‘Who Brought You out of Egypt’(?): The Name and Image of Yahweh in Exodus 32–34

It is often observed that the divine image and likeness language applied to humanity in the early chapters of Genesis appears to fall out of use in the remainder of the Old Testament. Nevertheless, as Richard Lints (Identity and Idolatry) has shown, the Old Testament maintains a clear thematic concern with humanity as divine image through its treatment of the recurring and endemic problem of idolatry as an inversion of God’s design. As the paradigmatic instance of idolatry in the Old Testament, Exod 32–34 is a fruitful literary context for exploring more closely the relationship between idolatry and the image of God. In this paper, I explore an association that emerges in the biblical witness between God’s name and God’s image. Drawing on the work of Carmen Imes concerning the name command of the decalogue, I argue that in addition to betraying their allegiance to Yahweh and disobeying his commandment against forming and worshipping a graven image, Israel also ‘takes God’s name in vain’ and, in so doing, rejects their own identity as his (restored) image. To support this thesis I will show (1) how Exodus develops Yahweh’s intention to reveal his name in Israel, (2) how that intention can be related to the restoration of Yahweh’s image through the association of both concepts with his presence, (3) how Israel seeks to consign Yahweh’s presence to the alternate image of the Golden Calf particularly by assigning his name to it, and (4) how a further revelation of Yahweh’s name and presence are the means by which Israel’s status as his image is preserved.

7 thoughts on “‘Who Brought You out of Egypt’(?): The Name and Image of Yahweh in Exodus 32–34”

  1. Thompson, ‘Who Brought You out of Egypt’(?): The Name and Ima
    Not sure if the image was “restored” in Israel by the time it got to Sinai, but there is enough good material here to be promising.

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