The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

The Name of Yahweh in Genesis


Here’s a fun bit of Bible trivia. Exodus 3:15 is the first time that Yahweh introduces His Covenant Name to anyone.

God said to Moses, “This is what you must say to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My Name forever, and this is My memorial-Name to all generations.”

Then later on, when speaking to Moses, Yahweh explains that He never revealed His personal Name to anyone previously.

“I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but I didn’t make Myself known to them by My Name, Yahweh.” (Ex. 6:3)

And yet we find the Name of Yahweh in use throughout Genesis when God is talking to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. How can this be a correct translation of the text if Yahweh said He never used His Name before the time of Moses? The answer is that Moses was the one who wrote the book of Genesis, which covers thousands of years of time and ends about 300 years before Moses was born. How could he do this? Yahweh told him what to write, and as he wrote, Moses constantly referred to God by the Name that he used, even though it wasn’t a Name that anyone in Genesis had ever heard of. This is why we find statements like this:

Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of Yahweh I have brought forth a man.” (Gen. 4:1)

Did Eve actually use Yahweh’s Name? No, because she didn’t know His Name. She probably said “with the help of God,” but to Moses, God is Yahweh, so he puts the Name he knows in Eve’s mouth. We find a similar situation with Abram:

Abram asked, “Lord Yahweh, what will You give me? Since I’m going to die without children, Eliezer of Damascus will inherit my household.” (Gen. 15:2)

Because Moses is the one writing the book, everyone’s using a Name they’ve never heard of. It’s rather humorous if you think about it, and it’s a good example of how the humanity of the biblical writers shows through. Don’t expect a technically perfect Book and don’t throw the whole thing out just because you come across some glaring errors (of which there are many). Always pray as you read and ask the Holy Spirit to help you absorb everything He wants to teach you. The Bible is not a substitute for God, nor is it His equal in anyway. But it is a fascinating collection of historic records which God has preserved for our benefit. We should want to get the most out of it that we can.

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