Joshua 22:22

On Joshua 22:22

GOD, God, the LORD, GOD, God, the LORD, he knows!

In Joshua 22:22, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, known collectively as the Transjordanians, were defending themselves in confrontation with the clans of Israel, who were about to declare war on them for committing sacrilege in building an unauthorised altar to the LORD. Their impassioned appeal to God involves a repeated group of three names, each with a different feeling for who this God is.

The first name is el. This is a Canaanite word, the generic local word for God, the same in sound as a word meaning ‘strength’. This is a name from times of yore, patriarchal times, when Jacob wrestled with God and prevailed and was renamed Israel.

The second name is the Israelite generic word for the Israelite God: elohim. It is under this name that God is revealed as Creator in the beginning. What strikes us about this word is that it is plural in form although denoting a singular God.

The third name is adonai, Yahweh, which we have considered in a previous study. This is an appeal to the very heart of Israel’s identity, her being God’s chosen to bear his own personal Name. “You only have I chosen,” says God – with all that that entailed.

We usually hear the names elohim and adonai the other way round, in the very common Jewish compound name for God, adonai elohim, which may be compared in flavour with our Jesus Christ. This name is repeated so often that it becomes embedded in the mind. The unexpected reversal of the elements adonai and elohim is particularly striking to the reader, as well as lending a cumulative emotional power to the indignancy of the Transjordanians.

El elohim adonai el elohim adonai, hu yodea

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