Answering The Atheist
February 1, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 5
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Did Abraham know God's name? Genesis 22:14 indicates yes, while Exodus 6:3 says no. Is there a contradiction?
Certainly, Exodus 6:3 is not the first time the name "Jehovah" was revealed to man. The word appears 141 times in the book of Genesis. Did Abraham know the name Jehovah? Yes, for Abraham himself employed the name Jehovah (Genesis 14:22), as did Sarah (Genesis 16:2). How then can the LORD say to Moses, "...by my name Jehovah was I not known to them"? Two possibilities.
1) Degree of knowledge.
It is not that the name "Jehovah" was not recognized by the Patriarchs, but perhaps that they did not comprehend the fullness of who He was. The whole of what God desired to reveal of Himself as Jehovah therefore would have not been exposed to the Patriarchs, but rather to Israel through Moses.
Consider a New Testament parallel to this. Jesus said, "...no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Matthew 11:27). Did the people of Israel not know God as their "Father"? Yes, see 1 Chronicles 29:10 and Malachi 2:10. But the fullness of God's role as our Father, the perfect appreciation of what that means, was not revealed until done so through Jesus, God's Son.
2) Emphatic question.
Most translations render Exodus 6:3 as a statement, indicating that the Patriarchs did not know the name Jehovah. However, the wording of the KJV may indicate a question rather than a statement. Consider. "And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them?" The thought, yes, He revealed Himself as el-shadday, but did He not reveal Himself as Jehovah also? As we continue to verse 4, the gist is not that the Patriarchs had been left out of knowing God's nature as Jehovah, but that it was to them revealed in His covenant, which was passed down to the children of Israel (v 5). Note, in verse 6, "Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, ‘I am the LORD (Jehovah)...'" The idea, embolden the children of Israel, for I am the same Jehovah who was known to the Patriarchs.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible