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Exodus 6:2-8

Context

6:2 God spoke 1  to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. 2  6:3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as 3  God Almighty, 4  but by 5  my name ‘the Lord’ 6  I was not known to them. 7  6:4 I also established my covenant with them 8  to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as resident foreigners. 9  6:5 I 10  have also heard 11  the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, 12  and I have remembered my covenant. 13  6:6 Therefore, tell the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord. I will bring you out 14  from your enslavement to 15  the Egyptians, I will rescue you from the hard labor they impose, 16  and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 6:7 I will take you to myself for a people, and I will be your God. 17  Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from your enslavement to 18  the Egyptians. 6:8 I will bring you to the land I swore to give 19  to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob – and I will give it to you 20  as a possession. I am the Lord!’

1 tn Heb “And God spoke.”

2 sn The announcement “I am the Lord” (Heb “Yahweh”) draws in the preceding revelation in Exod 3:15. In that place God called Moses to this task and explained the significance of the name “Yahweh” by the enigmatic expression “I am that I am.” “I am” (אֶהְיֶה, ’ehyeh) is not a name; “Yahweh” is. But the explanation of the name with this sentence indicates that Yahweh is the one who is always there, and that guarantees the future, for everything he does is consistent with his nature. He is eternal, never changing; he remains. Now, in Exodus 6, the meaning of the name “Yahweh” will be more fully unfolded.

3 tn The preposition bet (ב) in this construction should be classified as a bet essentiae, a bet of essence (see also GKC 379 §119.i).

4 tn The traditional rendering of the title as “Almighty” is reflected in LXX and Jerome. But there is still little agreement on the etymology and exact meaning of אֵל־שַׁדַּי (’el-shadday). Suggestions have included the idea of “mountain God,” meaning the high God, as well as “the God with breasts.” But there is very little evidence supporting such conclusions and not much reason to question the ancient versions.

5 tn The noun שְׁמִי (shÿmi, “my name,” and “Yahweh” in apposition to it), is an adverbial accusative, specifying how the patriarchs “knew” him.

6 tn Heb “Yahweh,” traditionally rendered in English as “the Lord.” The phrase has been placed in quotation marks in the translation to indicate it represents the tetragrammaton.

7 tn The verb is the Niphal form נוֹדַעְתִּי (nodati). If the text had wanted to say, “I did not make myself known,” then a Hiphil form would have been more likely. It is saying, “but by my name Yahweh I was not known to them.”

sn There are a number of important issues that need clarification in the interpretation of this section. First, it is important to note that “I am Yahweh” is not a new revelation of a previously unknown name. It would be introduced differently if it were. This is the identification of the covenant God as the one calling Moses – that would be proof for the people that their God had called him. Second, the title “El Shadday” is not a name, but a title. It is true that in the patriarchal accounts “El Shadday” is used six times; in Job it is used thirty times. Many conclude that it does reflect the idea of might or power. In some of those passages that reveal God as “El Shadday,” the name “Yahweh” was also used. But Wellhausen and other proponents of the earlier source critical analysis used Exod 6:3 to say that P, the so-called priestly source, was aware that the name “Yahweh” was not known by them, even though J, the supposed Yahwistic source, wrote using the name as part of his theology. Third, the texts of Genesis show that Yahweh had appeared to the patriarchs (Gen 12:1, 17:1, 18:1, 26:2, 26:24, 26:12, 35:1, 48:3), and that he spoke to each one of them (Gen 12:7, 15:1, 26:2, 28:13, 31:3). The name “Yahweh” occurs 162 times in Genesis, 34 of those times on the lips of speakers in Genesis (W. C. Kaiser, Jr., “Exodus,” EBC 2:340-41). They also made proclamation of Yahweh by name (4:26, 12:8), and they named places with the name (22:14). These passages should not be ignored or passed off as later interpretation. Fourth, “Yahweh” is revealed as the God of power, the sovereign God, who was true to his word and could be believed. He would do as he said (Num 23:19; 14:35; Exod 12:25; 22:24; 24:14; 36:36; 37:14). Fifth, there is a difference between promise and fulfillment in the way revelation is apprehended. The patriarchs were individuals who received the promises but without the fulfillment. The fulfillment could only come after the Israelites became a nation. Now, in Egypt, they are ready to become that promised nation. The two periods were not distinguished by not having and by having the name, but by two ways God revealed the significance of his name. “I am Yahweh” to the patriarchs indicated that he was the absolute, almighty, eternal God. The patriarchs were individuals sojourning in the land. God appeared to them in the significance of El Shadday. That was not his name. So Gen 17:1 says that “Yahweh appeared…and said, ‘I am El Shadday.’” See also Gen 35:11, 48:2, 28:3. Sixth, the verb “to know” is never used to introduce a name which had never been known or experienced. The Niphal and Hiphil of the verb are used only to describe the recognition of the overtones or significance of the name (see Jer 16:21, Isa 52:6; Ps 83:17ff; 1 Kgs 8:41ff. [people will know his name when prayers are answered]). For someone to say that he knew Yahweh meant that Yahweh had been experienced or recognized (see Exod 33:6; 1 Kgs 18:36; Jer 28:9; and Ps 76:2). Seventh, “Yahweh” is not one of God’s names – it is his only name. Other titles, like “El Shadday,” are not strictly names but means of revealing Yahweh. All the revelations to the patriarchs could not compare to this one, because God was now dealing with the nation. He would make his name known to them through his deeds (see Ezek 20:5). So now they will “know” the “name.” The verb יָדַע (yada’) means more than “aware of, be knowledgeable about”; it means “to experience” the reality of the revelation by that name. This harmonizes with the usage of שֵׁם (shem), “name,” which encompasses all the attributes and actions of God. It is not simply a reference to a title, but to the way that God revealed himself – God gave meaning to his name through his acts. God is not saying that he had not revealed a name to the patriarchs (that would have used the Hiphil of the verb). Rather, he is saying that the patriarchs did not experience what the name Yahweh actually meant, and they could not without seeing it fulfilled. When Moses came to the elders, he identified his call as from Yahweh, the God of the fathers – and they accepted him. They knew the name. But, when they were delivered from bondage, then they fully knew by experience what that name meant, for his promises were fulfilled. U. Cassuto (Exodus, 79) paraphrases it this way: “I revealed Myself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in My aspect that finds expression in the name Shaddai…I was not known to them, that is, it was not given to them to recognize Me as One that fulfils his promises.” This generation was about to “know” the name that their ancestors knew and used, but never experienced with the fulfillment of the promises. This section of Exodus confirms this interpretation, because in it God promised to bring them out of Egypt and give them the promised land – then they would know that he is Yahweh (6:7). This meaning should have been evident from its repetition to the Egyptians throughout the plagues – that they might know Yahweh (e.g., 7:5). See further R. D. Wilson, “Yahweh [Jehovah] and Exodus 6:3,” Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, 29-40; L. A. Herrboth, “Exodus 6:3b: Was God Known to the Patriarchs as Jehovah?” CTM 4 (1931): 345-49; F. C. Smith, “Observation on the Use of the Names and Titles of God in Genesis,” EvQ 40 (1968): 103-9.

8 tn The statement refers to the making of the covenant with Abraham (Gen 15 and following) and confirming it with the other patriarchs. The verb הֲקִמֹתִי (haqimoti) means “set up, establish, give effect to, conclude” a covenant agreement. The covenant promised the patriarchs a great nation, a land – Canaan, and divine blessing. They lived with those promises, but now their descendants were in bondage in Egypt. God’s reference to the covenant here is meant to show the new revelation through redemption will start to fulfill the promises and show what the reality of the name Yahweh is to them.

9 tn Heb “the land of their sojournings.” The noun מְגֻרִים (mÿgurim) is a reminder that the patriarchs did not receive the promises. It is also an indication that those living in the age of promise did not experience the full meaning of the name of the covenant God. The “land of their sojournings” is the land of Canaan where the family lived (גּרוּ, garu) as foreigners, without owning property or having the rights of kinship with the surrounding population.

10 tn The addition of the independent pronoun אֲנִי (’ani, “I”) emphasizes the fact that it was Yahweh himself who heard the cry.

11 tn Heb “And also I have heard.”

12 tn The form is the Hiphil participle מַעֲבִדִים (maavidim, “causing to serve”). The participle occurs in a relative clause that modifies “the Israelites.” The clause ends with the accusative “them,” which must be combined with the relative pronoun for a smooth English translation. So “who the Egyptians are enslaving them,” results in the translation “whom the Egyptians are enslaving.”

13 tn As in Exod 2:24, this remembering has the significance of God’s beginning to act to fulfill the covenant promises.

14 sn The verb וְהוֹצֵאתִי (vÿhotseti) is a perfect tense with the vav (ו) consecutive, and so it receives a future translation – part of God’s promises. The word will be used later to begin the Decalogue and other covenant passages – “I am Yahweh who brought you out….”

15 tn Heb “from under the burdens of” (so KJV, NASB); NIV “from under the yoke of.”

16 tn Heb “from labor of them.” The antecedent of the pronoun is the Egyptians who have imposed slave labor on the Hebrews.

17 sn These covenant promises are being reiterated here because they are about to be fulfilled. They are addressed to the nation, not individuals, as the plural suffixes show. Yahweh was their God already, because they had been praying to him and he is acting on their behalf. When they enter into covenant with God at Sinai, then he will be the God of Israel in a new way (19:4-6; cf. Gen 17:7-8; 28:20-22; Lev 26:11-12; Jer 24:7; Ezek 11:17-20).

18 tn Heb “from under the burdens of” (so KJV, NASB); NIV “from under the yoke of.”

19 tn Heb “which I raised my hand to give it.” The relative clause specifies which land is their goal. The bold anthropomorphism mentions part of an oath-taking ceremony to refer to the whole event and reminds the reader that God swore that he would give the land to them. The reference to taking an oath would have made the promise of God sure in the mind of the Israelite.

20 sn Here is the twofold aspect again clearly depicted: God swore the promise to the patriarchs, but he is about to give what he promised to this generation. This generation will know more about him as a result.



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