Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I am Yahweh

The declaration of God, "I am the Lord" using the the covenant name Yahweh occurs nearly 200 times in the OT. Nearly three quarters of those are found in the books Exodus, Leviticus, and Ezekiel.

This suggests a few things: First, this invites a close connection between Exodus and Leviticus. The Exodus from Egypt is all about Yahweh, a display of His name, making His name known to the Israelites, their children, and the Egyptians. The plagues, the division between the Israelites and Egyptians, the death of the firstborn, the deliverance from Egypt: all of this is done so that they might "know that I am Yahweh."

When Leviticus repeats this phrase some forty or fifty times, it is frequently explicitly tied to the Exodus ("I am Yahweh who brought you out of Egypt...", etc.). But it is always implicitly referring back to that event, back to the revelation of Yahweh's name in the Exodus. They are to keep Yahweh's sabbaths because He is Yahweh who brought them out of Egypt. They are to be holy because they serve Yahweh who brought them out of Egypt. They are not to worship other gods because their God is Yahweh who brought them out of Egypt. They are to release their slaves, forgive debts, and care for orphans and widows because "I am Yahweh."

But when Ezekiel uses this phrase nearly seventy times, he is drawing off of both of these books. Ezekiel is a Moses pleading with Israel to leave Egypt, to leave the Jerusalem that has become an Egypt. But this already implies the Leviticus connection. Not living according to the word of God in Leviticus is to to "return to Egypt" while still living in Israel. To disobey Yahweh, to break covenant is to reject the Exodus, to take Israel back into Egypt. For Ezekiel to bring God's declaration, "I am Yahweh," is to remind Israel of Leviticus, to remind Israel of the word of their Redeemer, their Near-Kinsman who came and set them free.

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