One of the central themes of the Pentateuch is the revelation of God’s proper name, YHWH. Below are seven summary theses drawn therefrom.
(1) The revelation of the divine name is an act of divine condescension in which the high God stoops down and self-proclaims his name to us in our language (Exod 34:5; cf. John 1:14-18; WCF 7.1).
(2) In proclaiming his name in our language, God puts creaturely signs to holy use. The burning bush is the chief symbol of this holy use (Exod 3:1-6).
(3) God unfolds the meaning of his name to us progressively. He “appeared” to the fathers as “El Shaddai.” He “makes” himself “known” to Israel by his name “YHWH” (Exod 6:3).
(4) In the progressive revelation of his name, God associates his name with his being or existence (Exod 3:14: “I am who I am,” “I am the one who is” [LXX]; cf. Rev 1:8), his power (Exod 9:16: “my power,” “my name”), and his goodness (Exod 33:19: “my goodness,” “my name”). In so doing, God reveals himself to be the determining factor in moving redemptive history forward: his being is the reason the things once promised to the fathers will now come into being; his power brings about change in history, i.e., the defeat of Pharaoh and the deliverance of Israel; his goodness is the reason why a holy God is able to dwell in the midst of a sinful people. In each instance, moreover, God’s name is the sign of the unconditioned nature of his being, agency, and goodness (see the name’s idem per idem form in Exod 3:14 and 33:18-19; see also Exodus 15, which praises YHWH’s unrivalled power in judgment and deliverance; and Deut 4:32-35, which proclaims the unprecedented nature of YHWH’s acts of judgment, deliverance, and revelation). Uncaused in his being, agency, and goodness, YHWH is the supreme cause of all that is, all that comes to pass, all blessing that abides.
(5) In each successive act of self-revelation, God proclaims his name by means of many names: God proclaims his existence, power, goodness, compassion, grace, longsuffering, steadfast love, faithfulness, sin-bearing forgiveness, righteousness, and oneness (Exod 3:14; 9:16; 34:6-7; Deut 4:35; 6:4). Nevertheless, in each successive act of self-revelation, God proclaims only one name, his proper name, YHWH (Exod 34:6).
(6) In revealing his name, God reveals the transcendent uniqueness of his being, agency, and goodness. His proper name does not pick him out of a larger class of beings, not even a larger class of gods (Deut 4:35; 32:8, 17). His perfections do not locate him within a broader genus or species. He cannot be categorized alongside or compared to creatures (Deut 4:15-19). YHWH is holy, set apart from all that is common, all that is profane; he is utterly pure (Exod 3:5; 15:11; 32:10; Lev 22:32; etc.). YHWH is supremely one (Deut 6:4), supremely unique and incomparable (Exod15:11). YHWH, therefore, is supremely worthy of our reverence (Exod 3:5) and supremely worthy of our love (Deut 6:5).
(7) The revelation of the divine name is thus an occasion for prostration in worship (Exod 34:8), prayer (Exod 34:9), and praise: “Who is like you, O YHWH, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11).