Phone Line Transcript 2001
66 Books You Should NOT Read If You
Want To Remain a Jehovah's Witness
(Phone Series) No.1: GENESIS: Who is Jehovah?
Jehovah's Witnesses, to their credit, have always taken seriously the declaration of Genesis ch.1 that it was God, the ONE God, who created heaven and earth. They know that the nations all around ancient Israel worshipped many gods, and that each of these gods had local power or jurisdiction, or was the power of a limited area of the created universe. These pagan neighbours of Israel had one god for the moon, one for the sun, one for the sea and so on. But the God of Israel, Genesis tells us, created all, the heavens and the earth, which is the Hebrew way of saying all that is, the whole universe and all in it.
Therefore this one God, elohim in the Hebrew original, is spoken of 35 times in the creation account before we are introduced to another name for the same God, a name with which Jehovah's Witnesses are identified closely, at least that is their claim. This new name for God we meet for the first time in ch.2:4: in Hebrew it consists of 4 consonants YHWH. The most familiar English rendering of this name is Jehovah, but most Hebrew scholars favour Yahweh as a more accurate and acceptable pronunciation.
Why do we meet this name at this point in the Hebrew narrative? Scholars who have spent their lives examining the fine points of the Hebrew Scriptures generally offer 3 explanations for the use of YHWH in chapter 2, in contrast to the exclusive use of ELOHIM (God) in ch.1. First, elohim is God beyond the universe, outside time and space, God transcending that which He creates. God revealed in nature and power. Yahweh, on the other hand, is God personally present within His creation, revealing Himself directly to man made in His image. So it is God/elohim who creates man in ch.1, but Yahweh who breathes into clay the breath of life, so that man becomes a living soul; too, it is God/elohim who speaks the heavens and earth into being in 1:3, but it is Yahweh who speaks personally to Adam in ch.2. Even in ch.3, after Adam and Eve have turned away from their Creator, this same Yahweh seeks them out and personally pronounces judgment on them. They in guilt hide from Him -- they heard the voice of Jehovah God walking in the garden -- and in their fear fled Yahweh. But Yahweh seeks them out, and even while pronouncing the death sentence upon them, yet offers a hope for them. As a matter of fact, before expelling them from Eden, Yahweh clothes Adam and Eve, replacing their inadequate leaves with the skins of animals. Here, for the first time, we glimpse the cost of man's ultimate redemption -- the substitution of another life for the life of the sinner.
After the expulsion from Eden, Yahweh continues to care for the human family. In fact, now the name Yahweh appears for the first time alone. In chapters 2 and 3 the Hebrew names Yahweh and Elohim appear continually together, but now, as Yahweh encounters the murderer Cain, the name Yahweh appears alone. This phenomenon, like all distinctive uses of the names of God, has great significance to Hebrew scholars. Here, as in ch.2, it is Yahweh, not Elohim, who deals directly with Cain, pronouncing judgment but even in revealing His wrath protecting Cain with a sign. So we see a third characteristic of Yahweh, which extend our knowledge of God beyond Elohim the creator: Yahweh is the faithful God, as well as God personally present and God self-revealing.
In this revelation to the murderer Cain we catch a glimpse of the ultimate significance of the name Yahweh. In all these aspects, Yahweh personally present, Yahweh self-revealing and Yahweh the faithful God, Hebrew scholars see the revelation of the name as the covenant name of the God of Israel. For when in Gen.12 we read of God calling Abraham into a covenant relationship, we read that Yahweh spoke (v.1), and Yahweh appeared to Abraham (v.7). And we note that is Yahweh/Jehovah who chooses Abram, not Abram who chooses to enter covenant with Abram.
In the face of these Genesis facts, we ask Jehovah's Witnesses a serious question: Does the Watchtower allow you to believe in THIS Jehovah -- the God who deals directly with sinners as well as saints, who walks and talks with men personally, who appears to men as well as speaks to them. Jehovah's Witnesses, don't try to reason away the plain statements of Scripture. Abram did not refuse to believe that God could speak to him, that God could appear to him. We read rather, Abram built an altar there to Jehovah who had appeared to him. Abram worshipped Jehovah/Yahweh. That is the reverent response that Jehovah/Yahweh requires of all of us. Do not let men tell you that Jehovah can only be known second hand, that Yahweh speaks only through them.
Next week: Is anything impossible for Jehovah?