When God sends Moshe back to Egypt from Midyan, he instructs Moshe to refer to God as "Hashem." (Shemot 3:15) When Moshe returns from the task, God reveals that the Israelites (or at least their forefathers) never knew God as "Hashem," but rather by a different name, "Kel Sha-dai." (Shemot 6:3) Why did God not instruct Moshe to use both so that the Israelites would better recognize God's name?

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    Josh, first of all, welcome to Mi Yodeya! I hope you find an answer that satisfies your question, and that you find the site interesting and useful, and that you stick around.
    – Seth J
    Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 3:05
  • Second, it might help to clarify that, if I understand your question correctly, you're not interested in what the names mean, but why an unfamiliar name was chosen for Moshe's mission; that is, unless something in the meaning explains why these names were (not/)employed in this way.
    – Seth J
    Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 3:08

1 Answer 1


Ibn Ezra on the second verse you refer to (Exodus 6:3), citing Rav Saadya Gaon, explains that the meaning of this verse is not that the Jews had never heard this name before (in fact, the name had been used with Abraham and Jacob), but rather that the name was not used exclusively.

כאילו אמר ובשמי ה' לבדו לא נודעתי להם רק פעם באל שדי ופעם בשם ה'...והנה מצאנו כתוב באברהם אני ה' אשר הוצאתיך מאור כשדים. וביעקב אני ה' אלהי אברהם אביך. ורבי ישועה אמר כי אברהם ויעקב לא ידעו זה השם רק משה כתב ככה. ולא דבר ר' ישועה נכונה. כי איך יכתוב משה שם לא הזכירו השם. ואין ספק כי האבות ידעו זה השם...‏

The explanation of this verse is that God did not make himself known with the name Hashem exclusively, sometimes using the name שדי and other times using Hashem. ...[Examples of God using the name Hashem with Abraham and Jacob] Rabbi Yeshuah said that Abraham and Jacob did not know the name Hashem, but Moshe wrote that name anyway. This is not correct -- how could Moshe write a name that wasn't used? There is no doubt that the Forefathers knew this name...

(my own translation)

  • We still never find that they knew the name of אהי-ה אשר אהי-ה. I don't see how this answers the question. Why not use a name they knew?
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 2:08
  • @DonielF, I don't see that the name אהי-ה אשר אהי-ה was mentioned in the question. Perhaps I'm missing something? It's been a while since I answered this question, and I don't have the time right now to take a really close look at it and the verses it cites.
    – MTL
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 2:28
  • You are correct, the passuk quoted by the OP has HaShem tell Moshe to use the Shem HaMeforash. However, the previous Pesukim have HaShem telling Moshe to use the name אהי-ה אשר אהי-ה and then shorten it to just אהי-ה.
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 3:40
  • @DonielF That might be, but I don't see how that's relevant to the question of "Why does God [...] use a name the Israelites won't know?," which specifically mentions ושמי השם לא נודעתי להם.
    – MTL
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 4:00
  • I don't have a Chumash with me ATM but I'm pretty sure Hashem only ever used אהי-ה with Moshe.
    – MTL
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 4:02

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