Troublesome Topic: God’s Introduction to His Covenant

Lesson 3 of 10

Exodus 20:2


I am YHVH,

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(read Adonai your Elohim)

who brought you out of EGYPT,

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out of the house of slavery.


I am the ETERNAL AND PERSONAL GOD, THE CREATOR AND RULER OVER ALL THINGS, the one who brought you out of THE PLACE BESEIGED BY SIN, out of the place in which you were slaves.

The first thing that always appeared at the beginning of the introduction to this type of covenant was the identity of the sovereign king who was establishing the covenant. When God states His identity in the introduction to the covenant with Israel at Sinai, He does just that, He states it and goes on. There are no flowers to dress it up, or media frenzy to hype it up. He simply stated, “I am the LORD your God.” Most kings tried to make themselves look bigger than life; the covenant of Suppiluliumas starts out saying, “These are the words of the Sun, Suppiluliumas, the great king, the king of Hatti land, the valiant, the favorite of the storm-god.

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In contrast, the Creator of the universe, the sole being with the right to make a big deal about His greatness, kept it simple, almost overly simple.

The Israelites did not know Him very well yet, but they could rejoice in the fact that He had chosen them as His own; they were privileged, they were favored! They had seen some of His power, they had experienced His mercy and grace, but from a human standpoint His identity was still a bit obscure. Other nations had gods for different aspects of their lives, but this god simply claimed to be God in an all-encompassing way. The important thing was that He claimed to be their God.

We should strive to communicate the way God did, rather than the way Suppiluliumas did. We should be confident of who we are, and not threatened by what anyone does or does not think of us. If there is a need for us to have our identity spruced up, then there is something wrong. When we communicate with people through the internet who don’t know us in person, we should refrain from creating false or fanciful identities for ourselves. If we are following God in total submission to His will then our identity is wrapped up in that relationship with Him. That’s all there is, but that is enough. Other things like family, and other responsibilities fall naturally under our relationship with God because He gives them their proper place if we are willing to give Him His proper place.

In the same breath as His identity, God states the basis of the covenant with Israel – I am the one “who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” This was the accomplishment on which this covenant was based and the reason why the Israelites should be willing and happy to submit to His covenant. While other kings established covenants based on threats of annihilation, this covenant was based on the fact that He had chosen them when they were the most insignificant of all people groups (Dt 7:7). They had no identity, no power, no national pride, and no purpose worth living for other than life itself. Through the covenant He had given them an identity, the people of God. He had filled them with purpose, to be His royal priests, the instruments through which He would work good for all creation. His power, demonstrated to be far greater than that of the gods of Egypt, was now working on their behalf.

This terminology, “I brought you out of Egypt,” expresses the basis for the covenant relationship with the descendants of Abraham as a group. It is repeated many times throughout the Old Testament. I cannot begin to express adequately how huge the exodus from Egypt was for the people of Israel. If you begin to look for them, you will notice references to it seasoning all of God’s dealings with Israel up to the time of Christ. For instance, the Psalms frequently celebrate the way He brought them out of Egypt to their own land. This is because it was the foundation on which that covenant was built. It was God’s way of reminding His people of the reasons why they should strive to abide by this covenant.

The next lesson in all three versions of the study of Covenants is: The Conditions of God’s Covenant with Israel



What I have rendered in the translation column as YHVH was considered by the Hebrews to be the greatest name of their God. They revered it so much that they never pronounced the name. During the public reading of Scripture they would substitute the name “Adonai.” This name is rendered in the KJV as LORD (all caps) while Adonai is rendered as Lord (first letter cap). The scribes who copied the Old Testament scrolls would leave a blank space when they came to this special name for God. After they had copied for quite a while, they would go wash their hands (if I understand correctly they would wash them seven times), then return to fill in the spaces with this name of God.

If they would have chosen to pronounce it, we think this name of God would have been pronounced either YAHWEH, or YAHVEH. I choose to write it with only the consonants (YHVH) because their form of Hebrew only included the consonants, and writing it that way reminds us that we are not sure how they pronounced this special name for God. It comes from the verb of being, “I am.” It

is the name God used to identify Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14. God is the I AM, which implies that He always has existed and always will be. He is the ever living, always present God. It carries with it the sense of presence. He is not just living and active, He wants to be close to us. To the Israelites, this was the most personal and intimate of all the names of God. While all other religions of the world have a deity figure that is far away and should be feared, we have a God that wants to be close to us and wants us to love Him. Our relationship with Him should include a proper degree of fear, but it is combined with love and intimacy. Our God is characterized by a perfect balance of holiness and kindness. The ancient Hebrews understood this multifaceted aspect of God’s character, and they correctly deduced that the name which communicates His closeness, His approachableness, and His desire for intimacy is worthy of being given the status of the loftiest of all names for God.


The name of God used here is a form of the name “Elohim” and means “your God.” In these situations I do not use the actual Hebrew form of the word because there are various forms possible and it might cause confusion.


The name “Egypt” means “siege, enclosure, defense, fortified,” also “besieged, fenced in.” is Egypt the one besieging others, or being besieged by others? Yes, it could be either one. I have chosen to go with the negative aspect of the name, the one that makes Egypt look bad rather than good. Egypt is often seen in Scripture as a representation of sin or evil. I have chosen to render this name in the paraphrase column in a way that reflects both the meaning of the name and the reputation as a place of sin.


James B. Prichard., The Ancient Near East, a New Anthology of Texts and Pictures, Vol. 2, p. 42.