Podcast Episode

Yahweh and the Exodus

The story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt is famous for good reason—a burning bush, a transforming staff, 10 plagues, and the Passover. The exodus is also the story that defines God’s personal name, Yahweh. What does this narrative show us about Yahweh? And why does God care so much that people know his name? In this episode, Tim and Jon talk about God’s character revealed through his acts of deliverance and judgment.

Episode 2
1hr 6m
Mar 21, 2022
Play Episode
Show Notes


The exodus is [like a monument to or statue commemorating] the name Yahweh in the Bible. God’s action to liberate from oppressive structures so that people can worship and image God in freedom—that is the name of Yahweh. … To know the name of Yahweh means to understand this God’s character, what this God cares about. If you don’t know the name, it means you’re like Pharaoh—you don’t care.


  • Pharaoh’s obstinate response to Yahweh sets up a competition between their names, their nations, and their reputations. Yahweh has attached his reputation to Israel’s, so he commits to protecting them at all costs.
  • The Israelite exodus from Egypt becomes the foundational narrative for describing God’s character. In this narrative, Yahweh reveals his character both through his acts of deliverance and his acts of decreation.
  • When Yahweh says he is going to harden Pharaoh’s heart (Exod. 7:3), he’s not hardening the heart of an innocent man who would have chosen to repent. (Generations of pharaohs have oppressed Israel and others and done incredible evil at this point.) Yahweh is accelerating the path of an empire that has already chosen its way forward in the world.

Moses the Reluctant Revolutionary

In part one (00:00-12:15), Tim and Jon pick up where they left off in our last episode, with Moses at the burning bush, conversing with Yahweh. This is a crucial moment in the opening movement of the Exodus scroll.

In this encounter, Yahweh elects Moses as the liberator of the Israelites who are enslaved in Egypt. However, Moses is a reluctant revolutionary. Of course, he didn’t start off that way—in his youth, he murdered an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite. But after 40 years in exile, Yahweh wants him to go back and do things differently. Moses will have to completely trust Yahweh instead of his own means and timing.

Moses makes excuse after excuse, begging God to send someone else to confront Pharaoh. He even asks God, “Who even are you? What’s your name?” And for the first time in the Hebrew Bible, God introduces himself by name, Yahweh. Yahweh means “I am/I will be” or “he is/he will be.”

Defeating the Snake

In part two (12:15-39:45), Tim and Jon discuss Moses’ next objection: “What if the Israelites don’t believe me?” (Exod. 4:1). In response, Yahweh tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground, and it becomes a snake. This sign compels belief, and it reveals something important about Moses’ identity. Yahweh makes Moses a snake handler who can overcome the serpent-like Pharaoh.

However, Moses and Aaron bring God’s message to Pharaoh, and it doesn’t seem to go as smoothly as the miracle with Moses’ staff. Pharaoh sneers at Yahweh’s name.

Exodus 5:2
Pharaoh said, “Who is Yahweh that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I do not know Yahweh, and besides, I will not let Israel go.”

Although Moses and Pharaoh technically ask almost identical questions (Who is Yahweh?), they do it in completely different ways. Moses is scared but genuinely curious; he asks with reverence. Pharaoh talks to Yahweh as if they’re on even footing, and he refuses to acknowledge Yahweh’s power and authority or obey him. Ancient Egyptians worshiped pharaohs as gods, so this pharaoh likely saw himself as Yahweh’s equal.

Because the ancient Near East was an honor/shame culture, a person or group’s reputation was of utmost importance. Pharaoh’s obstinate response to Yahweh sets up a competition between their names, their nations, and their reputations. Yahweh has attached his reputation to Israel’s, so he commits to protecting them at all costs. Here, Yahweh meets the serpent all over again in the form of a pharaoh who won’t acknowledge him as the true God. This is part of why his response of sending the 10 plagues can seem so harsh.

The Israelite exodus from Egypt becomes the foundational narrative for describing God’s character. In Exodus 6, Yahweh and Moses have another important conversation that brings further nuance to Yahweh’s name.

Exodus 6:2-3
God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am Yahweh; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as El Shaddai, but by my name, Yahweh, I did not make myself known to them.”

Hebrew linguist Francis Andersen suggests translating these sentences a little differently, as a four line poem.

I am Yahweh.
I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai.
My name is Yahweh.
Didn’t I make myself known to them?
(Andersen, The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew)

This makes sense within the storyline of Genesis and Exodus, since Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did know God as Yahweh. It seems that the Israelites have since forgotten his name. This also changes the emphasis of what Yahweh is saying from what he didn’t do in the past to what he did do, connecting his name to the promise he makes next.

Exodus 6:4-7
I also established my covenant with them … I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel, because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered my covenant. Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, “I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage … I will take you for my people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

Pharaoh’s Hardened Heart

In part three (39:45-50:30), Tim and Jon talk about the 10 plagues Yahweh sends against Egypt to compel them to let the Israelites go. Yahweh tells Moses and Aaron that Moses will represent Yahweh to Pharaoh, and Aaron will be like Moses’ prophet. (Moses will speak on behalf of Yahweh, and Aaron will speak on behalf of Moses.)

Before Moses and Aaron announce the impending plagues, we know Pharaoh has already made his decision to reject Yahweh. So when Yahweh says he is going to harden Pharaoh’s heart (Exod. 7:3), he’s not hardening the heart of an innocent man who would have chosen to repent. (Generations of pharaohs have oppressed Israel and others and done incredible evil at this point.) Rather, Yahweh is accelerating the path of an empire that has already chosen its way forward in the world.

After each of the first five plagues, the narrator tells us that Pharaoh hardened his heart. In the second set of five plagues, the narrator instead says that Yahweh hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It’s as if the narrator is telling us we’ve hit a point of no return in Pharaoh’s evil, so Yahweh steps in to accelerate the process and bring judgment.

Yahweh intends all of these events to communicate his nature both to the Israelites and the Egyptians. He is known by his acts of deliverance and by his acts of decreation.

The Mercy of Yahweh and Human Freedom

In part four (50:30-1:05:45), Tim and Jon explore Paul’s reference to the Exodus story in Romans 9.

Romans 9:14-18
What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then he has mercy on whom he desires, and he hardens whom he desires.

In context, Paul is talking about how even out of Abraham’s descendants, he chooses some and not others (e.g., Jacob versus Esau). But just because someone is chosen by God doesn’t make them any better than anyone else. (Think about Jacob and the choices he made throughout his life.) As it applies to Pharaoh, the principle is the same. The Egyptians were descendants of Noah’s son Ham, one of the non-chosen lines of people. But in Joseph’s day, that pharaoh lived in harmony with Joseph and his family. The pharaoh of the exodus story chose to practice evil, and everyone suffered as a result.

God responds to each person and people group based on their choices, and his responses reveal his character. Whether chosen or not, God is always more merciful to people than they deserve. Moreover, Romans 9 and this pattern of God’s chosen ones doesn’t have anything to do with people’s eternal destinies. Paul is simply trying to make sense of how, through God’s chosen ones, his blessing is still going out to all nations in Paul’s day—this time through the Gospel of Jesus.

Bottom line: God wants to have a covenant relationship with all of humanity. To further that mission, he starts with a select few who carry his message and blessing to others. Proclaiming his name is how Yahweh casts a wider net for his blessing upon humanity.

Referenced Resources

  • The Violence of the Biblical God, L. Daniel Hawk
  • The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew, Francis I. Andersen
  • Interested in more? Check out Tim’s library here.
  • You can experience the literary themes and movements we’re tracing on the podcast in the BibleProject app, available for Android and iOS.

Show Music

  • “Defender (Instrumental)” by TENTS
  • “Parkbench Epiphany” by Antimidas

Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel and Zach McKinley. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.

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Scripture References
Exodus 3
Genesis 12:3
Exodus 12:12
Malachi 1:2-3
Exodus 1:8-10
Genesis 50
Exodus 2:11-15
Exodus 3:11-15
Exodus 4:1-5
Exodus 4:5
Exodus 4:10-17
Exodus 5:1-5
Exodus 11
Matthew 5:38-39
Exodus 5:6-23
Exodus 6
Exodus 6:3
Exodus 6:5
Exodus 6:6-8
Exodus 7:1-5
Exodus 7-9
Exodus 9-11
Romans 9:17-18
Romans 9:6-14
Romans 9:14-15
Romans 11
Exodus 9:16

Yahweh and the Exodus

Series: Exodus Scroll E2

Podcast Date: March 21, 2022, 66:05

Speakers in the audio file: Jon Collins, Tim Mackie


Jon: In the scroll of Exodus, Israel is in slavery, oppressed by the violent and unjust king of Egypt. So God appoints Moses to be his liberator, to go and tell the Pharaoh to let my people go. When Moses comes to the Pharaoh and delivers this message, Pharaoh says, "What? Who is this God Yahweh? I'm the king of Egypt and I will do what I want to do with the slaves." In other words, come at me. I dare you.

Tim: A human just challenged the one who is as if they're on equal ground. 

Jon: And God says, (00:01:00) "Let me introduce myself."

Tim: Yahweh's name is to be associated with the liberation of all creation from the power of the snake. When Yahweh meets the snake in the form of an imperial king who won't acknowledge the true God, it's time to crush the snake.

Jon: We're going to look at these conversations that Moses has with Pharaoh before the 10 plagues begin. It is in these passages that God famously hardens Pharaoh's heart

Tim: And what Yahweh is going to do now is not harden the heart of an innocent Pharaoh who would have done otherwise. Rather, he is accelerating and intensifying the self-destruction of an empire that has already chosen its way.

Jon: God says later about Pharaoh, "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." The apostle Paul says, reflecting on this, "Therefore, God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and he hardens whom he wants to harden." (00:02:00) 

Tim: Yahweh is known through acts of creation and liberation and having immense mercy on his chosen ones more than they deserve. And then God's name is equally made known by bringing down the powerful and the oppressors by allowing or even accelerating de-creation, which is a really uncomfortable thought. Both reveal God's name. 

Jon: I'm Jon Collins. This is BibleProject podcast. Today, Tim Mackie and I continue in the first movement of the Exodus scroll, tracing the theme of God's name. Thanks for joining us. Here we go.

Hello, Tim. 

Tim: Hello, Jon.

Jon: So we are in the Exodus scroll. The first movement of Exodus begins with Israel in Egypt multiplying and getting just mighty. The blessing is just happening even though they're in exile. (00:03:00) And this movement is going to continue all the way until they get to leave and they go into the wilderness. So we're right still in the early middle-ish part of this movement where Moses, one of the Israelites, meets Yahweh or the angel of Yahweh in a burning bush, and he receives his name.

Tim: That's right. God has raised up a deliverer, a liberator for his people enslaved in Egypt. It's a reluctant revolutionary. He's not a revolutionary, but he's the liberator. He's appointed as the one to challenge the king of Egypt and demand that the people be let go.

Jon: He had enough of a desire to be a liberator to avenge one of his people who was being mistreated as a slave. And that got him in trouble. He actually killed an Egyptian to avenge how one of his people were being treated. And then that sends him into exile. So I mean, (00:04:00) he's got a bit of a revolutionary streak in him.

Tim: Solid point.

Jon: At least he's got a justice button. 

Tim: Exactly. Yeah. I think the trick is in the contrast of that story is Moses has his own plan and his own timeline for how he's going to challenge the power of Egypt. And ultimately it fails. It's ineffective in the long run. So he's going to go through a long exile, eat some humble pie, and then be called to do the thing that he wanted. 

This is the thing that he wanted, which is to see his brothers and sisters, the Hebrews, not be mistreated any more. But Yahweh is going to bring it about in a way that is going to require every ounce of trust that Moses has. And that's kind of the contrast: the failed deliverance by his own plan, and then the successful deliverance by Yahweh's plan.

Jon: But you call him reluctant because when Yahweh shows up and says, "You're my guy. Go to Pharaoh," he starts making excuses. (00:05:00) And one of his excuses is, "What will I even call you?"

Tim: Yeah. He says, "What is the name by which I should represent you to the Israelites?" 

Jon: And this is where God gives his name. 

Tim: Yeah. 

Jon: We talked about that in the last episode. It's Yahweh, which means literally "I Am" or "I will be" depending on how you want to translate the imperfect tense.

Tim: Yeah. And even more, it means "he is" or "he will be." But in other words, it's revealed Eh. You have to listen to the last episode, sorry. But it's the first time God says it, what he says is "I Am." Ehyeh.

Jon: Ehyeh (I Am).

Tim: But it's going to sound really funky for Moses going around saying, "Hey, I Am is going to liberate us." So what he gets is the third person verb form, which is "He is." Yahweh. And that's the difference between Ehyeh. Yahweh.

Jon: Go tell Pharaoh "he is" will (00:06:00) rescue his people.

Tim: He is. That also sounds kind of funky. At least in English. So the larger point is Moses is the reluctant liberator. He has multiple objections to being the one that is going to do this for Yahweh. But Yahweh keeps drilling in and saying, "No, you're the person, you're the one."

Jon: One thing I didn't ask you about is—and you brought it up—how sometime in the centuries before Jesus it fell out of favor to even say or write the name. Which I suppose is a way to bring a lot of reverence and honor to the name.

Tim: Yeah. The one who should not be named. But in a good sense, not in a bad sense.

Jon: In a good sense. We don't want to misuse the name, so we're going to be so careful that we won't even use the name. And there became a new way to write the name. That's why we have “the LORD” often in our translation, (00:07:00) which is a substitute for Yahweh. 

Tim: Yeah. 

Jon: What I was going to ask you is we use the name pretty unrelentingly.

Tim: Yeah, yeah, we do now. By "we" you mean around the BibleProject?

Jon: And I even remember at Bible college where we met was the first time I actually even heard the word. I mean, I grew up in the church and I did not know the word "Yahweh." We use his name. Is that a stumbling block for others, do you think? For our Jewish friends, is that painful for them?

Tim: It's a good question. There is a variety of responses. I can think of friends or acquaintances I have in different leadership roles in messianic congregations, these are ethnically or culturally Jewish congregations, or people who are not ethnically or culturally Jewish but they just love the cultural form of this, but they follow Jesus of Nazareth—Messianic Jewish. 

I have found a variety of responses to that. (00:08:00) Usually, in their own communication, they'll honor the fact that any other Jews and family, extended family that they invite will probably want to revere the name by not pronouncing it. So they'll adopt those traditional practices. So sometimes that even will be not even spelling the word God, but putting capital G-D. Or another practice is just using the four consonants, Y-H-W-H, but not putting any vowels in. That's an equivalent in English letters of what you see in ancient biblical scrolls, which is just the four consonants of the name.

So your question, though, isn't just on that. It's are we ostracizing anybody? I think there are some people in observant Jewish traditions that would it be irritating to them in our content. (00:09:00) I've thought a lot about that. What I've also found on the flip side is that using the word "Lord" over the long haul creates so much confusion. It's like putting frosting, right? Or it's like frosting over a whole world of meaning and nuance and significance. Because if you don't see the name "Yahweh," you just don't get it when you do see it. 

When you see God and Yahweh contrasted in poetic lines or repeated throughout stories, you can see all this meaning being communicated by the names that were chosen. So when I was taught to read Hebrew, and then when I would read Hebrew in classes at University of Wisconsin, which was a crossover between history department and language in Jewish studies, we just said "Adonai."

Jon: Adonai. 

Tim: Which is the Hebrew word for "Lord."

Jon: Lord?

Tim: Yeah. So even now those instincts kick in for me when I'm reading the Hebrew Bible aloud, of all places, (00:10:00) I often just say "Adonai" without thinking about it when I come across the divine name. So even my own training is still there with me. So I don't know.

I have given it a lot of thought over the years. One trick is we don't just write it, we say it. We have to say something. So we could have continued the tradition of Lord, but I felt like we were sacrificing too much of what we were trying to do, which is open new layers of depth.

Jon: And we could have used Adonai, but imagine having last week's conversation and trying to sidestep around ever saying the name.

Tim: Yeah, totally. Because you could flip it over and you could say, I understand that it might be offensive to some, but there are people who hold the other conviction of the reason that name is given is to invite intimacy, to use it. I have also met Messianic Jews (00:11:00) and other followers of Jesus who are not culturally Jewish, who think it's offensive to say "Lord." Because it's like walking up to your parent and using the title “Hey, parent.” To just call God Lord or God is like saying, "Hey, parent, can you pick me up? I sure love you, parent." And that's offensive to lots of other people. So there truly is no win here.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: So I appreciate your concern. I haven't thought about it for a while. 

Jon: Okay, well, that's that. Apologies if it is offensive to you in your tradition. We will continue to use it. So we left off right there where God gave his name. And then we're going to start tracing this pattern forward from here.

Tim: So we're picking up right now with the continuing the conversation that Yahweh has with Moses at the burning bush. (00:12:00) Moses is going to have a few more objections, and this theme of the name and recognition of the name is going to continue to develop.

Section break (00:12:12)

Tim: So Moses' third objection. So the first two we talked about in the last conversation. The first one was, "Who am I that you would send me?" And God's response is just—

Jon: "I'll be with you."

Tim: "I will be with you." The next is, "What is your name?" So he reveals the name. "I Am has sent you to the people." His third objection is, (00:13:00) "What if nobody believes me?" Like, "what if I go tell them that you've appeared to me and ... What if nobody trusts me or listens to anything I say." That's a reasonable objection. So Yahweh then says to him, "Hey, what's in your hand?" This is the staff. And he throws the staff on the ground, it becomes a snake. And he grabs it and then it turns back into a staff in his hand. He's the snake handler.

Jon: He can handle the serpent. 

Tim: He can handle the snake. And it's an image calling back to the portrait of Pharaoh from Exodus 1 where he is the snake in the garden in the good place that God has given to his people in Egypt. But then this guy comes onto the scene and he's dealing shrewdly with the Israelites, to try and usurp them like the snake did with Adam and Eve in the garden.

So here, the sign is both a sign (00:14:00) to compel belief among the Israelites, but also it means more to the reader than I think perhaps it does to Moses in the moment. Because to us what we see is Moses being appointed as the one with power over the snake. And he's going to have power over Egypt in the course of the story. And then the introduction of Exodus 1 told you that Egypt is taking on a snake-like role in the story. Driven as it were by the snake. So this is such a cool little sign right here.

He says, "When you grab the snake and it becomes a staff again," this is Exodus 4:5, "this is so that they will believe that Yahweh the Elohim of their fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, the Elohim of Jacob has appeared to you." So this is the first appearance of what's going to turn into kind of a stock phrase, (00:15:00) which is people either coming to trust in Yahweh ... Which Yahweh? The specific Yahweh, the Elohim of the ancestors. And then “to trust in the name” is going to become equivalent to acknowledging the name or knowing the name. If you know it, you will trust it. And if you trust it, you show that you know it.

So Moses has a couple other objections. One is "I can't speak very well. I'm not a man of words." And Yahweh is like, "Hey, who made eyes and mouths and nose and ears? I do. So I got you covered." And then the fifth and final objection is just “please send somebody else.” Like, "I just straight up don't want to do it." And God's response is "Your brother Aaron, okay, he's going to come meet you and you're going to double team this," as it were. Which kind of sounds like a bonus. Instead of doing it alone, you get to do it with your brother. (00:16:00) If I had a brother, I would be stoked on that.

But I think it's meant to be something of a downgrade. Like, you could have had this place of honor by trusting me. But now instead, your brother's going to be the front man and you're going to stand behind him.

Jon: We talked about this in the Priesthood series. And you brought it up in that light, which is Moses could have represented God himself. But instead, he needs one to represent God on his behalf. And what is a priest? A priest is the one who represents God as an intermediary. So here the priesthood is essentially kind of born in a way, but out of the reluctance of God's messenger.

Tim: Yeah, the priesthood of Aaron is a concession to Moses' lack of faith. It's a remarkable moment in the story. Then we walk into the next part of this first section, (00:17:00) and it's where Moses and Aaron go confront Pharaoh for the first time. Obviously, a dramatic moment. So this is what they go to Pharaoh and they say, "Thus says Yahweh the Elohim of Israel." So they're just representing. "Let my people go so that they can celebrate a feast to me in the wilderness."

But Pharaoh said, "What? Who's this Yahweh that I should listen to his voice and let Israel go? I don't know Yahweh. And besides I'm not going to let Israel go. You're distracting the people from their slave labor. Stop it. Get back to work." This is the opening scene here. But notice the narrative's focus is "who is Yahweh?" That's similar to what Moses asked: what is your name? "And then I don't acknowledge Yahweh. I don't know Yahweh."

Jon: "I don't know the name. I don't care about this name. This name means nothing to me." (00:18:00) 

Tim: Yes, totally. Which is equivalent to saying, whoever it is that you think Yahweh is, it doesn't matter. I could care less. Yahweh is of no significance to me. That's the punch. That's the slap that's being leveled here. So this is what sets the challenge. It as if Pharaoh throws down the challenge and the rest of the narrative is going to be a response to this insult as it were.

Jon: "Let me introduce myself to you." 

Tim: We’ll allow Yahweh to introduce himself.

Jon: Will the real Slim Shady please stand up? 

Tim: Totally. I'm trying to think. There also are cultural layers here that I think ancient Israelite readers could just assume were ... You know, Egypt had a big presence, not just down south of Israel, but also as the foreign (00:19:00) imperial occupier in Israel on many occasions. And in Israel's history, Egypt was an ever threatening shadow down in the south, often setting up outposts and marching the armies through on the way up to fight somebody in Syria and so on.

So the whole point is that Egyptian propaganda about its gods and its kings was very much a part of the cultural matrix in which the Bible was written. So over to the east in Babylon or Assyria, they didn't have, as part of their propaganda, that the king is the incarnation of the gods or one of the gods. They were really important but they were not one of the gods become human. But down in Egypt, that was the foundation of their whole civilization, was that in the king the divine and human are one.

Jon: And this king is saying, (00:20:00) "I don't care about your God."

Tim: Yeah. The deity worshipped by this immigrant slave population—

Jon: Doesn't matter.

Tim: Yeah. Why would that have any significance? 

Jon: I am the king of Egypt.

Tim: I'm the embodiment of all the divine power of the sun and the sky and all this kind of thing. This becomes a rivalry between gods. This is being elevated above just Egyptians and Israelites to Yahweh versus the gods of Egypt. And we know that's the case because on the 10th and final plague that God sends on Egypt with the death of the firstborn, this is in Exodus 12:12, what Yahweh says is in the 10th plague he's going to strike, not just Egypt, but all the gods of Egypt. So all of the plagues have also been strikes against this idea that Egypt is (00:21:00) the very embodiment of divine power in the world. I think that's important because the severity of God's response to this might seem a little overblown to some modern readers. 

Jon: Sure. 

Tim: it's like he gets insulted here. Yahweh's being insulted here in the court of Pharaoh. And then what comes is the 10 plagues. I think that might strike some of us as like, Oh, why didn't he just take the insult? Didn't Jesus teach his followers to do that?

Jon: Why didn't he turn the other cheek?

Tim: Yeah, totally. I think it's a legitimate question to ask. That's worth pondering.

Jon: Yeah. Why does God throw it down so hard? 

Tim: Yeah, totally. It's a good question. So this narrative is sort of like the dictionary entry for the character of God throughout the story of the Bible. This Exodus narrative is appealed to and remembered (00:22:00) over and over and over again as the foundational narrative of who God is to his covenant people. That's one.

Second, there's the honor-shame cultural dynamic here, where the reputation of one's name or like of your people's name is of highest value. So when there's a contest between great names, between Pharaoh and Egypt and Yahweh and Israel, it becomes a contest of reputations. Because Yahweh's name is to be associated with the liberation of all creation from the power of the snake. When Yahweh meets the snake in the form of an imperial king who won't acknowledge the true God, it's time to crush the snake. And that's how the biblical story works, at least in this story. 

In the story of Jesus, Jesus will confront the snake and allow the snake to crush him. And that's how he ultimately overcomes it. (00:23:00) But in this story, Yahweh just smashes the snake in the form of smashing Egypt. 

Jon: And there's also the layer of this is God's chosen people, who's bound himself to, saying, "I will bless those who bless you and I will curse those who curse you."

Tim: That's right. 

Jon: So for God then to be right by his promise, here's a group of people cursing them. On top of that, this is evil. Like he's killing the kids. I mean—

Tim: He’s killing babies. 

Jon: The slave labor. I mean, this is a new Pharaoh now. Right?

Tim: Yeah, that's right. But clearly carrying on the policies.

Jon: So the blood of the Israelites calling out and God being like, "I'm going to avenge," there is that sense of justice here. 

Tim: Thanks. Thanks. That's important.

Jon: But you're bringing out ... It's interesting. Jesus cares about justice, but when (00:24:00) he goes to throw down with the snake, ultimately the way to beat the snake was to let the snake strike him. 

Tim: Strike him, yeah. 

Jon: So you're saying this wasn't the tactic here? 

Tim: Mm-hmm. 

Jon: And partly because why? Besides all the things we just said. 

Tim: Well, I think it's at this stage of the plan, Yahweh's plan is to attach his reputation to a people. So, therefore, the name of this people among the nations is the way that Yahweh's name is spread among the nations. And then Israel is going to fail as his communal covenant partner. So then Yahweh's going to attach his name to one family among this nation. That is the line of David. That line fails. So all the hope converges down on to one person in the latter Prophets, which is described in various titles (00:25:00) of the servant, the shepherd, and so on. 

But at each point, Yahweh is associating himself with communal institutions as it were. He associates himself with an ethnos, with the nation. And that ends up compromising Yahweh's reputation. So then he associates his reputation with a single lineage of a monarchy and a royal institution. And then all those humans fail him. 

So I'm filling out a line of thought that I learned from Daniel Hawk in his very insightful book called The Violence of the Biblical God. What he notes is when Yahweh signs himself up covenantally to stick by the nation of Israel, Yahweh is also committing himself to protect them and to have his name attached to their institutions as a people. And then he does it to David and the monarchy. And by the time that all crashes, he talks about how Jesus came as a ... he's born into the family (00:26:00) and he's born in through the lineage, adopted into the lineage of David but he consciously operates outside all of those institutions. Jesus does.

And then he challenges and even calls out the corruption in those priestly and leadership institutions of Israel. He kind of puts that in contrast to God's strategy back in the exodus, which is to bind himself to these people in their reputation. That was helpful for me.

Jon: I mean, there's just the classic question of why didn't Jesus just come now? 

Tim: I hear that.

Jon: Why couldn't Moses just be Jesus? 

Tim: I'm with you. I think we'll be asking that question till we hang out with Jesus and can ask him that question. And it's a good question. It's not a question that's going to help us read the narrative sympathetically along its own lines. So this is the moment where we have to honor our question, (00:27:00) but then also bracket it for the moment, so that we can try and read this story on its own terms. And on some terms, a human just challenged the one who is as if they're on equal ground. And what Yahweh's going to do is reduce that king down to size.

So Pharaoh's response to this first challenge by Moses and Aaron is to actually turn up the heat. And he makes the slavery of the Israelites even worse. This is the classic like more bricks, less straw. So Moses goes back to Yahweh and is just like, "This is not working. You made things even worse. Why did you tell me to do this?" 

You get another speech from God to Moses in chapter 6. And you get another important exploration of the name here. This is in chapter 6. So Elohim said to Moses, "I am Yahweh, (00:28:00) and I showed myself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai." That is, God the almighty one. And how you translate the next few words is the subject of long-standing debate controversy.

Actually, here. I'll just show you. Here's where all of our modern English translations come. This is one of those places where I'm so grateful for our modern English translations. But they disguise a really important puzzle here in the Hebrew text. So all of our English translations in one way or another set up the statement as the following. "I am Yahweh. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty (as El Shaddai). But by my name, Yahweh, I did not make myself fully known to them." That's the NIV. 

And all our modern (00:29:00) translations basically render it the same way, making it a contrast. In other words, "I am Yahweh. Now as to your ancestors, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob, well, I appeared as El Shaddai. But by Yahweh, the name Yahweh, I did not make myself known to them.” So that's option one as to the meaning. The problem is, you have to kind of make the Hebrew words work in ways that they don't quite normally work to get that meaning out of this verse.

Jon: Oh, I thought you were going to say the problem is he did tell Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob his name was Yahweh.

Tim: That's another problem. Another problem is reading in Genesis, yeah, Yahweh appears as El Shaddai but also as Yahweh to the ancestors, all three of these people. So it creates what appears like a logical contradiction in the flow of the narrative. And then also, there's the question of is that (00:30:00) really what the Hebrew words mean here?

So there's multiple paths that people have taken here. One is to assume that this meaning that's reflected in our English translations is basically correct. But to interpret the word "name" not literally, but in terms of using the word “name” as a stand in for my “character” or “the kind of God that I am.” 

Jon: The reputation. 

Tim: I was known as El Shaddai. And El Shaddai is associated with blessing, abundance. In the book of Genesis, if you trace that name, the word El Shaddai comes up when God is described as speaking in moments of blessing or rescue. Yahweh is the name connected to the promises: to be in this land, to have a great nation, and to be a blessing to the nations.

For example, Umberto Cassuto, an Italian Jewish commentator who I've learned so much from (00:31:00) his books over the years, that's the route he goes here. So it's not that they didn't know the name Yahweh, but it set the full meaning of the name Yahweh as the one who will bring the people into the land and fulfill the promises. They didn't know me as that yet, because they lived before the fulfillment of all the promises. And that's the larger context. He's going to go on in the verses that follow to say, "I am Yahweh who's going to bring you out from Egypt and give you the land and so on." That's one route.

Another route is just this particular way of translating the words into English is just not correct. There is another way that is both faithful to the Hebrew text and that actually makes better sense. So here I'm depending on a really preeminent ancient Hebrew linguist, the scholar Francis Andersen. His most influential contribution of biblical scholarship (00:32:00) is called The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew.

Jon: The sentence.

Tim: Yeah. It is the super dense linguistic work trying to help Hebrew Bible scholars and students reorient what we think a normal sentence is by training us to understand the sentence in biblical Hebrew.

Jon: Oh, so not any specific sentence but just sentences in general?

Tim: Yeah. What is the sentence in biblical Hebrew? 

Jon: Okay. How do sentences work? 

Tim: How do sentences work? So when he comes to this passage, he has a long section on this passage on page 102. I don't know why that's etched in my memory. I'm just remembering because it was so helpful. He thinks of what we're dealing with here is a four-line poetic parallel that works in the following way. The first line being "I am Yahweh." The second line is "And I showed myself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Almighty, (00:33:00) as El Shaddai." Third line: “but my name is Yahweh.” Fourth line: “Didn't I make myself known to them?” Or he argues it could be a statement. That little word "didn't" could be used as an emphasis, meaning "surely I made myself known to them."

He makes a really elaborate case. And why it hasn't been discussed more or paid attention to more ... You know, some commentators mention it, but it ... I'm personally persuaded by it. And it makes great sense of both the poetic structure of these four lines. But there you go. It's the genuine Hebrew linguistic theological rabbit hole. Exodus 6:3.

Jon: So the same sentence could be translated—

Tim: Yeah, to have the opposite meaning.

Jon: To have the opposite meaning. "I didn't make myself known to them" to "didn't I (00:34:00) make myself known to them?"

Tim: Yeah, that's right. Hebrew manuscripts don't indicate questions through any kind of extra markings like question marks. Andersen thinks that it's a rhetorical question, "Didn't I make myself known to them?" or an emphatic "surely I made myself known to them."

Jon: And you're saying, knowing Hebrew, you can see that the case could be made?

Tim: Totally. 

Jon: Okay. 

Tim: Yes. And in context, in Andersen's point in this discussion, what he says is, "the emphasis of the overall context isn't about what Yahweh didn't do in the past."

Jon: Sure. 

Tim: I'll read the whole passage according to Andersen. "I am Yahweh. And I showed myself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Almighty (as the powerful one) But my name Yahweh, my covenant name, surely I made myself known to them. I made my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned." (00:35:00) In other words, what he's saying is, “I revealed myself as El Shaddai, but also as Yahweh the covenant maker,” and the one that promises. So that's all in the past. 

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Then in verse 5 he moves to the present. "Furthermore, I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel," because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage. "And I have remembered in the present my covenant that I made in the past." To move to the present.

Then in verses 6 through 8, he moves to the future. "Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, I am Yahweh. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will deliver you from bondage. I will redeem you with the outstretched arm and great judgments. I'll take you to be my people. I'll be your Elohim." And here's the key line for theme. "And y'all will know that I am Yahweh your Elohim who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I'll bring you to the land that (00:36:00) I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you as possession. I am Yahweh."

You can see the past, God repeats that phrase "I am Yahweh" two times in the opening, and then he repeats it two times now in this closing line. So it's a key emphasis. "I am Yahweh. I am Yahweh. My name is Yahweh. And everyone's going to know that my name is Yahweh.”

Jon: "They knew in the past, I'm telling you now, and you will know by what I'm about to do in the future."

Tim: Exactly. It's also the literary design of the whole speech, I think, also makes a compelling case for Andersen's interpretation.

Jon: Again, this theme is important of knowing the name of Yahweh. You said in the last conversation that out of everything that happens in the Bible, it's this event where God rescues Israel out of oppression in Egypt. (00:37:00) It's that event by which the nations know Yahweh's reputation.

Tim: Yeah. Let's maybe use a metaphor here. It's the same way that a monument functions. If there's a philanthropist and they set up, I don't know, this great community center in the neighborhood. Maybe somebody who grew up in the neighborhood, they ended up doing well in business, and they want to give back and they establish a community center with the gym and the pool and a basketball court. And then often, like that will be named the so and so community center.

But the point is like the name. And the name is memorialized, not just on a statue, but on the very thing that tells the story, just by its existence of what kind of person that was. That same kind of monumental definition of the name is what the exodus is (00:38:00) to the name Yahweh in the Bible. It's the liberating from oppressive structures so that people can worship and image God and freedom. That is the name of Yahweh. If I was to build a sermon off of this passage—

Jon: Build a monument. 

Tim: I think I would have just found my sermon illustration. But that's powerful stuff, man. To know the name of Yahweh means to understand this God's character and what this God cares about. If you don't know the name of Yahweh, it means you're like Pharaoh: you don't care. 

Jon: Knowing the name isn't simply just like, oh, yeah, I know that name. I'm familiar with those letters. But it's that the person, his reputation, his character, what he's done, I know about that. (00:39:00) And by knowing about it, it actually means that I have the correct perspective, and in this case, reverence for who that is.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. So when Yahweh does the thing that becomes a display of his character and reputation by delivering them out of Egypt, that's when you will know that I am Yahweh. So this is the first time that phrase appears. "Y'all will know" or "They will know that I am Yahweh." And it's going to just cycle on repeat. It's going to be a drumbeat throughout almost every step of the Exodus narrative to follow. 

Most, not all, but most of the 10 plagues have this little phrase attached to them at some point. And then also the great moment of the parting of the waters and that deliverance into the waters is ... this is also the stated purpose so that Egypt will know that I'm Yahweh.

Section break (00:39:58)

Tim: So after that second conversation with Yahweh that Moses has—So remember the progression was Yahweh appeared at the burning bush said, "Hey, I Am, and I’m sending you to the people and to Pharaoh." They go to the people; the people are down. They go to Pharaoh; Pharaoh is not down. Pharaoh turns up the slavery even worse. And then Moses goes back to Yahweh. And then that's the conversation that we just talked about. 

So Moses, you know, gets all full of whatever, vim and vigor. With his brother, he's getting ready to go back. And there's this one last thing that Yahweh tells Moses. It's in chapter 7. (00:41:00) And he says, "Listen, here's the setup with you and your brother, Aaron." He says, "I'm going to make you like Elohim to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be like a prophet. So whenever Pharaoh encounters me," Yahweh's saying, "He'll see two people. He'll see like the front man, the prophet Aaron, as it were, and then they're going to see this guy standing behind, who is like Elohim to the prophet." It's a fascinating analogy.

Jon: The image of Yahweh.

Tim: Yeah, totally. Moses is Elohim and then Aaron becomes the human spokesman for Elohim. Which is actually how the narrative is going ... I think it's setting us up for what's going to happen at the golden calf, where Moses is actually up in the presence of Yahweh, and he's going to start shining, like Yahweh. And down on the bottom of the mountain is the guy who's supposed to be the image of Yahweh and he's making idols. 

Jon: This is such a cool reflection on being the image of God and (00:42:00) on the role of priests.

Tim: Yeah. Or in this case, the prophet. The guy who's going to be the priest is also here appointed as the prophet.

Jon: Oh, I see, a prophet. Oh, yeah. And then you brought this up in like, "Here is the definition of what a prophet is." 

Tim: Yeah, totally.

Jon: I think way back when we were working through how to read the Prophets. Yeah, remember that? What is the prophet? And here is the situation if Moses is God to Pharaoh, then Aaron, who's speaking on behalf of God, or on behalf of Moses who doesn't want to talk, is a prophet. So prophet is the one who speaks on behalf of God. It's interesting, though, that this narrative goes out of the way to say to Moses, "Pharaoh is going to encounter you like you are God, you are the deity."

Tim: Yeah. So intense.

Jon: Yeah. 

Tim: To look upon Moses is as if you're looking at Elohim.

Jon: And you're right. When we fast forward, when Moses (00:43:00) comes down from the mountain after he intercedes with God, he is so closely tied to God. He's shining like an Elohim, like a star in the sky. He's this character who gets so closely united with God that he shines.

Tim: He shines. And it's in contrast to the guy who's supposed to be shining, dressed in glittering jewels and the fancy garments of the high priest. When in fact, Moses is the sparkly one and Aaron is the idolater, leading the people into destruction down below. 

So all of that is yet to come. Here, it's still kind of the ideal setup. So that's their setup is they go to Pharaoh. And what God tells Moses is, “Listen ...” This is my paraphrase. "The way Pharaoh responded to you already saying, 'I don't know Yahweh, and I'm not going to acknowledge Yahweh,' that's basically he's already made his decision." In other words, Pharaoh has already, before this, (00:44:00) made a decision to reject Yahweh's claim on him. 

So Yahweh says, "I'm going to harden Pharaoh's heart so that I can multiply signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. And when Pharaoh doesn't listen to you, I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring out my armies or my hosts, my people, the sons of Israel with great judgments. Then the Egyptians will know that I am Yahweh when I stretch out my hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel."

Jon: And there's that hit: "Egyptians will know that I am Yahweh." 

Tim: That's right. Now it's the Egyptians. Now, earlier in chapter 6 where we just talked about for a little bit there, it was the Israelites will know when I bring you out of slavery and give you the land. That's how you're going to know. But the Egyptians, here's how they're going to know. They're going to be defeated because their king who thinks that he's God has already made his public decision. (00:45:00) 

So this is an interesting dynamic. Kind of like this is harkening back to the generation of the flood, where the heart of humanity was bent towards evil from its youth. That's from the opening of the flood story. So God has allowed human evil and bloodshed to continue on, but it reaches the point where God cannot tolerate it anymore and he brings the flood.  

So we're riffing on that motif here in the Exodus story, where Pharaoh and now generations of Pharaohs have made their decisions. And what Yahweh is going to do now is not harden the heart of an innocent Pharaoh who would have done otherwise. Rather, he is accelerating and intensifying the self-destruction of an empire that has already chosen its way forward in the world. So this is Yahweh's way (00:46:00) of turning its self-destruction into a demonstration of his character and power and honor among the nations. 

Jon: When we did the video on Exodus years ago, this was the first time we talked about this idea of hardening Pharaoh's heart. And you had a phrase in that video of something like "turning Pharaoh’s evil back onto himself" or something like that.

Tim: Yeah, sure. 

Jon: And we watched Pharaoh in his evil, just like the pinnacle of his anger and desire for revenge and oppression, just bubbling over that turns into the chariots riding towards Israel. But what they're riding into is their death.

Tim: Their own destruction. Yeah. There's a literary design technique there where the waters of the Reed Sea that he goes into (00:47:00) mirror the waters and the reeds that Moses was thrown into at the decree of that Pharaoh. So literally the third and final attempt of that Pharaoh to kill the Israelites in the water by the reeds is turned upside down as the later Pharaoh dies in the Sea of Reeds. It's a way of showing that the cause-effect chain began all the way back there is the ultimate cause for Pharaoh's own destruction. 

Another way to get at this, and we'll talk about the 10 plagues, I think, probably in the next conversation now, but in each of the ... it's set up of like 10 rounds, 10 boxing matches, or something ... No. How do boxing matches work? 

Jon: Ten rounds, yeah. 

Tim: Ten rounds or multiple rounds in one match. Is that how it works?

Jon: Maybe sometimes there's 12? I don't know. 

Tim: Okay, I got it. All right. So there's 10 rounds in one showdown. In the first five, what we're told about Pharaoh's (00:48:00) heart is either that he hardens his heart after each one, or we're just told neutrally that it becomes stubborn or it becomes hard. But it's only in the second set of five that you get the narrative saying Yahweh hardened his heart.

So it's as if right here in the passage we just read before any of the plagues, in fact, in chapter 7, it says, if Elohim—he knows how Pharaoh is going to respond because it's how these Pharaohs have all responded for a long time now. But we are at a point of no return, so Yahweh does eventually step in and accelerate and intensify the evil to a point where it just collapses in on itself. That's God's strategy for overcoming evil in the story is to actually let the evil grow so large that the process that Pharaoh's evil began, God just carries out to its bitter end. (00:49:00) 

Jon: It seems connected to this theme of de-creation, which there's violence on the land. The way that God will avenge it is to speed up its own destruction. 

Tim: This is the portrait. "This is how the Egyptians will know that I'm Yahweh." Man, this is going to be echoed later on in the Prophets, when God has to convince later generations of Israel that Babylon has come into town to take out a corrupt Israel. When Israel has become as corrupt as Egypt ... Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, they had to tell their contemporaries that Yahweh is authoring our people's destruction. And he's going to let Babylon do it, but it's Yahweh. It was the equivalent of the Israelites will know that I am Yahweh. 

So Yahweh is known through acts of creation (00:50:00) and liberation. Yahweh's character is also made known by allowing or even accelerating de-creation, which is a really uncomfortable thought. I suppose if you're Pharaoh you don't care because you don't think it's going to happen. But the Lord raises some on high but he also pulls down rulers from the thrones. And his character is made be known in both of those types of acts. 

Section break (00:50:32)

Jon: So can we talk about Romans 9 a little bit?

Tim: Yeah. Tell me how this connects in in your mind? 

Jon: Well, obviously, the connection is Paul, who's writing to the Romans, he brings up Pharaoh and he brings up the hardening of the heart. The context right before that is he also quotes something God says to Moses later in Exodus right after the golden calf incident where Aaron fails, and we were just talking about that, where Moses is negotiating with God. God says, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I'll have compassion on whom I have compassion."

So Paul quotes that. And I think what's interesting about that, in terms of the pattern we're tracing, (00:52:00) when Moses is up on the mountain, he's talking about God's reputation and his name. "If you destroy these people, how are they supposed to know that you rescued them from Egypt? How is your name supposed to be great?" And then we get this kind of classic line "I will have mercy on who I have mercy and compassion for whom might have compassion." And then the apostle Paul takes that and he connects it directly to the idea of Pharaoh being raised up for God's name to be made great on the earth is what he says.

Tim: There's twin points here. Because what he's talking about is he goes through the sequence of generations in Genesis saying, "Hey, there has always been multiple descendants from the line of Abraham, some of whom are the chosen as the vehicle of the promise, others of whom are separated off, and they are not chosen for the vehicle of promise.”

Jon: And we walked through all of that in Genesis. 

Tim: In the book of Genesis. When he gets to Jacob and Esau, (00:53:00) what he quotes from is the book of Malachi, for whom Jacob and Esau are icons for whole nations. Whole nations. So it goes on to say, so is it unjust, that God would single out one from among the many? Here he makes his positive point. He quotes Moses saying, "No, when God chose to forgive his covenant people, it's not like his chosen ones are better than anybody else."

Jon: Oh, right.

Tim: The book of Genesis is abundantly clear on that point. 

Jon: Well, and in the context of this moment, too, it's like Israel is clearly not better. 

Tim: That's right. 

Jon: "I will have mercy."

Tim: And the golden calf story. So it's just more that God chooses one. And when he brings that one close and gives them extra opportunity, there's extra accountability. And he shows them extra mercy and patience as he works with them as his vehicle as the chosen ones to work his plans on behalf of everybody else. (00:54:00) So that's the flip side. That's the mercy side. 

But then he brings up Pharaoh and Pharaoh is this anti example, where here's a nation where the descendants of Ham that led to Egypt were among the non-chosen. And you had a pharaoh of Egypt in Joseph's day who they lived in harmony with God's chosen ones and there was blessing in the land. This is at the end of the book of Genesis.

So but then you get the Pharaoh opposed to Moses. So you get two portraits of the way that a king can respond to the chosen ones. You get the Joseph-Pharaoh combination, its blessing and life and Eden in a time of famine. But then you get the Moses-Pharaoh combination and that Pharaoh won't acknowledge Yahweh and continues over many successions the oppression of God's people. (00:55:00) For that Pharaoh, God's response is, "I will curse those who curse you." 

So God's name is made known equally in having immense mercy on his chosen ones more than they deserve. And then God's name is equally made known by bringing down the powerful and the oppressors. And both reveal God's name. I'm just kind of processing through Paul's line of thought here. For Paul, this is precedent for understanding why there's so many Jewish people in his day coming to follow Jesus but there's also a lot who aren't. And he sees the pattern playing itself out again even in his own day. That God—

Jon: That there's a remnant of Israel that's following the Messiah. 

Tim: And that remnant he is watching become a blessing to the nations because the good news about Jesus is actually beginning to incorporate all of these non-Israelites. And it's awesome. But there are some (00:56:00) who have hardened their hearts, and Paul holds out hope for them at the end of Romans 11. That's a highly debated difficult passage in chapter 11, that all Israel will be saved. But that's his line of thought here. 

Jon: I see.

Tim: But what it doesn't mean is this isn't a conversation about individuals and their eternal destiny. It's about Paul trying to understand that God's purpose in choosing a remnant to become a blessing to the nations is still working itself out in his day on the scene with the missionary journeys that he's taking part of.

Jon: Okay. Let me restate this back to you. So in Paul's day, Jesus prayed "May your name be holy." And then Jesus is going to reverse the curse, death blow to the evil one. And then he sends his (00:57:00) followers out to be a blessing to the nations. And what Paul sees is that Israel who was the chosen, the elect, who God said I will bless the nations through you, that some of them are part of this. But there were many in Israel, who were like, "Nope, this is not—"

Tim: I’m not down. 

Jon: Not down. 

Tim: Beginning with the ones who had him executed, you know, in league with the Romans, and then follow him from there. 

Jon: And famously himself before he ...

Tim: Famously, yeah. Thank you. That's exactly right. 

Jon: But all of this is connected to this pattern we're talking about, which is his name being set apart, his name being great, that people will know his name. So the logic that Paul is using here is God chose a group, even though they didn't deserve it, to get the kind of mercy that they got in order (00:58:00) for his name to be great. And then the situation with Pharaoh, are you saying there's something happening where it's like, you know, Pharaoh was bad, but in a way, God chose him to create a moment where his name can be made great? So in a way, you could say Pharaoh didn't deserve it either, to the degree that he ... 

Tim: Oh. 

Jon: Is that part of the logic? 

Tim: Interesting. Paul is quoting from this moment in chapter 9. I think he's quoting from Exodus 9. Is that right? Yeah. Yeah. I forget what plague it is. Let me look real quick. He's quoting from—

Jon: 9:16.

Tim: Yeah. He's quoting from the 7th plague. I've never noticed that. The hail. The plague of hail. The 7th plague is important as one might expect.

Jon: We'll get to that. 

Tim: But what's interesting is, you know, "For this reason I raised you up." However, this links back to the first time we met this Pharaoh was in chapter 5. And his first (00:59:00) response when he learns about Yahweh is, "I'm not acknowledging Yahweh." So we're back to the same old mystery that Joseph raises but doesn't resolve at the end of Genesis when he says to his brothers, "Hey, y'all who are in the non-chosen planned this for evil, but God planned it for good.” So it raises a question, "Did God plan the brother's evil?" Well, the narrative is very clear that that was the brother's plan. And that God is countering the brother's plan. 

So the narrative just acknowledges this tension at the heart of a theistic worldview. That if you believe that God is somehow directing the course of history, how does that overlap with and interact with what we experience as human agency? And the narrative refuses to resolve it. But it names both.

Jon: Okay. So Paul is saying, look, everyone's screwing up here. (01:00:00) 

Tim: Yes, totally. Yeah, that's right.

Jon: The people God chose to be his covenant partners, to be the blessing of the nation, to be the elect, they keep screwing it up.

Tim: Screwing it up.

Jon: But he has mercy on them. He has the right to do that. And the reason he did that was for his name. 

Tim: That's right. 

Jon: And then when Pharaoh screws up over and over, God hardens his heart. There's something that happens there. And he has the right to do that, too. And the reason he did that was for his name.

Tim: His justice might be known. 

Jon: To kind of bring this pattern around full circle, God isn't just interested in everyone thinking he's rad because he's insecure.

Tim: Sure, yes. 

Jon: But he wants to have a covenant relationship with all of humanity as his image.

Tim: His chosen ones. (01:01:00) 

Jon: His chosen ones. And he's beginning with an elect few so that it can then can go out to everyone. So connected to this idea of that you will know my name isn't just so I can enjoy an eternal worship session where you guys are praising me. Because that seems kind of narcissistic. 

Tim: Oh, I understand. For people to know my name. I see. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think it's because the name of this particular one is I Am. He is the source of all being. So to know the name of the source of all being is to be in touch with reality. It's no reality. Because if it's not Yahweh's name that's being exalted, then it's Pharaoh's name. And let's imagine that reality. Actually, that reality has existed in every generation of humans that we can see back and it's horrifying. (01:02:00) 

Jon: If all existence depends on God's power, then knowing that power, knowing that name is the best place you could be in. 

Tim: That's right.

Jon: For God to proclaim that name is really to let people thrive and find life. 

Tim: Yeah, as true images of God, as images of the one who is, who is endless mercy, endless covenant loyalty and love, and also endless justice, who is on a mission to partner with humans in a world set right. In a world set right, Pharaohs don't get to do what Pharaohs have normally done. And that is good news. So in that sense, exactly, the exaltation of the name of I Am is that that is good news. It's good news. But I think the (01:03:00) exultation and people knowing my name, I have had to go on a journey of learning how this language works. 

All right, well, I think we've come to the showdown then. The gauntlet has been thrown. Right?

Jon: Yeah. 

Tim: So what we're going to do as the third part of this is look at the 10 acts of de-creation, the 10 ways, the 10 strikes or plagues on Egypt. And then that culminates in this ultimate showdown at the waters of the Reed Sea where Pharaoh's evil finally becomes his undoing. 

Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of BibleProject podcast. Next week, we finish up the first movement of the Exodus scroll. We walk through the 10 plagues and Passover. 

Tim: So what God provides here, however, in the plague on the firstborn is something that contrasts Pharaoh back in chapter 1. Pharaoh had no mercy throwing baby boys into the water. Here, God says, "Hey, I'm going to turn your evil back on your own head. But for anybody, (01:04:00) Israelite or Egyptian, who fears the word of the Lord, here is a means of escape. Your house can become an ark of refuge." So there's this big emphasis, this is Passover, and this emphasis on going into the house. The word "house" in Hebrew, habayith, or actually the phrase "into the house" (habayita) is the word for Noah's ark spelled backwards. 

Jon: Today's show is produced by Cooper Peltz, edited by Dan Gummel and Zach McKinley, and our show notes are by Lindsey Ponder. BibleProject is a crowdfunded non-profit. We exist to experience the Bible as a unified story that leads to Jesus. Everything we make is free because of the generous support of thousands of people just like you. Thank you so much for being a part of this with us.

12 Episodes

Episode 12
Did God Try To Kill Moses?
Why did God say he was going to kill Moses? What exactly was God’s test for Abraham on Mount Moriah and Israel on Mount Sinai? What’s the connection between the ten plagues and the Ten Commandments? In this episode, Tim and Jon respond to your questions about the Exodus scroll. Thanks to our audience for your incredible questions!
1hr 13m • Jun 22, 2022
Episode 11
Two Takes on the Test at Mount Sinai
Did Israel pass or fail God’s test at Mount Sinai? And what did Yahweh mean when he made Israel a “nation of priests”? In this episode, Tim and Jon talk with long-time friend and Hebrew Bible scholar Dr. Carmen Imes. Tim and Carmen share differing interpretive perspectives of the Exodus story, reminding us that the Bible is meant to be meditated upon and studied within a community.
1hr 2m • May 23, 2022
Episode 10
Why Moses Couldn’t Enter the Tabernacle
In the second movement of Exodus, Moses walks straight into God’s fiery presence on Mount Sinai without fear. But by the end of the scroll, he can’t enter God’s presence. What changed? In this episode, join Jon and Tim as they explore the final portion of the third movement of Exodus.
52m • May 16, 2022
Episode 9
Why Does the Tabernacle Furniture Even Matter?
Why does God seem to care so much about the furniture within the tabernacle? The instructions for the tabernacle furniture are about far more than aesthetics. They were means of dealing with Israel’s moral brokenness, they served as reminders of Eden, and they were designed to form Israel into a people of perpetual surrender. In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they continue to trace the theme of the temple in the third movement of Exodus.
1hr 1m • May 9, 2022
Episode 8
What’s So Special About the Tabernacle?
You may have heard that God’s holiness keeps him from getting close to sinful humanity, but in the Bible we see God regularly doing the opposite, drawing near to dwell with human beings. We encounter this reality again and again, including in a surprising place—the tabernacle blueprints. In this episode, join Jon and Tim as they walk through the opening act of the third movement of Exodus and explore the relationship between the tabernacle, the garden of Eden, unconditional love, and eternal life.
1hr 17m • May 2, 2022
Episode 7
What Are the Ten Commandments All About?
We often think of the Ten Commandments as a list of dos and don’ts—the things you need to do to make God happy. But is that what they’re really about? In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they take a deep dive into the Ten Commandments and find out why they’re more about preserving proper worship of Yahweh and the shared dignity of humans.
1hr 10m • Apr 25, 2022
Episode 6
Testing at Mount Sinai
Mount Sinai is the famous spot where Yahweh gives Moses the Ten Commandments, and it is the location where most of Exodus, all of Leviticus, and the first 10 chapters of Numbers take place. When Israel first arrives at Sinai, they fail yet another test and try to get Moses to pass it for them. In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they explore Yahweh’s fiery presence, the test at Sinai, and the question of Israel's national identity: Will they be the kingdom of priests Yahweh intends?
1hr 3m • Apr 18, 2022
Episode 5
Israel Tests Yahweh
The nation of Israel seems to go from one life-threatening situation to another in the Exodus scroll. From slavery in Egypt to being cornered between a hostile army and a vast body of water, Israel’s God has delivered them from everything so far. Now in the wilderness, they face a series of three tests. Will they trust Yahweh to deliver them again? In this episode, Tim and Jon explore Israel’s testing in the wilderness.
1hr 12m • Apr 11, 2022
Episode 4
God Tests His Chosen Ones
Nobody likes tests. But the test is a recurring pattern in the biblical story for how God relates to his chosen ones. So are humans just lab rats in a divine experiment, or is there something else going on? Join Tim and Jon as they talk about the theme of the test and the famous account of Israel crossing the Sea of Reeds, as we dive into the second movement of the Exodus scroll.
1hr 3m • Apr 4, 2022
Episode 3
Why Are There 10 Plagues?
The ten plagues—they’re fascinating, they’re famous, and they sometimes seem overly harsh. Where do they fit in the story of the Bible and the process of God revealing his own name and character? In this episode, Tim and Jon talk about the ten plagues, or ten acts of de-creation, in which Yahweh uses his power over creation to undo his own creation in judgment. Listen in as we explore how God’s response to evil reveals another layer of his character.
1hr 1m • Mar 28, 2022
Episode 2
Yahweh and the Exodus
The story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt is famous for good reason—a burning bush, a transforming staff, 10 plagues, and the Passover. The exodus is also the story that defines God’s personal name, Yahweh. What does this narrative show us about Yahweh? And why does God care so much that people know his name? In this episode, Tim and Jon talk about God’s character revealed through his acts of deliverance and judgment.
1hr 6m • Mar 21, 2022
Episode 1
“God” Is Not a Name
God is not a name—it’s a title. In fact, the God of the Bible introduces himself by a specific name in one of the most famous stories in the Bible, the exodus event, when he works through Moses and Aaron to deliver Israel from slavery in Egypt. In this episode, Tim and Jon dive into the first movement of the Exodus scroll and explore the theme of God’s name.
1hr 6m • Mar 14, 2022
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