Was God's name known to Abraham and other Hebrew Patriarchs?

by doubtful 3 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • doubtful

    Exodus Chapter 3

    13 Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?"

    14 God said to Moses, " [ a ] ( V ) I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

    15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ' ( W ) The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you ' This is My name forever, and this is My ( X ) memorial-name to all generations.

    Exodus Chapter 6

    God spoke further to Moses and said to him, "I am ( B ) the LORD;

    3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as ( C ) God Almighty, but by ( D ) My name, [ a ] LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.

    From the first passage quoted above, it would seem that Moses did not know of a personal name for the God he was talking to. Likewise, the Hebrews to whom he was being sent did not know of God's name. Were they perhaps not a monotheistic people at the time? Who did they worship? Even Pharaoh himself was unfamliar with the name "YHWH" or "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" or however you want to translate it. He is quoted as having said, "Who is Jehovah?"

    Also, in the second passage quoted above, God says that he did not reveal his personal name to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    Yet, throughout the Pentateuch (spelling?) God's name is used liberally by the Hebrew Patriarchs, suggesting that his name was known to them and used by them. If supposedly Moses was the writer, then why would there be such a glaring conflict?

    Was the name YHWH known to Israel before this particular revelation to Moses or not?

    If his name was not known or used prior to this, and considering that his name essentially means "I am", does using his name really matter?

    JWs love to point out that the name appears close to 7000 times in the Old Testament. Yet, even in the most ancient manuscripts of the New Testament, the divine name is never used, and the use of it was never attributed to Jesus. Jesus always referred to him as "The Father". By the time of Jesus and the Apostles, the divine name had been a cultual taboo and had been prohibited from being uttered for centuries, since around the 3rd century BC. Would the early Christians have broken with the tradition and the deeply ingrained religious superstition regarding the prohibition against using the name? If it had been important to God, then surely Jesus and the early Christians would have risked their necks and at least given it some emphasis in the inspired writings..But they didn't.

    If it's true that God's name wasn't used until the time of Moses, then I come to the following conclusion. Being the only true God, the one and only omnipotent creator diety, and having existed for eternity without any other personage in the universe prior to his creating his son, God felt no reason to assign himself a name, as if he had to distinguish himself from any other Gods. To do so would be almost like acknowledging the existence of other rival gods.

    Yet, as a temporary provision, when he gathered the Hebrews to be his chosen people for a time, it was necessary that he have a name that would set him apart from the pagan gods of surrounding nations. Just as the Israelites demanded a king they could see and touch, so too they would have stubbornly clamored for a name to call a God of their own. So he gave them one, and the name he chose sent a message. It essentially means something like the following: "I am, and I always have been, and I always will be. Before me there was no other, and there shall be no others like me for all time. I exist by my own power, and I am dependent upon no other force or being for my existence. I am what I am and I will be whatever it is that I must be."

    Yet, evidently it was not his purpose that he continued to be called that indefinitely. It was a temporary provision for the "stiff-necked" people of Israel. Once the arrangement with the physical nation of Israel was terminated, he no longer had to distinguish himself from other gods as if he were recognizing their existence. That is why Jesus never taught us to use the name, and neither did the writers of the New Testament use the divine name, but instead referred to him as the "Father" or simply "God", which is what he is.

    The JWs however have gone crazy with the name, and utter it about every five seconds. I imagine they can't even use the restroom without blabbing the name between bowel movements. That's why they even inserted the name inappropriately and without basis over 200 times in their translation of the New Testament.

    So, back to the original question though. According to the Bible, was God's name known to the Hebrews prior to the time of Moses?

    Whether Moses or multiple redactors of the Documentary Hypothesis wrote the first five books of the bible, the question is why would he/they portray the patriarchs as knowing and using the divine name, only to insert passages such as Exodus 6 which indicate that they didnt know or use the name???

  • wobble

    There have been many threads on here about this subject, some with incomperable experts commenting on them, like the wonderful Leolaia.

    I respectfully suggest you use the search button and read those threads.

    My understanding is that YHWH is older than the Exodus scripture in all probability, the fact that it is part of place names etc from the start of the bible points to that, although it is possible, I suppose, that when referring to a place the writer could give a later, Hebrew, name for it than it held during the time being written about.

    In Patriarchal times a name was important, it did not just differenciate between you and another human, it said something about you, hence Abram becomes Abraham, Jacob, Israel etc

    As YHWH means basically that God can be whatever he wants,(He causes to become) either Redeemer, Army Chief, or provider of food etc what the scripture seems to be saying is that God's chosen people, up until then, have not seen Him act in a variety of roles, from now on they will see Him become whatever He decides to become , for them.

    I do not view YHWH as the personal name of God. Why would the Supreme Being need a personal name ? Unless the other gods are just as real as Him.

    Bible historians do not put a great deal of trust in these words, or indeed in the historicity of the Exodus itself, so it seems we cannot read too much in to them.

    The usage that Jehovah's Witnesses give to the ignorantly coined name "Jehovah" shows a total lack of knowledge as to its origin, its use in Bible times and certainly a lack of respect and appreciation for the God they claim to worship,they could learn much from the Jewish people,from whose scriptures it comes, and, as well, if they picked up and read a few learned books.

  • spanco

    Actually if u refer to the original standard edition which was taken from hebrew and greek textures, jehovah god name was mentioned in it more than 7000 times,eg:exodus 3:15;6:1,2,3;20:1,2,3 . My edition is from bible society of india(telugu language) which was taken from the above textures ,it clearly shows the jehovah god name.

  • TDaze

    The history is very interesting. I'll try to be short, but if you want to know more, check out A History of God by Karen Armstrong. It's probably a bit heavy, though, so be warned.

    Okay, these books have been written centuries after the fact. The pentateuch is really just a collection of folk myths, such as the flood and the exodus from Egypt. To understand what these stories mean, one has to keep in mind Judaism is an offshoot of the ancient Canaanite religions. At the time of Abraham there were many gods. Abraham himself was a traveling servant. He worshiped the local gods. In the Canaanite pantheon there was always room for one more god, as long as it didn't clash with the already established gods. According to the story Abraham was one day talked to by Yahweh, who promised him to give him lots of offspring. Yahweh identified himself here to Abraham, because in return Abraham would have to make Yahweh his Elohim. Elohim is a word that means something along the lines of the one god that you worship in exclusion of all the others. Note this was not monotheism yet; Abraham still believed the other gods existed. He was just going to devote himself to Yahweh.

    Later, with Moses, when he wanted to free the Israelites, the identity was not strictly neccessary. When Moses asked: 'Who are you?', Yahweh said: 'Meh, I am who I am.' This is a way of saying 'Never mind who I am'. If someone would, for example, leave to go fishing and one jew would ask to another jew where the man was going, the second jew would shrug and say: 'Meh, he's going where he's going.' In other words, who cares. It's not important. But recognizing the need for at least an identity, he said: 'I am Yahweh, the elohim of your forefathers'. And that's all they had to know.

    Interestingly enough, though Yahweh says he has never identified himself to Abraham, he did identify himself to Abraham as his new Elohim in Genesis 18:14. He did so, however, in the form of angels (messengers). So likely he was talking about identifying himself personally.

    Throughout the ages, Yahweh, one of the gods of the pantheon (which was also known as "The House of El") slowly became more and more popular, eventually taking the place of El himself. This is why we have found relics of these eras with inscriptions such as 'To Yahweh and his Asherah' (The latter starting out as being the wife of El.) Eventually, the Jews were divided into two religions: The Yahwists - who pushed for monotheism - and the Elohists - who wanted to keep the old ways. This is why we see different versions of the same story in the bible, and why they have some inconsistencies (such as the inventory of the Ark of Noah); they're merely the same myth told by different crowds.

    Eventually, a brilliant move was made by the Yahwists. King Josiah, in his religious fire, wanted the temple to Yahweh rebuilt. During inspection, his Yahwist buddies just so happened to bump into these new scrolls that nobody had ever seen before, but stated that Yahweh was the only god there was. This was the tipping point: Finally monotheism was a reality. The other gods were not just vilified, they were now denied existence, something unheard of at the time. But there you go. This is why it is not strange that the bible seems to be acknowledging other gods: It's because at that time, they were actually thought to exist!

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