I Appeared as El Shaddai: Intertextual Interplay in Exodus 6:3

Published: Westminster Theological Journal Spring 2014, Vol. 76 Issue 1, p167

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1            The problem of Exodus 6:3

2            The ‘question’ view

3            The documentary hypothesis

4            The view of Moberly

5            The meaning of the name

6            A close reading of Genesis

7            Exodus 3:13–15

8            Implications

9            Conclusion


The battle over Exodus 6:3 is well known, and the main interpretative options have remained largely unchanged for a century. Is there room for a fresh approach to the passage? After briefly reviewing the usual interpretations, this paper proposes that what is taking place in the passage is an intertextual interplay with the narrative of Genesis. Exodus 6:3 needs to be interpreted in correlation with a close reading of Genesis.

1. The problem of Exodus 6:3

Exodus 6:3 reads thus:

וארא אל־אברהם אל־יצחק ואל־יעקב באל שדי

 ושמי יהוה לא נודעתי להם׃

And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as/by El Shaddia,

And [as/by] my name Yhwh I was not known to them.

The problem is seen immediately. The ‘blunt claim’ is that the patriarchs did not know the name Yhwh.[1] Abraham, Isaac and Jacob only knew Him by the ascription, El Shaddai. Exodus 6:3 is apparently saying that the revelation of the name of Yhwh to Moses is a new revelation, unprecedented in Israelite history. However, Genesis presents abundant evidence of the use of the name Yhwh, not only from the voice of the narrator, but also from the mouth of Yhwh and other protagonists (see below).

2. The ‘question’ view

A less subscribed resolution of the problem argues that the verse is to be understood as a question, thus: ‘and by my name Yahweh was I not known to them?’[2] Andersen argues thatלא  (‘not’) indicates a rhetorical question, and should not be connected with what precedes, thus: ‘Did I not make myself known to them?’[3] Garrett sets out the poetic, parallel structure of Exodus 6:2c–3 in the following way:[4]

A                                            אני יהוה

B וארא אל־אברהם אל־יצחק ואל־יעקב באל שדי

A’                                        ושמי יהוה

B’                                 לא נודעתי להם

A         I am Yhwh.

B         And I made myself known to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai.

A’        And my name is Yhwh;

B’         Did I not make myself known to them?

However, the verse lacks the usual Hebrew interrogative particle,[5] and more seriously, the construction makes the meaning of the verses even more difficult to determine. Why is the name of El Shaddai introduced? The second ‘A’ statement could be antithetical (as could be the first ‘B’ statement), thus, ‘I made myself known to Abraham…as El Shaddai, but my name is Yhwh.’ This reinforces the position that Garrett is seeking to avoid, that Yhwh is a replacement name for El Shaddai. Moreover, ושמי (‘And my name is…’) is unparalleled in the Pentateuch as an expression of divine self-identification (Exod. 3:15 would be the closest statement: זה־שמי לעלם, ‘this is my name forever’. Cf. Exod. 15:3b, in which Moses says יהוה שמו, ‘Yhwh is His name’, or perhaps Deut. 28:58). This solution has not received widespread support, which leaves three main theories for further discussion.

3. The documentary hypothesis

The documentary hypothesis rose to prominence in the mid-19th century and was refined and championed by Wellhausen.[6] It claims that since Exodus 6:3 says that the patriarchs did not know the Tetragrammaton, then those texts of Genesis that are written from the perspective that they did know it must be from a separate source document. As a result, in combination with other considerations, the Pentateuch is divided into the four source documents of the Jahwistic, Elohistic, Deuteronomistic and Priestly authors/editors/schools, or JEDP. The Priestly writer is thought to be responsible for Exodus 6:3.

To respond, the title or name Yhwh appears 165 times in Genesis. It is used by the narrator 114 times (69% of the uses), but this does not indicate that the name is chiefly a narratorial term. No less than 50% of the narrator’s usage is in Genesis 1–13, and as the story becomes more personal, this narratorial usage declines and the characters are increasingly represented using the name. The name appears on the lips of eighteen protagonists (or groups of protagonists, excluding Gen. 22:14, which is a ‘to this day’ statement). This use begins quite early, since Eve uses the name just after the expulsion from the garden (Gen. 4:1). The final use is by Jacob in the penultimate chapter (Gen. 49:18). Overall, the name is used in 66% of the chapters of Genesis (33 out of 50 chapters), and in 36% when only counting the ‘non-narratorial’ uses (18 chapters). More specific data regarding the use of Yhwh in Genesis are well known (e.g. the statements of Gen. 4:26; 12:8; 13:4), and need not be repeated here.

In comparison, the ascriptionאלהים  occurs only 53 times more (218 times in total) in 70% of the chapters of Genesis (35 chapters). Of these references, 98 occur in direct speech, not including 23:6 and 30:8. These ‘non-narratorial’ uses are in 54% of the chapters of Genesis (27 chapters). Elohim is used twice as often in dialogue as Yhwh, but overall, the use of Yhwh is still substantial.

In the light of the consistency and frequency of the use of Yhwh in Genesis, it is difficult to believe that the final-stage redactor of the Pentateuch would have let stand a comment that the name was first revealed to Moses. It is barely credible that there ever was a tradition that said that the patriarchs did not know the name. Neither can it be believed that the redactor simply failed to see the implications of Exodus 6:3 when combining sources,[7] particularly since the text is pivotal in the book’s theology of the divine name (cf. Exod. 20:7). The position of the documentary hypothesis on Exodus 6:3 is untenable.

4. The view of Moberly

The prolepsis view argues that the name Yhwh is a deliberate anachronism in the text of Genesis. Moberly has been a prominent defender of this position.

Contrary to the source-critical position, Moberly does not believe that Exodus 6:2–5 is giving a parallel account of the call of Moses. Rather, it is ‘a reassurance and reaffirmation of Moses’ call in Exodus 3…’, and assumes from that passage that the name Yhwh was first revealed in history to Moses.[8] However, ultimately the text is not supposed to be a record of a particular historical event, but is more a statement by the writer, emphasising that Yahwism commenced with Moses, and thus the name of Yhwh was not known to the patriarchs.[9]

Why, then, is the name Yhwh used in Genesis? It is the ‘perspective of the storytellers who tell the originally non-Yahwistic patriarchal stories from within the context of Mosaic Yahwism.’[10] As Moberly notes, this is an old position, since Ibn Ezra mentioned a Rabbi Joshua who said that it was Moses who added the name Yhwh to the book of Genesis.[11]

More specifically, the uses of Yhwh in Genesis 1–11 are irrelevant to the discussion, since the primeval history ‘is entirely shaped by the normative theological perspectives of Mosaic Yahwism’. In Genesis 1–11, the writers had ‘little interest in maintaining historical perspective in any modern sense.’[12]

However, in the patriarchal stories, ‘the pre-Yahwistic context is taken seriously’[13], so Moberly gives these texts more attention. First, in some texts, the name Yhwh is used in conjunction with other appellations for God.[14] In Genesis 26:24, it is said that Yhwh appeared, even though the self-appellation is ‘the God of your father Abraham’. The purpose of the juxtaposition is so that the reader is aware that Elohim is indeed Yhwh.

Secondly, there are places where the ascription, Yhwh, has unmistakably been inserted in the place of the older name, El or Elohim.[15] Genesis 16:11, 13 and 28:16, 19 provide examples of this.

Thirdly, some texts in Genesis only use the name Yhwh. These texts are the ‘most problematic’.[16] Examples include Genesis 12, 13, 15, 18:1 – 19:28 and chapter 24. Moberly draws on Alt and Gunkel, saying that these stories have been told so often that the Yahwistic viewpoint has completely taken over.

In response to this, first, there is circularity here. The testimony of Genesis 1–11 can safely be ignored only on the presupposition that the name Yhwh was not known in pre-Mosaic times. Secondly, why would the juxtaposition of divine names in some texts in Genesis not indicate that the names Elohim and Yhwh have always been interchangeable? After all, Johannes de Moor has recently argued that ‘the God of Israel was Yhwh from the beginning’.[17] More radically, why not argue that Yhwh is the older name, and explain away every text in Genesis that uses Elohim? Perhaps there was a desire to Canaanize the patriarchs, tying them to the god El.[18] The earlier name, Yhwh, was displaced by the dominating work of the Elohistic school, until revived by the Yahwist. Brichto’s comments may lead to such a revision.[19] It is all too easy to assert ‘a later redactional hand’ to prove a hypothesis.

Finally, the use of Yhwh in Genesis is simply too pervasive, and whilst some uses may well be incidental to the text’s historical focus, in other texts, particularly in the ‘formula of self-representation’, that is, in the ‘I am Yhwh’ statements, it is an integral part of the text’s portrayal of pre-Mosaic religion.[20]

5. The meaning of the name

The meaning of Exodus 6:3 must be found in its present canonical context, and must be part of the logic of the narrative. If it is not blatantly in conflict with its own broader literary context (the Pentateuch), what is the author/redactor saying, and how does the text make sense as a comment from Yhwh to Moses?

This leads to what Moberly calls the ‘persistent minority report’ on the text, which is the traditional view[21] and has been called the ‘conservative’ view,[22] though this latter attribution is misleading.[23] The position holds that Exodus 6:3 means only to say that the full meaning of the name, Yhwh, was unknown to the patriarchs. The name was heard by them and vocalized by them, but still, they knew God more in terms of the meaning of the name El Shaddai rather than the meaning signified by Yhwh.

There are several supports for this thesis. First, as Cassuto notes, ‘It was the established custom of Eastern monarchs to begin their proclamations with the formula, I am so-and-so, even though their name was well known to every one.’[24] Secondly, to refer to Cassuto again, ‘In the Egyptian texts, for example, it is stated that a certain deity is accustomed to do one kind of work under such a name, another kind of work under a different appellation, and a third task under yet another title, and so forth.’[25] A name, then, is reflective of a particular aspect of a deity’s character or ability.

Thirdly, as Sarna notes, ‘In the present context the invocation of a hitherto unknown divine name would hardly serve to counteract the widespread demoralization—which is, after all, the very function of God’s declaration.’[26] Fourthly, to state several points at once, the ‘I am Yhwh’ formula is not used in Scripture for mere self-identification of an unknown person,[27] the verb ‘made known’ is not about imparting information but revealing one’s character (see below), and Ezekiel 20:5ff, which appears to be a commentary on Exodus 6:3, understands the verse to be about character.[28]

Fifthly, the niphal of the word ‘know’ is about ‘experiential knowledge’, not just ‘mere acquaintance’.[29] Alternatively, Gispen says that ‘I did not make known’ can mean ‘explain, clarify’ (cf. Ezek. 20:4; 22:2).[30]

Sixthly, Rashi also focuses on the niphal of the word ‘know’. The hiphil, with a causative sense, would place the stress on what Yhwh had or had not done: He had not made Himself known by the name. However, the niphal, with its reflexive or passive sense, stresses what the patriarchs understood by the name: ‘was I not known…i.e. I was not recognized by them in My attribute of “keeping faith”…’[31] That which was not known is ‘God as Yhwh’, and hence it is about the character of God.[32]

Seventhly, Exodus 6:7 exposes what the burden of vv. 3–5 is, and that to ‘know’ Yhwh is about experiencing His saving power.[33] ‘You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians.’

However, there are objections to the ‘meaning of the name’ position. Moberly is concerned that this view creates a division between the name of God and the meaning of the name of God. He calls such a division ‘peculiar’, ‘incredible’ and ‘curious’, since it would mean that the name of Yhwh had been vocalized for centuries, but never understood.[34] That particular objection is overcome by remembering that Exodus presents revelational development within a fundamental continuity between the patriarchal and Mosaic (see further below). There is no direct antithesis between understanding and not understanding.

Another objection is that El was also the Sustainer and Saviour of the patriarchs. The supposed distinction between El Shaddai (the powerful God) and Yhwh (the redeeming God) in Exodus is invalid. However, with the Exodus comes a heightened revelation of those characteristics. It is worth remembering that even the revelation of God as Yhwh in the Exodus is a hidden revelation. Kim writes, ‘Yahweh is the very God who conceals himself…’[35] The theophanic presence throughout Exodus both reveals Yhwh and yet keeps Him hidden. The point is, then, that all is relative. There is heightened revelation of the character of Yhwh in Exodus, but this is not full revelation, and neither is it discontinuous with the revelation of patriarchal times.[36]

However, Moberly’s criticism does raise a point of niggling doubt about the ‘meaning of the name’ position. The argument about revelational development presents something of the truth of the situation, but why does the author speak with such finality, saying that Elohim ‘was not known as…’? Is this rhetorical licence, and Moses and the reader are supposed to understand that ‘was not known’ means ‘not fully appreciated’? Even after taking due notice of the comments above about the meaning of the word ‘know’, it is still difficult to obfuscate the force of the word ‘appeared’. Elohim appeared as El Shaddai to the patriarchs, and by implication did not appear as Yhwh. Is there not some other explanation for the absoluteness of the claim? A close reading of the text of Genesis leads to a positive answer to the latter question, and to a refinement of the ‘meaning of the name’ position.

6. A close reading of Genesis

There is more to be said about Exodus 6:3. Several ‘anomalies’ in the text give impetus to developing a new perspective. First, the second half of Exodus 6:3, which says that Elohim was not known by the name Yhwh, is difficult, but it has gone largely unnoticed that the first part of that verse is also quite surprising. It says that Elohim appeared to the patriarchs as El Shaddai (אל שדי). The surprise is that one would be hard pressed to conclude from the text of Genesis that this was a dominant theme in patriarchal religion, since the title or name El Shaddai is used only six times (Gen. 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3; 49:25), and only twice by the deity Himself (17:1; 35:11).[37] Elohim and Yhwh are the dominant titles or names for the deity in Genesis. Why would the author/redactor of Exodus pass over not just the name Yhwh, but also the obvious name Elohim, for this name El Shaddai? The ‘meaning of the name’ position would reply that only speaking of El or Elohim in Exodus 6:3 would not have proved the theological point being made, for these terms were too generic. It was God as ‘Almighty’ whom the patriarchs knew. Might it, however, be indicative that there is something else happening in Exodus 6:3?

Secondly, it is said that Elohim appeared ‘as’ El Shaddai (באל שדי). This is taken by every major translation as a ‘beth of essence’ (beth essentiae—Exodus 6:3 being the chief example of this prepositional category).[38] Despite the insistence of the ‘meaning of the name’ proponents on this categorization, it is not the only possibility. The more regular sense of ‘with’ is quite possible—not that Yhwh appeared with another god named El Shaddai, but that He appeared accompanied with [the declaration of] the name El Shaddai. The instrumental sense of the preposition is also possible: ‘I appeared by means of the name El Shaddai’. The ‘appearance’ came via the declaration of the name. How will the reading of Exodus 6:3 and its relationship to Genesis be affected if the exegete remains cognizant of these alternatives?

The above paraphrases insert ‘the name’ before ‘El Shaddai’, and this may be permissible from reading the ensuing coordinate statement, ‘my name Yhwh’. The question is, to what extent do the two coordinate lines intersect with each other? Should ‘my name’ be read back to ‘El Shaddai’, and even more importantly, should the preposition before El Shaddai be read onto ‘my name Yhwh’? As to the latter, Motyer notes the ‘governing power’ of the preposition, and concludes that the ‘bare translation’, ‘by my name’, should be excluded.[39] This is stilted, though. ‘I was not known as my name Yhwh’. If ‘my name’ can be read back to ‘El Shaddai’, then it allows for the preposition signifying accompaniment or instrumentality to be read in both ‘halves’. Of necessity, every major translation already has the second half of the verse commencing ‘but by my name…’ (i.e. with an implied instrumental beth—the words, ‘my name’, rule out the possibility of an implied beth essentiae reading, but a prepositional expression is demanded, since ‘my name Yhwh’ cannot be the direct object of the nifal verb), and the suggestion is that the more common meaning of the preposition be retained in the first half.

Ultimately, there is no neat way of proving the level of intersection between the lines, but given the Hebrew penchant for parallelism, it is most likely that here is an example of antithetical parallelism. ‘My name’ and the force of the preposition intrude into their alternative lines. Moreover, the terms ‘appear’ and ‘known’ qualify each other, too, so that ‘known’ is less about relational or experiential knowledge, but primarily carries the sense of ‘reveal’ (cf. Numb. 12:6, discussed below, in which it is said God was ‘revealed’ in a vision, using the reflexive hitpael. The point is that the word, ‘known’, can be used of the fact of revelation.). In sum, the sense is thus: ‘I appeared and was revealed by my name El Shaddai…I was not revealed and did not appear by my name Yhwh’.

A     And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob   

B                         with/by            [my name]         El Shaddai,

B’                 but         [with/by]         my name        Yahweh    

A’    I was not revealed to them.

Thirdly, in the attention given to the deity’s names in Exodus 6:3, insufficient attention has been paid to the verbs, ‘appeared’ and ‘was known’. The Pentateuch has a very definite theology of revelation. How do these verbs integrate into that theology? How are they used in the patriarchal narratives? Combined with the above point about the possibility of an instrumental preposition, instead of Exodus 6:3 being solely a statement about patriarchal theology, might it be the case that it is initially about the mechanisms of revelation, and then as an implication of that about the content of revelation in the patriarchal period?

Fourthly, Exodus 6:4–5 gives some parameters for the interpretation of Exodus 6:3, and some insight into its focus. ‘I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they resided as aliens. I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant.’ This signifies that the field of concern is salvation and revelation history, and the understanding is that there is discontinuous continuity in the patriarchal-Mosaic relationship, inherent in the covenant promise-fulfilment progression. It is unlikely, then, that Exodus 6:3 is positing a fundamental dichotomy between the two dispensations.

To commence resolving these issues, it can be asked if there is something in the language of the Pentateuch and in Genesis in particular that would lead to the unusual choice of El Shaddai and the choice of the word ‘appeared’ in Exodus 6:3. This leads to the discovery of some more odd data. Seitz writes that it is ‘intriguing’ that Genesis 17:1 has the same terms as Exodus 6:3.[40] It is more than intriguing. The second half of Exodus 6:3 says that God was not ‘known’ or ‘revealed’ to the patriarchs (נודעתי להם) by means or with the name Yhwh, and there is no similar expression of Yhwh being known in Genesis. As to the first half of the verse, of the ‘appearing’ (וארא) with or by means of the name El Shaddai, there are eight references in Genesis to the deity appearing, namely 12:7; 17:1; 18:1; 26:2, 24; 35:1; 35:9; and 48:3. Of these, three passages have the statement that the deity appeared and then have Him revealing His name using the ‘I am’ formula: 17:1; 26:24; 35:9 (actually, the revelation of the name is delayed until 35:11). Genesis 48:3, which is a reference back to the revelation of 35:9–15, speaks of an appearing, but does not use the formula of divine self-identification (although the formula is used in 35:11). Jacob says,אל שדי נראה־אלי  (‘El Shaddai appeared to me’). Genesis 35:1 also speaks of an appearing, but there is no divine self-identification, for this is a reference back to 28:13 (which does have the ‘I am’ formula).

The data is odder yet. In the three passages that have both elements of the divine appearing and declaring of His name, which names are revealed? The relevant part of Genesis 17:1 reads thus:

וירא יהוה אל־אברם ויאמר אליו אני־אל שדי

And Yhwh appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am El Shaddai’

Genesis 26:24a reads thus:

וירא אליו יהוה בלילה ההוא ויאמר אנכי אלהי אברהם אביך

And Yhwh appeared to him that night and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham your father’

The relevant parts of Genesis 35:9, 11 read thus:

                                                                     וירא אלהים אל־יעקב עו

ויאמר לו אלהים אני אל שדי

And Elohim appeared to Jacob again

And Elohim said to him, ‘I am El Shaddai’

The name of El Shaddai is revealed to Abraham (Abram), Elohim (strictly, ‘the God of your father, Abraham’) to Isaac, and El Shaddai to Jacob. The author of Exodus 6:3 is found to be correct. Elohim ‘appeared’ to the patriarchs not by the name Yhwh. He ‘appeared’ with the name El Shaddai (twice; and once with the ascription, ‘the God of your father’).

There are other ‘I am’ statements in Genesis, in which other names for God are revealed. In Genesis 15:1 the ‘word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision’
(היה דבר־יהוה אל־אברם במחזה). Yhwh says in the first place, ‘I am your shield…’ but in v. 7, the declaration is made, ‘I am the Lord’ (אני יהוה). Two further references reveal the name, El, once to Jacob in a dream (Gen. 31:13, אנכי האל בית־אל, ‘I am the God of Bethel’) and once to Joseph in a vision (Gen. 46:3, אנכי האל אלהי אביך, ‘I am the God, the God of your father’). The point is that in none of these texts (and it is the first one that seems to contradict most blatantly Exodus 6:3) is it said that Yhwh ‘appeared’. Exodus 6:3 is thus correct in asserting that Genesis does not have Yhwh ‘appearing’ and revealing the name Yhwh.

This is a startling realization. Exodus 6:3 seems to be interacting with the canonical text of Genesis (or something akin to it­, although the diachronic question is not the immediate concern here) with a great deal of precision. It is not an exact quotation of two or three passages from Genesis, but it does draw upon the precise wording of those passages. Elohim in Exodus 6:3 is saying, in effect, ‘In Genesis 17:1 and 35:9, I revealed myself using the name El Shaddai, not Yhwh’.

There is one possible exception. In Jacob’s dream of a ladder reaching to heaven, Yhwh uses the formula of self-identification: ‘I am Yhwh, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac’ (אני יהוה אלהי אברהם אביך ואלהי יצחק). Genesis 28:13 does not itself say that the divinity ‘appeared’ to Jacob. The complication is that Genesis 35:1 refers back to this revelation, saying ‘Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.”’ This is reinforced in 35:9, so that the subsequent appearance with or by means of the name El Shaddai is equated with the prior revelation at Bethel (‘Then God appeared to Jacob again…’). Combining the two passages, when Elohim previously ‘appeared’ (35:1), He said, ‘I am Yhwh…’ (28:13). Yhwh did appear with that name to the patriarchs.

Has Exodus 6:3 overlooked this? First, Genesis 28:13 does use the name Yhwh, but the focus is on the title El. He is ‘the Lord God of Abraham’, and in the subsequent phrase, He is the ‘God of Isaac’, so that ‘Yhwh’ is omitted. Jacob acknowledges that ‘Yhwh is in this place’ (v. 16), but he called the place Bethel (28:19) and El-Bethel (35:7). It is the place where Elohim appeared to him, according to 35:7. It is still the case that Genesis does not say openly that Yhwh appeared. ‘Appeared’ and ‘Yhwh’ are not directly linked. In the texts in Genesis that have the deity appearing and revealing His name, the name El Shaddai is used twice, and Elohim is used once.

Lest it be thought that the relationship between Genesis 28:13 and 35:7 has been passed over hastily, it can be added, secondly, that the לא (‘not’, in ‘I was not known’) of Exodus 6:3 might not need to be taken absolutely. Whitney argues for a relative sense, and cites several passages (including Jer. 7:22; Gen. 45:7–8; Exod. 16:8) in which ‘not’ provides ‘hyperbolic verbal irony’, so that one truth is emphasized as being more significant than another is.[41] Thus, Elohim was known ‘not only’ as Yhwh, but also as El Shaddai, with the El Shaddai appearances being rated as more significant. It should be noted that Whitney’s clarification does not resolve by itself the difficulties of interpreting Exodus 6:3, since it cannot account for the oddity commented on above of El Shaddai being used rather than Elohim. Exodus 6:3 still takes the reader to particular texts in Genesis, over against other texts. However, Whitney’s work does demonstrate that Exodus 6:3 need not be presenting a hard dichotomy, as though the deity never once was known as Yhwh to the patriarchs (and he is correct that a relative translation of the adverbial particle completely undermines the critical position adopted by scholars such as Astruc and Wellhausen).

Thirdly, instead of asking if Exodus 6:3 has overlooked Genesis 28:13, the better question would be, why has Exodus 6:3 drawn the reader’s attention to Genesis 17:1 and 35:9, and perhaps even deliberately away from Genesis 28:13? Why does Exodus 6:3 refer back to these particular passages, overlooking the other ‘I am’ statements of Genesis in which the name Yhwh is used? Why would Genesis 17 be emphasized over Genesis 12 and 15, and Genesis 35 over the revelation given to Jacob in chapter 31? What makes those two passages so significant that they can be taken as indicative of the entire patriarchal religion?

The two texts are readily identifiable as programmatic within Genesis, and as sharing together some unique features within the book. First, it is in these two texts that two of the patriarchs enter into newly defined relationships with the deity, inasmuch as the names of these two patriarchs are changed. Genesis 32:28 first indicated that Jacob’s name would be Israel, but there is a deficiency or incompleteness in the divine encounter, for the ‘man’ apparently refuses to reveal his own name (32:29). The deficiency is remedied in 35:9, when the name El Shaddai is spoken to Israel. Genesis 17:1 has a similar exchange of names, with Abram being designated Abraham, and the deity for the first time in Genesis revealing Himself as El Shaddai. In fact, Genesis 17:1 and 35:9 are the only two places in Genesis in which the deity Himself speaks the name El Shaddai. Exodus 6:3 seems to be aware of such details.

Secondly, it is Genesis 17:1ff and 35:9ff that confirm the proliferation of the family line and in particular speak of their royal descendants. This is sufficient to identify these two texts as being the highpoint of patriarchal revelation, and makes their use in Exodus 6:3 explicable.[42]

Thirdly, just as these passages contain the unique revelation of the name, El Shaddai, and unique covenant promises, the narrative events also appropriately have a special place when viewed from the Pentateuch’s theology of revelation. It might only be another oddity, but in most of the references in Genesis that speak of the deity appearing, there is an absence of reference to the manner of that appearance. The exceptions are 35:1, which belatedly calls the dream of Genesis 28:13 an appearing, and 18:1, which seems to be a theoandric appearance. Furthermore, in the references in which the deity reveals His name by saying, ‘I am Yhwh’, it is not said that the deity ‘appeared’, but rather it is stated that the revelation was by way of a vision (15:7) and a dream (28:13).

Divine appearances and self-identification in Genesis


Occurrences of El Shaddai

Deity’s uses of El Shaddai

Deity said to ‘appear’ (ראה)

Deity’s uses ‘I am’ formula

Nature of the revelation











‘I am your shield’






‘I am the Lord’






‘I am El Shaddai’


















‘I am the God of your father’

At night











‘I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac’

Dream at night





‘I am the God of Bethel’ [the angel is speaking]







Reference to 28:13











‘I am El Shaddai’












‘I am God, the God of your father’

Visions of the night






Reference to 35:9–15








It is not that an ‘appearance’ is inherently different to a ‘dream’ (as 28:13 with 35:1 shows). It is not even that a reader would automatically conclude that what takes place in 17:1, 26:24 and 35:9 is revelation via some means other than a dream, although the alert reader will notice that whilst 35:9 sets the second Bethel appearance as coordinate with the dream revelation of 28:12, 35:10 affirms Jacob’s name change, which was a change that came about originally not in a dream but through a ‘face to face’ encounter with God (32:28–30). Still, Exodus 6:3 might be looking at Genesis 17:1 and 35:9 through the matrix of Numbers 12:6–8a:

ויאמר שמעו־נא דברי

אם־יהיה נביאכם

יהוה במראה אליו אתודע

בחלום אדבר־בו׃

לא־כן עבדי משה

בכל־ביתי נאמן הוא׃

פה אל־פה אדבר־בו ומראה

ולא בחידת

ותמנת יהוה יביט

And he said, ‘Please hear my words.

If a prophet is among you,

I, Yhwh, make myself known to him in a vision.

I speak to him in a dream.

Not thus with my servant Moses.

He is faithful in all my house.

Mouth to mouth I speak with him, and plainly [an appearance],

and not in riddles,

and he sees the form of Yhwh’

The words for ‘vision and ‘dream’ are מראה and חלום. Following through the list of excluded ‘I am’ statements in Genesis, Genesis 28:12 uses the verb חלם, Genesis 31:11 has חלום and Genesis 46:2 has מראה. Genesis 15:1 uses a different word, מחזה (‘vision’) but this seems to be of a similar nature, since 15:12 speaks of a deep sleep that came upon Abram, just as Jacob was asleep, and Balaam later explains that as the recipient of a מחזה, he is one ‘who falls down, but with eyes uncovered’ (Num. 24:4).

Although Numbers 12:6–8 might only be making a distinction between the type of revelation given by Moses and that of his siblings (since it is the grumbling of Miriam and Aaron that leads to the statement by Yhwh, Num. 12:2), it can also be understood more broadly to be comparing Moses to all the prophets who had preceded him. Chief amongst these would be Abraham, whom Abimelech confesses to be a prophet (נביא, Gen. 20:7).[43]

Compared to them, Yhwh spoke to Moses with ‘face to face’ revelation. He spoke to him ‘clearly’ or ‘plainly’ (Num. 12:8), with the text using מראה, the noun of the verb ‘appear’ used in Genesis 17:1, 35:9 and Exodus 6:3 (ראה). In the past, to other prophets, He had only spoken and made Himself known (אתודע, hitpael) ‘in visions’ and ‘in dreams’, that is, in ‘riddles’. ‘Moses as covenant mediator sees Yahweh in a way that no one else does. He has an unparalleled exposure to the divine glory.’[44] The author of Exodus 6:3 believes an ‘appearance’ of God involves a higher method of communication. It brings more intimate and clear revelation than ‘dreams and visions’. If this matrix is applied to Genesis, then Genesis 17:1 and 35:9 (with 26:24) describe the fullest revelation of Elohim that the patriarchs received—the times at which revelation to the patriarchs came the closest to the fullness that Moses was experiencing. It is then that El Shaddai spoke with the patriarchs ‘face to face, as one speaks to a friend’ (re-deploying the language used of Moses in Exod. 33:11). Just as Yhwh ‘knew’ Moses ‘face to face’ (Deut. 34:10–11), so too did El Shaddai know the Patriarchs face to face.

The above observations give clarity to and justify the ‘meaning of the name’ position (without the weakness of insisting on the beth essentiae reading). Exodus 6:3 is saying that in these high points of revelation in Genesis, Elohim was revealed with the name El Shaddai, or by the name El Shaddai. In either case and irrespective of debates about the beth essentiae, the implication follows that the deity was known (understood and experienced) by the patriarchs as El Shaddai, that is, known in terms of the meaning of the name, El Shaddai. This was the clearest revelation they had of the deity. The revelation of the name Yhwh came only by dreams and visions, so it was a veiled revelation, and therefore the patriarchs did not fully know and experience Yhwh as Yhwh. If the name of Yhwh was not declared at the high moments of revelation, then the implications of that name cannot have been revealed fully either.

However, Elohim is now speaking His name Yhwh to Moses clearly, and not in riddles. Not only is the vocalization of the name declared to Moses openly by God rather than in a dream, but so too are the implications of that name, that is, the meaning of the name. Moberly complains that the ‘meaning of the name’ position cannot prove that it is the meaning of the name that is the point of distinction in Exodus 6:3,[45] but it is now unmistakable that this is precisely the point of the passage. Exodus 6:3 speaks of progression in revelation: the fullest self-disclosure of God in the Pentateuch’s presentation of revelation history.

7. Exodus 3:13–15

There is no need here to explore fully the exegetical intricacies of Exodus 3:13–15.[46] The aim now is simply to examine whether the passage’s teaching is in accord with the findings above.

In Exodus 3:10, Yhwh commissions Moses to go to Pharaoh. Moses doubts his capacity for this, asking, ‘Who am I?’ (v. 11). To this, Elohim replies, ‘I will be with you’ (v. 12). Moses needs to focus on Elohim, not himself. The difficulty arises in 3:13, in which Moses does focus on Elohim, asking Him to declare His name, since he expects that the Israelites in slavery would ask for this information. What does Moses mean by asking, ‘What is His name?’ Did Moses or the Israelites not know the name of Yhwh before this time? As already indicated, this is how Moberly understands it: ‘…the most natural explanation is that the writer is depicting the first revelation of the name to Moses and through him to Israel.’[47] Cassuto suggests that they had forgotten the name during their time in slavery,[48] although Moses’ mother may have found that difficult, her name being יוכבד (Exod. 6:20; Num. 26:59). Alternatively, Enns suggests that the Israelites knew the name but Moses was ignorant of it.[49]

Exodus 3:14 cannot be introducing the name, Yhwh, for the first time. First, as Sarna says, ‘God’s response to Moses’ query cannot be the disclosure of a hitherto unknown name, for that would be unintelligible to the people and would not resolve Moses’ dilemma.’[50] Secondly, has it gone unnoticed that the answer to the question is not, Yhwh, but,אהיה אשר אהיה  (3:14, ‘I am who I am’)? In other words, an explanation of the name is given (even an apparent etymology of the name), rather than the name itself.[51]

Thus, it seems better to understand Moses’ question in the way that Knight suggests. Moses was asking, ‘What is your nature, character, essence?’[52] Although it does not support his own view, Moberly points out that מה  (‘what’) carries the sense, ‘what is the meaning of’, in Deuteronomy 6:20 (cf. Exod. 12:26; 13:14; Josh. 4:6, 21). In Judges 13:17, however, in what is a clear case of asking for an unknown name, מי  is used (‘Who is your name?’).[53]

As to why Moses asked this question, it can be said that there is a definite sense in the narrative that this was the question that Moses was supposed to ask. He is acting in accordance with Yhwh’s revelational agenda, in which it had already been determined that the theophany would occur and the divine name declared.[54] It is to the credit of Moses’ prophetic instincts that he so readily takes his place in this larger revelational plan.

More can be said. First, perhaps the particular manner of the question can be explained by Moses’ sense of inadequacy. In his sense of weakness, he believes that he does not have an adequate knowledge of God. He knows the sound of the name of Yhwh, and he knows to some extent the meaning of it. Nevertheless, he wants a deeper knowledge of His person and power, and assurance of Yhwh’s presence. This is in accord with the picture of Moses in Exodus 33:18, where, even after receiving the law at Mount Sinai, Moses still asks to see Yhwh’s ‘glory’. The spiritual paradox is that this sense of His ‘otherness’ grows even as Moses enters into fuller and more intimate revelation from Him. Moses senses that he is unfamiliar with Him who is ultimately incomprehensible.

Secondly, if the stress is placed upon the thought that Israel would demand to know Elohim’s name, then it is easily understood that they were despondent in their slavery, and would have been resistant to or doubtful of Moses’ claim that Elohim was about to redeem them.[55] The polytheistic atmosphere in which they lived perhaps would have increased the need for a ‘name’. Mowinckel thinks that the response of Israel to Moses would have been like that of Pharaoh in Exodus 5:2.[56]

Exodus 4:31 records that the revelation of Exodus 3:13–15 was subsequently delivered to Israel. Seitz believes that as Moses confronts the people in Exodus 4:31, no reference is made to his call and the declaration of the divine name. ‘No explanation of the name is requested or given. The significance of the ’ehyeh ’aser ’ehyeh and of the name YHWH itself, as this was introduced in 3:13–15, is not referred to here.’[57] On the contrary, Exodus 4:31 does specify that this revelation to Moses was delivered to Israel (they saw the signs, and ‘heard’ the report from Aaron of the words of Yhwh to Moses, vv. 28, 30). From the report, the people learn that ‘the Lord had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery’. They learn that Elohim is not only Almighty, but is also the Saviour. They do indeed learn the meaning of the name.

Moberly rightly notes that the problem with Israel is not doubt that it is Israel’s God who is speaking, rather than some other deity, but is a weakness of will that can only be overcome by a demonstration of power.[58] This is what the revelation of the name Yhwh provides. Coming as it does with such clarity (and not in a dream or vision), it is a statement that a new period of revelation and salvation history has begun. As Sarna puts it:

However, taken together with the statement in 6:3, the implication is that the name YHVH only came into prominence as the characteristic personal name of the God of Israel in the time of Moses…Without doubt, the revelation of the divine name YHVH to Moses registers a new stage in the history of Israelite monotheism.[59]

Thirdly, the Israelites did not only need a display of power from God so as to be assured of salvation. As an integral part of that, they needed to learn about the role of a prophet (a topic of concern throughout Exodus, e.g. Exod. 2:14[60]). Previously, God had mainly revealed Himself in visions, through the patriarchal leader, and He had never ‘sent’ (שלך, v. 13) a prophet to a nation.[61] Moses is asking, ‘How am I supposed to convince the people (and myself) that I have been sent? Israel will ask, ‘Who is the God who ‘sends’ a prophet? What is this new development in revelation and salvation history?’ Moses is to respond by emphasising that he has indeed been ‘sent’ (and sent by the same God as that of the patriarchs, identified as Yhwh Elohim, v. 15). Moreover, a new period of revelation history has come, for this God has ‘appeared’ (drawing on Exod. 6:3), and through the elevated prophetic role of Moses is giving more direct and clear revelation of Himself, His intention to save and His desire to be in relationship with His people.

Although this is only a very brief review of the passage, it is sufficient to show that there is nothing here that contradicts the interpretation of Exodus 6:3.

8. Implications

Exodus 6:3 draws upon the precise wording and unique features of certain passages of what is known as the book of Genesis. It does not look as though the redactor, or the character of Moses in the text, was cognizant of only select passages of Genesis. Rather, it is an awareness that proceeds from a close reading of the entirety of the patriarchal story and that is sensitive to the intricacies of its literary methods and theological message. The verse draws the reader’s attention to two particular passages in Genesis, deliberately singling them out from other passages. It finds significance in an appearance, over against revelations by dreams and visions, and astonishingly but with good reason isolates the name El Shaddai from an entire narrative in which Elohim and Yhwh otherwise appear to dominate.

The diachronic ramifications are hard both to repress and resolve. It need not lead to an argument for the posteriority of P, for instead it seems that Exodus 6:3 presupposes the book of Genesis, or something very close to it. The text conveys a canonical awareness. Alternatively, is it that the redactor of Exodus 6:3 was drawing upon a fairly full, oral, patriarchal tradition? In arguing that the patriarchal narratives are the ‘Old Testament of the Old Testament’, Moberly writes, ‘at the time of the Yahwistic storytellers and editors the patriarchal traditions were still being retold in such a way that there was not yet one definitive version of them, and so the new perspective could significantly alter the nature of the text itself.’[62] However, it is unlikely that oral tradition would have enabled such an intricate critique of the process of Patriarchal revelation, just as it is unlikely that the patriarchal oral traditions were solidified and inscripturated through the grid of Exodus 6:3, judging by the level of interpretative difficulty in discovering how Exodus 6:3 relates to Genesis. To make the fine distinction that is being made in Exodus requires (or at least, is more likely to arise where there is) a unified, complex, written patriarchal tradition, and the inference is that the movement is from Genesis to Exodus, not vice versa. Thus, does Exodus 6:3 (with 3:14) belong to the final redactional stage of the Pentateuch (again, judging by the difficulty of understanding how Exodus 6:3 relates to Genesis, it does not read like a canonical seam, designed to impose order to the whole)? Perhaps a ‘proto-Genesis’ existed, which fed into the Moses story[63]—but a fairly full prototype. Attempting to sort out the minutiae of redactional implications will only lead back to the muddle of the older criticisms, but the overall impression is that Exodus presupposes a stable, extensive and even single and finalized patriarchal narrative.[64]

It is not only the redactor who has this canonical aware. The protagonists of Exodus 6:3—Elohim and Moses—are presented as having this detailed insight into patriarchal history. Exodus 6:3 is an intertextual comment at an authorial level, but it is presented on the lips and in the minds of the characters of the story, and therefore the characters are the intertextualists. It is natural that Elohim have such awareness, but His intricate comment to Moses does not require further elucidation. Does that not indicate that Moses grasps the significance of Elohim’s words, and therefore that Moses, too, has access to the narrative of Genesis? Biblical scholars may have failed to perceive the way in which Genesis lies behind Exodus 6:3, but Moses understood it. Moses is not a man perfect in wisdom, and he flounders when it comes to the practicalities of judging Israel (18:14), but in Exodus 3 and 6 he accepts that he has come into a new era of revelation, believing himself to have a more intimate, prophetic relationship with God than had the patriarchs.

It is not possible to know precisely when Moses came into this understanding of the revelational theology of Genesis. Perhaps God’s words in Exodus 6:3 brought new exegetical insight to Moses, but from the flow of the narrative, the likelihood is that he was already painfully aware that Elohim appeared only as El Shaddai at the high points of patriarchal revelation. He had, after all, attempted to implement his own programme of redemption in 2:14. His efforts had failed, and perhaps then he realized that he was in the same revelational situation as the Patriarchs. He lived under that regime, and knew that it was insufficient to meet the demands of a people in slavery. He knew that he could not be a prophet to enslaved Israel if he only had patriarchal-style revelation.

This might be the fundamental explanation of why he asked, ‘What is His name?’ (3:13). The question arose from what was passingly referred to above as Moses’ ‘prophetic instincts’. Might it be more than that, though? It was a question asked by one who knew Genesis (whether learnt on his mother’s knee, or in the desert with the priest of Midian—which is not to revert to the Kenite hypothesis). He knew that Genesis itself raised the question of the name and therefore the character of God (indeed, the nation knew the question, since Moses asks on behalf of Israel). Was He predominantly to be understood as being El Shaddai, as revealed to the patriarchs at the high moments of revelation, or was He of the character of the more covertly revealed name, Yhwh, which name the patriarchs also knew? Furthermore, how is the action that God is currently promising to take—a new era of redemption—possible in the light of the character and action of God as spoken about in Genesis? Moses saw the need to have more expansive revelation than what had preceded. He wanted to move beyond the ‘Old Testament of the Old Testament’. In asking, ‘What is His name?’ in Exodus 3:13, Moses is consciously seeking a new stage of revelation and therefore seeking a new age of redemption for Israel. In asking the question, he is consciously taking up the role of mediator in a new stage of revelation.

9. Conclusion

Exodus 6:3 is an intertextual or intracanonical reference to Genesis. Elohim speaks quite accurately. In the two moments of fullest revelation of the person and plan of God in Genesis, 17:1 and 35:9, He is said to have ‘appeared’, and to have proclaimed, ‘I am El Shaddai’. There is no place in Genesis, though, in which it is said that God ‘appeared’ and spoke using the words, ‘I am Yhwh’. Thus, whilst the patriarchs still knew the name, Yhwh, the revelation of God as El Shaddai more characterized patriarchal religion. ‘I appeared and was revealed to the patriarchs with or by means of my name, El Shaddai. I did not appear and was not revealed to the patriarchs with or by means of my name, Yhwh’.

Jared C. Hood



[1]         Christopher R. Seitz, ‘The Call of Moses and the “Revelation” of the Divine Name: Source-Critical Logic and Its Legacy’, Theological Exegesis: Essays in Honor of Brevard S. Childs, eds Christopher R. Seitz and Kathryn Greene-McCreight (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) 145.

[2]        Thomas Scott, The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments, according to the Authorised Version (London: L. B. Seeley and Sons, 1832) 202; Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Hartford: S.S. Scranton, 1871) 292; William James Martin, Stylistic Criteria and the Analysis of the Pentateuch (London: Tyndale Press, 1955) 18.

[3]        Francis I. Andersen, The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew (The Hague: Mouton, 1974) 102. Part of the argument is that the negative particle, לא, can be taken as a positive. Moberly has little patience with such a view, saying, ‘And how on earth would any reader of biblical Hebrew be expected to recognize that lo’ here does not have its familiar negative meaning…?’ R. W. L. Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament: Patriarchal Narratives and Mosaic Yahwism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992) 57.

[4]        Duane Garrett, Rethinking Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991) 20–21. Jeffrey J. Niehaus, God at Sinai: Covenant and Theophany in the Bible and Ancient Near East (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995) 188, cites this structure approvingly.

[5]        Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 56.

[6]         Julius Wellhausen, Die Composition des Hexateuchs und der historischen Bücher des Alten Testaments, 3rd edn (Berlin: De Gruyter, [First published 1866 (1st edn)] 1963).

[7]        W. Gunther Plaut, ‘Exodus’, Torah = The Torah: A Modern Commentary, ed. W. Gunther Plaut (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981) 424–425.

[8]        Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 32–33.

[9]        Ibid., 30.

[10]       Ibid., 36. This is much the same as Wenham’s position (‘The Religion of the Patriarchs’, Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives, eds A. R. Millard and D. J. Wiseman [Leicester: IVP, 1980] 180–183).

[11]       Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 37.

[12]       Ibid., 69.

[13]       Ibid., 69.

[14]       Ibid., 71.

[15]       Ibid., 72–73, drawing on Wenham, ‘The Patriarchs’, 181.

[16]       Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 73.

[17]       Johannes Cornelis de Moor, The Rise of Yahwism: The Roots of Israelite Monotheism (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1997), 335. He examines personal and topographical names across the Pentateuch and historical writings, and concludes that the name Yhwh was certainly known before Moses (whom he dates to the 12th century b.c.). ‘Yahwism was older than Moses’ (p. 263). Moses was a reformer of Yahwism, preserving it from Baalism. He ‘advocated a firmer stance in favour of pure Yahwism’ (p. 268).

[18]       Cf. de Moor, Rise of Yahwism, 335. The Elohistic designations of God predominate because of the Late Bronze Age ‘apprehension with regard to the proper names of the highest gods’, citing parallels from Egypt, Babylonia and Ugarit. The lack of Yhwh in Genesis is thus due to the opposite reason posited by the documentary hypothesis. There was the desire to remove the name Yhwh, not to add it.

[19]       Herbert Chanan Brichto advances the historical priority of Yhwh over Elohim (The Names of God: Poetic Readings in Biblical Beginnings [New York: Oxford University Press, 1998] 27). A specific, proper name for a people’s god (such as Yhwh), which presupposes the existence of many gods, ‘must be chronologically prior to the common-noun-become-proper-noun’ (Elohim). This is entirely unprovable, but for those who adopt on philosophical grounds the concept of evolution from lower religious thinking towards monotheism, the hypothesis sounds plausible. Cf. Umberto Cassuto, The Documentary Hypothesis and the Composition of the Pentateuch: Eight Lectures, 1st Eng. edn, trans. Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, [First published 1941] 1961) 26. He believes that the use of the generic name in the Psalms was seen as ‘indicative of progress and a higher religious outlook’.

[20]       There is evidence of various forms of Yah from Ugarit and Ebla, although applying these findings is problematic. See the data presented in Giovanni Garbini, History and Ideology in Ancient Israel, trans. John Bowden (New York: Crossroad, [First published 1986] 1988) 57. His conclusion is that yah was originally a generic term for God rather than a personal name. In Gen. 14:22, Abram addresses himself to the king of Sodom, using the words, ‘Yhwh, God Most High’. Was the king of Sodom familiar with the name? Frank Moore Cross Jr. examines the ancient Near Eastern background of the name Yhwh, citing an abundance of epigraphic material to show that it is primitive (‘Yahweh and the God of the Patriarchs’, HTR, Vol. 55 [1962] 250–256). On the other hand, Roland de Vaux believes that the only name that one could ‘legitimately compare’ to Yhwh comes from an Egyptian reference to a geographical name (‘The Revelation of the Divine Name YHWH’, Proclamation and Presence: Old Testament Essays in Honour of Gwynne Henton Davies, eds John I. Durham and J. Roy Porter [London: SCM Press, 1970] 52–56). His conclusion (p. 56) is that ‘it is possible—it is even likely, given its archaic form—that the divine name Yhwh existed outside Israel before Moses, but we have as yet no conclusive proof of this.’

[21]       As it is called by Brevard S. Childs, referring to Rashi, Ibn Ezra and Calvin (Exodus: A Commentary, The Old Testament Library [London: SCM Press, 1974] 112). Targum Pseudo-Jonathan can be cited in support of the position, too.

[22]       John J. Davis, Moses and the gods of Egypt; Studies in the Book of Exodus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1971) 77.

[23]       Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch put it that ‘even Astruc’ held that the Exodus passage only proves that the patriarchs did not fully understand the meaning of the name (Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes, Volume I, The Pentateuch, trans. James Martin [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, {First published 1875} 1978] 523).

[24]       Umberto Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, 1st Eng. edn, trans. Israel Abrahams (Jerusalem: Magnes Press Hebrew University, [First published 1951] 1967) 76–77. Cf. Nahum M. Sarna, Exodus = Shemot: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation (Philadelphia: JPS, 1991) 31.

[25]       Cassuto, Exodus, 78. R. Norman Whybray compares a poetic text from Ras Shamra that has two proper names for Baal in parallel (Baal and Hada), with the parallel of El and Yhwh in Num. 23:8 (The Making of the Pentateuch: A Methodological Study [Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987] 68). K. A. Kitchen has also cited such examples from Egyptian and Mesopotamian sources (Ancient Orient and Old Testament [Downers Grove: IVP, 1966] 121–123).

[26]       Sarna, Exodus = Shemot, 31. Cf. Andersen, The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew, 188.

[27]       Exodus 20:2 proves this beyond doubt.

[28]       Childs, Exodus, 112–113.

[29]       John I. Durham, Exodus, WBC (Waco: Word Books, 1987) 7, commenting on Exod. 1:8.

[30]       W. H. Gispen, Bible Student’s Commentary–Exodus, trans. E. Maas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982) 72.

[31]       Rashi, Pentateuch with Targum Onkelos, Haphtaroth and Rashi’s Commentary, trans M. Rosenbaum and A. M. Silbermann, 5 vols, Vol. 2, Exodus (Jerusalem: The Silbermann Family, 1930) 24.

[32]       The LXX does not support this (kai; to; o[nomav mou kuvrio” oujk ejdhvlwsa aujtoi`”), and the point could be considered too fine to be considered a substantive support for the ‘meaning of the name’ position. Seitz, ‘The Call of Moses’, 158, defends the argument, though, writing, ‘The hiphil of yd‘ is not used in the second verse-half of 6:3 precisely to avoid the impression that what is at stake in the contrast between the period of the ancestors and the period at hand is knowledge of the name itself.’

[33]       Seitz, ‘The Call of Moses’, 158.

[34]       Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 65–66, cf. 58.

[35]       Ee Kon Kim, ‘Who Is Yahweh? Based on a Contextual Reading of Exodus 3:14’, AJT, Vol. 3 (1989) 108. Niehaus, God at Sinai, 29: ‘In the very act of revealing himself, God conceals himself…and he uses accompanying phenomena (thick cloud) to do so’, which is because of the barrier of sin that ruins the ‘easy intimacy’ between God and humans (p. 179).

[36]       de Moor, Rise of Yahwism, 268–269, mentions the newly recognized parallel between Exod. 3:14 and a New Kingdom text from Egypt. The god Re announces ‘I am who I am’ (Ìw. ÌÌm Ì). Re is apparently declaring that he will remain himself, in the sense that he will continue to act in the present and the future as he had done in the past. ‘He is the same’. If the parallel is accurate, this strengthens the case for not seeing in the Exod. 3:14 and 6:3 statements a radical disjuncture between patriarchal and Mosaic religion.

[37]       Robert D. Wilson found the rarity of ‘El Shaddai’ in Genesis very odd (‘extraordinary’), and used that together with the inconsistency in assigning the El Shaddai passages to denounce the documentary hypothesis (‘Yahweh (Jehovah) and Exodus 6:3’, Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, ed. Walter C. Kaiser [Grand Rapids: Baker, {First published PTR, 22, 1924} 1972] 30).

[38]       See GKC, 379. The standard article is Lawrence N. Manross, ‘Beth Essentiae’, JBL, Vol. 73 (1954) 238–239.

[39]       J. A. Motyer, The Revelation of the Divine Name (London: Tyndale Press, 1959) 14. In this way, the ‘meaning of the name’ position is secured.

[40]       Seitz, ‘The Call of Moses’, 156. Rashi, Exodus, 25, cites Gen. 17:1; 26:24; 35:9 in his commentary on Exod. 6:4, but he does this to advance the ‘meaning of the name’ position, for in these passages, God is a God of promise, not the fulfiller of promises. Cf. Johan Lust, ‘Exodus 6:2–8 and Ezekiel’, Studies in the Book of Exodus, ed. Marc Vervenne (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1996) 214.

[41]       G. E. Whitney, ‘Alternative Interpretations of LŌ’ in Exodus 6:3 and Jeremiah 7:22’, WTJ, Vol. 48, No. 1 (1986) 152.

[42]       If the revelation of the covenant of circumcision in Gen. 17 is emphasized, what becomes of the closely related revelation of the ‘covenant between the pieces’ in Gen. 15? Paul R. Williamson has helpfully demonstrated that these are not doublets, and concludes that they are ‘two distinct, yet related, divine-human covenants’ (Abraham, Israel and the Nations: The Patriarchal Promise and Its Covenantal Development in Genesis, JSOTSup 315, 315 [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000] 263). One of the relationships between the two is that the second makes clear what the first did not make clear, namely that (p. 262) ‘God will perpetuate his ‘eternal covenant’ exclusively through a particular line of ‘seed’.’ In other words, there is in this regard in Gen. 17 an element of heightened revelation.

[43]       Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 13, is correct that Gen. does not emphasize the prophetic nature of the patriarchs, though he does not refer to the several occasions where they are recipients of divine revelation. Joseph in particular not only received dreams, but also felt obliged to relate them to his father and brothers, Gen. 37:5–6, 9, cf. 41:16.

[44]       Niehaus, God at Sinai, 212.

[45]       Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 66–67.

[46]       See Edward Joseph Young, ‘The Call of Moses’, WTJ, Vol. 29 (1967) 117–135; Edward Joseph Young, ‘The Call of Moses (Part II)’, WTJ, Vol. 30 (1967) 1–23; Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 13–21. Interestingly, Cornelis G. den Hertog believes that Yhwh is an old name but Ehyeh is a new name revealed to Moses. On the contrary, ‘I am’ is not a new name, but a clearer explanation of the name Yhwh (‘The Prophetic Dimension of the Divine Name: On Exodus 3:14a and Its Context’, CBQ, Vol. 64, No. 2 [2002]). This then harmonizes with Exod. 6:3, where the ‘new’ name is not said to be Ehyeh but Yhwh.

[47]       Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 24.

[48]       Cassuto, Exodus, 36. Cf. P. Kyle McCarter Jr, ‘Exodus’, HBC, ed. James L. Mays (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1988) 135.

[49]       Peter Enns, Exodus, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000) 106–107. Enns acknowledges that Yhwh had always been God’s name, according to the statement of 3:15 (‘this is my name forever’, which refers to ‘perpetuity through all time, that is, backwards and forwards’, p. 106). He does not explain how Moses failed to learn the name. Cf. Seitz, ‘The Call of Moses’, 151–158; Antony F. Campbell and Mark A. O’Brien, Sources of the Pentateuch: Texts, Introductions, Annotations (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993) 185. Seitz says that Israel knew the name, but Moses did not, since he had not been brought up as an Israelite. He fails to mention that Moses was initially raised by his own mother (Exod. 2:7–10), he does not examine why Moses decided to involve himself in the fight of 2:11–15 nor why he thought he should be ‘ruler and judge’ over Israel, and he omits reference to the influence of Jethro, who has an appreciation for Yahwistic religion (Exod. 18). Moses is not portrayed as being ignorant. Joel S. Burnett points out that Exod. 3:6 indicates that Moses did have knowledge of the God of Israel (‘the God of your father’), and that if Israel already knew the name but Moses did not, Yhwh could have answered Moses’ question thus: ‘Just tell them Yhwh sent you’ (A Reassessment of Biblical Elohim [Atlanta: SBL, 2001] 146–147). Furthermore, although Seitz has to deny it, Exod. 4:27–31 indicates that the revelation of Exod. 3:13–15 was aimed at Israel, not Moses alone (cf. 3:14, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites…’ See the discussion below.).

[50]       Sarna, Exodus = Shemot, 18.

[51]       Some suggest that Elohim’s answer to Moses’ question is a refusal to answer, or a rebuke for the audacity of the question or its expression of unbelief. E. C. B. MacLaurin, ‘YHWH : The Origin of the Tetragrammaton.’, VT, Vol. 12, No. 4 (1962) 449, ‘It may be meaningless’; Samuel L. Terrien, The Elusive Presence: Toward a New Biblical Theology (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978) 119. However, Elohim’s answer is typical of Hebraic ‘etymology’, in this case with the powerful exposition of the name being based on an actual or audial link between the name and the verb, ‘to be’. S. Sandmel suggests it is a ‘good-natured pun, the humor of which has escaped the long-faced grammarians’ (‘The Haggada within Scripture’, JBL, Vol. 80 [1961] 113). ‘The wag was indulging in his very early times in the by now age-old pursuit of giving a supposed etymology of Yahve…’ This long-faced exegete suggests that Exod. 3 is rather about religious terror. ‘Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God’ (v. 6).

[52]       George A. F. Knight, Theology as Narration: A Commentary on the Book of Exodus (Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1976) 23. Durham, Exodus, 35 paraphrases Moses’ question as, ‘What can He do?’ This is to take the word, ‘name’ (שמ), in the sense of ‘reputation, fame’. See BDB, 1028.

[53]       Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 59. He still thinks that the question of Exod. 3:13 asks for the name and its meaning.

[54]       Cf. Graham S. Ogden, ‘Moses and Cyrus: Literary Affinities between the Priestly Presentation of Moses in Exodus vi–viii and the Cyrus Song in Isaiah xliv 24 – xlv 13’, VT, Vol. 28 (1978) 200. He says that the call of Moses by the Lord in Exod. 6–7 is ‘purposive’.

[55]       In asking for the name, the ‘people were not interested merely in a question of metaphysics; they were interested above all in the practical matter of how the One who claimed to be the God of the Fathers could be of aid to them.’ Young, ‘The Call of Moses (II)’, 21.

[56]       Sigmund Mowinckel, ‘The Name of the God of Moses’, HUCA, Vol. 32 (1961) 122.

[57]       Seitz, ‘The Call of Moses’, 155.

[58]       Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 63.

[59]       Sarna, Exodus = Shemot, 18.

[60]       Hertog, ‘The Divine Name’.

[61]       There is a parallel between Moses’ predicament (Exod. 2:14) and that of Joseph (Gen. 37:8). How were Joseph’s brothers and Moses’ people supposed to accept that they had respectively a ruler and a prophet appointed over them?

[62]       Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament, 140.

[63]       David McClain Carr notes the numerous and specific links between Genesis and the Moses story, but speaks of ‘proto-Genesis’ so as to ‘leave open the question of the relation of this compositional level to material in the Moses story’ (Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches [Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996] 217–218).

[64]       The difficulties abound in other ways, as well. When the literary world of Exodus is combined with a traditional view of Pentateuchal authorship, how could Moses be both the author of Genesis and a student of it in Exod. 3 and 6? When and how was he made so conversant with the traditions of his Hebrew forebears? There may not be a Kenite source, but was Genesis a Kenite production, produced in Midian?