The bit where Abraham asks for God's name sounds like they are still strangers to each other having spent little time discussing things, and yet God selects him. Why is that?

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    welcome to judaism.stackexchange! This question could be better answered if you could refer us to which chapter and verses you're thinking about.
    – Shalom
    Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 13:49

2 Answers 2


I suspect you may be confusing several different verses.

For starters, thinkers such as Maharal have argued that the Bible omits most of Abraham's backstory because it's not our business to know about G-d's criteria for choosing him. "Why are the Jews the chosen people? Because G-d chose them." The focus is instead on doing our part, now that we are chosen.

Now in Exodus Chapter 6, G-d gives Moses (several hundred years after Abraham) a history lesson and tells him that He was not known by the name YHVH to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This means that they never had the full prophetic experience that Moses would achieve, and that they didn't get to see the "beyond-time" existence of G-d that Moses would. (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all got promises about what would happen to their children; Moses got to see those promises carried out.)

Or perhaps you mean Exodus 33, where Moses has pleaded that G-d not destroy the people for worshipping the golden calf. Successful, Moses goes on to try to better understand G-d (which our commentaries say includes understanding G-d's ways; both forgiveness for bad things, and bad things happening to good people). But the only way to know the mind of G-d is to be G-d, and we are human and finite, so Moses goes farther than any other human with his success, but still only so far.

  • Knowing the name does not prevent one from doing the right thing, but it is amazing God would give so much to Abraham, even though he didnt know some of the basics. Commented Sep 27, 2011 at 23:08
  • @jennifer34, or are you referring to Exodus 3:13 where Moses asks G-d what he should tell the children of Israel when they ask "what is His name"?: mechon-mamre.org/e/et/et0203.htm I'm just not aware of anywhere where Abraham asks such a question.
    – YDK
    Commented Sep 28, 2011 at 4:08
  • where is this Maharal??
    – juanora
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 12:10

You don't need to know God's name to know that there is a god whom you should be paying attention to. There is a midrash in Bereshit Rabbah 39 where Avraham deduces the existence of God who created the world, and only then did God call out to Avraham. Is there a causal relationship? The midrash implies it but torah never tells us; as @Shalom said, the torah itself doesn't explain why God chose Avraham (or Moshe or Yisrael), just that He did.

Summary of the midrash from my notes after a class:

Mashal: One day a man was traveling and he saw a tower (birah) "on fire" (doleket). He said, this tower has no owner? A man peeked out and said "I am the owner". Nimshal: The traveler is Avraham Avinu, who said: this world has no owner? And ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu peeked out at him, saying: I am the ruler of this world. According to this midrash, God didn't reveal himself to Avraham until Avraham deduced that the world must have a creator/ruler and went looking. Avraham was a seeker; God didn't just speak to him out of the blue and say "lech l'cha".

So, to sum up, God chose Avraham because Avraham was perceptive/curious enough to seek out the Master of the Universe.

  • There are so many other people that are curious enough, including me, and pretty much all sceptics. So why only Abraham get chosen?
    – user4951
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 15:17
  • Maybe he was the first? We all have Avrhaam's (and others') model to follow, but he was blazing new territory. Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 15:27
  • Avraham is correct that there can't be many gods. What about there isn't even one?
    – user4951
    Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 15:50
  • It seems plausible that both opinions were out there (many gods, no god). I'm not up on the beliefs of all the surrounding peoples at the time, sorry. (You could ask.) Commented Dec 21, 2012 at 15:54
  • When are you curious. You have to have a lot of will to know the answer for your curiosity. Since no answer was enough for Avraham, we presume that he was very intelligent, wise and had a lot of strength of willing.
    – juanora
    Commented Jun 12, 2013 at 12:22

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