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Exodus 6:1-9 - Homilies By J. Orr

A Divine commentary on a Divine name.

The antiquity of the name Jehovah, setting aside direct testimonies to its occurrence in earlier scriptures, is sufficiently proved by its etymology (from havah , an old—and, in the days of Moses, obsolete—form of the verb "to be"), and from its presence (in composition) in pre-Mosaic proper names ( e.g. Exodus 6:20 ). It is absurd to press this passage in proof of the ignorance of the patriarchs of this name of God, when one observes—

1 . That the context plainly relates to a commentary which God was about to give on this name in deeds.

2 . That the name is not here announced , but is presupposed as known—"My name Jehovah."

3 . That in Exodus 3:14-16 , where it is announced, it is expressly referred to as a name of older date—God styling himself repeatedly, "Jehovah God of your fathers." The knowledge of God by this name in the present passage has obvious reference to a knowledge derived from manifestation of the attributes implied in the meaning of the name.

I. " JEHOVAH " IN CONTRAST WITH " EL - SHADDAI " ( Exodus 3:3 ).

1 . El-Shaddai means, as translated, "God Almighty." It denotes in God the simple attribute of power—All-Mightiness—power exerted chiefly in the region of the natural life.

2 . Jehovah, on the other hand, has a deeper and wider, an infinitely fuller and richer meaning. It denotes God as possessed of the perfections of the Absolute—self-identical and changeless because self-existent and eternal. God's eternally what he is ( Exodus 3:14 )—the Being who is and remains one with himself in all he thinks, purposes, and does. This implies, together with immutability, the attribute of self-determining freedom, and that unlimited rule (dominion, sovereignty) in the worlds of matter and mind, which is of the essence of the conception of the Absolute. Hence such passages as these:—" I am Jehovah, I change not" ( Malachi 3:6 ); "Whatsoever Jehovah pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and in all. deep places" ( Psalms 130:6 ); "Jehovah, he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath; there is none else" ( Deuteronomy 4:39 ). Jehovah is, moreover, the God of gracious purpose. It is this which gave the name its depth of interest to the Hebrew bondsmen, who were not likely to be greatly influenced by purely ontological conceptions. The chosen sphere for the manifestation of the attributes denoted by these names of God was that marked out by the promises of the Covenant. El-Shaddai, e.g; while declaring the possession by God of the attribute of power in general, had immediate reference to the manifestations of power which God would give in the birth of Isaac, and in the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham of a numerous posterity ( Genesis 16:1-7 ). It was power working in the interests of grace, in subserviency to love. The same is true of the name Jehovah. A view of God in his bare absoluteness would awaken only a speculative interest; but it is different when this self-existent, eternal Being is seen entering into history, and revealing himself as the God of compassionating love. Grace and mercy are felt to be no longer foreign to the meaning of the name, but to be as much a part of it as changelessness and freedom. This, accordingly, was what the name told to Israel; not simply that there was an Absolute, or even that he who had entered into covenant with the Fathers, and was now about to undertake their deliverance, was this absolute God; but rather, that it was in the work of their salvation that his perfections as Absolute were to be surprisingly and surpassingly exhibited. Their redemption was to be a chosen field for the manifestation of his Jehovah attributes. There would be given in it a discovery and demonstration of these surpassing everything that had hitherto been known. And was not this glorious comfort to a nation lying in darkness and the shadow of death!


1 . God revealed as El-Shaddai ( Exodus 3:3 ). God was made known as El-Shaddai in the birth of IsaActs ( Romans 4:17-22 ), in the care exercised over the patriarchs in their wanderings ( Genesis 28:15 ), in the provision made for their temporal necessities ( Genesis 45:5-9 ), in the increase and preservation of the chosen race in Egypt ( Exodus 1:7 , Exodus 1:12 , Exodus 1:20 ; Exodus 3:2 ). This name, however, was inadequate to express the richer aspects and relations of the Divine character brought to light in the Exodus, and in the subsequent experiences of the people.

2 . The transition from El-Shaddai to Jehovah. Exodus 3:4-6 narrate the steps by which the way was prepared for the new and higher manifestation. The preparation involved—

We have now to view in it a situation providentially prepared with the design of affording the tidiest possible scope for the display of the truth, grace, power, and all-embracing sovereignty of the great Being who was revealing himself in Israel's history.

3 . God revealed as Jehovah ( Exodus 3:6-9 ). This revelation would embrace—

Lessons :—

1 . How wonderful to contemplate God in the majesty of his perfections as the Great I Am—the absolute and unconditioned Being! But what language will express the condescension and grace displayed in the stooping down of this absolute Being to enter into covenant engagements with man, even to the extent of binding himself with oaths to fulfil the promises given by his own free goodness.

2 . The manifestation of the Jehovah attributes in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt has its higher counterpart in the discovery of them since made in the redemption of men from sin and Satan through Christ. Christ redeems us from sin's burden and from Satan's tyranny. He does this in virtue of the "stretched-out arm" and "mighty judgments" with which, while on earth, he overcame the Prince of the power of this world; himself also enduring the judgment of God in being "made sin for us," "that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." By this atonement and victory, in the might of which he has now ascended on high, leading captivity captive, we, being reconciled to God, are formed into a people for his praise, and he becomes our God; the same power that redeemed us working in us to deliver us from sin in our members, and to prepare us for a heavenly inheritance; to which, as the goal of all God's leading of us, the promises immovably point forward ( Romans 8:1 , Romans 8:2 ; 2 Corinthians 5:21 ; Ephesians 4:8 ; Colossians 1:12-15 ; Colossians 2:15 ; 1 Peter 2:3-10 ; 1 Peter 2:9 , 1 Peter 2:10 ).— J . O .

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