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We sometimes see the term "YHVH Elohim", like in Genesis 2-4. I don't understand why it doesn't just say one or the other, like in many other places in the torah.

According to the Documentary Hypothesis, the term Elohim in the Torah is from a scribal class of individuals known as the Elohist group, and the term YHWH is due to the Yahwist source of scribal individuals. The DH would explain the duplication as an edit reconciling two different source versions.

How does Judaism understand this duplication? Why does a torah written by one author sometimes use both names instead of just one?

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    It also shows up elsewhere, such as Exo 9:30. Not that that is at all a reasonable deduction. It's just trying to fit things into a preexisting model. – Double AA Jul 15 '16 at 13:33
  • I think Umberto Cassuto might address this in his lectures on the documentary hypothesis, but I don't remember for sure. – mevaqesh Jul 15 '16 at 15:56
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    Rabbi Hirtz (Chief Rabbi og Great Britain in the 1930's) explained in his edition of the Chumash why the "Documentary Hypothesis" is false. He has several complete essays on the subject which explain this. – sabbahillel Jul 17 '16 at 1:59
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Our tradition teaches that the name of G-d, the tetragrammaton, refers to G-d in his attribute of mercy (and other things too). Elokim refers to G-d in his attribute of strict judgement.

Chizkuni (commentaries to be found at http://www.sefaria.org/) says:

ביום עשות ה' אלקים עכשיו כשנבנו שמים וארץ במילואם הזכיר  עליהם שם המיוחד משום דברב עם הדרת מלך וכן מצינו אין מזמנין על המזון בשם בפחות מעשרה. כאן פרש"י שיתף הקב"ה מדת הרחמים עם מדת הדין והיינו דכתיב וה' שמים עשה פי' הוא בעל מדת הרחמים עם מדת דינו עשה השמים

Now that the heavens and earth were completed, the text mentions the tetragrammaton is relation to the creation, because “in the multitude of the people is the glory of the King” and we find similarly that in the introduction/invitation to blessing after a meal, we do not mention Hashem's name with less than 10 people. Rashi (elsewhere) explains similarly, that G-d added his attribute of mercy to his attribute of judgement as it says “and G-d created the heavens” which means God in his attribute of mercy with his attribute of strict judgement created the heavens.

The Seforno says:

ביום עשות ה' אלהים ארץ ושמים ביום שסדר הנהגת הארץ ותולדותיה מן השמים על סדר מתמיד וזה אחר ששת ימי בראשית ואז נקרא ה' אלהים שבסדרו התמיד ההוים:ביום עשות ה' אלוקים ארץ ושמים,

this potential (for heaven and earth to produce the inhabitants of their respective domains) was translated into actuality only on the day when G’d completed עשות, i.e. arranged in detail how these derivatives were to function and where and when. This occurred after the six “days” of creative activity. Only when that stage had been reached was G’d referred to in the Torah by His full name, i.e. ה' אלוקים.

So we have two similar possibilities: Once G-d completed creation, He added mercy to judgement for the world …. and ... only when that stage had been reached could G-d be referred to in the Torah by His full name, i.e. ה' אלוקים.

  • While the question was not clear, it appears that a major part of it is the frequencies of different names of God in different books (cf. wikipedia). The answer could be improved with reference to this. – mevaqesh Jul 15 '16 at 18:27

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