I am Jehovah/YHWH


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Exodus 3:14-15 is famous as God reveals the proper name YHWH to Moses in the passage for the first time. Many English translations render the name as “I AM WHO I AM.”

But in Ex 6:3-7, we encounter another event, in which God reveals the name once again. In the passage, God says, “I appeared to the patriarchs as Elshaddai(God Almighty), but never by the name YHWH” God also says, “I will redeem you, and you will know that I am YHWH.”

Some scholars, who accept the documentary hypothesis, recognize the two events as doublet, because Ex 6 story does not assume the existence of Ex 3 story. They think that the two stories are from different sources.

This interpretation might seem to be subjective for some readers. It is quite possible for one author to write Ex 6 without mentioning Ex 3. The two passages may not necessarily be from two different sources. Nonetheless, we should not believe that there was only one author of the Pentateuch just because Ex 3 and 6 can belong to one author.

Landscape with the Dream of Jacob, by Michael Willmann, c. 1691

In Gen 28:13, God says to Jacob, who just arrived Bethel, “I am YHWH, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.” In Ex 6, God says, “I did not appear to the patriarchs by the name(YHWH) but only as Elshaddai.” But God already revealed the name YHWH to Jacob at Bethel. The narratives and laws in the Pentateuch actually contain many inconsistencies and contradictions such as this.

It is hard to accept that Moses or only one author wrote the entire Pentateuch. The documentary hypothesis may not be the perfect solution for understanding how the corpus of the texts was formed as it stands now, but its basic assumption–the Pentateuch is a complex text that went through a complicated process of collecting sources, arranging and editing them–is something we can easily dismiss. The documentary hypothesis is still an important starting point of the pentateuchal studies.

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