Today we begin Exodus Chapter 5.
For the Complete Jewish Bible, click here.
For the King James Version, click here.
The showdown between Moses and Pharaoh is I believe a perfect opportunity to illustrate the importance of knowing (and using) God’s formal name.
Practically every major Bible translation I’ve come across has deleted God’s personal name “YHVH” from the Scriptures and instead substituted the generic terms “Lord” or “God”.
I don’t think this is a good idea because YHVH is the one word that distinguishes the God of Israel from any other god or gods of other world religions and cultures.
Fortunately, there are some translations out there that keep God’s name intact.
Here’s an excerpt from the Name of God Bible (NOG) translation:
Later Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what Yahweh Elohim of Israel says: Let my people go into the desert to celebrate a festival in my honor.”
Pharaoh asked, “Who is Yahweh? Why should I obey him and let Israel go? I don’t know Yahweh, and I won’t let Israel go.”
They replied, “The Elohim of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us travel three days into the desert to offer sacrifices to Yahweh our Elohim. If we don’t go, he may kill us with a plague or a war.”-Exodus 5:1-3
Notice how many times God’s personal name is used and also notice the distinction being made between “YHVH” and “Elohim”.
Moses is literally telling Pharaoh “YHVH our God” wants us to celebrate a festival in His Honor.
He isn’t telling Pharaoh that the “ONLY God in existence” or “the Creator of the whole universe” wants us to worship Him.
Can you see how we get a much clearer picture of what was happening between Moses and Pharaoh at the Egyptian high court when God’s formal name is properly reinserted?
The very name , YHWH, of this Semitic deity was news to Pharaoh.
And even if Pharaoh granted that there was such a god, there is no reason that he, as an Egyptian polytheist and as somebody thought to have divine status himself, should recognize the authority of this Hebrew deity.
When Pharaoh says “I do not know YAHWEH”, he is basically saying “I refuse to recognize his divine authority“.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, without exception, every ancient culture believed in multiple gods who each had individual names.
It was believed that knowing a god’s name enabled you to not only communicate with that god but also get it to do your bidding.
It was also assumed that a given god’s sphere of authority was limited to certain territories.
From Pharaoh’s perspective, it was incredulous that there was some god out there he didn’t know who had some kind of undefined influence inside of Egypt.
Who was this strange invader?
How come nobody had told him about this god’s existence until now?
Where did this god’s sphere of influence begin and end?
As somebody who was in command of the most powerful gods of Egypt and considered to be divine himself, these were the kinds of questions stirring around inside of Pharaoh’s head when Moses confronted him.