In the book of Ezekiel we hear God saying “That you may/will know that I am Yahweh (Lord) ” 74 times (on my count—it may be a few more; I blink and lose count). Averaging it out the phrase occurs about three times in every two chapters.
I have little interest at this point in questions of etymology or the origin of YHWH (Yahweh); that’s for the scholars if they’re still interested in that question. Just so you know I’m following those who claim it’s linked to “I Am” and should be understood as, “I will be Who I will be,” or “I will be Who I show Myself to be.”
But in the end a word or a phrase (whatever its origin) means what a writer/speaker means it to mean and current context is king. And we also learn what a word means* by the company it keeps and the setting in which it often occurs. You expect to see “gentleness and kindness” together—the one suggests the presence of the other in a person, doesn’t it?! You’d be surprised to hear someone say, “She is a woman of integrity and uncertainty.” Why would you not be surprised at, “A woman of integrity and honesty,”? They go together; they suggest one another’s presence don’t they!
The name Yahweh (Lord, LORD in the KJV) carries different messages depending on context. It speaks of sovereign power in some contexts, of covenant faithfulness in others, of in-comparability in others. The word (Yahweh) designates God who makes Himself known in many ways depending on the situation or the relationship under consideration.
It doesn’t matter how the “name” originated! It may well be as some older scholars suggested that God refused to give Moses a “name”. He didn’t want to be “pigeon-holed”. Imagine Moses saying, “Who are you?” and God saying, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:13-14. Other gods and goddesses may have names but in one sense or another: the “UNKNOWN God (Acts 17:22-29) is “The God without a Name.” (At least until He took the name of Jesus of Nazareth.)
Okay I’m done with that—I didn’t intend to write it but I see no benefit in deleting it.
74 times in Ezekiel and by far most often immediately linked with destructive judgment that God claims HE carries out and He claims He does it “that you/they may know that I am the LORD.“ (He also takes responsibility for blessing that “You may know that I am the LORD (Yahweh).” 34:27, 30, 31 illustrate
Ezekiel 28:20-23; 30:10-19; 35:1-4 illustrate the point that He makes His name known in devastating judgments on the nations.
If OT critics wish to expose a God who orders and carries out what they call “genocide” or “infanticide” or “murderous cruelty” they don’t have to use a fine-toothed comb through the OT seeking out verses here and there. The prophets are saturated with God’s taking responsibility for destructive wars, famines and the like Amos 3:6b and context illustrates. If that offends us, it isn’t some verses here and there that offend—it’s the recurring speech of the entire Holy Scriptures—Ezekiel only being a particularly clear showing of that.
If we should say that these books and chapters and verses were lies, written by pagan-hearted, vicious writers and compilers of the (allegedly) Holy Bible, then we should be ashamed to go behind a lectern or into a pulpit with such a Bible in our hands. If what these critics say is true they’re honoring a Bible that teaches in the name of God what is no less than demonic and satanic. What else can it be if it does what they say it does?
My own sense of it is that the vast majority of those who are part of the evangelical believers aren’t aware of what is being said by these Bible-carrying critics who undermine the very Bible they carry. They get in the pulpit or behind a lectern meaning to and demonizing the OT (the OT in particular, but not without the NT) which they say praises and vindicates genocide and murderous cruelty. Still, they often choose bits from the OT and preach fine things from the suitable parts. This masks where their heads and hearts really are.
Instead of looking for a hermeneutical strategy that honors the God of the OT and the OT that proclaims that God they follow the path that one writer took in saying , “The Old Testament is a mill-stone around the neck of Christianity.” Ranting atheist, Richard Dawkins, must love these people and yet despise them for what he would regard as hypocrisy.
I mean to continue this and suggest a interpretive strategy that doesn’t demonize the Holy Scriptures or the God presented in them if it appears it’s thought worthwhile and God enables me.
- We use the word MEAN or MEANS in numerous ways don’t we! “This means war.” Or, “What do you mean I didn’t repay you; why I…” etc.