Tuesday, April 3, 2007

On The Names Of God

"Jonah in the Fish" -- David Coker

I was weaned on the King James Version of the Bible (and the language thereof still doth fill my heart and lips upon occasion) and was taught to call God Jehovah which is a good Old Testament sounding name. During my early days at Seminary imagine my naive surprise when I attended chapel and someone read a lesson from scripture that called God -- Yahweh. "What," I thought. But I learned. Actually I learned a lot that my Sunday school over looked namely that God had a few names in Genesis and the other Books of Moses. One writer used Yahweh (or in King James Jehovah). Another writer used Elohim which is actually plural. In addition they are sometimes used together. We find this in Jonah. JWS

The name Lord (YaHWeH) is used 22 times. God (Elohim or El once) 13 times, and the combination Lord God 4 times for a total of 39 references in 48 What do we make of the patterns of these names? What do they say about God? Scholars have as many opinions as
there are scholars.

"However one, Jonathan Magonet has suggested an explanation that is simple and compelling. When the narrator is speaking of divine punishing action, the narrator uses the more general, Elohim or God. ... however, where the emphasis in on divine grace, mercy, and care, the more personal designation Yahweh again appears. The compound form Yahweh Eolhim (Lord God) in 4:6 makes the transition." [JONAH A Commentary pg. 45 -- Limberg]

Again we find and layer upon layer. Jonah is brief in length but not in depth. Like Jonah we go down to the deep and find ourselves, if we dare, and having met ourselves we are found by God in all the complexity, fierce beauty, judgment and grace of the divine presence. JWS