Megan (jehoshabeath) wrote,
Megan
jehoshabeath

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Did God lie? (God's name in Ex 6:3)

Exodus 6:3 sent me into a flurry of research this morning!

"I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD ['I AM'] I was not known to them"

God identified Himself as God Almighty to Abram and to Jacob in Genesis 17:1 and 35:11:
    When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God..."
    Also God said to him [Jacob]: "I am God Almighty."

My study Bible says that the name God Almighty "sets Him forth primarily as the strengthener and satisfier of His people...'All-sufficient' would far better express the characteristic use of the name in Scripture." (Scofield Study Bible, NKJV, 2002, p 31)

So, for starters, we know that God revealed Himself to the Patriarchs as God Almighty. And what were their walks with God like? It seem that they experienced God in more isolated environments, each during his own generation, as strangers in a strange land. Abraham was called out from his homeland to follow God. After Abraham passed away, God appeared to his son Isaac and Isaac also followed the Lord. Isaac's son Jacob knew of his father's God (Gen 27:20) but it was not until he left home that the Lord appeared to him and Jacob made a vow to God (Gen 28:20-21). The other nations during this time recognized the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but seem to have served their own gods. Take Laban, for example. Laban speaks of Jacob's God, but has his own household gods (Gen 30:27 and Gen 31:30). Still, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not the only people in the world who worshiped the LORD. Melchizedek was a priest of this God and Job probably also lived during this time. But for the most part, Genesis gives me the impression that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had very personal relationships with God in truth by faith in His promise in the midst of this place we call the world. Perhaps this is why God was known to them as Almighty (or All-Sufficient)?

As a side note, it seems curious that these two times where God addressed Himself with this name were the two occasions where He changed the names of (really, gave names to) His servants: Abram -> Abraham (Gen 17:1) and Jacob -> Israel (Gen 35:11).

Going back to Ex 6:3 -

"I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD ['I AM'] I was not known to them"

Were the Patriarchs aware of God's personal name the LORD ('I AM' from the Hebrew YHWH)? It's clear that they did know about this name. God Himself announced it to them on some occasions (Gen 15:7, 16:11, 18:14, 22:16, 28:13). People sometimes addressed God by His name (Gen 24:12, 24:27, 32:9) or told others about God using His name (Gen 9:26, 16:2, 16:5, 24:3, 24:7, 27:7, 27:27, 27:20). At other times, people used forms of God's name when they named children, wells, and locations (Gen 4:1, 22:14, 29:32-35, 30:24). Often, the name of God is used by foreigners or with foreigners (Gen 19:13-14, 24:31-56, 26:28-29, 30:27-30, 31:49).

So, how is it that God can say in Exodus 6:3 that "I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD ['I AM'] I was not known to them"? My study Bible put forth a couple of ideas. One was that the Patriarchs experienced God as "God Almighty" (All-Sufficient) but not as the LORD (I AM). Perhaps? Well, perhaps the remainder of Exodus 6 can help to clarify this question.

Exodus 6 continues (verses 2-8) -

"And God spoke to Moses and said to him: 'I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them. I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers. And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Therefore say to the children of Israel: "I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the LORD."'"

Perhaps what verse 3 is referring to is the fact that while the Patriarchs knew God as God Almighty (and believed in Him and His oath) they did not know Him as the I AM because they did not see the actual fulfillment of that oath. But this generation would know God by His name the I AM (the LORD) because He was about to fulfill His oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! Might that be the explanation for this verse?


It seems that God has consistently identified Himself by His oath, by His promised word. God called Abram out of his homeland, but I don't think it was until Genesis 15 that He introduced Himself clearly to Abraham by saying, "I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it..." God identifies Himself as the One who made the promise and called Abraham out of Chaldea (Genesis 12). Similarly, God introduced Himself later to Isaac as the God of the promise: "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham's sake." (Gen 26:24) And God again identifies Himself as the God of the promise to Jacob: "I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants..." (Gen 28:13). God consistently identifies Himself as the God of His Word.

God does the same in the New Testament through Jesus Christ. Jesus consistently went back to the Scriptures to explain who God is and who He is. For example, when the religious leaders challenged Jesus' authority, Jesus turned their attention to Psalm 110 (Mark 12:35-37). When his disciples were stunned at his death and resurrection, "then He said to them, 'These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.' And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures." Luke 24:44-45

God has said a great deal in Scripture. He has already fulfilled many of His promises, but many others have yet to be fulfilled. How do we respond to the word of God? Do we, by His grace, trust in Him as God Almighty and wait eagerly to see Him fully revealed as the LORD? Or do we hide from God's word, like Adam did in the garden (Genesis 3:10)? "Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." (Psalm 95:7-8, Hebrews 3:15)


"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17

"...just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'" Galatians 3:6

"For in [the gospel of Christ] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." Romans 1:17
Tags: bible, bible people, exodus, genesis, god, hebrews, jesus, luke, mark, oath, psalms
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