnson, The Vitality of the Individual in the thought of Ancient Israel, 1949, Preface.

[27] G. E. Wright, The Old Testament against its Environment, pp. 12, 13.

[28] G. A. Smith, The Preaching of the Old Testament, 1901, p. 49.

[29] See, however, RSV.

[30] Cf. A. B. Davidson, The Theology ot the Old Testament, 1904, p. 68.

[31] Gesenius-Kautzsch, Hebrew Grammar, 1910, paragraphs 51c and e.

[32] 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.

[33] Gn. xlii. 1; 2 Ki. xiv. 8, 11; 2 Ch. xxv. 17, 21.

[34] Gn. xlv. 1; Nu. xii. 6.

[35] Ps. ix. 16 (17), xlviii. 3 (4), lxxvi. 1 (2); Is. xix. 21, lxvi. 14; Ezk. xx. 5, 9, xxxv. 11, xxxviii. 23.

[36] Pr. xiv. 33; Ps. lxxiv. 5.

[37] Gesenius-Kautzsch, para. 119 hh.

[38] 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.

[39] 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.

[40] E.g. Gn. xv. 8, xxiv. 14, xlii. 33; Ex. vii. 17; Nu. xvi. 28; Jos. iii. 10; Jdg. viii. 16, etc.

[41] Correspondingly, 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!'

[42] E.g. Ex. vii. 5, 17, viii. 22, x. 2, xiv. 4, 18, xvi. 12, xxix. 46, xxxi. 13.

[43] Ezk. vi. 7 is the first of about sixty examples.

[44] A. H. McNeile, 'Exodus' (Westminster Comm.), ad loc.

[45] M. Buber, Moses, 1946, p. 48.

[46] 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 in asking for a mere name: Gn. xxvii. 32, etc.

[47] 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. xix. 2.

[48] 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.

[49] 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 . As we see, this is probably not so.

[50] 1 Ki. ix. 13; Zc. i. 9, 19 (ii. 4), iv. 4, 11, v. 5, 6, vi. 4; Est. ix. 26 (twice).

[51] Mi. i. 5 (twice).

[52] There is always the temptation to emend the Micah text because this use of sounds so strange to us. Such an action would be against the run of the evidence. lxx, of course, offers no help.

[53] So, at least, Brown, Driver, and Briggs, sub voc. (a).

[54] E.g. Ex. xii. 26; Dt. vi. 20, xxix. 24; Jos. iv. 6, etc.

[55] 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?

[56] A. B. Davidson, The Theology of the Old Testament, pp. 54-56, 57 (cf. p. 70), 71.

[57] On this understanding, the lxx ho õn is impossible.

[58] 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.'

[59] Emphatic personal pronoun.

[60] 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.

[61] Ex. v. 23.

[62] Ex. vi. 1. Emphatic.

[63] 2 Sa. vii. 22, 23.

[64] 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.

[65] 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 '.

[66] Gn. xii. 7, 8 (twice), xiii. 4, 18, xxi. 33, xxiv. 52, xxv. 21, 22, xxvi. 22, 25.

[67] 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.

[68] E.g. compare Gn. xiii. 14ff. with xxviii. 14ff.

[69] Gn. xxxi. 13.

[70] 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.

[71] Gn. xxi. 33.

[72] Gn. xxxii. 9.

[73] 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.

[74] Gn. xvi. 16-xvii. 1.

[75] Eg. Gn. xvi. 5, 12, xvii. 18.

[76] Gn. xliii. 14.

[77] Gn. xlviii. 3.

[78] Gn. xlix. 25.

[79] Gn. xvii. 5, 15, 19, xxxv. 10, 11.

[80] Gn. xvii. 5-8, 19, 21, xxviii. 3, 4, 13 (cf. xlviii. 3), xxxv. 9-13, xlviii. 15-19.

[81] This fact very much impressed later writers: Dt. vii. 7; Ps. cv. 11, 12; Is. li. 2.

[82] Gn. xv. 7 compared with Ex. xx. 2.

[83] Comparison of Gn. xv. 7ff. with Exodus vi. 3ff. makes this abundantly clear.

[84] 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 . . . '.

[85] Gn. xxii. 14.

[86] Compare the action of 'Yahweh' in Gn. xii. 17. See p. 8 supra.

[87] Lk. ix. 31 (Gk)

[88] Ex. iii. 15.


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.


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