Exodus 6:3
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.
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(3) I appeared . . . by the name of God Almighty.—This name, “El Shaddai,” is first found in the revelation made of Himself by God to Abraham (Genesis 17:1). It is used by Isaac (Genesis 28:3), and repeated in the revelation made to Jacob (Genesis 35:11 ). Its primary idea is, no doubt, that of “overpowering strength.” (See the comment on Genesis 17:1.) The primary idea of “Jehovah” is, on the contrary, that of absolute, eternal, unconditional, independent existence. Both names were probably of a great antiquity, and widely spread among Semitic races; but, at different times and in different places, special stress was laid on the one or on the other. To the early patriarchs God revealed Himself as “El Shaddai,” because He desired to impress upon them His ability to fulfil the promises which He had made to them; to Moses and Israel generally, at the date of the Exodus, He insisted on His name Jehovah, because they were in the closest contact with polytheism, and had themselves, in many cases, fallen into polytheism (Joshua 24:14), against which this Name was a standing protest, since “the Existent” must mean “the Self Existent,” and so “the Only Existent.” (See Deuteronomy 4:39 : “Jehovah, he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else”)

By my name Jehovah was I not known to them.—Rather, was I not made manifest to them. The antiquity of the name itself appears—(1) from its derivation, which is from the obsolete havah, a form already in the time of Moses superseded by hayah; (2) from its occurrence in some of the most ancient documents inserted by Moses into the Book of Genesis, e.g., Exodus 2:4; Exodus 2:3-4; Exodus 11:1-9, &c.; (3) from its employment by Abraham as an element in a name (Genesis 22:14). But though the name was ancient, and known to the patriarchs, its full meaning was not known to them, and so God was not manifested to them by it.

6:1-9 We are most likely to prosper in attempts to glorify God, and to be useful to men, when we learn by experience that we can do nothing of ourselves; when our whole dependence is placed on him, and our only expectation is from him. Moses had been expecting what God would do; but now he shall see what he will do. God would now be known by his name Jehovah, that is, a God performing what he had promised, and finishing his own work. God intended their happiness: I will take you to me for a people, a peculiar people, and I will be to you a God. More than this we need not ask, we cannot have, to make us happy. He intended his own glory: Ye shall know that I am the Lord. These good words, and comfortable words, should have revived the drooping Israelites, and have made them forget their misery; but they were so taken up with their troubles, that they did not heed God's promises. By indulging discontent and fretfulness, we deprive ourselves of the comfort we might have, both from God's word and from his providence, and go comfortless.God Almighty - Rather, "El Shaddai," (שׁדי אל 'êl shadday), it is better to keep this as a proper name. 3. I … God Almighty—All enemies must fall, all difficulties must vanish before My omnipotent power, and the patriarchs had abundant proofs of this.

but by my name, &c.—rather, interrogatively, by My name Jehovah was I not known to them? Am not I, the Almighty God, who pledged My honor for the fulfilment of the covenant, also the self-existent God who lives to accomplish it? Rest assured, therefore, that I shall bring it to pass. This passage has occasioned much discussion; and it has been thought by many to intimate that as the name Jehovah was not known to the patriarchs, at least in the full bearing or practical experience of it, the honor of the disclosure was reserved to Moses, who was the first sent with a message in the name of Jehovah, and enabled to attest it by a series of public miracles.

Quest. How is this true, when God was known to them, and called by the name Jehovah? Genesis 15:7 26:24, &c.

Answ. 1. He speaks not of the letters or syllables, but of the thing signified by that name. For that denotes all his perfections, and, amongst others, the eternity, constancy, and immutability of his nature and will, and the infallible certainty of his word and promises. And this, saith he, though it was believed by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet it was not experimentally known to them; for they only saw the promises afar off, Hebrews 11:13.

Answ. 2. This negative expression may be understood comparatively, as many others are, as Genesis 32:29 Matthew 9:13 1 Corinthians 1:17: q.d. They knew this but darkly and imperfectly, which will now be made known more clearly and fully.

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty,.... Able to fulfil all his purposes, promises, and covenant, with whom nothing is impossible; or Elshaddai, God all-sufficient, who has a sufficiency of happiness in himself, and everything to supply the wants of his creatures in things temporal and spiritual, see Genesis 17:1,

but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them; which he had in the preceding verse called himself by. This is not to be understood absolutely; for it is certain that he had made himself known by this name, and this name was known unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Genesis 15:6, and but comparatively, as some think; that is, he was not so much made known to them by the one name as the other; though it may be questioned whether the one was more used in speaking to them than the other; wherefore others think, as Saadiah Gaon, that the word only is to be supplied, as in Genesis 32:28 and the sense to be, that by his name Jehovah he was not only made known to them, but by his name Elshaddai, and others also; and others reconcile the difficulty thus, that though the name Jehovah itself was known to the patriarchs, by which they were assured that God is eternal, immutable, and faithful to his promises; yet he was not known as to the efficacy of this name, or with respect to the actual performance of his promise, as he now would be by delivering the children of Israel out of Egypt, and bringing them into the land of Canaan; though perhaps, by reading the words with an interrogation, the clause will appear more plain, "and by my name Jehovah was I not known to them?" (t) verily I was. Josephus (u) says, this name was not before made known to men, and that it was not lawful for a man to speak it; and this is the common notion of the Jews, that it is ineffable, and not lawful to be pronounced, and therefore they put Adonai and Elohim in the room of it, and the vowel points of these words to it, which is a false and superstitious notion: this name was known among the Heathens; it is the same with in the oracle of Apollo (w); and Diodorus Siculus (x) says, that with the Jews Moses is said to give laws from a God called "IAO", and is the same which in Philo Byblius (y) is called Jevo; and both are no other than a corruption of Jah or Jehovah; and perhaps the of the Pythagoreans (z), by which they swore, is the same with the tetragrammaton, or this word of four letters, with the Jews.

(t) Vid. Noldium, No. 788. (u) Antiqu. l. 2. c. 12. sect. 4. (w) Cornelius Labeo de oraculo Apoll. Clarii apud Macrob. Saturnal. l. 1. c. 18. (x) Bibliothoc. l. 1. p. 84. (y) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 1. c. 9. p. 31. (z) Carmin. Aurea Pythagor. l. 47. & Hierocles in ib. p. 225, 277. Porphyr. de Vita Pythagor. p. 189.

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name {a} JEHOVAH was I not known to them.

(a) By which he signifies that he will perform indeed that which he promised to their fathers: for this name declares that he is constant and will perform his promise.

Verse 3. - I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty. See Genesis 17:1 for the revelation of this name to Abraham, and Genesis 35:11 for its repetition to Jacob. We do not find the full name used by God in any appearance to Isaac; but Isaac himself uses it in Genesis 28:3. By my name Jehovah was I not known unto them. The explanation of this passage is by no means easy. God himself, according to Genesis 15:7, revealed himself to Abraham as Jehovah before declaring his name to be El-Shaddai (God Almighty); and again revealed himself to Jacob as Jehovah-Elohim (Genesis 28:13). Abraham named the place where he had been about to sacrifice Isaac, "Jehovah-jireh" (Genesis 22:14). That Moses regarded the name as known even earlier, appears from Genesis 4:1. It was probably as old as language. The apparent meaning of the present passage cannot therefore be its true meaning. No writer would so contradict himself. Perhaps the true sense is, "I was known to them as a Being of might and power, not as mere absolute (and so eternal and immutable) existence." This meaning of the word, though its etymological and original meaning, may have been unknown to the patriarchs, who were not etymologists. It was first distinctly declared to Moses at Sinai (Exodus 3:14, 15). Exodus 6:3Equipment of Moses and Aaron as Messengers of Jehovah. - Exodus 6:1. In reply to the complaining inquiry of Moses, Jehovah promised him the deliverance of Israel by a strong hand (cf. Exodus 3:19), by which Pharaoh would be compelled to let Israel go, and even to drive them out of his land. Moses did not receive any direct answer to the question, "Why hast Thou so evil-entreated this people?" He was to gather this first of all from his own experience as the leader of Israel. For the words were strictly applicable here: "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter" (John 13:7). If, even after the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt and their glorious march through the desert, in which they had received so many proofs of the omnipotence and mercy of their God, they repeatedly rebelled against the guidance of God, and were not content with the manna provided by the Lord, but lusted after the fishes, leeks, and onions of Egypt (Numbers 11); it is certain that in such a state of mind as this, they would never have been willing to leave Egypt and enter into a covenant with Jehovah, without a very great increase in the oppression they endured in Egypt. - The brief but comprehensive promise was still further explained by the Lord (Exodus 6:2-9), and Moses was instructed and authorized to carry out the divine purposes in concert with Aaron (Exodus 6:10-13, Exodus 6:28-30; Exodus 7:1-6). The genealogy of the two messengers is then introduced into the midst of these instructions (Exodus 6:14-27); and the age of Moses is given at the close (Exodus 7:7). This section does not contain a different account of the calling of Moses, taken from some other source than the previous one; it rather presupposes Exodus 3-5, and completes the account commenced in Exodus 3 of the equipment of Moses and Aaron as the executors of the divine will with regard to Pharaoh and Israel. For the fact that the first visit paid by Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh was simply intended to bring out the attitude of Pharaoh towards the purposes of Jehovah, and to show the necessity for the great judgments of God, is distinctly expressed in the words, "Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh." But before these judgments commenced, Jehovah announced to Moses (Exodus 6:2), and through him to the people, that henceforth He would manifest Himself to them in a much more glorious manner than to the patriarchs, namely, as Jehovah; whereas to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He had only appeared as El Shaddai. The words, "By My name Jehovah was I now known to them," do not mean, however, that the patriarchs were altogether ignorant of the name Jehovah. This is obvious from the significant use of that name, which was not an unmeaning sound, but a real expression of the divine nature, and still more from the unmistakeable connection between the explanation given by God here and Genesis 17:1. When the establishment of the covenant commenced, as described in Genesis 15, with the institution of the covenant sign of circumcision and the promise of the birth of Isaac, Jehovah said to Abram, "I am El Shaddai, God Almighty," and from that time forward manifested Himself to Abram and his wife as the Almighty, in the birth of Isaac, which took place apart altogether from the powers of nature, and also in the preservation, guidance, and multiplication of his seed. It was in His attribute as El Shaddai that God had revealed His nature to the patriarchs; but now He was about to reveal Himself to Israel as Jehovah, as the absolute Being working with unbounded freedom in the performance of His promises. For not only had He established His covenant with the fathers (Exodus 6:4), but He had also heard the groaning of the children of Israel, and remembered His covenant (Exodus 6:5; וגם - וגם, not only - but also). The divine promise not only commences in Exodus 6:2, but concludes at Exodus 6:8, with the emphatic expression, "I Jehovah," to show that the work of Israel's redemption resided in the power of the name Jehovah. In Exodus 6:4 the covenant promises of Genesis 17:7-8; Genesis 26:3; Genesis 35:11-12, are all brought together; and in Exodus 6:5 we have a repetition of Exodus 2:24, with the emphatically repeated אני (I). On the ground of the erection of His covenant on the one hand, and, what was irreconcilable with that covenant, the bondage of Israel on the other, Jehovah was not about to redeem Israel from its sufferings and make it His own nation. This assurance, which God would carry out by the manifestation of His nature as expressed in the name Jehovah, contained three distinct elements: (a) the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, which, because so utterly different from all outward appearances, is described in three parallel clauses: bringing them out from under the burdens of the Egyptians; saving them from their bondage; and redeeming them with a stretched-out arm and with great judgments; - (b) the adoption of Israel as the nation of God; - (c) the guidance of Israel into the land promised to the fathers (Exodus 6:6-8). נטוּיה זרוע, a stretched-out arm, is most appropriately connected with גּדלים שׁפטים, great judgments; for God raises, stretches out His arm, when He proceeds in judgment to smite the rebellious. These expressions repeat with greater emphasis the "strong hand" of Exodus 6:1, and are frequently connected with it in the rhetorical language of Deuteronomy (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 7:19). The "great judgments" were the plagues, the judgments of God, by which Pharaoh was to be compelled to let Israel go.
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