Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Patriarchs and the Divine Name Jehovah, article in Christian Faith and Life 1907

Did the Patriarchs Know the Name "Jehovah?" article in Christian Faith and Life 1907
Editor Of " Sunday School Times"

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The assertion is often met with, that the name "Jehovah", the name of the Covenant God, was of late origin, and the words of Moses are cited in proof of the affirmation. Indeed, the charge is triumphantly urged that the teachings of the Scriptures on this point are flatly contradictory. This latter point is clearly and satisfactorily met by Professor Willis J. Beecher in conjunction with the Editor of "The Sunday School Times", in an editorial in the issue of that able journal for July 27, 1907. We quote it to show how readily and satisfactorily many of the stock objections to the Scriptures—which are given a show of unanswerableness in the eyes of persons of limited acquirements—can be met and answered by men of competent knowledge and ability. There is no contradiction here, but perfect harmony.

We suggest, as an interesting subject of inquiry, the question, "When did God first reveal Himself to man as "Jehovah"? We have only a hint or two to throw out. In the early chapters of Genesis the name is constantly used in connection with God's work for man, especially His redemptive work. The settled worship of Jehovah seems to have been established in the days of Enos, the son of Seth (Gen. iv. 26). But before that, Cain and Abel had directed their worship to Jehovah, as if it were a customary thing (Gen. iv. 3-15); and Jehovah had dealt with Cain's crime.

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As Jehovah is the Covenant God in redemption, is it not reasonable and natural to suppose that the knowledge of the name dates back to the Protevangel, in which the foundation for the Covenant was laid? That Gospel Promise, veiled in the curse pronounced upon the serpent, was: "It shall bruise thy head" (Gen. iii. 15). Was not the revelation of the name Jehovah—whether considered as derived from the future of the verb to be, and signifying, He that shall be, The Coming One (for deliverance); or as derived from the future of the causative form of the verb (as Gesenius, we think, approves), and so meaning, He that will cause to come to pass (this bruising and deliverance)—needed in connection with that Promise, at the time it was made, to sustain the souls of Adam and Eve, and to turn their eyes Godward and to the future?

And is not the record, in Genesis iv. 1, of Eve's first recorded act of faith in connection with that Promise, confirmatory of this view? We read that Eve "conceived, and bore Cain [i. e., gotten, or acquired], and said, I have gotten a man, Jehovah"—the only possible literal rendering of the Hebrew. Her faith was commendable in that it turned eagerly, anxious for speedy relief, to Cain as the promised "seed", "Jehovah", He that should bring to pass the coming deliverance; it was partially mistaken, however, as she had not the knowledge of the element of time that entered into God's unfolding purpose of redemption.

When there seems to be a contradiction between the statements in two different passages of Scripture, the problem is one worth studying; and it is surprising how often the difficulty vanishes when we have worked out the evident meaning of the text. A Pennsylvanian inquires concerning such a seeming contradiction:

"In the Mystery Box for June 2, question five says, "Mention some of the different names under which God had revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Under Professor Beecher's comment on verses 13-15, which, I take it, is the answer to question five, Jehovah heads the list. In Exodus vi. 3, God says, in speaking to Moses, 'but by my name Jehovah I was not known to them'. Will you please explain this apparent contradiction"

The contradiction is not merely between Exodus vi. 3 and Professor Beecher's statement that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew the name Jehovah; but between Exodus vi. 3 and Genesis xiv. 22; xxi. 33, the passages upon which Professor Beecher properly based his statement. And here is the explanation, in a letter from Professor Beecher:

"Exodus vi. 1-8 refers only to the time when God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision, as described in Genesis xvii. What Deity says to Moses is that, in the covenant of circumcision and the revelations based upon it, He made Himself known under the name of God Almighty (El Shaddai), and not under the more significant name Jehovah. Now He will deal with them under the more significant name.

"He does not say that the patriarchs were ignorant of the name Jehovah, but that He was not officially known by that name in certain transactions with them. He does not say that the name Jehovah had never till then been used, but that it was not the name used in certain covenant transactions".

In other words, in Exodus vi. 1-8 God is explaining that while, in the making of the covenant with Abraham, which was renewed with Isaac and Jacob, He was known as God Almighty, in the new covenant which He now makes with the children of Israel to deliver them out of the land of Egypt He shall be known as Jehovah. There is nothing inconsistent here with the fact that the name Jehovah was known to the patriarchs.

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