Not by Name

Everybody enjoys a good western.  The good guys, the shooting, the cattle drives, the anachronisms.  An anachronism is anything that belongs in another period of time than which it exists.  Occasionally, western movies can be guilty of them.  Jet Contrails in the sky over a wagon train, hereford cattle on a drive, and even the occasional radar tower in the back ground of a posse chase.

Over the years, scholars have attacked the Bible because of alleged anachronisms.  Domesticated camels in Genesis, according to the leading Biblical archaeologist of the first 50 years of the 20th century, was an anachronism of biblical proportions (pun intended); however, recent research has proven the early domestication of camels and their place in the patriarchal narratives.(Camels and the Patriarchal Narratives)  The most often cited anachronism is the use of the name Yahweh in Abraham’s story.  Moses has been herding sheep for 40 years in the desert when he stumbles upon a bush that talks to him.  His instructions were to go to the most powerful man in the world and demand of him freedom for his people.  Moses excuses’ aside, he goes and is met with the expected resistance from Pharaoh.  When Pharaoh answers, Moses’ excuses turns into blame.

“Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘O, Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people?  Is this why you sent me?  Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.'” (Ex. 5.22-23)

Moses complains to God and he voices his anger about the situation that he is now in the middle of.  But God’s reply to him is more an appeal to His character rather than the current situation.  Moses is looking for an answer to the problem and God, instead, reveals His identity.

“God also said to Moses, ‘I am the Lord.  I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord (Yahweh) I did not make myself known to them.  I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens.  Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.'”(Ex 6.2-5)

Abram, back in Genesis 12-15, was spoken to by Yahweh (12.1), worshipped Yahweh (13.4), cut a covenant with Yahweh (15.1), and trusted in Yahweh (15.6).  Yahweh had a relationship with Abram.  So, then, why would Yahweh say that He did not make himself known to them?

The hebrew word for know” is the word yada’.  It is a word that conveys intimate knowldege, understanding, and experience.  Adam “knew” [yada] Eve (Gen 4.1) and the Israelites “experienced” [yada] all that God did in the conquest of the Promised land (Josh 24.31).  Yada is experience, knowledge, and wisdom…stuff that Abram dreamed about with the Lord.

Abram only had a theoretical knowledge of Yahweh.  Yahweh is the covenantal name of God…the close, personal name of God.  Abram knew about Yahweh, but hadn’t fully experienced Him.  Most of the time in Exodus, yada is used of God in connection with His power to save His people through the Exodus.  Yahweh’s full identity, his covenantal, personal, redemptive identity, would be shown in his work in delivering His people from bondage.  Abram didn’t have this practical, experiential knowledge, the yada of the Lord.



The literary device of the “everyman” has run its course.  The everyman was supposed to be a compilation of all things men; a circle of attributes, attitudes, and activities that all men, everywhere do.  Sadly, it has also become a way of measuring men against a arbitrary list of accomplishments, communicating the message: “if you aren’t like the Dos Equis man, you don’t measure up.”

Trolling through the news this morning, posted an op ed. article, written by a woman, that asked an interesting question: “Is the ‘be a man’ stereotype hurting boys?”  I can only assume the image of Jaylen Fryberg, the most recent school shooter, holding what appears to be a deer rifle, had something to do with her thesis, however, the ties were a bit thin.  The article did quote a few of his facebook posts, non-descript and vague references to situations and his reactions to them; but nothing that would be considered a direct threat upon anyone involved.  The goal was to connect Jaylen with the pressure that young men face to live up to the “be a man” standard that is pushed via every form of media.  I have a problem with this for a couple reasons.

  • “Be a man” has been shouted at me on sports fields, in arenas, and every other form of sports and recreation arena throughout my entire life.  Where these things were never shouted to me was when I need to be the first to forgive, the one to lead my wife spiritually, the one to offer reconciliation, or to serve and protect those around me.  Where were the people shouting “be a man” then.  “Be a man” is better translated: “Toughen up in useless endeavors, but when it comes to raising kids, being a husband, leading your family who cares.”  But that takes to long to say.
  • Was Jalyen struggling with the “be a man” mentality: YES!  How do I know that?  From his facebook page? From his twitter account?  From his actions?  No!  Because he’s a guy and we all struggle with it.  The late onset of manhood in our country (some would argue as late as the mid thirties for the arrival of manhood), stems in part from this mentality that manhood (responsibility, leadership, integrity, and self-dependence) is so hard to grasp, with so many pressures, that I would rather start living that way later and embrace the low standards, responsibility free life of bachelor-hood right now.  The pervasive feeling of never living up to the “be a man” standard is cuasing more and more boys to put off even trying.

So what’s the answer?  How do we fix the problem?

It starts with our definition of manhood.  Framing manhood as a balance between the warrior King David, who led his troops into battle and fought for God’s Kingdom, and the poet David who showed the tenderness of his heart in the Psalms.  Calling men to a manhood that reflects power and the ability to harness it.  The picture of manhood that is connected to his heavenly Father from where he receives his resolve and fortitude.  We need a picture of manhood that is offered grace when we fail, forgiveness for when we stumble, and an identity for what we can become.  We need the cross of Christ who offers all these things.

The “be a man” mantra is not all bad, its just that we need to figure out what kind of man it is we need to become.