Ward’s Whoppers #6: Meaning of “Knowing” God’s Name

Ward’s Whoppers #6: Meaning of “Knowing” God’s Name May 18, 2020

Ward Ricker is an atheist who (as so often) was formerly a self-described  “fundamentalist”. He likes to poke holes in the Bible and “prove” that it is a terrible and “evil” book, not inspired, hopelessly contradictory, etc. He put together a 222-page book called Unholy Bible (2019): available for free as a pdf file. It contains 421 couplets of passages that he considers literally contradictory, and 256 more couplets of not technically contradictory but “problem” passages (according to him). Ward wrote in his book: “I . . . am including here only what I consider to be the more firm examples of contradictions. . . .  I do not want to include examples that are ‘weak’ and will be easily refuted. I have made my best judgment.”

He issued a challenge for anyone to take on his alleged contradictions. After my first reply, he wrote a 5 1/2 page article suggesting in-depth dialogue. I responded, explaining in depth why I thought dialogue between us would be unfruitful, for many reasons. He then accused me (among other things in his two replies) of “hypocrisy” that “knows no bounds.” This is, of course, against my discussion rules, which forbids such rank insults, so he was promptly banned from my blog, and I replied: “I was exactly right in my judgment that no dialogue was possible. It never takes long for the fangs to come out if they are there.”

But I had already stated: “I may still take on several of your proposed contradictions, just so I can have opportunity to show how very wrong atheist contentions are (which is one thing Christian apologists do).” This series represents that effort. Mr. Ricker can respond on his page as he sees fit. He can still see my posts. His words will be in blue. To search any of this series on my blog, paste “Ward’s Whoppers #” in the search bar on the top right of my blog page. He uses the King James Version for his Bible verses. I will use RSV in my replies.


Genesis 22: 14 And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh: as it is said to this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.


Exodus 6: 2 And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD: 3 and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.

Q: Did Abraham know god’s name, Jehovah?


Apologist Eric Lyons explains the seeming contradiction (Clearing-Up ‘Contradictions’ about Jehovah in Genesis”, Apologetics Press, 2012):

[T]he name “Jehovah” (Hebrew Yahweh; translated LORD in most modern versions) appears approximately 160 times in the book of Genesis. Furthermore, “Jehovah” is used between Genesis chapters 12-50 . . . more than 100 times. . . .

There is no denying the fact that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were aware of God’s name, Jehovah (Yahweh) [cf. Genesis 15:7; 22:14,24-35,40,42,48,56; 24:50,51; 26:22; 27:20; 49:18; etc.]. . . . So what is the answer to this alleged problem? . . .

The expressions “to know the name of Jehovah” or simply “to know Jehovah” frequently mean more than a mere awareness of His name and existence. Rather, “to know” (from the Hebrew word yada) often means to learn by experience. When Samuel was a boy, the Bible reveals that he “ministered before/unto Jehovah” (1 Samuel 2:18; 3:1), and “increased in favor both with Jehovah, and also with men” (2:26). Later, however, we learn that “Samuel did not yet know Jehovah, neither was the word of Jehovah yet revealed unto him” (1 Samuel 3:7, emp. added). In one sense, Samuel “knew” Jehovah early on, but beginning in 1 Samuel 3:7 his relationship with God changed. From this point forward he began receiving direct revelations from God (cf. 1 Samuel 3:11-14; 8:7-10,22; 9:15-17; 16:1-3; etc.). Comparing this new relationship with God to his previous relationship and knowledge of Him, the author of 1 Samuel could reasonably say that beforehand “Samuel did not yet know Jehovah” (3:7).

According to Gleason Archer, the phrase “to know that I am Jehovah” (or “to know the name of Jehovah”) appears in the Old Testament at least 26 times, and “in every instance it signifies to learn by actual experience that God is Yahweh” ([An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan] 1982, pp. 66-67). . . .

Notice also what Isaiah prophesied centuries after the time of Moses.

Now therefore, what do I here, saith Jehovah, seeing that my people is taken away for nought? They that rule over them do howl, saith Jehovah, and my name continually all the day is blasphemed. Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore (they shall know) in that day that I am he that doth speak; behold, it is I (Isaiah 52:5-6, emp. added).

More than 100 years later, following Judah’s entrance into Babylonian captivity, God foretold of their return to Judea and spoke to them through the prophet Jeremiah. He said: “Therefore, behold, I will cause them to know, this once will I cause them to know my hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is Jehovah” (Jeremiah 16:21, emp. added). Are we to gather from these statements that Israel and Judah were not aware of God’s name (Jehovah) before this time in their history? Certainly not.

So (as so often) “know my name” (referring to God) turns out to be a non-literal figure of speech. The Hebrews / Israelites clearly knew what God’s name was, early on. These passages refer, rather, to this deeper meaning of knowing Him in a much deeper, experiential way (“know I am YHWH / the LORD” etc.). The Bible expresses the latter phenomenon over and over in the later books of the Old Testament:

1 Kings 20:13 . . . you shall know that I am the LORD. (same at 20:28; Ezek 6:7, 13; 11:10, 12; 12:20; 13:9, 14, 21; 14:8; 16:62; many more in Ezekiel; Joel 3:17)

Isaiah 49:23 . . . Then you will know that I am the LORD; . . . (same at Ezek 7:4, 9; 13:23; 15:7; many more in Ezekiel)

Jeremiah 24:7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

Ezekiel 6:10 And they shall know that I am the LORD;  . . . (same at 7:27; 12:15; 28:22; 30:25; 34:27; 39:6, 28)

Ezekiel 6:14 . . . Then they will know that I am the LORD. (same at 25:11, 17; 26:6, many more in Ezekiel)

If the atheists would ever spend time actually reading and trying to fairly understand biblical genre and idiom before lashing out with their endless accusations of “contradiction!” I think they could have understood this and removed this item from their farcical “lists” that I and other apologists and biblical commentators have to spend time debunking.

But ultimately (despite more than a few frustrating moments) it’s fun. I confess that I do enjoy exposing the never-ending, wrongheaded accusatory folly and turning the tables . . .


Photo credit: Prophet Isaiah predicts the return of the Jews from exile (c. 1565), by Maarten van Heemskerck (1498-1574) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


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