Exodus 6:3—Was God known by His name “Lord” (Jehovah or Yahweh) before Moses’ time?
Problem: According to this text God told Moses, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD [Jehovah, Yahweh], I was not known to them.” However, the word “LORD” [Jehovah, Yahweh] occurs in Genesis in many places, both in combination with the term “God,” as “LORD God” (Gen. 2:4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, etc.) and alone as LORD (Gen. 4:1, 3, 4, 6, 9, etc.).
Solution: This difficulty can be explained in several ways. Some believe it was introduced into Genesis by way of anticipation. Others hold that the full meaning of the name was not known previously, even though it was in use. Or, perhaps some special character of the covenant-keeping God as was indicated by the sacred name “LORD” (Jehovah, Yahweh) was not revealed until Moses’ time. Still others think Moses (or a later editor) placed the name in the text of Genesis retrospectively, after it had come into use. This would be like a biographer of the famous boxer referring to the childhood of Muhammad Ali, even though his name was really Cassius Clay at the time. In favor of this is the fact that the common suffix “-ah” (which stands for “Jehovah”) attached to names (such as, Mic-ah, Jon-ah, Jeremi-ah) is not generally found in names before Moses’ time.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.