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How is Genesis 19:24 best translated?

Some translations translate it by apparently saying there are two Yahweh(s) involved in the act:

ESV: Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven.

JPS: Then the LORD caused to rain upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.

However, others translate it differently, without any distinction involved:

NET: Then the LORD rained down sulfur and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah. It was sent down from the sky by the LORD.

I should add that Amos 4:11, referencing the same event, also seems to concur to the first reading (even the NET translates it thus).

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    In my reading, the ESV/JPS translations reflect the Greek LXX, also the Hebrew apart from replacing the two 'YHWH' (Yahweh) by 'LORD'. The explanation would be easier if one Hebrew reference were to 'Elohim, but it seems that both are 'YHWH'. – Dick Harfield Dec 13 '16 at 20:39
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    I'm not sure if this is helpful, but there's a similar over-LORDing in the previous chapter, Gen 18:17-19, where YHWH is talking and then refers to himself in the third person twice: "The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him." – Steve Taylor Dec 14 '16 at 8:26
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    In the Amos 4:11 passage I might be tempted to understand ELOHIM to refer to the angels. Can someone comment on the function of מֵאֵ֥ת before the second instance of YHVH? Are we sure there is a preposition and which one? – Ruminator May 17 '18 at 0:14
  • (Say Lord when reading this, and out loud in the breath outside of the flesh) "From the rain that Was out of the sky, brimstone and fire Was on Sodom and Gomorrah." - Genesis 19:24 – Decrypted Jun 15 '19 at 3:10
  • מֵאֵ֥ת is a compound preposition. The מֵ means "from". The אֵ֥ת is a particle which says that the following word is the direct object. If there is no transitive verb, then it is usually translated as "with". Here it would mean that Jehovah came with the fire and brimstone. – Steve Miller Feb 5 at 12:54
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The Hebrew text of Gen. 19:24 states,

כד וַיהוֶה הִמְטִיר עַל סְדֹם וְעַל עֲמֹרָה גָּפְרִית וָאֵשׁ מֵאֵת יַהוֶה מִן הַשָּׁמָיִם

which may be translated into English as,

24 And Yahveh rained upon Sedom and upon Amora fire and brimstone from Yahveh from1 heaven.

Is there one or two individuals named Yahveh in Gen. 19:24? Modern English speakers would naturally read the verse as indicating two individuals named Yahveh, for if there were only one, the translation would have instead read:

24 And Yahveh rained upon Sedom and upon Amora fire and brimstone from himself from1 heaven.

With the revision, it places Yahveh in heaven raining down fire and brimstone upon the cities from heaven, where He is located.

But, since the Old Testament was written in Hebrew (not even the same form spoken today) a few millennia ago, the way they wrote and understood Hebrew may have been different than the way we do today.

Case in point, in Gen. 4:23, it is written,

23 And Lamech said to his wives, Adah and Zillah, “Hear my voice, O’ wives of Lamech...”

If Lamech was speaking to his own wives, Adah and Zillah, why did he say “wives of Lamech” rather than “my wives”?

As one can see, the Hebrew text of Gen. 19:24 is ambiguous as to whether there is one or two individuals named Yahveh.


Footnotes

1 or, “out of”

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  • While the Hebrew text of Gen. 19:24 may be ambiguous, this appears to be grammatical. Deuteronomy 6:4 makes that clear stating "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one." – James Shewey Dec 14 '16 at 5:17
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    @JamesShewey—I’m not sure I understand the point you are making. – user862 Dec 14 '16 at 5:24
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    Compare also 1 Kings 8.1: "Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the Israelites, before King Solomon in Jerusalem". Are there two Solomons? It just seems to be idiomatic. – user2910 Dec 14 '16 at 13:43
  • @SimplyaChristian - the point I am making is that the Pentateuch goes out of its way to clarify that there is only one Yahweh. – James Shewey Dec 14 '16 at 14:29
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    As far as I agree that there are a number of instances where the biblical text gives a first-to-third person interchange, I think this is a special case. Firstly, the preceding context (Gen 18) apparently shows Yahweh as present with Abraham on the ground (18:20-22), hence raining fire from Yahweh out of heaven appears to be a very logical. Secondly, Amos 4:11 almost grammatically duplicates the thought: "I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah". – Jonah Elbert Jul 9 '17 at 14:55
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Yes, according to the context of this passage, there are two YHWH's and I think the author(s) of the passage wanted the reader to get this impression. This is a good question that has far reaching implications on the reading of the whole Bible if it is to be taken literally and consistently. There is YHWH in the heavens, who Jesus referred to as God the Father. Other Biblical writers such as John 1:18 states that: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him."

Compare 1 John 4:12 and 1 Timothy 6:16, all these passages are based in part on Exodus 33:20 “And he (YHWH) said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” Which makes the YHWH who came to Abraham at Mamre with the two angels very interesting. Because Abraham, a man, saw Him and he didn't die, in fact he went on to live for a very long time afterwards. He came in human form, He washed His feet and did eat and drink with Abraham.

What's even more interesting is that Jesus implied that He was this YHWH figure. In John 8:56 Jesus says; "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” The Idumeans, "Jews", were incredulous. But Jesus went on to say in verse 58; “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” At this the "Jews" immediately picked up stones to stone Him. Because they knew exactly what He was saying; not only was He claiming to be YHWH, He was claiming to be this second YHWH figure who came to Abraham at Mamre. Jesus also said that He and the Father are one, distinct but one. This duality of God being both Elohim and YHWH, physical and spiritual, in heaven and on earth is played out all throughout the Bible from the very beginning. For example, Elohim created the heavens and the earth but YHWH formed Adam out of the dust of the ground.

The theme is carried out throughout the Bible by different authors who had the opportunity to change it, but actually they make the matter even more complicated. The following two passages illustrate how YHWH refers to God (Elohim) in the third person. Jeremiah 50:40 continues the theme of Genesis 19:24,25. It states; "As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the LORD; so shall no man abide there, neither shall any son of man dwell therein." Amos 4:11 reinforces the significance of Genesis !9:24,25 by stating; "I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and ye were as a firebrand plucked out of the burning: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the LORD."

Starting in Genesis various passages make a distinction between the Angel of YHWH and YHWH. I think this is an attempt by the author(s) to deal with the issue of the two YHWH's. But it is clear from the text that no such distinction exist in the mind of the Angel of YHWH, YHWH Himself and the protagonist. To illustrate I am going to use the story of Gideon from the book of Judges (Elohim) 6:21-24.

21 Then the angel of the LORD put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the LORD departed out of his sight.

22 And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O LORD God! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face.

23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.

24 Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it YHWH-shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

In this lengthy passage, Gideon is talking to the physical Angel of YHWH, but YHWH is also present in the Spirit and also talks with him. Even after the Angel departs from Gideon, YHWH continues to speak with him even though He can't be seen.

Conclusion

The two YHWH's are found all throughout Scripture. When YHWH comes down from the heavens He declares the Name of YHWH, in the third person. He can also make it rain upon the earth brimstone and fire from YHWH out of the heavens. The Hebrew word; מֵאֵ֥ת transliterated as me'et literally means from. Which will indicate that one YHWH was on the earth and the other YHWH was in the heavens, for something to come from Him. I would like to stress that YHWH is one, just like the shema claims. God is Spirit, His physical manifestation is also called God (Elohim), Adam and Abraham knew Him as YHWH, Jacob knew Him as the Angel of YHWH, Moses knew Him as YHWH-salvation. Which is why he changed Hoshea (Deliverer) the son of Nun's name to Yahushua meaning YHWH is salvation. Even David in Psalm 110:1 says: "YHWH said to my Lord, sit thou upon My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool." Who is David's Lord? The answer is simple, it's none other than Yahushua HaMashiach which became Yehoshua, which became Yeshua, which became Iesous and ultimately became Jesus.

References

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The medieval commentators provided many Scriptural examples of this kind of reference, such that there is no need to assume that there is someone else with the same name being referred to:

(All Bible translations are taken from ESV.)

  • Genesis 4:23

    Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.”

  • I Samuel 12:11

    (Beginning from Verse 6 Samuel is speaking.)

    And the LORD sent Jerubbaal and Barake and Jephthah and Samuel and delivered you out of the hand of your enemies on every side, and you lived in safety.

  • I Kings 1:33

    And the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon.

  • Esther 8:8

    (Beginning from Verse 7 the king is speaking.)

    But you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king’s ring, for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king’s ring cannot be revoked.”

  • Exodus 8:25

    (Moses is speaking to Pharaoh.)

    Then Moses said, “Behold, I am going out from you and I will plead with the LORD that the swarms of flies may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people, tomorrow. Only let not Pharaoh cheat again by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.”

  • I Samuel 12-16

    And Jonathan said to David, “The LORD, the God of Israel, be witness!a When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or the third day, behold, if he is well disposed toward David, shall I not then send and disclose it to you? But should it please my father to do you harm, the LORD do so to Jonathan and more also if I do not disclose it to you and send you away, that you may go in safety. May the LORD be with you, as he has been with my father. If I am still alive, show me the steadfast love of the LORD, that I may not die; and do not cut off your steadfast love from my house forever, when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face of the earth.” And Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, “May the LORD take vengeance on David’s enemies.”

  • Numbers 8:19

    And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the people of Israel, to do the service for the people of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement for the people of Israel, that there may be no plague among the people of Israel when the people of Israel come near the sanctuary.”

Indeed, the Talmud records in Sanhedrin 38b that this question was posed to one of the Sages, and it was shown from another verse that this was simply the Biblical idiom:

A Min once said to R. Ishmael b. Jose: It is written, Then the Lord caused to rain upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord but from him should have been written! A certain fuller said, Leave him to me, I will answer him. [He then proceeded,' It is written, And Lamech said to his wives, Ada and Zillah, Hear my voice, ye wives of Lamech; but he should have said, my wives! But such is the Scriptural idiom — so here too, it is the Scriptural idiom.

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    The "idiom" does not account for the same construction in Jer 50:40 and Amos 4:11, referring to the same event: "As when God overthrew... declares the LORD", "I overthrew... as when God overthrew..." – Jonah Elbert Jun 20 '19 at 1:25

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