The Elohistic and Jehovistic Notion

 •  25 min. read  •  grade level: 9
The statement as to Elohistic and Jehovistic sources of the Mosaic history is without any other foundation than ignorance. And the low German habits of criticism—I say, low habits. Even Stuart, I judge (“On the Canon of Scripture”)) does not escape this. For we do not read with God but simply as men, we are already on this low ground. Thus, judging as he and others do if a book has an ethical tendency for me, what a thoroughly narrow-minded way of looking at it, instead of seeing it as part of an immense and divine conception and communication of the whole history of men, and God’s ways with them! Thus, for instance, Esther is the providential care of Israel even during its rejection not a principle of immense importance in God’s dealings with men and His people? It is of the very last importance. Is such a knowledge of God not ethical for me? He could not reveal Himself, or it would not be the time or their rejection. All the style of reasoning I am commenting on, I must be forgiven for calling by the well-known term of “pettifogging.” But I anticipate. There is—at least in what I have seen—a plodding diligence, no doubt, to find out something which has the character of human learning, no matter what, but something which will make a book (which somebody else has not made); but then it has all a downward tendency, and never rises above a groveling pre-occupation with the external means of truth, or the spinning out their ideas of what ought to be. Take even Michaelis, a learned man and attractive by his modesty. When he comes to touch the interpretation of scripture, it is puerile to the last degree. A child who reads the scriptures with a little simple intelligence, would smile at the wonders he finds out by Syriac and Hebrew (and, if Marsh is right, often a very slovenly use of them) and the working of his own mind. It is such naïf nonsense, and brought out with such good faith, that it produces the kindly feeling one has for the foolish questions of a child which betray his innocence. The mind of God in the passage never seems to occur to him, though he believes scripture to be inspired.
Now Jehovah and Elohim are always used each in its own proper sense in Holy Scripture. The latter is the Creator God, God in His own being as such. The former made known to Israel a personal name in which He dealt with Israel, and even with the world, though they do not Own Him. The appropriateness is always sensible to him who seizes the bearing of the passage. When the relationship (or work of God known in relationship) to Israel is expressed, we have “Jehovah.” When the account is simply historical, “God” (Elohim) is used. In some cases either would give, if not so perfect a sense, yet very little different; since Jehovah is the true Elohim, and Elohim is Jehovah; and the use of Jehovah in these latter eases amounts to the writer’s having God as known to himself in his mind. The Psalms notably show the different use of the two terms, as does the Book of Jonah. I will take a special example from the Psalms to show this—Psa. 14 and 53. These are very nearly the same; but in one Jehovah is used, in the other Elohim. In Psa. 14 Jehovah is used. Hence it says, “They were in great fear, for [Elohim—God Himself] GOD is in the generation of the righteous.” The relationship, the consequence of ‘this name Jehovah, is expressed in the presence of Elohim with the righteous, in verse 6: “Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because Jehovah is his refuge.” Now in Psa. 53 Elohim is used; it is the historical fact of what they were in the sight of Elohim. Hence we have, “There were they in great fear, where no fear was; for Elohim hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee; thou hast put them to shame, because Elohim hath despised them.” These Psalms convey the same truths. But the thought of relationship prevails where Jehovah is used; whereas, where Elohim is used, we have the general result as regards the enemy.
It may be interesting to those who do study scripture with spiritual understanding, however feeble, to draw their attention to the circumstance, that all the Psalms in the first book (i.e., to the end of Psa. 41) are addressed to Jehovah, except Psa. 16, in which, as cited by Paul in proof of Christ’s partaking of human nature, and by Peter as proof of His resurrection, Christ’s taking His place with man is most clearly brought out. “Preserve me, O Elohim, for in thee [in what God was as such, He having become man] do I put my trust. Thou hast said to Jehovah, Thou art my [Adon] Lord; my goodness extendeth not to thee.” He takes the place of subjection, not as equal with the Father. “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but God.” “[Thou hast said] to the saints that are in the earth, and the excellent, All my delight is in them,” He takes His place now along with the saints, not with Jehovah: as to Him, He tithes the place of a servant. How deep and admirable are the instructions of the word! Now, all these Psalms of the first book suppose the relationship existing as, however deserving rejection and not a people, was the case in Israel when Jesus was amongst them.
But in Psa. 42, i.e., the second book, it will be seen that they are cast out from God’s sight—can no more frequent His temple and worship. Hence we at once find, not Jehovah but Elohim addressed. And so it is through this book, though, of course, He is owned to be Jehovah, and Jehovah as the only true Elohim. I have no doubt that, prophetically, the first book refers to the Jews in the latter-day returned to Jerusalem, and enjoying outwardly their hoped for advantages there; and the second has its application when they are driven out in the time of the great tribulation mentioned in Matt. 24.
It will be seen that the third book, beginning with Psa. 73, refers to all Israel (i.e., the ten tribes as well as the two) as such, and not specially the Jews, but only to the clean in heart, however, among them. They are still driven out—the temple pillaged and defaced—and Elohim is addressed until the last confederacy in Psa. 83, where the judgment prophetically spoken of introduces Jehovah, known as Most High over all the earth. Then in Psa. 84 they address Jehovah, and turn and mount up to the tabernacles of Jehovah Sabaoth and His courts, finding that man blessed whose trust is in Jehovah. Thence onward is praise to Jehovah, with contrition and exercise of heart, mercy celebrated in the true gracious or Holy One (Chasidika), Christ, the true David, which closes the book.
I may just add, that the fourth book celebrates (in all its bearings, but in special connection with Israel) the introduction of the first-begotten into the world; Psa. 90 giving Jehovah’s interest in Israel, and Psa. 91 Christ’s taking Jehovah, the God of Israel, as the true Elion Shaddai—the names by which Melchizedek blessed Abraham. Then it celebrates Him in this character, and develops the coming of the Lord to reign, and that in detail from the cry of the needy till He is fully again seated between the cherubim.
In the last book (from Psa. 107) we have the general bearings of it all, and the praises and hallelujahs which result from it—a kind of historical comment upon all God’s dealings with the world, Israel, the Messiah, and His place while all was going on. Already, in the last Psalms of the fourth book, Christ’s government, that, while utterly brought low even to death, He was Jehovah, is brought out in the most astonishing way. The healing of the paralytic in Luke is a distinct allusion to Jehovah’s name in Psa. 103:3. But I must not go farther here on this subject.
Again, look at Jonah, where there is not, and cannot be, the smallest pretense of two accounts. The intercourse between Jonah and God is under the name Jehovah. When the seamen learn who his God is that he is running away from, they fear Jehovah, and call upon Jehovah. Where it is a general testimony of repentance in strangers (chap. 3:5, to the end), it is Elohim. And when we have the general supreme dealings of God with Jonah to make him show what He was with man, as God, it is again Elohim. Now, in Jonah, this has peculiar force, because the relationship of Israel with Gentiles, and of Gentiles with Jehovah, is in question. It is the last public direct testimony of God to Gentiles before Christ. And this goodness of God to Gentiles is really what Jonah dreaded, as discrediting his message of judgment, which Jewish pride might like to see executed. (See Jonah 4:2.) Hence, on one side, we have Gentiles brought, in the moment of judgment on the Israelite, to confess Jehovah; and, on the other, God, as such, showing Himself good—the faithful Creator, who thought of those who could not distinguish between their right hand and their left, and even of the cattle. At the same time the proper relationship of Jehovah to His prophet, as such, is also fully maintained, and the word Jehovah, his God, more than once repeated. Now, here we have the elements of Jehovah’s grace, and Elohim’s true character and supremacy: what, in the nauseous systematizing of ignorance, is reduced to some imaginary documents which none of them know anything about but suppose. We have, I say, these two titles brought out in the clearest and most instructive way, as unfolding divine relationships for those who have the heart to delight in them, and justify that wisdom which is the joy of her children. The infidel must imagine and suppose some external cause, because he knows nothing of the real divine force of these things.
And I would remark, that I am not here bringing an external proof of the truth of the Jewish system; but that, supposing its existence, the reason for the distinctive use of the words Jehovah and Elohim is fully given within the system itself—is consistent and appropriate. This the infidel ought to have seen, or at least examined; because it is a part of the system he pretends to judge, and there are adequate proofs of its consistency within itself, which makes his arguments perfectly futile. For what he finds imaginary reasons for is accounted for on the plainest principles of the system be is judging. For every one can see that Jehovah was a proper name of God. to Israel, and declared positively to be such, though the name of the one true supreme God. Now, for the believer, the use of the names of God carries blessed divine instruction, for all His names have a meaning: Almighty, Jehovah, Father, all have a sense to his soul. But it is not even rational to seek for a reason in imaginary causes, when the real reason lies within the system, and makes a clearly stated and characteristic part of it. Now such is the difference between Jehovah and Elohim.
I would just add here, that it is perfectly indifferent to me if Moses used five hundred documents, provided what he in result gives me expresses exactly, perfectly, and completely, what God meant to communicate to me. I have taken the case of Jonah, because we have the use of Jehovah and Elohim where there is no pretense for this flimsy notion of documents. I may add, that I never found a case in which the use of either of these words did not seem to me precisely appropriate, and this distinctive use is eminently instructive. In the Psalms, this is peculiarly the case. This internal evidence of suitableness to relationship is the strongest possible kind of proof of the genuineness and (the subject being moral and divine) of the divine character of the record, in which this suitableness is uniformly found.
Thus, not to speak of the Psalms, where it is shown more in detail (as we have just seen), the book of Jonah touches on the relationship of Israel to Gentiles; of the peculiar God of Israel with Gentiles; of God, as such, with the latter, with creation, so as to put everything in its place—without an idea of proving anything about it—according to the whole history of the Bible from Genesis to the end of Chronicles. It spews the feeling of a Jew on one side, and God’s way of looking at it on the other. The proper place of Jehovah, in His character of God of Israel, is always preserved, and yet it is shown that this very Jehovah was the supreme God of goodness to men, let them be in the height of their pride, if there was room for repentance, a character which He would not relinquish even towards cattle. Nothing can be more important as a key to the whole question of God being Jehovah, and the peculiar God of Israel, and yet the one supreme and universal God—a thought so easily lost, at any rate as to goodness, if not as to power, by Jewish pride. It corrects all that a Jew could draw falsely from his peculiar position.
One might suppose that the double accounts which the rationalist alleges to exist, are in every case distinguished by the use of Jehovah and Elohim. This is not the case. But it may be he uses the fact of these names being employed to establish, the existence of two documents, at least, and their use by the author of the Book of Genesis, from which they are drawn. But even this is untenable ground; because if the two documents were distinctively characterized by these two names of God, all account alleged to be drawn from one of the distinct documents would not, as it often does, employ both of these names, nor two accounts, alleged to exist because the writer copied two distinct documents, employ, both of them, only one and the same name. Such accounts cannot be referred to two distinct documents characterized by the distinct employment of each. The reader has only to read Gen. 6; 7, to convince himself of the intermingling of the words “God” and “Lord (i.e., Jehovah),” though never without reason, to see the futility of the system. I shall cite some examples further on; but it is easily seen by reading these chapters.
However, none of his objections on this ground (rather a favorite one with German discoverers) has the least validity. It was important, in a book addressed to Israel, to show that Jehovah, their God, was the one true supreme Elohim, the Creator, in contrast with the demon gods of the heathen. Hence, in Genesis, where creation and the ante-Israelitish history is given, we have these two names brought in together (the force of which is much lost in our English translation), or so used as to make it clear that Jehovah is Elohim and Elohim Jehovah, though this last was taken as a name of relationship only at the exodus, on which we will say a few words further on. The very creed, as I may call it, of Israel marks clearly the use of these words ךָחֶא הָֹוהְי ּוניֵהלֱא הָֹןהְי לֵאָרְֹשׅי עַםְש (“Hear, O Israel, Jehovah, our God, is one Jehovah).” “And what nation is there that hath Elohim,” says Moses, “so nigh to them as Jehovah, our Elohim, is in all things that we call upon him for 1” “Did ever people hear the voice of Elohim speaking out of the midst of the fire?” “Or hath Elohim assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation,” etc., “as Jehovah, your Elohim, did for you in Egypt before your eyes? Unto thee it was spewed, that thou mightest know that Jehovah, he is Elohim; there is none else beside him.” To the people, when Elijah brought down fire from heaven, cry out” Jehovah, he is Elohim; Jehovah, he is Elohim.”
Having thus the undoubted importance of these words, let us apply this clear principle to that part of the history in which it was necessary to spew that Elohim was Jehovah, the Creator, Israel’s God.
I have spoken already of the creation. We have first, as a general history, Elohim—God—creating everything in succession; and Elohim rests. (Gen. 1; 2:1-3.) Then we have Jehovah Elohim, and the particular condition of things under Him. This kind of repetition is universal in scripture history, when subjects are considered in a new light; as if I give Benjamin’s progeny as such, and Saul’s royal one, for example, as such. I am not exactly aware of three accounts, as the rationalist alleges, of man’s creation. We have, besides Adam, a special account of Eve’s creation. In this second chapter we have a detailed account of the condition and circumstances of man—the peculiar position he was placed in as lord of the creation—his wife’s to him—out of what he was formed—how he became a living soul: details, as essential all of them, when his relationship with Jehovah Elohim was unfolded, as the historical account of Elohim’s creating all things in general, among which man had his place, was in its place too.
In this there is only a perfect communication of divine truth, each thing being perfectly in its place.
Let us turn to Noah and the flood.
We have the sons of Elohim. (Chap. 6:2.) As to them and in connection with His peculiar dealings with man, Jehovah said (ver. 3), “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” We have “sons of Elohim” (ver. 4), because here the expression is characteristic. “Elohim saw” (ver. 5), because here it was God in His own nature and character looking at man as such. “Jehovah repented” (ver. 6), because here it is His special thoughts and dealings about man as His—His feelings in connection with this relationship. Again (ver. 7), Jehovah, and Jehovah in relationship with Noah. Noah (ver. 9) “walked with God:” here it was morally characteristic, not his relationship to Jehovah under that name.
“The earth was corrupt before Elohim” —again it refers to God’s abstract nature and character. (Ver. 11, 12.) So (ver. 13) Elohim takes up His creation to declare its end to Noah. He had the Creator’s title to destroy His creation. Elohim Himself commanded Noah what to do in this case. In chapter vii. we enter into the full relationship of God with Noah as a deliverer; and it is Jehovah, just as we saw with Adam. There Elohim created. Jehovah had to do with Adam in a special way in the garden. Here Elohim is going to destroy His creation, and Jehovah has special relationship with Noah in the ark, as we have seen in verses 3, 6-8 of chapter 6., The peculiar relative feelings of Jehovah, not the simple character and supremacy of Elohim. Yet fully to identify the two accounts and connect them, we have in chapter vii. 16, “And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as Elohim had commanded him, and Jehovah shut him in.” The connection of the two names here makes the double-document system absurd. Now here we have the general command of Elohim given in the preceding chapter about His creatures to preserve them, as Creator; and then Jehovah shut him, Noah, in—that is, in the same verse, the special name of relationship in the case of the chosen and faithful patriarch. The rationalist says, “The two documents may indeed in this narrative be almost re-discovered by mechanical separation.” Certainly it would not be more than mechanical; for German theology nothing more, indeed, would be wanting. Again in chapter 8, in preserving mercy we have Elohim’s care of His preserved creation, and its deliverance to subsist on the recovered earth again. Then Noah builds an altar (Ver. 20), and Jehovah’s name immediately appears again, because it was important to spew that it was indeed Israel’s God that was thus worshipped—God in relationship with man from the beginning. Elohim then (chap 9) begins the world, so to speak, again; but the moment it is a question of relationship (ver. 26), we have Jehovah the God of Shem.
This need not be pursued farther. One point only remains to be noticed—the twos and sevens of the animals. In the accounts of Elohim’s directions for saving the different races of creatures, they are directed to be taken two of every sort, the male and female, to keep them alive. Nothing can be more simple than the meaning of this. When Jehovah is stating His thoughts as to Noah, and giving His directions in respect to His relationship with man and the earth, He directs Noah to take of clean beasts by sevens, still two and two male and female. And they all go in two and two, as Elohim had commanded, thus identifying, in the text itself, the two names in a way which would make the dissevering them difficult even on the mechanical process. The reason for distinguishing the clean beasts (still two and two, male and female) is too obvious to make the smallest difficulty. The twos refer, moreover, to male and female on a general principle. One must be very hard run up for a difficulty, or for a discovery, to find a contradiction here. The fowls of the air, which went in by sevens, are meant evidently clean ones too, as may be seen, chapter 8:20.
The cases of Pharaoh and Abimelech only confirm the remarks we have made. Moreover, in the parallel part of the passage, Jehovah is used in both cases. Jehovah plagued Pharaoh with great plagues. Jehovah had fast closed up the wombs of the house of Abimelech. Only there is added in Abimelech’s case, God having known Abimelech’s integrity in the matter, that He (Elohim) warned Abimelech in a dream. Now here Jehovah the God of Israel would have been quite out of place; for Abimelech was a Philistine, and Abraham already distinctively called. Yet, as a gracious God in nature and character, Elohim could chastise Abimelech temporarily for his error, and warn him, though He would preserve the integrity of the family He had chosen. Here let me remark, that undoubtedly Abraham was to blame. In the day when God judges the secrets of men’s hearts, all this will have its place between God and Abraham; but in His government of the world, all having fallen into idolatry, God was showing His special care over one called out in grace to bear His name, and walk under His protection. Hence that special care of him and his descendants, till there was no remedy, because they respected the name of Jehovah less than a heathen, as was shown in Zedekiah’s conduct with Nebuchadnezzar. He that touched them, Jehovah’s called ones, touched Jehovah Himself, who declared He would protect them as El-Shaddai, the Almighty, such a one touched the apple of his own eye. Jehovah’s power as Almighty had to be made good against the apostate and guilty heathen, for the sustaining the faith of His called ones, and the knowledge that there was a God of the earth.
But the statement that these names are contrasted in Abraham’s case with Pharaoh and Abimelech, is unfounded. There is no divine warning to Pharaoh; and Jehovah’s care of Abraham, in judging each, is related under the same title—Jehovah.
I do not know what the rationalist means by a double account of the origin of circumcision; I know but of one, that in Gen. 17. It is referred to Elohim, but He is called, as appearing to Abraham, Jehovah, and yet gives His name as El-Shaddai. It was a command connected with the character and nature of God. They were to be a separate people to Him, and the flesh be mortified. This “was not of Moses,” who brought in specially the name Jehovah as the ground of relationship, “but of the fathers,” antecedent to the special relationship of the Jews with Him, and connected with the name “God Almighty,” that Abraham might be a father of many nations.
There are no two reasons for the name of Isaac. God directs his name to be called Isaac— “laughter” —as a term of joy and gladness at this peculiar blessing to Abraham. Sarah takes up the name when he is born, and says, “God hath made me to laugh;” but this is no double account of his name.
God confirms the name of Israel to Jacob; but there is no double account of its origin. On the first occasion, God had a controversy with Jacob; but blesses him, strengthens him to prevail in the conflict, and gives him the name of Israel” a prince who prevailed with God;” yet chastises him, and does not reveal Himself to him. Jacob, after this, goes up to the place where his real meeting with God in blessing was to be, and puts away idols out of his house, knowing he is going to meet Him. Then God begins by revealing freely His name, and confirms to Jacob the title He had given him before. Here there is no kind of pretense for making two accounts—one using the word “Jehovah,” the other “Elohim.” Jehovah is used in neither. In the case of Bethel God appeared to him when he left the land of Canaan, and he called the name of the place “Bethel.” God tells him, on returning, to go up there, calling it already Bethel; and then appears a second time there to Jacob, and Jacob thereupon confirms to it the name of “Bethel.” He had a double reason; but it is called, in the second part of the history, Bethel already, before he gets there. So that the case is very simple and very clear, and there is no pretense of a reason to speak of it as two distinct independent accounts which are referred to.
The name of “Beersheba” was confirmed by Isaac, when he also established by oath his boundaries there with Abimelech, as Abraham had done. These circumstances both gave occasion to this name. Being the boundary-well, the engagement was repeated; and both engagements contributed to give it this name. But here there is not the smallest ground whatever for supposing that it was inattention to some other document; for it is stated (ver. 18), “And Isaac digged again the wells of water which they had digged in the days of Abraham his father; for the Philistines had stopped them after the death of Abraham. And he called their names after the names by which his father had called them;” And then it goes on to give an additional personal reason why the last had the same name.
As regards God’s saying, “But by my name Jehovah was I not known to them,” the meaning is as simple as possible. The words are— “And Elohim spake unto Moses [in the previous verses it is ‘Jehovah,’ spewing bow unfounded is the supposition of their belonging to distinct documents], and said unto him, I am Jehovah: 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.” Now here we have Elohim, Jehovah, El-Shaddai, all spoken of the one supreme God as different names; and then the Lord declares, exactly according to Genesis, that to the patriarchs He had revealed Himself as. El-Shaddai. (See Gen. 17; 35:11.) This was the name, the power of which He was specially to make good in their favor, in protecting them in their wanderings, “what time they went from one nation to another people.” Now that He was calling His people, He reveals Himself to them by another name, as the ground of relationship and of the expectation of faith on their part, as the existing One “who was, and is, and is to come,” though still the Almighty. He who now promised would live ever to perform, unchanged and unchangeable. Jehovah was God’s proper and peculiar name with His redeemed people. He had never taken this name as the ground of His dealings with Abraham, nor laid it as the basis on which his faith was to act. the New Testament, God takes yet another—that of Father. Hence He says, “I will be a Father, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” That is, God (Elohim), who had the two former names, Jehovah (or “Lord”) and Shaddai, (“Almighty”), now took this special one of Father with the saints. From the first calling out of the world to be separate from it, God Almighty, Jehovah, Father, characterized successively the position which God assumed for faith. Nothing can be plainer. I believe He is now God Almighty; but it is not the name by which He is known to me. He is known to me by the name of Father. “To us there is one God, the Father.”
If this be all German discoveries are worth, they deserve to be designated by a name which I shall not, however, permit myself to give them. I am sure they are not distinguished by any intelligence of the bearing of the work they are exercising their wits upon, nor of the force of the expressions contained in it.