Then Yehovah said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for under compulsion he will let them go, and under compulsion he will drive them out of his land.” – Exodus 6:1
God continued His direct dialogue with Moses to affirm what He had been stating. Though Pharaoh may have increased the labor for the Hebrews, what God said He would do He will do. God always fulfills what He says. In the case of Israel, He promised to bring them out of Egypt in a miraculous way in order to: keep His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob concerning the promised land of Canaan (6:4); to save Israel from oppression (3:9); and to make His name, Yehovah, great again around the world through the destruction of Pharaoh.
But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you My power, so that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth. – Exodus 9:16
God’s name was known and remembered from the beginning (Genesis 4:26; 12:8; 13:4; 16:13; 21:33; 26:25). Israel’s wife Rachel named her first son Joseph in faith that Yehovah would add more children to her family (Genesis 30:24). Joseph (Hebrew יוֹסֵ֖ף Yoseph) is the contracted form of Jehoseph (Hebrew יה֨וֹסֵ֤ף Yehoseph), which means Yehovah will increase. Despite all of this, the world had forgotten God’s name, and the enslaved people of Israel were beginning to forget.
Today, there are many different groups within Judaism and Christianity who choose to forget God’s name by substituting God or Lord at every instance. In Bible translations, the LORD is a replacement for God’s name Yehovah. This replacement makes it easier to accept a different name for God. Since Lord is a general term that can mean master and is also a title given to Yeshua (Jesus), some groups within Christianity even replace God’s name with the name Jesus. As they say, if God is the Lord, and Jesus is Lord, then God’s name is Jesus. The attempt by some to replace God and Israel with Jesus and the Church started in the late 2nd century. This belief system is called supersessionism, but is also known as replacement theology and covenant theology; it is built on the idea of dispensationalism in systematic theology.
“…and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, the LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.” – Exodus 6:3 NASB
The LORD is actually Yehovah in the original Hebrew. Those who prefer to downplay the importance of God’s name often refer to Exodus 6:3 in an attempt to show that God’s name was not known before He revealed it to Moses. (However, as previously stated, there were multiple previous instances of people using God’s name, so God’s name was known before He revealed it to Moses.) They point to this one verse in order to imply that God’s name can and does change, so the change of God’s name to Jesus is possible, they say. (However, in Exodus 3:15, God already told Moses that His name never changes.)
So since His name was known before this moment when He revealed it to Moses, and since His name does not change, then what is the proper understanding of this verse? What did God mean in Exodus 6:3 when He stated “by My name, Yehovah, I did not make Myself known to [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob]”?
- The meaning of know: The word to know (Hebrew יָדָע yada) can mean to know intimately as the intimately action between husband and wife (Genesis 4:1; 4:17; 4:25; et al.). This word can also mean to know from experience. This is its use regarding experiencing God’s presence and miraculous work (Ezekiel 20:9; 35:11; 38:23). While God revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He had not yet made Himself known to Moses and all of Israel through great power and miracles. But this fact soon changed with God’s supernatural judgment on Egypt. As God told Moses, “The Egyptians shall know that I am Yehovah, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them” (Exodus 7:5).
- The syntax of a rhetorical question: While modern translations make Exodus 6:3 into a declarative statement, the 1769 King James Version makes the same verse into a rhetorical question by inverting the subject and verb: “but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them” (Exodus 6:3 KJV). Unlike English, in Hebrew syntax, the word order does not have to change in order to form a question. A declarative statement and a question can and do have the same word order, and this is possible here in Exodus 6:3. There is only one automatic answer to all rhetorical questions.
God: “By my name Yehovah was I not known to them?”
Moses’ understanding: “Yes.”
God continued His direct dialogue to Moses, reaffirming yet again the covenant that He had made (6:4-5). God used a series of statements: “I am” therefore “I will”.
Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, “I am Yehovah, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am Yehovah your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am Yehovah.” – Exodus 6:6-8
God proceeded to use Moses and Aaron to perform wondrous signs and execute judgments on Egypt. At first, Pharaoh’s magicians could repeat the miracle that Moses and Aaron performed. But later, they could not. Some judgments affected all of Egypt, while the latter judgments only affected the Egyptians but left the people of Israel and believing Egyptians unharmed.
Throughout many of the plagues, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not repent, in order to show God’s power through the grand exodus of Israel from Egypt. However, at some point, Pharaoh hardened his own heart (8:32), showing God gave him a choice; Pharaoh returned to his sin of unbelief and disobedience by trying to keep control of the people of Israel.
In the same way, many people try to keep control of their own lives by continuing in sins or practicing one particular sin continually. Though they may regret committing the sinful act after each instance, they continue. God considered this unacceptable.
Therefore thus says Yehovah, “Behold I am bringing disaster on them which they will not be able to escape; though they will cry to Me, yet I will not listen to them.” – Jeremiah 11:11
Therefore, I indeed will deal in wrath. My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them. – Ezekiel 8:18
God is looking for faithfulness and repentance. That doesn’t mean God requires us to never sin again; it means that He requires us to stop making it a recurring event or a habit.
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. – 1 John 3:2-7