According to BHS, Exodus 6:3 reads:

וָאֵרָ֗א אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֛ם אֶל־יִצְחָ֥ק וְאֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֖ב בְּאֵ֣ל שַׁדָּ֑י וּשְׁמִ֣י יְהוָ֔ה לֹ֥א נוֹדַ֖עְתִּי לָהֶֽם׃

This all almost universally translated as something like the following:

And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, but by my name YHWH I was not known to them.

However, Francis Andersen, in his book The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew argues for a translation that could convey the opposite meaning:

And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai, and my name is YHWH; did I not make myself known to them?

I do not have access to Andersen's work, so I do not know how he argues for this translation syntactically.

If anyone has access to his work or arguments supporting such a translation, I would be interested in reading them.

Also, is such a translation proposed or mentioned anywhere in ancient Jewish literature?

  • 10
    The "trup"/cantillation marks indicate that the normal way is correct. There's an "esnachta" under the word "sha-dai" which indicates where to pause and break up the phrase.
    – Binyomin
    Jun 3, 2020 at 8:05
  • 4
    @Binyomin bingo. Please flesh that out as an answer, I'll happily upvote b'n.
    – Shalom
    Jun 3, 2020 at 9:06
  • 3
    Thanks @Shalom my issue is the OP is asking for sources or arguments in favor of the alternate reading. So I don't know if a source against such a reading could count as an answer.
    – Binyomin
    Jun 3, 2020 at 9:13
  • 1
    Yes, I am asking for arguments in favor of the alternate reading, however the point about cantillation marks is appreciated. Jun 3, 2020 at 10:31
  • If this translation were correct, shouldn’t the passuk be הלא נודעתי להם, with the ה השאלה?
    – DonielF
    Jun 3, 2020 at 12:59

1 Answer 1


No, it is not correct. Andersen tries to apply the structure within the noncontiguous parallelism (AB-AB), but to do so he has made the Hebrew “LO” (not) a positive marker, indicating a rhetorical question.

A' "I am Yhwh" (v.2).

B' "And I made myself known to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as El Shaddai".

A' "And my name is Yhwh";

B' "Did I not make myself known to them?"

However, as pointed out by some scholars, he fails to consider that this verse could constitute an antithetical parallelism which is, according to professor Jared Hood, "most likely". Hood also mentions the failure to prove Andersen's assertion, noting that his translation violates some known grammatical and syntactical rules, as the word “LO” lacks the usual Hebrew interrogative particle, and more patently the construction makes the meaning of the verses even more difficult to determine.

He quotes R. W. L. Moberly¹ who has little patience with such a view:

‘How on earth would any reader of biblical Hebrew be expected to recognize that lo’ here does not have its familiar negative meaning”?

In his book Moberly goes further:

It would appear that for Andersen (...) arguments about the Hebrew of Exod. 6:3b are only introduced to buttress a conviction about what the text must mean when read against the context of Genesis. The suggestion that lo’ in 6:3b does not mean “not” needs a far better argument to become remotely plausible.

He then passes to consider the interpretation of Rashi as one of the "most serious option[s] for reinterpreting 6:3". Unfortunately his analysis of Rashi is too long to quote here. But you can check Rashi's commentary by yourself here.

¹R. W. L. Moberly, The Old Testament of the Old Testament: Patriarchal Narratives and Mosaic Yahwism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992) 57.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .