<< Exodus 6: The Name of Jehovah >>
And 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 vi. 3.
THIS passage has always appeared difficult to those who have thoughtfully read the Scriptures. They are aware that the word Jehovah is very frequently to be found in the original language of the Scriptures, long before this period. It occurs in the second chapter of Genesis, and in the record of the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Of late, this passage has assumed still greater importance than usual, for it is the key to that argument against the authenticity and divinity of the Divine Word, which has lately been imported into this country, and made somewhat familiar amongst us by the Bishop of Natal. The argument stands something like this:--We take this passage precisely as it is stated, we understand it to mean that the word Jehovah as the name of God, had never been given to the Israelites before this period; and, if that be allowed, then every passage having the word Jehovah in it, must have been written after this time, and, therefore, is not authentic revelation, but a pious legend written long after the time to which it professedly relates. By this mode of understanding the facts, the whole of Genesis, all the accounts of the early dealings of Divine Providence with the patriarchs must necessarily be considered to have been written after this period, and consequently are to be regarded as fictitious narratives, and not divine revelations. They were written probably for edification, but are human legends, not divine compositions. They were not collected by Moses, revealed to Moses, or written by Moses. The name Jehovah is supposed to have come into use about the time of the prophet Samuel.
Such is the argument that has been put forth, and, on the strength of it, we are expected to conclude that the five books of Moses were productions of some unknown authors, which the Jewish people,--the most obstinate against innovations of any known nation,--adopted without opposition or complaint, and made their law both for worship and for life.
According to this same argument, the Jewish nation adopted all their peculiar, minute, and burdensome regulations, extending to every set of their lives, gave up their idolatry, and their paganism, without any authority, divine leadership, or warrant, without in fact any known cause. They have no history, if these books are not their history. They have been so pertinacious as not to receive Christianity amid all the persecutions and inducements pressed upon them for nearly two thousand years; yet we are to believe they accepted the Mosaic Law without a murmur, without a proof, without hesitation, and without a hint even in their history that they had done so, a change, a hundred times more decided than the change from Judaism to Christianity. Some one in the days of Samuel told them, we are to suppose, that they had been led out of Egypt by means of stupendous miracles, and under a leader called Moses; who had given them the books of his law which had never been heard of before, had instituted the worship of one God, under the pretense that they had worshiped Him as their national God for five centuries, although they knew they had not; and that they had practiced the Passover and the other sacrifices and ceremonies of the law for five hundred years, although they had never heard of them until these books without authors were introduced for their acceptance. And we are to believe that the Jews took all this so quietly, that not a trace of it appears in their history. Surely, this is an enormous superstructure to erect upon so slight a foundation, nay, upon no foundation whatever, for according to the argument, this revelation to Moses never happened at all, and therefore God never appeared to him, and never said to him the words which form the base of the argument itself. Unbelief is very credulous; it will admit almost anything except the sublime truths of our Father in heaven, of immortality and of religion.
They who are so ready to assume interpolations in the Scriptures might easily have supposed these words to be an interpolation, and then the difficulty for them would disappear. a They have, however, chosen the most difficult and most unlikely construction of these words. Was it because the recommendation of this extraordinary construction was, that thus men could best be deprived of the hope and the comfort which flow from a trust in the Word of God?
What, however, are the facts of the case before us? We are told that the name Jehovah was not known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but that He appeared unto them as God Almighty, or, as the Hebrew says, God Shaddai, or the Thunderer.
We find, however, the name Jehovah in the narratives long before the times of the patriarchs alluded to, also in their histories, and even in addresses and prayers uttered by themselves. How can these facts be reconciled? Probably thus: There was a Bible before the present Bible. It is alluded to in Numbers xxi. 14, and called the Book of the Wars of Jehovah; another portion of it is called the Book of them that speak in proverbs, or more correctly, prophecies, v. 27. These two portions answering to the law and the prophets of the subsequent Bible. That ancient Bible, would, it is more than probable, be written in a language more ancient than the Hebrew.
Since Moses could not have spoken of the matters which occurred hundreds, and some of them thousands, of years before his time, from any knowledge of his own, he must have had them either from immediate revelation, or from that more ancient Word. If taken from that more ancient Word and translated into the Hebrew, he would render the term in that more ancient language which was the equivalent for Jehovah, by this, then, new term given to the Hebrews; and this portion of the Word with the Word he was himself inspired to write, made the book of the law, which he gave to the Levites to place in the ark of the covenant, for a witness to all succeeding ages (Deut. xxxi. 24-26). The Hebrew term, Jehovah, was then new; but Moses in translating the ancient Word to make it correspond with his own, would, as all translators do, use the equivalents in his own language for the more ancient names of the old. Their histories had gone under the hand of Moses, and he used the names of the Lord as they had been divinely revealed to him. This simple, easy, and natural explanation, we have no doubt, is the true one, and it removes the whole difficulty out of the way.
So much as to the literal name Jehovah; but now let us consider the spiritual use of that, and other names. Let us take, for instance, the first chapter of Genesis; you will find there, that the Divine Being is everywhere mentioned, from the first verse to the last, simply by the name God. God made the light. God divided the waters, and God made man. Everything is done by God. But in the second chapter you will find a change of the appellation. The Lord (Jehovah) God made the earth and the heavens, v. 4. Jehovah God formed man, v. 7. Jehovah God planted a garden. Jehovah God took man, v. 15. This is not an imperfection, it is a perfection. It is not a mark of want of inspiration; but it is the result of inspiration, that everything connected with the Word of God, every term, every appellation, should be used with the nicest discrimination, and should thus convey the most beautiful and interesting spiritual information.
The name God in the original, signifies power, and it is a word used throughout the Sacred Volume to represent the divine truth. It is that by means of which Gods power is exerted; for the Lord defends man by truth, the Lord defeats falsehood by truth, the Lord breaks down error by truth. He built up the universe, and He builds up heavenly states in the soul, by truth. By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made. Thus Gods power is exerted. Light is let in, and darkness passes away. Hence, all the early work which truth effects when building up the church, or regenerating man, is represented by the six days of creation in the first chapter of Genesis, representing the way in which heaven and heavenly order are introduced, and true principles formed in the human soul. This is done by truth, and therefore is all stated to be done by God. But when we come to a higher degree of the regenerate life, and man becomes completely happy because Divine Love rules him, then, all the operations are stated to be done by Jehovah God, because Jehovah is the Divine Love. In the Hebrew language, Jehovah signifies HE WHO IS and WHO WILL BE. It is representative of the divine love of God--of that which is the very essence of the divinity--GOD Is LOVE. The power of God is truth, but the nature of God is LOVE. He, says St John that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, for God is love.
Love, then,--the very essence of divinity, the very inmost nature of the Divine Being from which all other things come, as from their fountain, is what is represented by Jehovah. If you read the Psalms, and pay a little attention to the exact arrangement of these names, you will find a beauty springing out of them that has never occurred to you before. I will call upon God, and the Lord (Jehovah) shall save me.--Ps. lv. It is not in order to avoid a mere repetition that this change in the name occurs; you will see a divine propriety in it when you remember the meaning of these two names. I will call upon God; I will address myself to the Divine Wisdom. I will look for divine teaching and help. But it is Divine Love that saves.
You may have as much intelligence as you please, but that (although it is the way of salvation) is not salvation itself. When the Divine Love descends into the heart of a man who has been heaven-taught, then he is saved. I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me.
Again, Ps. lvi., In God will I praise his Word; in the Lord (Jehovah) will I praise his Word.
We praise the Word when we are influenced by its truth, but still more when we glow with its divine love. is for this interior divine reason that the declaration of the Word before us is, that Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob knew Him as God the Thunderer, God Almighty, but they had not been able to know His name, Jehovah. They had known the awful thunder of His truth, but as yet they were not able to enter into the perception of His divine love.
Further, to know the Divine Being, and to know His name, is not simply to be acquainted with the sounds of which His name consists; for it is with the Divine Being as it is with a human being; you may be thoroughly aware of the appellation by which he is known, but you may still be very far m knowing him. A person may be quite aware of there being a God, of His divine powers, of the term by which He is designated, but yet may not at all know God. He that loves God knows God. It is beautifully said by the apostle John, Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is love. No other person really can know Him. He may be acquainted with the term as we said; a child may know the name of Jesus, may know the word Almighty, may know the term Deity, but may have no conception of the real character of that glorious Being who is understood by those expressions. A person grows in understanding divine things as he grows in goodness. The Divine Being seems better and better all the way through our regenerate life; and never, except in proportion as we become really God-like, are we able to grasp the real character of the Lord, and absolutely to know the God we love. It is in this sense therefore, that the Divine Being uses the words of our text, I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, as God the Thunderer; but my name Jehovah did I not make them to know; which is the exact rendering of the original Hebrew.
Jehovah was well known to the most ancient Church, signified by Adam. The name was less familiar, though still known to the ancient Church, signified by Noah. But In the degradation of their descendants through thousands of years, it was lost. They became mere idolators, including Abraham himself. When Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob came into the land of Canaan, and went through the course in which Divine Providence watched over and guarded them, and caused their lives to be written as a divine allegory (Gal. iv. 24); although they had again a word equivalent to Jehovah revealed to them, they only understood it as meaning a local God, the God of their families. The real nature of God as He is, and as the name of Jehovah imports when it is understood, they were not prepared to know, and therefore they could not know. It is on this ground that the Lord says, I did not make your fathers to know--that is to say, to understand, to perceive, to enter really into the name Jehovah. In fact, this is always the case, whenever a person is in the state in which he becomes first acquainted with the Deity; he is enabled to understand that there is a God, a heaven, and a hell, but he has no real conception of what this God is, nor of what heaven and hell are. He conceives of God as a powerful Being, that He is God the Thunderer. He, perhaps, raises his ideas still higher, and conceives that God is the Being who built up the universe, who creates suns and worlds and who sustains everything. But even to know this, is not to know Jehovah. The pity, the tenderness, the mercy, the depths of love, the infinitude of forgiveness, the all-sufficiency of grace wrapped up in that glorious name, it takes a whole regeneration to know. A person cannot conceive this, except in proportion as his own state has become purified more and more. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
The Jews in the time of our Lord supposed that they, the peculiar people to whom it had been proclaimed, Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, had a correct knowledge of God. But what did our Lord say to them? Ye neither know me nor my Father. He that knoweth me, knoweth him that sent me. No one knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him. Now it is this kind of knowledge--the only real knowledge we can have of the Divine Love--that is meant in the latter part of our text, when it is said, that they did not know,they were not made to know the name of Jehovah.
It is because of the want of the knowledge of God as a Being of infinite love, that there is such a difficulty with the merely natural man in understanding the glorious doctrine that grows out of it,--that the Lord Jesus Christ is Jehovah manifest.
The natural man cannot but see that the prophets constantly proclaim, that Jehovah would become mans Redeemer and Savior, but thinks only of the awful greatness and majesty of God Almighty, he shrinks from accepting the truth; he cannot conceive it possible for the Eternal God to become a man.
And so long as he thinks only of outward greatness and power, the difficulty will remain, but let him think of the love of a mother, how soon it casts dignity aside to save her perishing child; then let him think of the love of Him from whom the love of all the mothers in the universe has come, let him think of our Heavenly Father seeing His children perishing, not into temporal, but eternal death, and no rescue but from Himself, no rescue but from such a manifestation of His love, as to draw their hearts to Him, at the same time that He removed the power of hell from them, and gave them liberty and light. If the salvation of myriads of souls required our Heavenly Father to give Himself for us, would He not do it? For a good man, said the apostle Paul, some would even dare to die.--Rom. v. 7. He offered himself to be accursed for his brethren according to the flesh (Rom. ix. 3). An angel would change places with a fiend, if that would rescue the miserable one, and bring him happily into the realms of peace. What, thee, would infinite love do for fallen man? What would it not? That Jehovah should become mans Savior, is the natural consequence of his being Jehovah. I, even I, am Jehovah, and besides me there is no Savior.--Isa. xliii. 11. For thy Maker is thy husband, Jehovah of hosts is His name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel the God of the whole earth shall He be called.--Isa. liv. 5. Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Jehovah, art our FATHER, our REDEEMER, thy name is from everlasting.--Isa, lxiii. 16. Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, The Prince of Peace.--Isa. ix. 6.
Let it never be forgotten, that the Scriptures represent redemption, not only as the work of Jehovah Himself, but as undertaken and accomplished by Him, because He was Jehovah. I am Jehovah, that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another. When He appeared to Moses, He was about to deliver Israel from the bondage of the Egyptians,--the type of His deliverance of all mankind, in due time, from the spiritual bondage of the powers of darkness. He had heard their cry, and seen their sorrows. In His love and in His pity He was about to redeem them, and He made known to them His long-forgotten name Jehovah, the name expressive of His love. Because He was Jehovah, He would deliver them from the house of bondage. Because He was Jehovah, He was to preface His laws for ever, to give a promise, and to kindle hope for the captive and the down-trodden of every age.
I am Jehovah, thy God, who brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Because He is Jehovah, He will deliver you and me, and the oppressed by sin, in every age, who cry for freedom; and though we all know Him as the Thunderer at first, we shall in time know the wonders of love which are enclosed in that name Jehovah.
Author: Jonathan Bayley --- From Egypt to Canaan (1869)