Why did God say he wasn’t known to Jacob as Jehovah?

Published 7:49 pm Tuesday, October 22, 2019

From Staff Reports
Minister, Church of Christ Northside

Bible Q-n-A viewer asked, “Can you do a sermon on Exodus 6:3 and Genesis 49:18?”

I haven’t done a sermon explicitly on those two passages together, but I have cited those passages, among others, in my lessons on the name Jehovah. The question was posted on one of my Bible review videos that really doesn’t have anything to do with the question. I’m speculating that it was asked because those two passages seem to present a contradiction. I’ll answer the question from that viewpoint.

The Bible is the inspired word of God. It is the truth by which we are saved (John 8:32). It is the standard by which we will be judged in the last day. But if it contains mistakes and contradictions how could it be reliable for “all things pertaining to life and godliness?”

The truth is that there is no such thing as contradictions in the Bible. Rather, there are misrepresentations of what the text actually says or means.

The perceived contradiction, if that is the intent of the question, is that God was called by the name Jehovah (Genesis 49:18) before he said he was known by that name (Exodus 6:3). Is that really a contradiction? If the statement in Exodus means that no one knew that name prior to that statement then, yes, it would be a contradiction. But that isn’t what the passage means, or even says.

The name, Jehovah, is used nearly seven thousand times in the Old Testament, beginning all the way back in Genesis 2. In Genesis 13:4, we’re told that Abram call on the name of Jehovah. In Genesis 14:22, Abram said he had raised his hand to Jehovah. Abraham actually called God Jehovah numerous times, as did Isaac and Jacob.

The point being made to Moses, in Exodus 6:2, isn’t that the Patriarchs didn’t know the name Jehovah, obviously they did. But that name was being given a new significance now as the covenant name of God with Israel. This is clear from the context of the statement (Exodus 6:2-9). God had told Moses to tell the children of Israel that “I am” (the basis for the name Jehovah) had sent him to deliver them from Egypt. That was being done in fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). He used the name Jehovah with a special connection to the fulfillment of that covenant promise.

So, in essence, the point is that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had known the working of the Almighty, but they did not see the fulfillment of the covenant promise that God made with them the way that generation of Israel was going to see it. So, there is no contradiction when you understand the passage correctly.