Was Yahweh originally an Edomite or Canaanite god?

Yahweh is the name God revealed to Moses for him to tell the Israelites as a response when they asked who had sent him (Exodus 3:14–15). God had been known by other names and titles before this revelation, such as: Adonai (Lord), El Shaddai (God Almighty), El Roi (The God Who Sees Me), and El Elyon (God Most High). God explained to Moses, "I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD [Yahweh] I did not make myself known to them" (Exodus 6:3). Thus we see that the One True God has always been known by multiple names. In fact, all traditional Jewish blessings begin with the words "Blessed are you, O Lord, Our God, King of the Universe." In the same prayer the One True God is addressed by three different names: Lord (Adonai), Our God (Eloheinu), and King of the Universe (Melek ha Olam). Jesus taught His followers to address God in prayer as "Our Father" (Matthew 6:9). So Yahweh is only one name by which the One True God is known.

The Bible recounts that God called Abram (later named Abraham) to follow Him to a promised land and instituted a special covenant relationship with him and his son Isaac (Genesis 12:1–9; 15; 17; 26:1–5). That special covenant was passed down from Isaac to his son Jacob, also known as Israel, from whom the Israelites derive their name (Genesis 25:23; 35:9–15). However, Isaac had another son, Esau, whose descendants became known as the Edomites. It is assumed that Isaac would have raised both his sons to know and worship the One True God. So it should not be a surprise when archeology reveals that Esau's descendants worshipped only one God who is strikingly similar to the God the Israelites worshipped.

The Bible also recounts that during a famine, Israel and his sons moved to Egypt to survive, leaving Esau and his descendants in the nearby land of Seir (Genesis 36:6–8; 47:1–12). The Israelites remained in Egypt for 400 years before God revealed his name of Yahweh to them right before rescuing them from slavery and returning them to the Promised Land (Exodus 6:2–8; 12:40–41; Acts 7:6). It is reasonable to think, then, that archeology would show that the Edomites worshipped the One True God, but not with the name Yahweh. And they would have done so for several centuries before the name Yahweh appears in the archeological evidence. Thus it is not only possible, but actually likely that in worshipping Qos, the Edomites were worshipping Yahweh, just with an incomplete understanding of who Yahweh is and what He requires.

Secularists look at this archeological evidence and infer that the Israelites, when they came in contact with the Edomites, co-opted their god and renamed him Yahweh. Anyone who reads the Bible, however, sees how these archeological findings, rather than disproving the biblical account, actually affirm it. Rather than this being a man-made religion, it is evidence of the existence of the One True God as revealed in Scripture.

Scripture recounts that the One True God revealed Himself to more people than just the families chosen for special covenant promise. In Canaan, Abraham encountered Melchizedek, King of Salem, who was a "priest of God Most High" (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1). Melchizedek was not related to Abraham nor were they from the same geographic location and yet Melchizedek already knew and worshipped the same God. God also revealed Himself to Abraham's Egyptian slave girl Hagar (Genesis 16:7–13). When Moses fled to Midian, he married the daughter of a priest, Jethro, who seemingly knew and worshipped the One True God (Exodus 3:1; 18:10–12). Of course, there were worshippers of the One True God well before Abraham, too. Genesis 4:26 talks about people calling on the name of the Lord after Seth's son Enosh was born. Enoch (Genesis 5:22–24) and Noah (Genesis 6:9), both ancestors of Abraham, worshipped God. So did Job, who is not listed in the Israelite family ancestry. The God who created the universe and everyone in it can reveal Himself to anyone He so desires.

This revelation to non-Israelite people did not stop in Old Testament times. In the New Testament, God brought Philip to an Ethiopian eunuch to help him understand the Scripture in order to know God more fully (Acts 8:27). He sent Peter to a centurion of the Italian Cohort who was living in Caesarea to share the truth about Jesus (Acts 10). Both of these non-Israelite men were already following God and simply needed to know the rest of the gospel story.

The apostle Paul asserted that every human can know the One True God simply through His handiwork of creation. "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:19–20). It seems, then, that when a people group or culture worships a singular creator god similar to Yahweh, rather than dismissing it as "false" man-made religion, it should inspire faith that there exists One True God who desires to be known by His people.

Although He does reveal Himself through creation, dreams, and other methods, Scripture remains the primary source for gaining an accurate understanding of who God is. "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16). His ultimate revelation of Himself to humanity is through the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1–3). Jesus said, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:9). So while non-Israelites have known and worshipped the One True God using names and titles other than Yahweh, it is through the Bible and the personage of Jesus that we gain the most full and accurate understanding of who God is.

Before His ascension, Jesus told His followers, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). We, too, are tasked with carrying the truth about God and the good news of salvation in Jesus to the rest of the world. We know that people from "every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages" will be included in God's family (Revelation 7:9; cf. Galatians 3:28–29). "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'" (Romans 10:12–15). Those of us who know the good news can and should preach it to others. All are invited to know the One True God and to have salvation through Jesus Christ, who is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6); "there is salvation in no one else" (Acts 4:12). May we be encouraged by the evidence of the reality of the One True God and eager to share the truth about Him with all types of people so that they, too, may know Him and have true life in Him (John 3:16–18; 10:10).


Related Truth:

What is the tetragrammaton? What does YHWH mean?

What are the names of God? What do the names of God mean?

Is the Bible reliable?

Why should I believe the Bible?

Is God man made? Did people create the idea of God?


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