God is not a name—it’s a title. In fact, the God of the Bible introduces himself by a specific name in one of the most famous stories in the Bible, the exodus event, when he works through Moses and Aaron to deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt. In this episode, Tim and Jon dive into the first movement of the Exodus scroll and explore the theme of God’s name.
Yahweh’s on a mission to, first, reveal his name and his character and his purpose to the chosen people that he’s selected and then, through them, reveal his name and reputation to all the nations. This is the major motif of the Exodus narrative.
In part one (00:00-12:15), Tim and Jon open up the scroll of Exodus. Over the history of our podcast, we’ve spent a lot of time studying Genesis and comparatively far less time studying Exodus. In this episode, we dive into the first of three movements in Exodus, tracing the theme of God’s name. Although the narrator of Genesis refers to God by his name, Yahweh, there’s something unique and significant about the reintroduction of God’s name in Exodus.
Exodus is a Greek compound word which means “the road out of.” The Hebrew name for this scroll is ve'elleh shemot, which means “and these are the names.” It is the opening phrase of the Exodus scroll, which ties together Abraham’s descendants from the Genesis scroll with their later descendants who were enslaved in Egypt.
The first movement of Exodus corresponds to Exodus 1:1-13:16, beginning with Israel’s bondage and concluding with the Passover meal instituted the night before Israel’s liberation.
In part two (12:15-23:45), Tim and Jon explore the significance of God’s personal name, Yahweh. Why does God care so much that his people know him as Yahweh?
Names communicate the nature of a relationship. You wouldn’t call just any older man “dad” or pick up a nickname or term of endearment for someone you just met. Similarly, God’s name indicates a certain relationship he has with people. “God” is not God’s name—it’s a title. In Hebrew, it’s the word elohim, which is a category of being (deity, in this case), just like human is a category of being (but not a name).
Yahweh’s on a mission to reveal his name, character, and purposes to Israel and then, through them, reveal his name and reputation to all the nations. This is the major motif in the Exodus narrative. The exodus event, when Moses and Aaron led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage, is referred to more than any other event in the Torah as the primary way to understand Yahweh’s nature and character.
In the New Testament, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray that Yahweh’s name would be restored to a state of uniqueness and holiness among the nations (Matt. 6:9-13, Luke 11:1-4). Later, Paul connects Jesus’ name with Yahweh’s, teaching that the way to honor the name Yahweh is by acknowledging and praying in the name of Jesus.
In part three (23:45-46:30), Tim and Jon discuss the opening lines of Exodus, a genealogy that begins with the descendants of Jacob who are now living in Egypt. Even in Egypt, Israel experiences the blessings of Eden, becoming fruitful and multiplying until they are so numerous it scares Pharaoh (Exod. 1:7-10).
The pharaoh who ruled at the end of Genesis benefitted from the Eden blessing too. He blessed Joseph and, through him, the whole family of Israel. But the pharaoh reigning at the start of Exodus sets himself up to experience God’s anger because of God’s promise to Abraham to bless those who bless his descendants and curse those who curse them (Gen. 12:3). Pharaoh plays the role of the Genesis 3 snake by oppressing the Israelites with three attempts to keep the Israelites from increasing in number.
In one of these attempts to halt Israel’s growth, Pharaoh orders that all Israelite boys be killed as soon as they are born. Thanks to the heroism of two righteous Hebrew midwives, many Israelite boys live anyway, including Moses. Moses grows up in Pharaoh’s household, but as an adult, he tries to take justice into his own hands by murdering an Egyptian he sees beating an Israelite. Moses runs for his life into the wilderness. Even in exile, God’s blessing follows Moses, and he thrives in the wilderness of Midian.
While Moses is exiled from Egypt in Midian, his people are still exiled from Canaan in Egypt, and they keep crying out to God. Throughout the Bible, whenever people cry out to God, it’s as if he can’t help but listen and come to their aid. In Exodus 2:24-25, God gets ready to launch a rescue plan because of the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
In part four (46:30-1:05:28), Tim and Jon talk about the first time God introduces himself by his personal name.
So far, in Exodus 1-2, God has simply been referred to as elohim. In Exodus 3, the story of the burning bush, God introduces himself to Moses as Yahweh (in response to Moses’ question in verse 13). The narrator of Exodus is implying that Abraham’s descendants have forgotten God’s name.
Yahweh literally means “I am/will be” or “he is/will be.” It’s a statement of being and existence without qualifiers—without mention of source, origin, or characteristic. Yahweh was, is, and will be. Yahweh wants to be known as the God who listens to his people and acts to bring about liberation. In the Gospel narratives, Jesus refers to himself multiple times by the Greek version of this name, ego eimi, identifying himself as Yahweh.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel and Zach McKinley. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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