Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Hardening Pharaoh's Heart


Jan 29  Bo- Hardening Pharaoh's Heart

For recording of the discusion:


This weeks Torah portion is one for the cardiologists, because it focuses on the question of arteriosclerosis.

Harden heart lhakhbid lev  להכביד לב seems to be used primarily in Exodus, only with regard to Pharaoh. Not elsewhere, with one exception which itself is a reference to the Exodus. Ezekiel uses a term” heart of stone” frequently, but that is the closest we find.

 One of the signs of the Torah reflecting actual events is the heavy use of terms and concepts unique to Egypt.

The exodus and wilderness narratives (i.e., Exodus–Numbers) contain 27 different Egyptian loanwords, primarily comprising terminology for realia and material culture (see table 1). 10 Altogether there are 381 total occurrences of Egyptian loanwords in the exodus and wilderness traditions…. Significantly, the book of Exodus alone contains 26 Egyptian loanwords that occur a total of 333 times (Egyptian Loanwords as Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus and Wilderness Traditions ,Benjamin J. Noonan ,Columbia International University)

Other related Semitic languages of the same time period show very little use of Egyptian loan words, even though they at many times were under Egyptian control.! The author concludes that these terms themselves reflect the language of the period of the Exodus, and had they been a later invention, the authors would have been unable to recreate them from sources they no longer had!

The entire story of the Exodus is then to be seen as the revolution, not just against enslavement, but against all that is Egyptian, from the top, Pharaoh, on down. And that is what is at the core of Egypt- the Pharaoh, as the physical embodiment of the gods, and all the way down. That is why Egypt is called “beit Avadim”-the House of slavery”. Not because the Egyptians were oppressed, but because they had given themselves over to a civilization based upon the centrality of the Pharaoh-King-Emperor-Tsar.


Early Christian and Jewish texts referred to the forces of evil, the powers of Satan, under the term “Cosmocrator”-Ruler of the Cosmos, the universe.

A human being acting as god.


AFTERWARDS, MOSES AND AARON CAME <AND SAID UNTO PHARAOH >…. R. Hiyya b. R. Abba said: It was ambassador day for Pharaoh, and all the kings were coming to crown him because he was the cosmocrator of the world {i.e., powerful one}

Tanhuma (Buber) Vaera 2


Thus, a word intended as a divine adversary of God is applied to Pharaoh.

It has long been known that the Egyptian pharaoh was regarded as divine in Egyptian culture. He was the son of Re and the mediator between the gods and humankind. During the royal coronation, he was transformed into a manifestation of the god Horus. He could be referred to as a ntr (‘divine being’, ‘god’), and was regularly described in inscriptions as ‘the good god’ or ‘perfect god’ (ntr nfr). By the New Kingdom period, the king's divinity was believed to be imbued by his possession of a divine manifestation of the god Amun-Re called the ‘living royal ka’, which came upon him at his coronation, and which was also renewed during the yearly opet festival held in the Luxor temple in Thebes THE DIVINITY OF THE PHARAOH IN GREEK SOURCES https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/classical-quarterly/article/abs/divinity-of-the-pharaoh-in-greek-sources/10B843BD8305A47AFB789F70AF0E7D11Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2014

Interestingly, shortly after this period, and after the period of Akhnaton, who placed himself as the sole mediator with the only god, Aten, the Egyptians no longer saw Pharaoh as the embodiment of the gods!

It was, however, reborn, under the Hellenistic and Roman rulers, who now created a cult around the ruler. That is one of the factors behind the rebellions under the Macabees and under year 70 and Bar Cochba uprisings.

Getting back to Pharaoh, what is it about his heart that only an Egyptian or a people having lived in Egypt would know.

The weighing of the heart in the from the Book of the Dead of Ani (ca. 1300 B.C.E.). The heart is on the left scale; the feather of maʾat on the right. The god Anubis sets up the scales, while Ani’s soul (ba) looks on in the form of a bird. On the right, the god Thoth records his judgment while the monster Amenti watches for the heart to drop below the feather so he can consume it. British Library, 2001

 Saying that Pharaoh’s heart was heavy was akin to saying that he was not “worthy” of an afterlife, a terrible curse for an Egyptian.[9] .( From The Torah.com)

So who is making Pharaoh’s heart turn into a brick?

First, there is  the use” strengthening”.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָה֮ אֶל־מֹשֶׁה֒ בְּלֶכְתְּךָ֙ לָשׁ֣וּב מִצְרַ֔יְמָה רְאֵ֗ה כָּל־הַמֹּֽפְתִים֙ אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֣מְתִּי בְיָדֶ֔ךָ וַעֲשִׂיתָ֖ם לִפְנֵ֣י פַרְעֹ֑ה וַאֲנִי֙ אֲחַזֵּ֣ק אֶת־לִבּ֔וֹ וְלֹ֥א יְשַׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־הָעָֽם׃ 4:21

And יהוה said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the marvels that I have put within your power. I, however, will stiffen his heart so that he will not let the people go.

Achazek- I will “strengthen”, fortify. Not “Stiffen”.



ואני אחזק את לבו, for if he could not endure the plagues he would let the Israelites go, not because he was finally humbling himself before the Lord and do His will, but only in order to get relief from the plagues. This was not a good enough reason to grant him relief; therefore G’d reinforced his natural obstinacy.

. כי בהיותו בלתי יכול לסבול המכות היה משלח את העם בלי ספק, לא מפני שיכנע לאל יתברך לעשות רצונו, ולזה חזק את לבו שיתאמץ לסבול המכות ולבלתי שלחם: Sforno


So to say, to Pharaoh” Chazak v’Ematz” -be strong to take it all with a stiff upper lip!



Midrash Lekach Tov, Exodus 4:21:3

ואני אחזק. ואם תאמר היאך הקב״ה מחזק לב האדם להכשל בו, תשובה הואיל והרשע

מחויב בדין אין הקב״ה גובה ממנו אלא במלאת ספקו.

If you would say,” How can the Holy One strengthen an man’s heart in order to make him fall, the answer is that since the evil doer has already made himself legally liable, the holy One doesn’t exact justice until במלאת ספקו-till his appetite ( to do wrong) is filled to the top.

In other words, I am giving him enough rope to hang himself on ( or hoist himself on his own petard!)


Now, how “kaved”-heavy- used. It is not the word, as often translated in English, hard.


וַיַּ֣רְא פַּרְעֹ֗ה כִּ֤י הָֽיְתָה֙ הָֽרְוָחָ֔ה וְהַכְבֵּד֙ אֶת־לִבּ֔וֹ וְלֹ֥א שָׁמַ֖ע אֲלֵהֶ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֖ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהוָֽה׃ (ס)

But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he became stubborn and would not heed them, as יהוה had spoken. 8:11.

והכבד את לבו HE ALLOWED HIS HEART TO BE HARDENED —expresses doing something ,the Hebrew infinitive but having a past meaning -P-A-O-L construct( haloch the going, from holech, go).

והכבד את לבו, He reinforced his natural courage not to be frightened of a re-emergence of the crocodiles that had remained alive. He was also willing to put up with the stench of the decaying beasts. All of this rather than to admit his impotence vis-à-vis the G’d of the Israelites.Sforno( Italian )


In other word, God has done nothing to him. He is doing it to himself.

Again, a few verses later:

וַיַּכְבֵּ֤ד פַּרְעֹה֙ אֶת־לִבּ֔וֹ גַּ֖ם בַּפַּ֣עַם הַזֹּ֑את וְלֹ֥א שִׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־הָעָֽם׃ {פ}


But Pharaoh became stubborn this time also, and would not let the people go.


Better-Pharaoh made his heart even heavier( piel-the intensive form of the verb).8:28. Again 9:7, 9:24.


It is not till the opening of our Torah portion, where God finally announces his final plans to the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, with the phrase:


אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה בֹּ֖א אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה כִּֽי־אֲנִ֞י הִכְבַּ֤דְתִּי אֶת־לִבּוֹ֙ וְאֶת־לֵ֣ב עֲבָדָ֔יו לְמַ֗עַן שִׁתִ֛י אֹתֹתַ֥י אֵ֖לֶּה בְּקִרְבּֽוֹ׃

Then ה" said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, in order that I may display these My signs among them,( admittedly, we have the term “ I will make his heart hard”-aksheh -also)


For what purpose is it to harden or make the Pharaoh’s heart all the heavier?


כי אני הכבדתי את לבו הודיע הקב''ה למשה שהוא הכביד את לבם עתה אחרי שפחדו ממנו בברד והתודו על עונם. ואמר לו הטעם כי עשיתי כן, למען שאשית בקרבם אלה האותות אשר אני חפץ לעשות בהם שידעו מצרים את גבורתי, לא שאעניש אותם יותר מפני הכובד הזה. ועוד כדי שתספר אתה וכל ישראל לדורות הבאים כח מעשי, ותדעו כי אני ה', וכל אשר אחפוץ אעשה בשמים ובארץ:Ramban


I will thereby place upon them my signs so that Egypt will understand my might, not in order to punish them more for this heaviness.



Another explanation:

For I have hardened his heart - Rabbi Yochanan said: Does this not provide heretics with an opportunity to open their mouths to say that he had no means of repenting, as it say "For I have hardened his heart". Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said to him: Let the mouths of the heretics be stopped up. Rather, (Mishlei 3:34) If it concerns the scorners, he scorns them. When the Holy One Blessed be He warns a man once, twice, thrice and he doesn't repent, and G-d will close his heart against repentance so that He should not exact vengeance from him for his sins. So to with the wicked Pharaoh, since Hashem sent five times to him and he took no notice, G-d then said: "You have stiffened your neck and hardened your heart; well, I will add impurity to your impurity". Hence, "For I have hardened his heart". What does "I have hardened" imply? That G-d made his heart like a liver (כבד) into which even if boiled a second time no juice enters; so also was the heart of Pharaoh made like a liver, and he did not receive the words of G-d. Hence, "For I have hardened his heart". Shemot Rabbah 13:3


In this sense, God is the ultimate enabler to Pharaoh’s addiction to power, just feeding the addict more of what he wanted in the first place.




So, we go back to the Egyptian Book of the Dead- Pharaoh’s heart has become so heavy, that he will not be allowed into the afterlife-even in the Egyptian version of an afterlife!


It takes us to one more point-why such a fuss about letting Pharaoh and his regime collapse. It is clear that the Exodus itself is not the end game, rather it is the entire concept of Pharaoh and the Gods of Egypt-the entirety of Egyptian civilization:


Here, in the announcement of the final plague, the plague of the first born- up to the first born of Pharaoh


וְעָבַרְתִּ֣י בְאֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרַ֘יִם֮ בַּלַּ֣יְלָה הַזֶּה֒ וְהִכֵּיתִ֤י כׇל־בְּכוֹר֙ בְּאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם מֵאָדָ֖ם וְעַד־בְּהֵמָ֑ה וּבְכׇל־אֱלֹהֵ֥י מִצְרַ֛יִם אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֥ה שְׁפָטִ֖ים אֲנִ֥י יְהֹוָֽה׃

For that night I will go through the land of Egypt and strike down every [male] first-born in the land of Egypt, both human and beast; and I will mete out punishments to all the gods of Egypt,  I ‘ה. 12:12

And again:

מֵֽרַעְמְסֵס֙ בַּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽרִאשׁ֔וֹן בַּחֲמִשָּׁ֥ה עָשָׂ֛ר י֖וֹם לַחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָרִאשׁ֑וֹן מִֽמׇּחֳרַ֣ת הַפֶּ֗סַח יָצְא֤וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּיָ֣ד רָמָ֔ה לְעֵינֵ֖י כׇּל־מִצְרָֽיִם׃

They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. It was on the morrow of the passover offering that the Israelites started out defiantly, in plain view of all the Egyptians. Numbers 33:4


וּמִצְרַ֣יִם מְקַבְּרִ֗ים אֵת֩ אֲשֶׁ֨ר הִכָּ֧ה יְהֹוָ֛ה בָּהֶ֖ם כׇּל־בְּכ֑וֹר וּבֵאלֹ֣הֵיהֶ֔ם עָשָׂ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה שְׁפָטִֽים׃

The Egyptians meanwhile were burying those among them whom יהוה had struck down, every [male] first-born—whereby יהוה executed judgment on their gods.


On this, Ramban comments:


In my opinion, Scripture alludes here to the lords on high, the gods of Egypt, something like the verse, The Eternal will punish the host of the high heavens on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.(Isaiah 24) Thus He subdued the power of the Egyptians and that of the lords over them. But Scripture hints and deals briefly with hidden matters.

( Ramban)


The plagues begin with the destruction of the Crocodile by Moses staff-the Tanin( crocodile, not snake)

Sobek was among the oldest deities named in the Pyramid Texts, the texts inscribed on the walls of tombs. He was the lord of the crocodiles and was depicted with a crocodile head.


It continues with making the Nile bleed-

Hapi (Ancient Egyptianḥʿpy) was the god of the annual flooding of the Nile in ancient Egyptian religion. Also, the father of the gods.


The frogs


In ancient Egyptian religion and mythology, Heqet (also spelled Heqtit or Hekt) was a frog-headed goddess who personified generation, birth, and fertility


Ninth-Blotting out the Sun

The ninth-the Sun- RA, as in the name of the greatest Pharaoh of the time, Ramses( namesake of the city) or Aten, the sun-disk, as in Akhnaten.


What is placed on the doorposts of the Israelites-the blood of the lamb.

Rams, seen as a symbol of fertility, were identified with various gods, notably Khnum, a creator god, and Amun, the great god of the city of Thebes. Ram-headed sphinxes flank the entrance to the temple of Amun at Thebes.


 Finally, Pharaoh- in the death of the first born of Pharaoh.

Pharaoh is spared only to see his army of chariots, the pride of Egypt’s military might, wiped out at the shores of the Yam Suf.

Ramses II in his chariot


Pharaoh’s heart is destined to be devoured by the demons, Pharaoh as the incarnation of God on earth is dethroned, as, in the future,the Caesars, the Emperors, the dictators, all “mamshelet zadon”, all the kingdom of wickedness will disappear.










Sunday, January 22, 2023

The many names of God


The many names of God

Video Link: https://youtu.be/KYo4sHKguys?t=7172



I open my discussion with a question of how many names Jews would normally carry: The Hebrew name, for religious services, the common local language name ( English, Persian, Arabic, etc), the common Jewish-language name( Yiddish or Ladino, such as Vulf for Zeev, Fortuna for Mazal), and then a nickname- Vulf becomes Velvel. To add to it, a slogan name, as was suggested-der Litvak- the Lithuanian, or der Shtarker- the Tough One.


Why is it that God tells Moses his name, in the opening of the portion of Vaera, even though he already heard it a few chapters before?

The question is ancient, made critical in modern times over a century ago by Julius Wellhausen.

Documentary hypothesis-Julius Wellhausen

Not original, but he gave it his most famous form. Key element- the choice of names of God-

J- Jawvist   - those traditions that used YHWH( formally termed Tetragrammaton-the Four-Letter Name)  in the Bible texts, from the Kingdom of Judea

E=Elohist - those traditions that used Elohim in the Bible texts, from the Kingdom of Israel

JE- A merger of the two documents, merging the two names together, YHWH Elohim.

D- Deuternomist- mainly, Deuteronomy

P- Priestly- mainly Leviticus

It am not going into a critique or defense-Wellhausen has been dismissed as a theological anti-Semite, but many scholars think there is still merit to his approach.

But it gives rise to the question, as in Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet- “What ‘s in a Name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”


But knowing names is critical to Biblical thought

God starts by naming names Yom, Laylah etc

Adam’s 1st task- naming animals. He takes over a divine prerogative.

Jacob struggles with angel

: וַיִּשְׁאַ֣ל יַעֲקֹ֗ב וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הַגִּֽידָה־נָּ֣א שְׁמֶ֔ךָ וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה תִּשְׁאַ֣ל לִשְׁמִ֑י וַיְבָ֥רֶךְ אֹת֖וֹ שָֽׁם

׃ Jacob asked, “Pray tell me your name.” But he said, “You must not ask my name!” And he took leave of him there. Gen 32:30

The angel comes to Manoah and his wife to announce the birth of Samson:

וַיֹּ֧אמֶר מָנ֛וֹחַ אֶל־מַלְאַ֥ךְ ה" מִ֣י שְׁמֶ֑ךָ כִּֽי־יָבֹ֥א  


So Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name? We should like to honor you when your words come true.”

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לוֹ֙ מַלְאַ֣ךְ ה” לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה תִּשְׁאַ֣ל לִשְׁמִ֑י וְהוּא־פֶֽלִאי׃ {פ}

The angel said to him, “You must not ask for my name; it is unknowable!”(Judges 13)


The Power of Names in Classical Greek Religion

(Note-The use of "superstition" to describe Jewish practice is long-standing in Christian discourse, from the time of the early Church fathers)

So, we can ask, what is God’s name:

Moses asks at burning bush

( This is a real burning bush shrub in fall foliage)

וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ כִּֽי־אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה עִמָּ֔ךְ וְזֶה־לְּךָ֣ הָא֔וֹת כִּ֥י אָנֹכִ֖י שְׁלַחְתִּ֑יךָ בְּהוֹצִֽיאֲךָ֤ אֶת־הָעָם֙ מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם תַּֽעַבְדוּן֙ אֶת־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים עַ֖ל הָהָ֥ר הַזֶּֽה׃

And [God] said, “I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶל־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֗ים הִנֵּ֨ה אָנֹכִ֣י בָא֮ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ וְאָמַרְתִּ֣י לָהֶ֔ם אֱלֹהֵ֥י אֲבוֹתֵיכֶ֖ם שְׁלָחַ֣נִי אֲלֵיכֶ֑ם וְאָֽמְרוּ־לִ֣י מַה־שְּׁמ֔וֹ מָ֥ה אֹמַ֖ר אֲלֵהֶֽם׃  

Moses said to God, “When I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers’ [house] has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is [God’s] name?’ what shall I say to them?”

וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה וַיֹּ֗אמֶר כֹּ֤ה תֹאמַר֙ לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה שְׁלָחַ֥נִי אֲלֵיכֶֽם׃

And God said to Moses, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, ‘Ehyeh.” sent me to you.’”

וַיֹּ֩אמֶר֩ ע֨וֹד אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה כֹּֽה־תֹאמַר֮ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ ה" אֱלֹהֵ֣י אֲבֹתֵיכֶ֗ם אֱלֹהֵ֨י אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִצְחָ֛ק וֵאלֹהֵ֥י יַעֲקֹ֖ב שְׁלָחַ֣נִי אֲלֵיכֶ֑ם זֶה־שְּׁמִ֣י לְעֹלָ֔ם וְזֶ֥ה זִכְרִ֖י לְדֹ֥ר דֹּֽר׃  

 God said further to Moses, “Thus shall you speak to the Israelites: ה

the God of your fathers’ [house]—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you:This shall be My name forever,This My appellation for all eternity.

Ehyeh- is an odd name-literally- I will be. It sound like an avoidance- I am what I am-I will be what I  will be.



אהיה אשר אהיה. אֶהְיֶה עִמָּם בְּצָרָה זוֹ אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה עִמָּם בְּשִׁעְבּוּד שְׁאָר מַלְכֻיּוֹת.


I shall be with them in this trouble as I will be with them in future subjugation to other kingdoms!

(Taken from Talmud 9b)

Rashi’s instinct here is good. Ehyeh It indicates God as a presence with in the suffering people of Israel. Ehyeh is what God tells Moses a line before” Ehyeh” I will be with you. For that reason, he follows up with the YHWH and a definition: ה” the God of your fathers’ [house]—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you:This shall be My name forever,This My appellation for all eternity. The historic . not abstract, connection.

Going back to the idea of naming names as a way of control- God’s name is very evasive, unclear, intentionally-there is no control over God by use of the name.


We follow our narrative:

Moshe goes to Pharaoh the first time, with this name of God:


וְאַחַ֗ר בָּ֚אוּ מֹשֶׁ֣ה וְאַהֲרֹ֔ן וַיֹּאמְר֖וּ אֶל־פַּרְעֹ֑ה כֹּֽה־אָמַ֤ר ה” אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל שַׁלַּח֙ אֶת־עַמִּ֔י וְיָחֹ֥גּוּ לִ֖י בַּמִּדְבָּֽר׃

Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says ה, the God of Israel: Let My people go that they may celebrate a festival for Me in the wilderness.”

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר פַּרְעֹ֔ה מִ֤י ה” אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶשְׁמַ֣ע בְּקֹל֔וֹ לְשַׁלַּ֖ח אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל לֹ֤א יָדַ֙עְתִּי֙ אֶת־יה" וְגַ֥ם אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֹ֥א אֲשַׁלֵּֽחַ׃

But Pharaoh said, “Who is ה” that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know ה”, nor will I let Israel go.”

Everything goes downhill from here, and Moses goes back to the desert to complain:

וַיָּ֧שׇׁב מֹשֶׁ֛ה אֶל־יְהֹוָ֖ה וַיֹּאמַ֑ר אֲדֹנָ֗י לָמָ֤ה הֲרֵעֹ֙תָה֙ לָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה לָ֥מָּה זֶּ֖ה שְׁלַחְתָּֽנִי׃

Then Moses returned to ה” and said, “O my lord, why did You bring harm upon this people? Why did You send me?

וּמֵאָ֞ז בָּ֤אתִי אֶל־פַּרְעֹה֙ לְדַבֵּ֣ר בִּשְׁמֶ֔ךָ הֵרַ֖ע לָעָ֣ם הַזֶּ֑ה וְהַצֵּ֥ל לֹא־הִצַּ֖לְתָּ אֶת־עַמֶּֽךָ׃

Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has dealt worse with this people; and still You have not delivered Your people.”


וַיֹּ֤אמֶר ה” אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה עַתָּ֣ה תִרְאֶ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֖ה לְפַרְעֹ֑ה כִּ֣י בְיָ֤ד חֲזָקָה֙ יְשַׁלְּחֵ֔ם וּבְיָ֣ד חֲזָקָ֔ה יְגָרְשֵׁ֖ם מֵאַרְצֽוֹ׃ {ס}      

   Then ה” said to Moses, “You shall soon see what I will do to Pharaoh: he shall let them go because of a greater might; indeed, because of a greater might he shall drive them from his land.”

Now comes the news, which does not seem to be news:

וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וַיֹּ֥אמֶר אֵלָ֖יו אֲנִ֥י ה”׃

God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am ה”.

וָאֵרָ֗א אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֖ב בְּאֵ֣ל שַׁדָּ֑י וּשְׁמִ֣י יה" לֹ֥א נוֹדַ֖עְתִּי לָהֶֽם׃

I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name ה”.


However, in Genesis, God often introduces Himself as “YHWH”, so what’s new?

Again, Rashi

ושמי ה׳ לא נודעתי להם

BUT BY MY NAME THE LORD WAS I NOT KNOWN TO THEM — It is not written here לא הודעתי [My name the Lord] I did not make known to them, but לא נודעתי [by My name, the Lord], was I not known [unto them] — i. e. I was not recognised by them in My attribute of “keeping faith”, by reason of which My name is called ה׳, which denotes that I am certain to substantiate My promise, for, indeed, I made promises to them but did not fulfill them [during their lifetime].

In other words, they heard the name- but they did not understand what it meant! Keeping faith. Now, in your generation, you will see YHWH as the fulfillment of the promise. Again, tying in very well with the concept of “ Ehyeh”, being with.


So what is this YHWH- very similar to EHYH- variation on “ to be”.

He shall be- I shall be. A philosophical concept of being and becoming. Hu hayah- hu-hoveh- hu yihyeh-He was-is-will be.

Variation- Yah- and Yahoo, as parts of personal names-Eliyahu, Jehu, or words: Hallelujah-Praise Yah ( Rastafarians love Yah).

Under the influence of the Canaanites, Baal often appeared in names, only to be removed, as Yerubaal , May Baal  contend, became Gideon,the one who cuts down Baal,,and Ishbaal , A man of Baal, Saul’s son became Ishboshet, a man of shame.

By the way, what happens when you reverse the names, Hananiah or Azaria. They are the Carthaginian Hannibal and Hasdrubaal.


Alternate approach, one which works well with Rashi’s choice of ”being with.”

(Santa Katarina monastery, next to Jebel Musa. In the heart of Sinai. Midianites territory.)

In 1956, Shelomo Dov Goitein (1900-1985), a scholar of both Jewish and Arabic studies,[16] suggested that the name derives from the Arabic root h.w.y (هوى), and the word hawaya (هوايا), which means “love, affection, passion, desire.”[17] He connected this suggestion with the passage in Exodus 34, in a set of laws known by scholars as the Ritual Decalogue. One of the laws, which forbids Israel to worship other gods, reads:

שמות לד:יד כִּי לֹא תִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לְאֵל אַחֵר כִּי יְ־הוָה קַנָּא שְׁמוֹ אֵל קַנָּא הוּא.


Exod 34:14 For you must not worship any other god, because YHWH, whose name is Impassioned, is an impassioned God.

Goitein suggests that “YHWH whose name is Impassioned” refers to the deity’s personal name YHWH, which means “the Impassioned One,” and that this name derives from that (proto)Arabic term for passion. This reflects the idea that YHWH’s bond with his worshipers is one of passionate love, and YHWH is upset if the worshipers “cheat” by worshipping other gods.

In other words, the worshippers’ relationship with YHWH must be exclusive.


This goes very well with the understanding of the Prophets, such as Hosea, who see the relation between God and the People of Israel as a lover's quarrel, as well as the Rabbis, who see the Song of Songs as a love story between God and the people of Israel.

Again, as a corollary- God is unseen. When Moses asks to see God, he is given a rear view mirror .Ex 34:6

!ה”! ה” a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness,

נֹצֵ֥ר*(בספרי תימן נֹצֵ֥ר בנו״ן רגילה) חֶ֙סֶד֙ לָאֲלָפִ֔ים נֹשֵׂ֥א עָוֺ֛ן וָפֶ֖שַׁע וְחַטָּאָ֑ה וְנַקֵּה֙ לֹ֣א יְנַקֶּ֔ה פֹּקֵ֣ד׀ עֲוֺ֣ן אָב֗וֹת עַל־בָּנִים֙ וְעַל־בְּנֵ֣י בָנִ֔ים עַל־שִׁלֵּשִׁ֖ים וְעַל־רִבֵּעִֽים׃  extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin—yet not remitting all punishment, but visiting the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations.”



So , going back to Wellhausen- what is the argument against his claim that Elohim is northern, YHWH is southern?

The difference is , by many commentators, a matter of who is speaking to whom:

Elohim- El-Eloah-singular-Elohim-plural- is equivalent to the old antiquities term” The Gods”-generic. When is it used? When Hebrews speak to Gentiles:

Gen 20 Avimelech thinks Sarah is Abraham’s sister. Abraham says” There is no fear of Elohim.” Then Abraham prays to Elohim to make Avimelech’s wife fertile, “for YHVH had closed fast every womb of the household of Abimelech because of Sarah, the wife of Abraham.Note the switch in use of names.

And in the very next line:

   ה"פקַ֥ד אֶת־שָׂרָ֖ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמָ֑ר וַיַּ֧עַשׂ ה" לְשָׂרָ֖ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֵּֽר׃ took note of Sarah as promised, and YHWH did for Sarah what had been announced.

A second context to Elohim- it is associated with the word” judges” and judgement. Thus, Rabbis understood “Elohim” as attribute of justice, YHWH as attribute of Mercy.

ופירש כי לפי הענין שאני עושה בעולמי זה הוא שמי אם במדת הדין נקרא שמי אלהים, ואם במדת רחמים נקרא שמי ה׳, ואם במלחמה נקרא שמי צבאות, ואם לעזרה נקרא שמי שדי, בכל אלו הדברים לא נודעתי להם, ולא נגליתי להם בלבת אש, כי אם במראה ובהירות, אבל אליך פה אל פה כאשר ידבר איש אל רעהו.

Midrash Lekah Tov 6 :3

My name is as I act in the world: With justice, then My name is Elohim. With Mercy, my name is YHWH.In war, then Tsevaot( the armies, the  hosts of heavens). In help, Shadai ( powerful).To you, Moses, I speak, directly, person to person, not in riddles and dreams.

Actually, we are told, there are multiple names for God in the Bible.

Avot D'Rabbi Natan 34:2

The Holy Blessed One is praised with ten names. They are as follows: A-D-O-N-A-I, E-L-O-H-I-M, E-L-O-A-H, E-L-O-H-E-Kh-A, E-L-O-H-E-Kh-E-M, E-L, E-H-I-Y-E-H A-S-H-E-R E-H-I-Y-E-H, Sh-A-D-A-I, and Tzevaot. Rabbi Yosei disagreed that Tzevaot was one of them, for it says (Deuteronomy 20:9), “Appoint generals for the armies (tzevaot) to head the people.”

To this, the Rabbis added

Shekhinah, presence-The noun form of a verb used in the Torah to describe God’s in-dwelling in the midst of his people.

Makom, the Place of the Universe, as in “ The universe is not the place of God, but God is the place of the universe.”

Then, Kinuyei Hashem. Hashem, hakadosh Baruch hu, Atik Yomin.

Kabbalah adds

Ein Sof

Then, there are in Kabbalistic lore,12 letter name, 22 letter name, 72 letter name.

This enters Christian texts as well. What is called Shem Hamephorash in Hebrew sources becomes Semamphoras in European texts.

The Renaissance philosopher, Reuchlin, identified 72 different names.

Here is the list from Reuchlin




Reuchlin’s research on Hebrew sources was a factor in the Protestant Reformation, which ushered in age of Revolution, now going full circle. It goes from Moses and the liberation from Egypt to the liberation of the beginnings of modern history with the revolutions against the rule of Churches and Kings.


.Note: Bible text and translation from Sefaria.org.and modified as needed.