Jehovah Makes an Exalted Name for Himself
“A NAME is better than good oil,” say the Scriptures. (Eccl. 7:1) Yes, a good name is worth more than money. To be respected and relied on, a person must have a good name. As Sovereign of the universe, Jehovah God wants people to know his illustrious name. Those who look to that name with respect for what it stands for bring happiness to him and everlasting benefits to themselves.
Abraham was a man who loved Jehovah, revered his name and valued the friendship of such an incomparable God more than gold and all precious jewels. Jehovah responded to Abraham’s fine respect for his name by transferring the Edenic promise of a woman’s seed to a covenant to Abraham, promising to make him a great nation. Furthermore, Abraham’s descendants were promised the land “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.”—Gen. 3:15; 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:18-21.
This ran contrary to the ambitions of a certain group of men who were at that time very successfully engaged in making a name for themselves. We do not refer to the rulers of Babylon, for that city failed to become the First World Power. The men involved were the rulers of Egypt, who were building an empire that extended from a point 950 miles south of the Nile delta northward clear across Palestine to the Euphrates River.
Under the guidance of Satan the Devil imperial Egypt became the First World Power of Bible history. With the situation as it was, a collision was unavoidable. The time was bound to come for Jehovah to display his power over Egypt and to show his sovereignty over all the earth. Jehovah foresaw this when he told Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved, but that in the fourth generation* Jehovah would deliver them and execute judgments upon the oppressor nation. No power that stood up against Jehovah’s name and sought to make one for itself could possibly stand before him.—Gen. 15:13-16.
ISRAEL COMES UNDER FIRST WORLD POWER
Abraham once stayed in Egypt for a while during a famine, and God had to rebuke the Pharaoh of that day in Abraham’s behalf. (Gen. 12:10-20) It was again a famine that brought Jacob’s household into Egypt. Providentially, twenty years before that famine, Joseph, the son of Jacob, had been kidnaped and sold into slavery in Egypt. Joseph underwent many rigorous tests of loyalty to the name of his God Jehovah, being enslaved, imprisoned and seemingly made a forgotten man. But because of his loyalty, speaking truth in the name of God, God was his friend. He sent Pharaoh a dream that no one could interpret. Finally Joseph was remembered and called before Pharaoh, and by Jehovah’s spirit he interpreted the dream as a forecast of seven years of plenty to be followed by seven years of famine. The delighted Pharaoh made him prime minister. Then, just as predicted, the seven years of unusual abundance began and Joseph had tremendous supplies of foodstuffs stored away. When the drought hit, Joseph was able to sell the people food from the warehouses.—Genesis chaps. 37, 39-41.
Jacob, up in Canaan, was affected by the famine and was forced to send his sons down to Egypt to buy food. Joseph recognized his ten brothers, but they did not recognize him. After proving their brotherly love by severe tests, he revealed himself to them. So it developed that in 1728 B.C.E. Jacob or Israel and all his living descendants, numbering seventy at the time, moved into Egypt into the district called Goshen.—Gen. 42:1-45:28; 46:8–47:6.
In Egypt Jehovah’s promise to Abraham to make his seed like the stars of heaven and the sand of the seashore began to have a fulfillment, for the twelve tribes multiplied phenomenally. Meanwhile the dynasty of the Hyksos or shepherd kings who were ruling in Joseph’s day was driven out and replaced by a new set of rulers. These new rulers did not know or recall the name of Joseph and they felt no sense of gratitude to the Israelites or to their God Jehovah. They enslaved the Israelites, even going so far as to practice genocide by commanding that all Hebrew male babies be drowned in the Nile at birth.—Ex. 1:7, 22.
At this point the Egyptian masters may have asked the Hebrews: “Where is Jehovah and his promise?” But there were those among the Israelites who maintained strong faith in God’s name, notably Amram and his wife Jochebed, the parents of Moses. They refused to obey the orders of Pharaoh to destroy the child. Moses, by divine arrangement, was brought up in the discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah by his mother, after which he was adopted as a son by Pharaoh’s daughter. In the fortieth year of his life he killed an Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew and was forced to flee into Midian, where he married and became a shepherd. God was not yet ready to make His name great in Egypt. Forty years elapsed.—Ex. 2:1-21.
A DELIVERER SENT IN JEHOVAH’S NAME
Jehovah had not forgotten his promise to Abraham. One day, at the base of Mount Horeb, Jehovah’s angel spoke to the shepherd Moses out of a bush that burned but was not consumed by the flame. Here Jehovah revealed that the time had come to deliver Israel and that he would now outstandingly make a name for himself. As credentials so that the Israelites might know that Moses was commissioned by God, God revealed that Moses was to speak in the name of Jehovah; then he empowered him as the first man to perform miracles in that name. The forefathers had known him as God Almighty, but by his name Jehovah he had not made himself known to them.—Ex. 3:1-17; 4:1-9; 6:3.
Had not the faithful men Abraham, Isaac and Jacob known God’s name Jehovah? Yes, and they also knew that it had reference to his purpose toward his people. Abraham had known him as God Almighty, however, in a most intimate and forceful way. God had appeared to him when he and Sarah were beyond the age of childbearing and had promised them a son. To strengthen faith in this promise, God said: “I am God Almighty.” Abraham, within the year, saw this have fulfillment and therefore knew by personal experience that he was God Almighty. But neither Abraham, Isaac nor Jacob lived to see Jehovah’s stated purpose carried out in making their offspring numerous as the stars of heaven and a great nation. Now the time had come for God to focus the spotlight on his name Jehovah. Moses and his brother Israelites would see and experience the significance of Jehovah’s name in a brilliance with which it had never shone before.—Gen. 17:1, 21; 21:1-7.
FIRST WORLD POWER CHALLENGES JEHOVAH
Moses and his older brother Aaron returned to Egypt. On appearing before the king of that First World Power they were met by the defiant answer: “Who is Jehovah, so that I should obey his voice to send Israel away? I do not know Jehovah at all.” (Ex. 5:1, 2) God thereafter announced to Pharaoh: “But, in fact, for this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth.” (Ex. 9:16) So he gave Pharaoh a reason for keeping him alive instead of destroying him at that moment. By means of ten plagues he showed his superiority over the various gods of Egypt. After the ninth plague Pharaoh hardheartedly told Moses to get out. Before leaving, Moses replied that but one plague more, the tenth, would force Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.—Ex. 10:27-29; 11:4-8.
Preparation displaying faith in the name of Jehovah and his word was now required on the part of Israel. There was a danger to their firstborn of both man and beast. Jehovah directed Moses to call together the older men, the heads of the households, to tell them what they must do for protection for their firstborn. It was the head of the household who had to take action; if not, there was nothing that the firstborn one could do but take the consequences of the failure of the household head. The household would suffer a tremendous loss. In addition, if these older men of Israel should not obey instructions and should lose their firstborn, then Pharaoh would see no difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians, and the Israelites would not be able to march out as a free people the next day under Pharaoh’s urging.
Jehovah decreed that the month of Nisan now be counted the first month of the year. On the tenth day of the month they were to select an unblemished male sheep or a goat. On the fourteenth day, which began at sunset, the head of the household must slaughter the sheep and splash its blood upon the doorposts and upper part of the doorway where it could be plainly seen. Then the entire household must come inside and stay in the house all night. Without breaking any of the sheep’s bones they were to roast it, then eat it along with unleavened bread and bitter greens.—Ex. 12:1-13.
They had to be dressed and equipped, eating the passover meal standing up, ready to leave on their march to liberty. Jehovah’s angel would pass over the houses displaying the blood when he went forth to kill all the firstborn of men and animals. If anyone, firstborn or not, went outside the house, out from under the protection of the blood, he too would suffer death. “And it came about that at midnight Jehovah struck every first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh sitting on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the prison hole, and every first-born of beast.” (Ex. 12:29) What an outcry from the plagued Egyptian homes shattered the midnight stillness of that night of Nisan 14! But it was just as Jehovah’s reliable word through Moses had warned Pharaoh: “Israel is my son, my first-born [the whole nation]. And I say to you: Send my son [the whole nation] away that he may serve me. But should you refuse to send him away, here I am killing your son, your first-born.”—Ex. 4:22, 23.
From one standpoint the firstborn sons of Israel represented the entire nation, for the firstborn sons were the ones who succeeded to become the heads of the households. The firstborn son received two parts of the family inheritance. So these particular ones directly liable to death during the tenth plague represented Israel as a whole, God’s “firstborn” nation.—Deut. 21:17.
HEARTS OF MIXED CROWD SOFTENED TOWARD JEHOVAH
Pharaoh in terror urged the Israelites to get out of Egypt. Exodus 12:40, 41 reports: “And the dwelling of the sons of Israel, who had dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came about at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, it even came about on this very day that all the armies of Jehovah went out of the land of Egypt.” This was on Nisan 14, 1513 B.C.E., exactly 430 years since Abraham had crossed the Euphrates River into Canaan, 215 of which years were spent in Egypt itself. With this the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Greek Septuagint translation agree.
Jehovah had made his name brilliant above all the other gods. But he had to get a complete triumph over that great First World Power as well. He maneuvered matters to that end. “And they proceeded to pull away from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. Directly the day after the passover the sons of Israel went out with uplifted hand before the eyes of all the Egyptians. All the while the Egyptians were burying those whom Jehovah had struck among them, that is, all the firstborn; and upon their gods Jehovah had executed judgments.” (Num. 33:3, 4) Jehovah made for himself so famous a name through the plagues that many people were favorably impressed and were softened in heart toward that name and turned from their false gods. “And a vast mixed company also went up with them, as well as flocks and herds, a very numerous stock of animals.” They all had to depend upon Jehovah to take care of them.—Ex. 12:38.
A pillar of cloud miraculously appeared at the head of the organized congregation. It did not lead them toward Palestine, but to the Egyptian shore of the Red Sea. Pharaoh got word of this. He assumed they were trapped. Hastily he summoned his chariots and military forces and dashed in pursuit. But what a roadblock confronted him! By angelic means the pillar of cloud moved from in front of the Israelites to the rear, in front of the Egyptians, and kept them away from the Israelites all night.—Ex. 14:5-20.
In the morning, the Egyptians could hardly believe their own eyes. The Red Sea had opened up! and there, down the vista of a long corridor right across the dry seabed, the Israelites’ rear guard was seen in the distance. “The waters were for them a wall on their right hand and on their left.” (Ex. 14:29) Ah, but their rear seemed to be exposed! “And the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all the horses of Pharaoh, his war chariots and his cavalrymen began going in after them, into the midst of the sea. And it came about during the morning watch that Jehovah began to look out upon the camp of the Egyptians from within the pillar of fire and cloud, and he went throwing the camp of the Egyptians into confusion. And he kept taking wheels off their chariots so that they were driving them with difficulty; and the Egyptians began to say: ‘Let us flee from any contact with Israel, because Jehovah certainly fights for them against the Egyptians.’”—Ex. 14:21-25.
JEHOVAH’S NAME PRAISED IN SONG
But it was too late. They had made the grave mistake of defying the name of Jehovah! God commanded Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea. The waters rushed together and the Israelites, safe on the eastern shore, saw their Egyptian pursuers overwhelmed, every one drowned. Jehovah had shown his mighty sovereign power over that world power. Moses then led the Israelites in a thanksgiving song of praise to Jehovah, giving him credit for the victory, lauding his name. He sang of Jehovah as “king to time indefinite, even forever.”—Ex. 14:26-31; 15:1-19; Ps. 136:15.
Jehovah had shown great respect for his name and for that which was bound up with his name. Now the Israelites knew Jehovah in a way different from what they had known him before. They saw at last the fulfillment of his promise to Abraham to deliver them with a high hand and to judge that oppressor nation. This exalted his name to new heights. But there was more yet that Jehovah would do, and in later issues of this magazine we will see how he went on to establish them as a great and mighty nation that endured for centuries and served as a steppingstone to the final and great complete fulfillment of his covenant promise to his beloved friend Abraham, in which he will bring a glorious brilliance to his name that will make his mighty deliverance from Egypt seem small by comparison.
The four generations may be counted through (1) Levi, (2) Kohath, (3) Amram, (4) Moses or (1) Judah, (2) Perez, (3) Hezron, (4) Caleb.