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???