Grace Theological Journal 4.1 (1963)  29-43.

          Copyright © 1963 by Grace Theological Seminary.  Cited with permission.






                           A Critical Monograph on Exodus 6:3

                                      Abridged by the Author

                                           JOHN J. DAVIS


   "And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty; but

    by my name Jehovah I was not known to them." (Ex. 6:3 A.S.V.)


    Anyone who has committed himself to a serious study of the Old Testament is

aware of the fact that certain portions of Old Testament history and in particular certain

verses have become focal points of critical and theological investigation.  The text under

consideration is one such text.  To a rather large group of Old Testament scholars this

verse has been more or less the basic proof text for the documentary analysis of the

Pentateuch.  Others have either ignored a treatment of the verse or proposed unsupported

solutions to the problems it presents.  For the conservative scholar, however, it gives

unmeasurable light into the relation of the Patriarchs to their God; and more generally,

the method and scope of Divine revelation in the Old Testament.

    Because Exodus 6:3 has become a basic proof text for the documentary analysis of the

Pentateuch, it is imperative that we briefly consider this very popular theory.  This theory

originated with Jean Astruc, a French physician, who, by the way, did not deny the

Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. In his famous treatise, Conjectures Concerning the

Original Memoranda which it Appears Moses Used to Compose the Book of Genesis,

Astruc proposed that on the basis of the use of divine names two basic documents could

be distinguished: one called A (using Elohim) and B (employing Yahweh).  It is

interesting to note that this idea was applied to Genesis alone.  It was not until 1791 that

the theory was applied to the entire Pentateuch by Eichhorn.  From this time on the

variant uses of the Divine names were employed as a basis for distinguishing various

documents.  The theory gained popularity as the years passed and other methods were

also employed to distinguish source material for the Pentateuch.  The documentary

analysis reached its peak under the leadership of Julius Wellhausen, who died in 1918. 

This system as it is held today has basically four source documents:  (J) Yahwist,

presumed to have been written about 850 B.C., (E) or Elohist, about 750 B.C., (D) or

Deuteronomy about 620 B.C. and (P) in the completed Pentateuch about 500 B.C. 

Unlike the view of Astruc, those who advocate this theory today deny the Mosaic

authorship of the Pentateuch.

     Since the days of Wellhausen, there have been many modifications to this classic form

of literary criticism of the Pentateuch.  The present day efforts are to assume the

existence of the documents and extend the analysis even further, that is, back to the

"traditions" which are contained in the documents.1  In this monograph, we shall not

endeavor to examine this latter effort in Old Testament criticism.  Our major concern is

with the basic four document analysis which underlies most of the present day

Pentateuchal criticism.




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    With this rather brief introduction let us proceed to the problems of the text itself.


    1.  MINOR PROBLEM:  What is the significance of the name "El-Shaddai" in relation

         to the Patriarchs?

    There are two basic views in regard to this Problem.  We shall consider each with a

brief evaluation.

     A. The Liberal View:  The liberal view generally holds that this name for God is to be

traced back to a natural origin. It holds its origin to be like that of the tribal deities of the

nations that surrounded the children of Israel in their early history. This view contends

that El Shaddai represents a primitive form of worship among the Patriarchs. Their

worship, according to this view, was basically the same as the other nations except for the

fact that some of their ideas and moral codes were in some aspects higher.

      There are many views as to the etymology of this title among liberal scholars, but the

one most commonly held is that "Shaddai" comes from the Babylonian "Sadda'u," the

gentilic of Sadu, Saddu, the regular word for mountain.  The chief defender of this view

is Albright.2  Another writer states the liberal position in the following words:

             When the Hebrews left Mesopotamia, they brought with them a religion which in

      many respects was like the nature religion of the Fertile Crescent. . . Apparently their

      chief god was known as Shaddai (or El Shaddai), which means "the one of the

      mountains"--a mountain deity or storm deity usually known by the title Baal (lord)

      among the Canaanites.3

     The liberal view, as previously noted, holds that El-Shaddai was a humanly-conceived

mountain god of the Israelites.  The relation of El-Shaddai to the Patriarchs, therefore,

was merely as a native god, who was only one of many such gods of the land.  While this

view is extremely popular among the liberal critics, it is not a strong view in the light of

Biblical evidence.  The refutation of this view is two fold:  First, it is a view conceived

and based upon a false assumption:  namely, that monotheistic religion is a natural

evolutionary product of human thought. To this we would reply that religious evolution,

upon which this concept is built, is not a proven theory, but a hypothesis; it does not,

therefore, provide a sound basis for the liberal view of developed monotheism.  Secondly,

the Biblical evidence is most clearly against the view that man "conceived" or "became

aware" of high moral and religious concepts. The liberal view disregards the many texts

which clearly point out the fact that man in his sinful, fallen state, cannot conceive of,

and will not seek after a Holy God. (Psalm 14, Romans 3:11-18).  Furthermore, this view

of the name El-Shaddai does not fit any context in which it appears unless it is forced

against the natural reading of the text.  The textual and contextual evidence are totally

against the idea of this being a "mountain deity."

      If the liberal contention were true, we should expect to find indications of a lower

moral and religious idea in the use of this name, but such is not the case.  The same moral

and religious concepts are associated with this name as with the name Yahweh.  For

example, the blessing is the same (Genesis 17:1). Notice in this text Yahweh says "I am

El-Shaddai."  It would seem from this statement that identity and equality are asserted of

both these names.  The moral demand is

            THE PATRIARCHS' KNOWLEDGE OF JEHOVAH                                    31


"walk before me, and be thou perfect."  To contend that Shaddai is merely a mountain

deity is to disregard the place the name is given in the Scriptures. Also, in this regard, it

should be observed that in some contexts the names Yahweh and El-Shaddai are used

alternately with equal majesty and holiness (cf. Ruth 1:20f.).

     It should also be noted that this view fails to provide a motive and a reason why the

other nations did not evolve into monotheistic concepts. How did Israel, a small nation

surrounded by idolatry and sin, rise above nature worship and arrive at a high

monotheism while the other nations did not? Without the fact of Divine intervention and

revelation, no reasonable answer is possible.  On the basis of these facts, and the positive

evidence to be presented, the writer considers the liberal view false and untenable.

    B.  The Conservative view:  The basic understanding of the conservative view is that

the name "El Shaddai" is of divine, not natural origin.  The name, it is asserted, was

revealed by God, and not conceived by man.  While all conservative scholars agree on

this basic principle, there is little agreement as to the etymology and significance of this

name in relation to the patriarchs.   There are four basic views in this regard.  The first

view is that Shaddai comes from the root sadad "to be strong" or "powerful."  This view

seems to be the more popular.  The emphasis, therefore, in respect to the patriarchs, is

that of God's power and strength. Oehler favors this view in his Theology of the Old


     The second view of the name Shaddai is that its root is sadad "to destroy" or "to

terrify."  This view is held by Mack.5

     The third view maintains that Shaddai comes from a compound word (from se (<'aser)

and day which in Hebrew means "sufficiency."  For a statement of this view compare

John Calvin.6

      The fourth, and not too well accepted view is that proposed by the Scofield Bible.7

This view contends that the name comes from sad which has primary reference to the

female breast.  The name, therefore, signified nourishment and strength to the Patriarchs.

      The writer feels the conservative view is the proper view and is the one best

supported by the Scriptures.  The most probable etymology of this title will be discussed

in the following arguments in defense of this view.  The arguments for the conservative

view are two-fold:

      1.  Exegetical Argument

      The phrase under consideration is in the English, "and I appeared unto Abraham, unto

Isaac and unto Jacob as God Almighty . . . "  The key words are "appeared" and "God

Almighty" in this phrase.  The verb 'era (appeared) is the niphal imperfect first person

singular of the root raah.  This root has the basic meaning of "to see, to observe, to look

at."8  The niphal, however, carries the idea of "letting oneself be seen," or "to appear,"

when used with 'el or le.9  The sense of this statement seems to be that to these Patriarchs

God "revealed" Himself or made Himself to appear "in the capacity of" El Shaddai.  The

prepositional prefix be gives the idea of "in the character of" or "in the capacity of."


32                                                        GRACE JOURNAL


     The name El Shaddai has been the subject of much conjecture and argument

especially as to its etymology.  The writer has become aware of the fact that this name,

apart from Biblical material, may be explained by several suggested roots, which are

equally attractive, but he feels that in the light of all evidence that the name Shaddai

comes from the root sadad which means "to be strong" or "powerful."  Supporting this

assumption is a well respected lexicographer, Gesenius, who identifies this name thusly:

      Shaddai-Almighty, omnipotent as an epithet of Jehovah, sometimes preceded by 'el

Genesis 17:1, 28:3, Exodus 6:3. . . 10

     The writer will not attempt to argue further on this point, for the argument would be

like the liberal argument, purely subjective. He will let the case rest here and proceed to a

stronger and more conclusive proof for this position--the contextual argument.

     2. Contextual Argument:

     The strongest argument in favor of the view that Shaddai comes from sadad meaning

"to be strong," and that this name characterized Yahweh as the Mighty One or the

Almighty who was able to perform the things promised, is found in the contexts in which

this name appears both in the Pentateuch and in the other books.

      The name Shaddai appears some forty-eight times in the Old Testament.  The greater

majority of these texts regard Shaddai or El Shaddai in the primary aspect of power and

might.   Power and might are many times demonstrated in special blessings and acts.  In

the book of Genesis the name appears only six times (Genesis 17:1, 28:3, 35:11, 43:14,

48:3, 49:25) and in almost every case the name is used in connection with some blessing.

A careful study of the nature of these blessings will reveal the fact that only an all

powerful God could fulfill these promises.  The name occurs in Exodus only once (Ex.

6:3), and Numbers twice (Num. 24:4, 24:16).  This name really displays its significance

in the books of Ruth and Job. In Ruth it occurs only twice (Ruth 1:20, 21) but the basic

idea connected with it is that of chastisement and affliction.  In Job it occurs thirty-one

times and has the same idea basically as that in Ruth.  In many of the passages the idea

connected with this name is decidedly power and majestic glory.  (cf. Job 5:17, 6:4, 14,

8:3, 15:25, 21:20, 22:25, 23:16, 27:2, 34:12).  In Job 37:23 Shaddai is clearly

characterized as "excellent in power."  In use of the name Shaddai in the Psalms (Ps. 68:

14, 91:1) seems to support this meaning also.  El-Shaddai is spoken of as "scattering

kings," (Psalm 68:14), which is an open display of sovereign power.  The other uses of

this name, Isa. 13:6, Ezek. 1:24, 10:5 and Joel 1:15 also indicate the same basic idea of

power and might.  It will be seen from the preceding material that while other

etymologies of the name Shaddai such as in (breasted one) could possibly apply in one or

two texts, the greater majority of occurences support the idea of power and might.  It

should be remembered that these names for God in the Old Testament were not used

without purpose or plan. It will be shown that when various ideas and acts of God were

discussed, the writer under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, carefully selected the name

that characterized the God who was performing or was about to perform these acts.



THE PATRIARCHS' KNOWLEDGE OF JEHOVAH                                    33


     II. MAJOR PROBLEM:  Was the name "Yahweh" known to the Patriarchs?

      There are three main solutions proposed for this problem.  Each shall be stated and

evaluated.  A more lengthy treatment of the last view will be given because it is

considered to be the proper explanation of Exodus 6:3b.

      A.  First Occurrence View:  This view contends that the name Yahweh was not

known to the Patriarchs but was first made known to Moses.  It generally argues for a

natural origin of the name rather than a supernatural revelation of it.  This is essentially

the view of all liberal Old Testament theologians.  John Edgar McFadyen expresses this

view as follows:

          Of very great importance is the passage, 6:2-13, which describes the revelation

       given to Moses, asserting that the fathers knew the God of Israel only by the name El

       Shaddai, while the name of Jehovah, which was then revealed to Moses for the first

       time, was unknown to them.11


     Some holding this view trace the origin of the name back to the Kenites, a branch

from the Midianites.  This view is expressed by Karl Budde as follows:  "Yahweh,

therefore, is the God of the tribe to which Moses, on his flight from Egypt, joined

himself by marriage; the mountain god of Horeb, who appears to him and promises him

to lead his brethren out of Egypt."12

      The supposed textual basis for this view is Exodus 18. From this chapter two basic

assertions are made which are claimed to be the proof for the origin of the name Yahweh.

First, Moses is conceived to be a subordinate to Jethro (Ex. 18:24) and second, Jethro

sacrifices to Yahweh (Ex. 18:12).  It is concluded therefore, that Jethro, priest of Midian,

is in effect a priest of Yahweh.  The objections to this view are many.

     First:  The account in Exodus 18 is hardly a decisive proof of the subordination of

Moses to Jethro officially.  What Moses received in this chapter was gracious counsel,

not an official command.

     Second:  Verse twelve does not say explicitly that Jethro himself offered the sacrifice

but only that he "took" the sacrifice.

     Third:  Jethro's first mention of Yahweh is after the exodus and after he is told of these

events by Moses.

      Fourth:  Jethro is not called a priest of Yahweh but a priest of Midian.  The

Midianites were regarded as an idolatrous people (Num. 25, 31).  There is no evidence

that the Midianites worshipped Yahweh.

   Other arguments could be brought to bear which would demonstrate the errors of this

view, but the foregoing should suffice.


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      It may be asked at this point, why this verse is so important to the critics.  As

previously pointed out, the material found in the Pentateuch can, according to the liberal

critics, be traced to four main source documents (J, E, D, P). Up to Exodus 6:3, P (by the

critical analysis) is quite careful not to use the name Yahweh. The reason for this, it is

claimed, is that P believed that the name was first revealed to Moses and therefore

refrains from anachronisms by not using the name in the earlier Genesis narratives

Exodus 6:3 therefore is the reason for the anomaly in P's use of the divine names.  The

characteristic name for P is Elohim according to their analysis.

     The primary basis of the documentary analysis of the Pentateuch, at least originally,

was the use of different names of God in various passages. The critics of this school of

thought assume that the employment of various names for God indicates the use of

various documents in the compilation of the Pentateuch.  There are other areas of study

that are employed to support this theory, but it is only the use of Divine names that the

writer is interested in at this point. 

     The critics of this school assume that writers of the original source documents never

used any name other than was assigned to him or that was in accordance with his peculiar

views.  This assumption, in the opinion of the writer, is not the result of a careful study of

the occurrence of Divine names, but an arbitrary assumption designed to support an

untenable theory.  If it could be proven that in just one case a writer used a name other

than by habit, the theory would collapse.

     Against this view we raise the following objections:

     First:  A careful exegesis of this verse will not support this view.  A proper

understanding of the idiom "to know the name Yahweh" reveals that a first occurrence of

the name is not implied here.  A more complete discussion of the exegesis of the verse

will be presented later.

     Second:  If Exodus 6:3 were a reference to merely the name of God as a name only,

the passage would prove equally that before this time Elohim was unknown as a name for

Deity, and God should appear uniformly as El-Shaddai in Patriarchal history.

     Some negative or liberal critics, in answer to this argument would remind us that

Exodus 6:3 is the first time P used the name Yahweh.  They argue that P was quite

careful in his use of Yahweh in order to avoid anachronisms.  J and E, however, were not

so careful.  The writer of this paper will show later, that these assumptions will not stand

for at least two reason.  First, P does use the name Yahweh before Exodus 6:3 (Gen. 17:1,

21:1).  The critics realizing this is a serious problem have concluded that these passages

must have been changed by a redactor.  This answer is not at all acceptable as will be

shown later in this discussion.  Second, the assertion that J and E are not careful as to

their use of the Divine names is easily disproved by a careful study of the contexts in

which these names appear.

      Third:  The early occurrence of the name in Genesis destroys this assumption.

a.  The fact that Yahweh occurs in conjunction with Elohim in Genesis chapter two

causes the critics considerable difficulty.  How shall the documents be distinguished in

this case?

b.  There are passages in the book of Genesis where the name of Yahweh is introduced in

a way which utterly precludes the supposition that it is used proleptically, or that it is

anything but

THE PATRIARCHS' KNOWLEDGE OF JEHOVAH                                    35


a correct account of the incident and the actual term employed.  For example the use of

Yahweh in Genesis 15:7, where God clearly asserts, ". . . I am Yahweh. . . " or when

Jacob on his deathbed declares "I have waited for thy salvation, Yahweh" (Genesis

49:18).  A more striking passage than even these is found in Genesis chapter four.  There

Eve states, . . . I have gotten a man with the help of Yahweh."

     c.  The use of the name Yahweh after the dispersion of tongues is frequent and vital to

the significance of many passages.  Genesis 22:14, 24:35, 40, 42, 48, 56, 24:50, 51, 26:22.

     d.  The name Yahweh is compounded with other names long before the time of


     For example the name appears in the name of the mother of Moses, Jochebed

(Yokebed) meaning "Yahweh is glorious" (Exodus 6:20, Numbers 26:59).  Against this

argument some have suggested that Moses changed her name.  This, however, is but a

futile attempt to discredit unmistakable evidence.  That Moses would have done this, to

say the least, is highly improbable.  There are also some other names from ancient time

which occur in the genealogies in I Chronicles (I Chron. 2:25, 7:8, 4: 18, Ahijah, Abiah)

that are compounded with Yahweh.

      The occurrence of the name in the word "Moriah" (Hamoriah cf. Genesis 22:14)

suggests an early knowledge of the name.

     Fourth:  The idiom "to know a name" as it is used in the Old Testament will not

permit the liberal understanding of Exodus 6:3.  Consider the following example, noting

the book in which the reference is found and the chronological setting:  Isa. 52:5-6: verse

six reads:

         "Therefore people shall know my name:  therefore they shall know in that day that I

am he that doth speak; behold it is I." (cf. also Jer. 16:21).

    Upon a careful reading of these texts, it is at once obvious that the higher critical view

of the expression "to know the name of Yahweh" as it is found in Exodus 6:3 is not only

misleading but incorrect.  If they are correct, then these texts could mean the name was

not actually known until Isaiah's and Jeremiah's time, but this on the other hand, would

then be in conflict with the statement of Moses.  The contradiction disappears when the

proper view of the idiom is realized.  For other examples of this expression compare II

Chron. 6:33, Isa. 19:20-21, Ezek. 20:5,9, 39:6-7, Psa. 33:18.

     Fifth:  The higher critical method of analysis mutilates the Biblical text, and beside

that, it is not a consistent theory.  That this theory mutilates the text is proven by the

analysis of Genesis 28:19-29 where writers give many alternate changes from E to J back

and forth.

That this theory is saturated with obvious contradictions in application is evidenced by

the following facts:

     a.  The name "Yahweh" occurs in two passages of P before Ex. 6:3 (Gen. 17:1, 21:16).

In both cases a redactor or copyist is invoked to provide the solution to this embarrassing


     b. As to E, the name "Yahweh" occurs in four passages (Gen. 15:1, 2, 22:11, 27:7b). 

In these cases as in the previous a redactor is employed.

36                                                        GRACE JOURNAL


     c.  J uses the term Elohim in many passages (Gen. 3:1, 3, 5, 4:25, 7:9, 9:27, 16:24).

Once again redactors are employed to relieve the difficulty.

     d.  P contradicts J if the liberal critic's theory is maintained, for J states that God was

worshipped by the name Yahweh even before the flood (Gen. 4:25), that He revealed

Himself by that name to Abram (Gen. 15:7), while P declares in Ex. 6:3 that the name

Yahweh was not known to the Patriarchs.

     Sixth:  The experience of literary men and the history of literature are here in open

conflict with the pretensions of the critics. None of these scholars now claims to discover

in the Pentateuch less than four main writers and a "redactor," while most of them require

many more. This skill, it might be noted, is asserted in investigating a foreign and ancient

tongue, with no outside documents for comparison, and no knowledge of the alleged

writers.  We therefore ask, what is the basis for these assumptions of the critics?  The

answer is not a careful, objective study of Biblical literature and language, but an

arbitrary, biased presupposition that the religion of Israel is the natural product of

evolutionary processes.  The fact that there are so many divergent opinions among the

critics is evidence that this analysis is not a system, but a scheme.  A scheme in which

there is an agreement on the end to be accomplished, and on the starting point, but the

process is largely the application of individual and subjective notions.

      Seventh:  A serious logical fallacy is also to be discerned in the use of Divine names

as it relates to the documentary analysis. It can be demonstrated that the higher critical

method of documentation is to argue in a circle.  Differences are first created and then

arguments are based on them.  Documents are distinguished on the basis of the use of

Divine names and then their correspondences with certain assumed traits or

characteristics are claimed as proof for the objective existence of these documents.

     Eighth:  The documentary analysis assumes that the varied use of the Divine names is

usually an indication of authorship.  The same argument is applied in respect to various

literary differences.  A more dependable and proven explanation for these phenomena is

that different situations and subject matter called for both different literary styles and


      The constant appeal, by the critic, to a redactor is a strong evidence that the theory

bears many fallacies and weaknesses.  The redactor is called to serve in Genesis 2:4b,

3:24, 4:2, 7:9, 9:27, 17:1, 21:1b, 20:18, 28:21, 22:11, etc.  Now, the writer should like to

ask at this point, how is it to be determined what is and what is not the work of a

redactor?  If the Divine names are indications of source documents of the Pentateuch,

then they must be dependably consistent at this point.  If but one name has been changed

by a so-called redactor, then how are we to know if the other names have not been

changed? Or furthermore, how do we know, for example, that where a redactor is

claimed to have changed Elohim to Yahweh in the E document that perhaps the text is

correct and a very energetic redactor has not changed the other portion of the context?

Perhaps the context was really the work of J and a redactor changed all the names of

Yahweh to Elohim.  The reader might argue at this point that the writer is arguing from

conjecture.  The writer would most quickly admit this and at the same time, would point

out that the critics holding this theory must be charged with the same fallacy.  They have

no more objective

THE PATRIARCHS' KNOWLEDGE OF JEHOVAH                                                37


proof for their contentions that the passage was an E document in which a redactor

changed a name to Yahweh than his contention that it was a J document which had the

Divine name changed to Elohlm.

     B.  Interrogative View:  This view holds that the reading of the text is in the form of a

question not a statement.  It would have Exodus 6:3 read:

         "And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God Almighty: but

by my name Yahweh was I not known to them?"

     Two writers who find this view acceptable are Jamieson and Scott.

     This view is not necessarily contrary to the writer's view, but it is not an easily

supported view.  The grammar may permit this view but a consideration of the movement

of the general context does not easily support such a reading. Such a reading could have

been more clearly indicated in the Hebrew if this reading were intended, but it is not.

Finally, very few, if any translations have understood this to be the reading of the Hebrew


     C.  The Special Revelation View:  The special revelation view contends that the name

"Yahweh" was known to the Patriarchs but in a somewhat limited sense.  They did not

have a complete knowledge of many of the aspects of this name especially in its

redemptive significance.  Special redemptive aspects of the name were revealed and

experienced in the days of Moses and in particular in the exodus from Egypt.  This view

is expressed clearly by Henry Cowles:

          The meaning is, not that the name of Yahweh was never used by them or given of

God to them:  but that its special significance had not been manifested to them as He was

now:  about to make it manifest.13

      Others who hold this view or a similar form of it are Hastings, Patrick, Wordsworth, Keil,

Raven, Wiener, Allis, Unger and Oehler.

     In the light of all the evidence from the Biblical text, the writer considers this to be the

proper view.

     The arguments in support of this view are three-fold:

     1.  Exegetical Argument:  In order to deal accurately with the text at hand, it is

imperative that there be a clear understanding of the text as it reads in the Hebrew text

Many of the errors which have arisen in the interpretation of this verse could have been

avoided if the language and the syntax of this text were more carefully considered.  Since

the first part of the text was dealt with under the consideration of the minor problem, the

writer shall proceed to examine the last phrase of the text which translated literally reads:

“and (in the capacity of) my name Yahweh I was not known to them."

     In the first place it should be observed that the emphatic word of the sentence is Semi

(“name") and is so considered because it is first in the Hebrew sentence.  The fact that this

word is

38                                                        GRACE JOURNAL


emphatic is not without important implications, for it will be shown that the Hebrew

concept of a name is far more than just that of an identifying title.  In the Old Testament

there was a peculiar signification attached to the name.14

     The name "Yahweh" is an important word not only to this text but to the whole Old

Testament.  The etymology of this word has been disputed by many men for many years.

Some have attempted to connect it with the Arabic hawa which means to "blow" or

"breathe."  Others have traced the origin of this word to Egyptian, Phoenician and

Canaanitish influences.  Their arguments for this etymology are not convincing at all,

especially since they are based upon the presupposition that the religion of Israel may be

traced to natural origins as may the religions of the heathen nations.

     As to the formation of the name Yahweh, it is agreed among most lexicographers and

other writers on the subject that the term Yahweh, however it might be pointed, is the

regularly formed Qal imperfect of the verb Havah (to be) an obsolete form of Hayah. 

This view is not shared by all authorities, however. Some would contend that the name is

to be understood as a Hiphil imperfect.15  While this view is permissible grammatically, it

is in  conflict with Exodus 3:14 where the name is explained.  There the form is clearly a

Qal. When Moses asked the Lord what name he should use in identifying the "God of

your fathers" (vs. 13), the Lord answered saying, 'ehey eser 'ehyeh "I am that I am."  He

also told them that 'ehyeh slahni 'alekem "I am has sent me unto you."  The verb

translated "I am" in both phrases is ‘ehyeh, which is the Qal imperfect first person

singular of  hayah.  If 'ehyeh therefore, is understood as the Qal imperfect first person

singular from the verb hayah and is His name, it is also reasonable to regard Yahweh as it

appears in Exodus 6:3 as coming from the same root and also the Qal stem.  The latter

form, of course, is the third person singular of that stem and is translated "He is."  The

only difference between the two names is, that the one is a verb in the first person, and

the other is the same verb in the third person.  The meaning of the one is "I am," and the

meaning of the other is "He is."

     Supporting the view that this stem is the Qal is Edward Mack who makes the

following remark:

        It is evident from the interpretative passages (Exodus 3:6) that the form is the future

     of the simple stem (Kal) and not future of the causative (Hiphil) stem in the sense of 

    "giver of life" an idea not borne out by any of the occurrences of the word.16


     The writer maintains therefore, that the translation "I am" or" He is "is the proper one

in view of the fact that the Qal is used in these texts.  But the case for this understanding

does not rest here.  The fact that the imperfect is used in connection with these verbs also

supports this conclusion.  The imperfect state of the Hebrew verb does not always have to

designate future time as some have erroneously assumed.  A careful examination of the

scope of the imperfect state will reveal that it may have primary reference to present

states or actions as well as future.17

     By the expression "I am," Yahweh is to be understood as a God who is eternal and

self-existent.  If the Hiphil stem is understood in regard to His name, the meaning is

somewhat lower.  He then is regarded as the "first cause of all things" or "life-giver."

     That the translation of the verb 'ehyeh is properly "I am" is further substantiated by the

rendering of the Septuagint.  The first phrase of Exodus 3:14 reads ego eimi ho on.  Eimi

is a present active indicative and on is a present participle of the same verb, eimi.  This

phrase would be

THE PATRIARCHS' KNOWLEDGE OF JEHOVAH                        39


literally translated "I am the one who is."  The other occurrence of 'ehyeh is also

translated with the present participle, on.  If the translators had understood the imperfect

state with future implications, they would have used the future tense, but such, apparently

was not the case.

      Another strong argument for the rendering "I am" is found in the translations and

interpretation of the name Yahweh in the New Testament.  There are three very clear

instances where this name is given definite meaning.  The first is found in Matthew

22:32.  There we read:

           "I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  God is not

     the God of the dead, but of the living."


     The verb translated "I am" is eimi, a present active indicative.  The same form is

found in Mark: 12:26 which is a similar quotation of Exodus 3:6.  The last instance of

this phenomenon is seen in John 8:58.  Here the Greek once again for "I am" is ego eimi.

      It would seem, therefore, if the idea of the imperfect were "I will be" or "He will be,"

both the LXX and the Greek of the New Testament would have recognized it.  But such

is not the case, so the writer therefore contends for the rendering "I am" denoting the eternal,

self-existence of Yahweh.

      The next word of the phrase under consideration is a vital word, and it is this word that

holds the key to the meaning and interpretation of the text under consideration.  The word

noda'ti which appears in the text of the Hebrew Bible is a Niphal perfect, first person singular,

from the verb yada' "to know."  The real problem, involved in this word, is to determine what

is meant when it is used in the expression "to know a name."  The liberal critics have maintained

that to know the name is to be acquainted with the title.  "To make known a name," to their

way of thinking, is merely to present the name for the first time.

      This assumption, it will be shown, is not the case, and the fact is, that the uses of this

 idiom in the Old Testament furnish the clue to the solution of this whole problem.  When

the expressions "to know Yahweh" or to "know the name of Yahweh" are used in the Old

Testament they carry more than the idea of just to be acquainted with the radicals yhwh.

For example the verb yada' is used five times in respect to Yahweh in the book of Exodus

alone, and in every case it is quite obvious that it has reference to more than just an

acquaintance with a name.18  In every case it suggests an experiential knowledge of both

the person and power of Yahweh. In every case the knowledge of Yahweh is connected

with some deed or act of Yahweh which in some way reveals both His person and power.

In Exodus 16:12 Yahweh spoke to Moses saying "I have heard the murmurings of the

children of Israel: speak unto them saying, at even ye shall be filled with bread; and ye

shall know that I am Yahweh your God."  It should be noted that first, in respect to time,

this is considerably later than the account of Exodus 6:3.  Is it to be assumed, therefore,

on the basis of the liberal or negative understanding of the verb yada', that the children

of Israel still didn't know who Yahweh was?  Secondly, that his knowledge involves more

than just an acquaintance with a name, is proven by the fact that the knowledge of

Yahweh was the result of a particular experience of provision by Yahweh.  They were

to know Yahweh in a special manner.  They had already learned of Him as deliverer; now

they would know Him as their provider.

40                                                        GRACE JOURNAL


     The verb yada' is not only used to convey the idea of knowledge of a thing, but

knowledge as a result of specific experience.  This seems to be the idea expressed in

Ezekiel 25:14.19

     If the reader is not convinced at this point of this use of the verb yada', there are

several more uses of this verb that most clearly demonstrate that its meaning goes far

beyond a mere knowledge of facts.  This verb is also used for knowledge when both

revelation and experience are involved.  It is in this sense that the writer feels it is to be

understood in the text under question, and to give evidence to this assertion he will present

several cases for consideration.  First, Jer. 28:9:

        "The prophet that prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to    

     pass, then shall the prophet be known, that Jehovah hath truly sent him."


     According to this text a prophet was really "known" as the man sent from God when

his words were fulfilled.  This is the sense of Exodus 6:3, Yahweh was to be "known" or

"made known" as He manifested and revealed Himself in the special acts of deliverence.

The writer should also if like to point out that here the verb form used in Jer. 28:9 is

yiudada' the niphil imperfect third person singular masc. of the verb yada'.  It is interesting

to note, that the stem used in Exodus 6:3 is also the niphal.  It would seem, therefore, that

this form, when used, carried more than a superficial knowledge of a thing.  It conveyed

the idea of knowledge as a result of revelation experience.

     Other examples of this idea may be found in Prov. 10:9, Ex. 32:12-17, I Sam. 3:7, Jer.


     In this exegetical argument, the writer has endeavored to establish the following facts:

First, the name Yahweh is the Qal imperfect of the verb hayah and denotes the eternal,

unchanging character of God as evidenced by its use in Exodus 3:14.  Second, the verb

noda'ti used in Exodus 6:3 must mean more than being acquainted with a title as such.

Third, the fact that the niphal form is used in Exodus 6:3 strongly suggests knowledge in

respect to revelation and experience.  Fourth, the idiom "to know Yahweh" or "to know

the name of Yahweh" as it is used in the Old Testament, generally signifies knowledge of

some particular act or attribute of Yahweh as it is revealed in His dealing with men.

     2. Theological Argument:  The writer considers Exodus 6:3 to be a positive declaration

of the fact that in the past the character of God has been revealed in His names, El-Shaddai,

Elohim and Yahweh.  But now He is going to reveal Himself further as Yahweh in a special

 way through revelation and the experience of deliverance.  He is going to provide a

demonstration of the fact that He is not only Yahweh who made a covenant with Abraham

but is Yahweh who is faithful in keeping it.  New aspects of His glory, majesty and

redemption are to be known by Israel. The great redemptive power of Yahweh was now

going to be known in various aspects as it had not been known before.  The deliverance

from Egyptian bondage is often referred to as the great illustration of this

redemptive power in both the Old and New Testaments.

      The following arguments are presented in support of this view:  First, it is clear from

Exodus chapter three that the name "Yahweh" was well established in the minds of the

Israelites, for if

THE PATRIARCHS' KNOWLEDGE OF JEHOVAH                                    41


this were not the case, why would God tell Moses to tell the people of Israel if they

should ask in whose name he comes, that "I am hath sent me unto you" (Ex. 3:14) or

"Yahweh, the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of

Jacob, hath sent me unto you . . ."  Did it not occur to either Moses or the Lord that the

people might say, "Who is Yahweh?"  But there is no problem in this respect.  The

silence of the Scriptures speak clearly to the fact that no such problem would arise

because they know the name of the God of their fathers.

     Second, the simple reading of Exodus 6:3 supports the view that a new revelation is

meant, not that the name was not known.  The text literally reads:

     "And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob as (or in the capacity of)

     El-Shaddai but (in the capacity of) my name Yahweh, I was not known to them.


     It should be remembered that the verb for "known" is nodat'ti a niphal perfect, first

person singular of the verb yada' ("I to know").  If the text meant to say that the name, as

such, was not known, the third person singular would have been employed.  It was in "the

capacity of" the name Yahweh that He was to further reveal Himself.

     Third, Exodus 6:3 is not a contrast between the use of Divine names.  The name Elohim

is not even mentioned in this verse.  The text is a comparison of ideas which the

names represent.  It is a comparison between what has been revealed by Yahweh and what

is about to be revealed.  The character of Yahweh that is considered in the text as it

relates to His name. Fourth, it can be shown that the use of Divine names in the

Pentateuch, in most cases at least, is obviously deliberate.  For example it may be

generally noted that when the power, majesty and faithfulness of God are in view Elohim

is generally used (Gen. 1, 6-9, etc.)  But when the writer is writing in respect to salvation

and the covenant relationship of God with Israel, Yahweh is generally used (Gen. 3:9-15,

4:1, 26, 8:20, etc.)20

     Fifth, that the name Yahweh could have been known and used by the Patriarchs not

knowing its full significance and implications is proven possible from every day

occurrences.  It is possible for a man to bear the name of a certain office before he fulfills

any of its functions.  President, magistrate, and policeman are titles which may be borne

by several persons to whom they legally belong, before any of the acts peculiar to those

offices are performed.  The president as acknowledged on his inauguration is known to be

such by his administrative acts, the magistrate by his administration of justice and the

policeman by the apprehending of criminals.

     In the preceding arguments the writer has endeavored to show:  1. That the reading of

Exodus 6:3 clearly reveals that a special revelation in relation to the nature and character

of Yahweh is under consideration.  2.  That Exodus 6:3 is not a contrast between the

use or occurrence of Divine names but a comparison of the ideas which El-Shaddai and

Yahweh represent.30  That the use of Divine names in the Pentateuch is in most cases


4.  That the name of Yahweh has a peculiar redemptive significance in the Pentateuch

and is generally used in this sense.  5.  That practical experience indicates the possibility

of knowing a name or title without having a complete knowledge of all the functions and

attributes of that title.

42                                                        GRACE JOURNAL


     3.  Contextual Argument:  The contextual argument simply consists of an examination

of the immediate context to see if the interpretation suggested by the writer fits in logically

and naturally.

     It should be observed, first of all, that the children of Israel are, in this book, at a very

unique stage of their history.  From the moment of their departure, they will be

recognized as a nation in the true sense of the term.  It is in this capacity, i.e. as a nation,

that Yahweh is going to deal with them.  It is Yahweh’s intention to reveal Himself as He

had never done so before.  This covenant-making God was about to demonstrate both His

power and faithfulness in the redemption of Israel (cf. Ex. 3:8-12, 15-22).  In the immediate

context of Exodus 6:3 we find the in which Yahweh was to reveal Himself to Israel.  Exodus

6:4 restates the covenant made with Israel.  Verses six to eight presents the plan of Yahweh

for the nation of Israel.  Verse six clearly promises redemption from bondage.  Verse seven

states Yahweh's purpose in His redeeming the children of Israel.  This verse is very important

in our consideration for it clearly explains the latter phrase of Exodus 6:3.  We have already

suggested that there was a particular sense in which Yahweh had not revealed Himself to the

children of Israel.  That aspect, or part of revelation is explained in this verse.  Notice the

reading of this verse:

     "And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and ye shall know

     that I am Yahweh your God, who bringeth you out from under the burdens of



There are two basic assertions in this verse.  First, Yahweh declares the election of the

children of Israel as a people for His name.  Secondly, He states that they shall know Him,

not for the first time, but as the one "who bringeth you out from under the burdens

of the Egyptians."  This means they would "know Yahweh as their redeemer and

deliverer."  The whole message of the book of Exodus is centered around this theme (cf.

Exodus 7:5, 17, 8:23, 10:3, 12:12-13, 14:13ff, 15:2ff).  This revelation and experience

was a mountain peak in Israelis history.  Whenever Israel slips away from fellowship

with Yahweh, as in Micah 6, Yahweh reminds them of this deliverance from Egypt.

     "For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of bondage. . ."

     (Micah 6:4)

     In the eighth verse of Exodus, chapter six, Yahweh restates His promise to Abraham,

Isaac, and Jacob, and promises its fulfillment. The basis for this promise is "I am


     It is the conclusion of the writer that the immediate context of Exodus 6:3 and the

greater context of the book reveal the fact that before this time, the children of Israel had

not known all that was involved in the covenant name "Yahweh."  Only in these particular

circumstances could the truth of the redemptive power of Yahweh be revealed.


English Paraphrase

      And I revealed myself unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob in the capacity of the

God Almighty, but in the full redemptive significance of my name Yahweh, I was not

made known (revealed) unto them.

THE PATRIARCHS' KNOWLEDGE OF JEHOVAH                                    43




1.  Cf. Martin Noth. The History of Israel (Harper & Brothers).

2.  William F. Albright. From the Stone Age to Christianity (The Johns Hopkins press)

     p. 180 ff.

3.  Bernhard W. Anderson, Understanding the Testament. (Prentice Hall Inc.) p. 23.

4.  Gustave Friedrich Oehler.  Theology of the Old Testament. (Zondervan Publishing


5. Edward Mack.  International Standard Encyclopedia. (The Howard Severance Co.)

     pp. 1266, 1267.

6. John Calvin. Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses. (Wm. B. Eerdmans

     Publishing, Co.) Vol. 1, p. 126.

7.  C. I. Scofield (Editor) Scofield Reference. (Oxford University Press) p. 26.

8.  Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, and Charles Briggs. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of

     the Old Testament. (Houghton, Mifflin & Co.) pp. 906-907.

9.  Ibid., p. 908.

10. William Gesenius. (Translated by Edward Robinson) A Hebrew and English

       Lexicon of the Old Testament. (Cocher and Brewster) p. 1036.

11. John Edgar Mc Fadyen.  Introduction to the Old Testament. (Hodder and Stoughton)

      p. 22.

12.  Karl Budde. Religion of Israel to the Exile. (G. P. Putnam's Sons) p. 19.

13.  Henry Cowles. Butler's Bible-Work (Funk & Wagnalls) p. 598.

14.  Oswald T. Allis.  The Five Books of Moses. (The Presbyterian and Reformed

       Publishing Co.) p. 28.  Compare also: E. J. Young. An Introduction to the Old

       Testament. (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.) p. 136.

15.  Gustave Friedrich Oehler. op. cit. pp. 95, 96.

16.  Edward Mack.  The International Standard Encyclopedia,  P. 1266.

17.  Kautzsch, E. (ed) Genesius' Hebrew Grammar. 2d. Eng. ed,. of 28th Ger. ed. Trans.

      A. E. Conley.  (Oxford: University Press)p. 313.

18.  Exodus 6:7, 10:2, 14:4, 16:12, 29:46.

19.  Cf. also Josh. 23:14, Isa. 9:8, Psa. 14:4, Ezek. 20:9, Hosea 9:7.

20.  Oehler. op. cit. Pp. 98, 99.



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