Scripture Query and Answer: By My Name Jehovah Was I Not Known to Them

Exodus 6:3  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Q. I have always had difficulty with the exact meaning of Ex. 6:33And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. (Exodus 6:3): “By my name Jehovah was I not known to them.” This seems very absolute. I have written out all the places where the word Jehovah occurs. I find it occurs 195 times until Ex. 6:33And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. (Exodus 6:3). With the great majority (144) of these I have not the slightest difficulty (e.g., in Gen. 2), and with the remainder (49 times) I have some difficulty. In the 144 times in which there seems little difficulty, it is as is shown in “B. T."-Moses showing Israel (for whom he wrote by the Spirit) that it was their Jehovah who was Elohim, and therefore it is always in the form of reported speech. I have classified the 49 difficult passages into four classes. First, where persons (before Ex. 6:44And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers. (Exodus 6:4)) speak of Elohim as Jehovah, not in reported but in ‘direct' speech. They either did use the word Jehovah or they did not. To take an example (Gen. 28:2121So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: (Genesis 28:21)), Jacob said, “Then shall Jehovah be my Elohim;” and, chapter 32:9, Jacob said, “O Elohim of my father Abraham, and Elohim of my father Isaac, Jehovah which saidst unto me,” &c. If they used the word Jehovah, then Elohim was known to them by that name; or, did they use it without knowing its meaning (did not; יהוה in Hebrews mean I am that I am)? If they did not use the word Jehovah, then the reporter (Moses) gives us their meaning, but represents that he gives us their word, and this going against the plenary inspiration, of course could not be maintained. Secondly—Men calling on the name Jehovah, not on Elohim, as if at that time they began for the first time to know Him as Jehovah. This, however, not being in the form of direct speech, but rather reported, does not present the same difficulty. Thirdly—Angels using the name Jehovah directly to men, where the same difficulty presents as in the first. Fourthly—God Himself using the name directly to Abram and Jacob (I do not lay much stress on the three found in Exodus, but have added them for the sake of completeness). Gen. 15:77And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. (Genesis 15:7), Jehovah said, “I Jehovah that brought thee,” &c., and similarly to Jacob in chapter 28:13, where the difficulty is as in the first.
If Jehovah was known before its formal revelation (without knowing its meaning), is this analogous to the other? e.g., Shaddai was not known till Abraham; Abba was not known till He declared it and sent forth the Spirit into our hearts. Is Jehovah exceptional? W. P. M.
A. There is, I think, no difficulty in Ex. 6:88And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord. (Exodus 6:8). If we compare Ex. 3:14, 1514And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. 15And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. (Exodus 3:14‑15), we find there Jehovah the God of thy fathers. It was the personal name of God as having to do with men, and particularly with Israel—man in the flesh set in relationship with God. It is His abiding name as to this world, either who was, and is, and is to come, if we take Him historically, or more perfectly as in Revelation who is (ϐ ώυ), and was, and is to come, the 6 &'v, the existing one (alta her), and past in time, and to come. But in Ex. 6:33And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. (Exodus 6:3), it is different. It speaks of the character in which He revealed Himself in order to their walking before Him. And note, when the revelation of Shaddai, as the name to be owned in walk took place, it is said Jehovah appeared unto Abram; and the word was, “I (Jehovah) am El Shaddai; walk before me.” Hence, in Ex. 6:33And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. (Exodus 6:3), “I am Jehovah; and I appeared (vaeera) unto Abraham (2) as El Shaddai: (in) my name Jehovah was I not (made) known to them.” This refers to the appearing to put Himself according to the nature of that revelation in relationship with Himself. So to Jacob (Gen. 35:1111And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; (Genesis 35:11)), as soon as God revealed Himself to him. To Isaac, who stands connected with Rebekah, the risen head of the Church, He is not revealed by any name.
The historical name is always Jehovah or Elohim. The One who appears is always Jehovah; but He appears to Abraham as El Shaddai, and so reveals Himself as the ground of, and that which gives its character to, his walk before Him. But it is always Jehovah who appears, as in chapter xii. 7. In chapter 15:7, it is no appearing. The word of Jehovah came to Abraham and said, “I am Jehovah that brought thee out of Ur.” And in Psa. 91, the title Shaddai is used as the expression of almighty protection; and Messiah says as knowing the true secret of who the Most High is: “I will say of Jehovah,” &c. And so He is kept by the power of Shaddai. Thus, I judge, that though Jehovah, as the expression of the constant being of God, was taken as the specific covenant name of Israel's God, the God of man in the flesh who had to say to God; yet it was, as the name of constant being, the abiding historical name of God. Almighty and Father are special names of character and relationship taken with those to whom God is so revealed. The name of the one true God, the name of the being, is His abiding name, in relationship with the earth—the name. The Israelite had “blasphemed the name.” Most High is another relative name taken. Hence it is only in the millennium fully. But it is still Jehovah who is the Most High. Hence you would not have the angel of Shaddai or the Father, or Elion, because he represents His power as such, not a name of relationship; but he took His name as the name of relationship with Israel. It was not that the name of Jehovah was not known as the proper name of the true God, but that His making Himself known to them, as the One before whom they were to walk, was in another specific name. He did not take His name, His own name so to speak, as the name by which He was to be in relationship with them. It is a very important circumstance as to Israel that God's own name, what I may call His personal name, at least in connection with man on earth, “the name” became the name of relationship with that people. Hence in celebrating that name, even in the wide extent of the unopened glory, in the past which belongs to earth, we have (Psa. 8), O Jehovah, our Adon, how excellent is thy name in all the earth. He had set in that His glory now above the heavens. Elohim is the One who stands in the position of the divine being. Jehovah is the personal name of Him who truly is so. He became the Elohim of the Jews as a nation who had been called out of the world to and by Him when idolatry had come in. (Josh. 24) Jehovah, He is Elohim. And now we say, Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent; but withal of the Son, He is the true God and eternal life. When it is said then Jehovah shall be my Elohim, (Gen. 28:2121So that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God: (Genesis 28:21)), we must refer to verse 13, whence Jacob drew that which he then said, and so verse 16. But in Ex. 6:22And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord: (Exodus 6:2), we have equally, “I am Jehovah.” But in Gen. 35, when Elohim reveals Himself to Jacob as the present God with whom he had to do, it is again (ver. 11) El Shaddai. Jehovah is found in chapters xxxi. 3; xxxii. 9. In a word, Jehovah was not unknown to their own thoughts or in intercourse; but it was not the name He took in relation to the patriarchs in their character as such; it was with Israel after the bush.