Full Text for Did the Patriarchs Know Yahweh? Exodus 6:3 and its Relationship to the Foru Documentary Hypothesis (Text)

Did The Patriarchs Knoiv Yahweh? 121 Since the first finding of this "clue" in Exodus 6:3, students and proponents of the documentary hypothesis have continually been resorting to it as one of the main types of evidence for the fact that in Genesis one finds the data of three different documents n70ven into the present Book of Genesis follo~ving a scissors and paste method. Thus John Skinner, author of the Commentary on Genesis in The l~lter~lntio~zal Critical Conll?ze?rtary series wrote : 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.' In his book dealing with the divine names Skinner also wrote: It is not only possible, but certain that at least hvo writers were 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 of Yahweh, nor hare 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. . . . \\re are well on our way to a documentary theory of the Pentateuch.: H. H. Romley, deceased British Old Testament scholar, used the same argument in a number of his published writings. Thus he wrote in The Doctrille of Electiolz : Obviously it cannot be true that God was not known to Abraham by the name of Yahweh (Footnote 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.G Professor AJcNeile in his commentary on Exodus in The Westl?rilzster Commentary series asserted: A signal instance of the way in which God leads His people into a fuller understanding of His \Vord is afforded by the fact that it is only in the last 150 years that the attention of stu- dents 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 for the recognition that varying conditions hare been incorporated from different sources.: Critical scholarship has been willing in the light of one seem- ing problem passage to reject the testimony of the entire book of Genesis, the account of the first confrontation of Yahweh with Moses in Exodus 3, and the assertions of other Biblical books as well as the statements of the New Testament that Abraham, Issac and Jacob worshipped and knew Yahweh as their God. Insisting on one pasasge (Ex. 6:3) to be in disagreement with the rest of Scripture seems to be an unfair methodology to utilize. The critical nlethodology riolates some basic rules of interpretation, namely, that the immediate context in which a passage occurs should be consulted in the interpretation of a passage and also the rule that when a problem appears in a test the broader context of the entire book should be taken into account. Thc contention of critical scholarship that the children of Israel did not know Yahweh before \loses had been revealed, according to Ex. 6: 2, 3, contradicts the entire Biblical evidence and the many assertions of the Book of Genesis which depicts Yahweh dealing with the patriarchs. Instead of bringing Exodus 6: 3 into line with the rest of the Scriptures the critics insist on making all of Scripture conform to one passage which has not been adequately grasped by critical scholars. The critical assunlption regarding Exodus 6:2, 3 is not only disproved by the clear distinction in the passage itself but also the common sense in~plications of the critics' on-n hypothesis. According to them the redactor to whom they attribute the present form of Genesis and the Pentateuch as a whole, did not understand the Exodus passage as they do, and saw nothing inconsistent in it with the frequent use of the name of Yahweh by the patriarchs. Otherwise he would either have changed the statement in Exodus or the name of Yahweh in Genesis, unless perhaps he was an ignoramus and no editor at all or a prematurely born protagonist of the divisive theory, anticipating his modern colleagues by nearly three thousand years." Expla~zatiows as to the True h4ea~li~g of Exodirs 6:3 Did thc children of Israel know Yahweh prior to hlnses' 80th year of his life? Did the children of Israel know the name Yahweh before the latter is supposed to have revealed His name in the eightieth year of hloses' life? The answer is: Yes. Dr. Segal, an expert in the Hebrew language, author of A Grawzmar of A4ishnaic Hebrew wrote: But the whole thesis, that according to E and P the name YHIVH was unknown in the world till it was revealed to h~loses, has no basis in fact. It is disproved by the name Joshua in E, by the name Jochebed in J, both names earlier than the alleged revelation of the name of YHIVH to Rloses, and both containing the abbreviated element of the name YH\ITH usual in Hebrew theophorous names. Also the patriarchal name of Joseylt most probably contains this element. Rloreover, it is incredible that those ancient Hebrew writers would have represented the patriarchs, who were undoubtedly in their estimation true worshippers of God, as ignorant of the true name of deity. There could have been no true worship of God without a knowledge of His true name, as it proved by the standing expression in the Bible for worship: "to call by the name of YH\\TH" (Gen. ir, 26; xii. 8)." Did The Patriarchs Know Yahweh? 123 According to Exodus 6: 20 Amram and Jochebed 11 ere the parents, or possibly even earlier ancestors of Rloses. Assuming that Jochebed was the mother of Aloses, Rloses' ,grandmother and grandfather must have knoll-n the name of YH\\TH in order to give their daugh- ter the name Tochebed, a name whose first component is Jah, a shortened form of YHTVH. The same situation obtained as far as the parents of Joshua are concerned, they also must have known the YHWH, because they also gave their son a theophorous name whose first element was the shortened form of Yahweh, namely, Yah. The linguistic argument should be a strong deterrent to interpreting Exodus 6 : 3 as a contradiction of Exodus 3 : 6. Furthermore if Exodus 6: 3 records the first giving of the name YHWH it is very strange that this is not stated, because the phrase "I am YH\IWH" occurs more than 150 times in the Old Testament. In chapter 6 of Exodus it occurs twice again (vs. 7-8) and in 12 other passages in the Book of Exodus. It is also found dozens of times in the Pentateuch in passages assigned by the Theor! to P (including the Holiness Code, Lei-. 18-25). But nowhere can the Phrase "I am YH\\'HV mean the declaration of a new name. It is rather strange that in Exodus 6: 3 P should be satisfied with just simply repeating the common stereotyped phrase without any indica- tion whatever that this was the first revelation of the name. Since there is no such indication, it stands to reason that the phrase here in Exodus 6: 3 must be gil-en the same meaning as in other passages in the Old Testament. According to the critical theory Yahweh was supposed not to be known to Israelites, but somehow Rloses convinced the Israelites that they should believe in YHIVH, a God completely unknown to them. However, this interpretation simply will not fit the true facts. Thus it is stated in Exodus 3: 13, shortly after the first appearance of YHTITH to Rloses, (ch. 3: 1-10) Aloses then asked God (Elohim), "TVhen I come to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you;' and they say to me, 'What is His name?' Then what shall I tell them? Verse 14 reports: "God said to filoses, 'I am that I am.' Then you will speak to the Israelites, 'I am has sent me to you." God said further to Rloses, "You tell the Israelites: Jah~veh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob has sent me to you. This is my name forever and by this I am remembered throughout all generations." Moses was to convene the elders of Israel and the11 them: Tahtveh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has appeared to him with this message, etc. If the people of his nation to whom Rloses was to go did not know Yahweh, the message of Rloses to the people \vould have made no sense for according to the critics' theory they did not know the name of YH\jTH. The facts, assumed in chapter 3: 13-22, mere that the Israelites had been worshipping Yahweh and knew him. Other\vise for Rloses to say YHT17H has sent me would have had no meaning for a people unacquainted with him and carry no authority for believing RZosesl message of comfort that now YHTVH was going to deliver them from the Egyptian bondage. A number of scholars claim that the failure of critical students adequately to grasp the meaning of Exodus 6 : 3 is found in the fact that they fail to understand the meaning of what the phrase "to know (Hebrew yadah) YH\YH" means. \\'hen the documentarians claim that "to know the name of Yah~rh" means that the name was not known before Rloses' time they show a very superficial knowledge of the use of this phrase occurring 26 times in the Old Testament. In writing about this matter Archer asserted: But this inrolres a very superficial analysis of the Hebrew verb "to know (yada')," and the implications in Hebrew of knowing a person's name. That it could not be meant in a baldly literal sense is sholvn by the absurdity of supposing that the entire ten plagues were necessary to convince the Egyptians (Ex. 14 : 4 "and the Egyptians shall know that I am Jhwh) that the name of the God of the Hebrews was named Jh\rh.'" Exodus 6: 7 reads, "Ye shall know that I am JH\YH your God who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians," and in 14: 4 the implication is stated that they shall witness God's cove- nant faithfulness in His delivering His people and destroying their enemies. The clear meaning of the text in these passages therefore means that the Israelites should know by personal experience that YH\YH was a covenant God who keeps his promises. \Vhen the phrase "you shall know that I am YH\VH," occurs it has always this meaning that people, either Israelites or their neighbors and often their enemies should know and learn by personal experience that YH\\'H is a God who keeps his threats as well as promises. In the light of Biblical usage therefore Archer wrote: "Hebrew usagc therefore indicates clearly enough that Exodus 6: 3 teaches that God, nho in earlier generations revealed Himself as El Shaddai (God Almighty) by deeds of power and mercy, 11-ould now in Rloses' generation reveal Himself as the covenant-keeping Jehovah by His marvelous deliverance of the whole nation of Israel." James Orr, in The Problenz of the Old Testanlent has pointed out that "name" (Hebrew shem) denotes the revelation side of God's being.'" According to the critical theory, based on Exodus 6:3, the reader of Genesis and of the first five chapters of Exodus must scrupulously obserre a differentiation between the name of YH\VH and Elohim when interpreting these first 55 chapters of the Bible. The modern reader must do this although the Jews themselves who were much closer to the origination of their Pentateuch did not know that such a distinction was necessary. It is noteworthy that in recent years members of the Uppsala School of Sweden hare surrendered this distinction made on the basis of the divine names of YHWH and Elohim, employed to separate hvo different documents, which supposedly originated in two different localities. Thus Ivan Engnell has rejected this \\'ell- hausian reconstruction, founded on Exodus 6:3. In Gandn Testa- mentet Engnell wrote : The different divine names have different ideological associa- Did The Patriarchs I l'rrlt~~.eh ? 125 tions 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 patriarchs is concerned, while on the other hand Elohim, "God" gives more expression to a "theological" and abstract-cosmic picture of God in larger and more giving contexts . . . So then, ~t is the traditionists, the sarrze traditionists, who varies in the use of the divine names, not the ciocuments . . ."' : Another member of the Snedish Old Testament school Sigmund ;\Iotvinckel asserted : It is not E's view that Yahneh here is revealing a hitherto unhotvn name to hloses. Yahweh is not telling his name to one who does not know it. Rloses asks for some control evidence that his countrymen may know, when he returns to them, that it really is the God of their fathers that has sent him . . . the whole conversation pre-supposes that the Israelites knew the name only.I4 IYhen YHIITH met AIoses in the Rlidian nilderness in the burning bush He was telling i\loses that before this time he had been knonn to the patriarchs as "the self-existent One;" but now He mas revealing a nett- meaning for the name, from now on lsrael was to know YHIITH as a personal name, in all the wondrous intimacy that the name in its fullness implied. YHIVH was to be the unique covenant name of the God of Israel, it contains the pledge of all that He had promised to do for them and be to them. They mere His people, and He their God. They were to knottr Him in personal, covenant relationship. It is the contention of Unger that critical scholars are com- pletely missing the purpose of the assertion of Exodus 6:3 which was not designed to distinguish the names of Elohim and Yahweh in Genesis and in the opening chapters of Exodus. Significantly the Exodus 6: 3 passage does not distinguish YHIVH from Elohim (occurring over 200 times in Genesis) but from El Shaddai (God Almighty) the name denoting the particular character in which God revealed Himself to the patriarchs (Gen. 17: 1; 28: 3; 35-1 1; 43: 14; 48: 3).'" The Exodus 6: 3 passage does not concern itself at all with the occurrence or non-occurrence of the divine name YHIVH in the pre-AIosaic era, and therefore cannot legitimately be employed to deny or affirm anything about the antiquarian usage of YHIVH and Elohim, the usual conclusion drawn bv critical scholarship. Other possibilities also exist for removing what is claimed to be a patent contradiction when Exodus 3: 6 is placed in opposition to Exodus 6 : 3. I'arious solutions for what appears as a problem in Ex. 6: 2, 3 have been proposed, all of which ttrould resolve the alleged difficulty that some scholars mould find in these two verses. One reasonable suggestion has been made. It is that the negative particle "lo" which appears before the verb "know" is a transcriptional error for the emphatic particle "lu" which involves one letter, u for o.17 Then the translation of Exodus 6: 2, 3 would be: "And God said to hloses, "I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty, and verily, by my name the Lord (Yahweh) I did make myself known to them." Professor hiartin claims that never in the history of exegesis have critical scholars insisted on the importance of one letter or stressed one verse, even to the exclusion of a large body of testimony to support a theory that they are loathe to surrender and admit that in the 18th century some erroneous conclusions were drawn by Witter, Astruc, Eichhorn and many others which today simply will not stand up in the light of various types of evidence. Thus he worte: Probably never before in the whole history of exegesis, whether classical or biblical, has so much been made to depend on a single word. There was something strangely paradoxical about this attitude to a tiny word on the part of men who mere ready to believe that otherwise the text had suffered extensive ad- mixture. In the interpretation of the text at the outset a recog- nized and generally accepted canon of exegesis seemed to have been neglected, namely, that a passage should be interpreted in the light, not only of the local context, but also of the re- mote, the mediate as well as immediate must be taken into consideration.ls When scholars became aware that Exodus 6: 2, 3 was in conflict with the immediate context and with all of Genesis they should have become suspicious of the rendering of this passage and in the interest of the general assumption that a writer purports to write intelligently and logically there should at least an attempt have been made to straighten out the difficulty. But critical scholars were more concerned to depict the Bible as a human and fallible book, which mas a distinct thrust of the age of rationalism to demote the diiine character of the Scriptures and ascribe to it a fallible humanity. A knowledge of the Old Testament usage of the word "name," if it had been grasped properly, could also have adequately taken care of bringing Exodus 6:2,3 into harmony with the assertions of Genesis, Exodus and many other books which stated that YHWH from the very beginning of His relationship with Abraham and his descendants was known by the name of YHIVH. In Hebrew the word "name" covers not only the idea of a verbal deputy, a label for a thing, but it also denotes the attributes of the thing named. The word "shem," name also stands for "reputation," "character," "honor," "name," and "fame." Therefore Martins wrote: "Hence the reference would not be so much to nomenclature as to the nature of the reality for which the name stood. To bring out the full mean- ing in English one would then have to use some such phrase as "glorious name."lg There is an interpretation which would remove any semblance of contradiction with Exodus 3: 6 and this was already discussed for members of the Missouri Synod clergy in a short but important Did The Patriarchs Know Yahweh7 127 article in the Concordia Theological Rlonthly of 19 33 ." L. August Heerboth rendered Ex. 6: 3b as follo~vs: "I am Jehovah and have appeared unto Abraham, Unto Isaac, and unto Jacob as God Al- mighty. And regarding my name Jehovah mas I not known to them7 Also (i.e. in addition to this) have I established hly covenant with them (namely to give to them the land," etc.) With this translation every possibility of a seeming contradiction with other Bible-passages disappears entirely. IT. J. Martin also claims that the translation by Heerboth is a strong possibility according to the context of the first part of Exodus 6 according to the Hebrew text and the clues and usage of the text. The phrase "but by my name the Lord (Yahweh), I did not make myself known to them could be taken in Hebrew as an elliptical interrogative. Martin translated Exodus 6 : 3 in this light as follows: "I suffered myself to appear (Niphal) to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as El Shaddai, for did I not let myself be known to them by my name YHWH?" In the living language it is sufficient to indicate a question by raising the voice. However, on the printed page tonal inflection cannot be indicated so it \\,as usually, but not always, customary to place the interrogative particle "ha" at the be- ginning of an interrogative sentence. But there are a number of examples in the Old Testament where "ha" is omitted. A good ex- ample is Genesis 18 : 12. An example that parallels our case is a passage in Job 23: 17, translated: "For have I not been cut off on account of the darkness," where the interrogative particle is not used and yet it is plain that a question is being asked. The rendering of Heerboth and Martin is in harmony with Semitic usage. Martin claims that there is additional support gram- matically in favor of this rendering which the context especially supplies. Thus he n-rote: There is, however, strong support forthcoming from the gram- matical structure of the following sentence. This is introduced by the words 'and also'. Now in Hebrew common syntactical practice demands that where 'and also' is preceded by a negative it also introduces a negative clause and vice versa, otherwise we would be faced with a non-sequitur. In this instance the clause after 'and also' is positive, hence on would expect to find the preceding clause a positive one. The translation of the clause as an interrogative would thus remove all, illogicality. A per- fectly good reason can be given for the use of an interrogative form here: it is a well-known method of giving a phrase an asservative character. A translation of 'and also' in this context by 'but' would be highly unsatisfactory if not altogether inad- missable on the ground that the next clause again introduced by 'and also.' This makes it extremely hard to avoid drawing the conclusion that we are here dealing with a series of positive statements, the first couched for the sake of emphasis in an interrogative form, and the two subsequent ones introduced by 'and also' to bring them into logical co-ordination ." That the superstructure of the intricacy and dimensions of the Pentateuchal theo~ should be erected upon a two-letter particle may seem strange to many. This is not the first time that that has happened in literary criticism. An interesting example is cited by professor J. A. Scott in his book, The Unity of Homer (1921). He tells of a theory put forth by Bethe in his book, Dictung und Sage, in which the German classical scholar had propounded quite at length the theory that the Homeric account of Athene's intervention to prevent Achilles from attacking the king were later additions to the Homeric poem. His theory mas based on the assumption of the correctness of one verbal form, which later was shown he had misunderstood and mistranslated. His theory occupied almost an entire volume! The Neiv Testament Evidence for Exodus 3:6 In the New Testament Exodus 3: 6 is quoted by Christ to support the idea that the God of Jesus Christ is not a God of the dead but of the living. In proof of this position Jesus quoted Exodus 3 : 6 : "I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob," (Rlk. 12:26, Rlt. 22: 32, Luke 20: 37) a passage that is suspect and supposedly wrong. Strangely enough, Exodus 6:3 is never quoted in the New Testament. In the Book of Acts, Stephen also stated that God (the true God, Yahweh) appeared to Moses in the burning bush and said: "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob." (Acts 7: 32) The passage that supposedly has the wrong interpreta- tion is the one Christ, Stephen and also Peter (Acts 3: 13) quoted as evidence that the true God from the very beginning of patriarchal history had manifested Himself to and was known by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. FOOTNOTES 1. Harry hl. Buck, People of the Lord (New York: The hlacmillan Company, 1966), pp. 99-103.; G. Ch. Aalders, A Short Introduction to the Penta- teuch (Chicago and Toronto. Inter-varsity Christian Fellowship, no date, pp. 30-71. 2. U. Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis (Jerusalem; at the hlagnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1959), p . 5 98. 3. A. G. Hebert. The Authority of the ~~B~estarnent (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1947), p. 30. 4. John Skinner, The Divine Names of the Book of Genesis (London: Mac- Millan Company, 1914), pp. 12-13. 5. Ibid., p. 171. 6. H. H. Rowley, The Doctrine of Election (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1950), pp. 25-29. also H. H. Rowley, The Rediscovery of the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1945), p. 60. H. H. Rowley, The Growth of the Old Testament (1950), pp. 20-21.; H. H. Rowley, The Unity of the Bible (1953), p. 25.; H. H. Rolvley, The Faith of Israel (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956), pp. 41-42. 7. McNeile, Exodus, in The Westminster Commentary Series 9. London: Methuen & Co., Ltd. 1917), p. 34. 8. Merrill F. Unger. Introductory Guide to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondeman Publishin House, 195 l),.p. 252-253. 9. hl. H. Segal, The Pentateuci: Its Cornpositton and Its Authorship and Other Biblical Studies (Jerusalem: At the Magnes Press, The Hebrew University, 1967), pp. 4-5. 10. Gleason, L. Archer. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1964). p. 113. Did The Patriarchs Know Yahu~eh? 129 - 1 1. Jhid. - - . - - . . . . 12. James Orr. The Problem of the Old Testament. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1907), p. 225. 13. As quoted by C. R. North, "Pentateuchal Criticism," in H. H. Rowley (ed) The Old Testament in Modern Study (Oxford: At the Clarendon Press, 1951). p. 66. 14. Ibid., p. 54. As quoted by C. R. North. 15. Unger, up. cit., p. 25 1. 16. W. J. Martin. Stylistic Criteria and the Analysis of the Pentateuch (Lon- don: The Tyndale Press, 1955), p. 17. 17. Ibid., p. 16. 18. Ibid., 5. 16. 19. Martin, W. J. OP. CIT. p. 17. 20. L. August Heerboth, "Exodus 6:3b. Was God Knonn to the Patriarchs as Jehovah?" Concordia Theological Monthly, 4: 345-349, May, 193 1. 21. op. cit. p. 18.