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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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  • 2
    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'. Dec 13 '16 at 20:39
  • 4
    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
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    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. Feb 5 '20 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." 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
  • 4
    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. 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". Jul 9 '17 at 14:55
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Seeing to the other comments, I couldn't help myself, and decided it was necessary to write a detailed response to these claims.

(1) Modern English speakers would naturally read the verse as indicating two individuals named Yahveh . . . [but] the way they wrote and understood Hebrew may have been different than the way we do today.
(link)

and

(2) 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...
(link)

1. Modern English Anachronism?

I should start by stating, the text does not indicate 2 YHWH's but 2 distinct people who share the 1 name (not just title) of YHWH. Definitions aside, let's get into the historical evidence for the claim being made.

As was claimed above: if we read the statement in Genesis 19:24 (which for some reason was posted in Hebrew as if that helped at all), and come away with there being 2 YHWH's, then we're actually being anachronistic by reading our "modern" English phraseology back into the Hebrew text.

Not only is there no evidence that supports this claim, but the actual evidence sets itself squarely against this claim. As a matter of historical fact, some of the earliest interpretations we actually have of this passage affirms that the passage is indeed speaking of 2 distinct persons.

To start off Jewish Targums (probably 8-10th century CE) state:

And the Word of the Lord Himself had made to descend upon the people of Sedom and Amorah showers of favour, that they might work repentance from their wicked works . . . He [the Word] turned (then), and caused to descend upon them bitumen and fire from before the Lord from the heavens.
(Targum Jerusalem, Genesis 19:24)

-- and if we go back in time just a little further (to about the 2nd-3rd century CE), you might notice a familiar argument (which we will get to next):

The heretic raised the question: It should have stated: From Him out of heaven . . . Leave him be; I [Rabbi Yishmael] will respond to him. This is as it is written: “And Lemech said to wives: Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; wives of Lemech, hearken to my speech” . . . [then] rather, it is the style of the verse to speak in this manner. Here too, it is the style of the verse to speak in this manner.
(Sanhedrin 38b:21)

Sound familiar? That would almost seem to support the claim against there being 2 persons as the most ancient, but did you notice the problem? The very fact that this was being disputed among the Jews of that day shows you that there were people that interpreted the passage as it referring to 2 distinct people (hence why the poor soul was being labelled a heretic).

But wait, there's more. The text goes on:

From where did you hear this interpretation? The launderer said to him: I heard it at the lecture of Rabbi Meir.

You heard that right. There were even Rabbis teaching the interpretation of there being 2 distinct persons in this passage as far back as at least the 2nd century CE.

"Rabbi Meir was a prolific scholar who studied under Elisha b. Abuya, R. Ishmael and R. Akiva." (sefaria.org)

That poses a very difficult problem for the proponent of the view that this is a 'modern English anachronism' even though there were Rabbis, who were well respected, and who were fluent in Hebrew and Aramaic, publicly proclaiming this view. The Rabbis, and likely many other Jews (and more than likely their ancestors), were very clearly teaching that there was a YHWH on earth (that spoke to Abraham) and a YHWH in heaven (from whom the fire came).

It's also important to note that the earliest Christian authors such as Justin Martyr (Ch. 56), Irenaeus (para. 1), Tertullian, all universally read this passage as referring to 2 persons. Oh, and none of them spoke English.

Now that this is utterly debunked, let's move on to the next claim.

2. Third Person Idiom?

The very least I can say about this argument is that, at best, it is trying to be faithful to the language that's used elsewhere in Scripture, and at worst, it's completely misunderstanding the context of Genesis 18-19, and ignoring the passages where God Himself comments on the events.

This is by far the most common rebuttal to the view that there are 2 distinct people in Genesis 19:24, it goes something like this:

In other passages, people will often refer to themselves in the third person, which is simply idiomatic phrasing. Therefore, this is actually just Moses using a common Hebrew idiom that's used elsewhere in the Bible.

The strongest example of this is 1 Kings 8:1 where it is written:

Now Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel, to King Solomon in Jerusalem, that they might bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD from the City of David, which is Zion.
1 Kings 1:18 (NKJV)

You don't believe there's 2 king Solomons do you? Of course not.

Well then, let's first start with the argument that "people will often refer to themselves in the third person".

No doubt Scripture has numerous examples of individuals referring to themselves in the third person, a good example is Genesis 4:23, 1 Samuel 20:12-13, and Esther 8:8 (the list goes on). Did you notice something common to each of these passages? In every single one of these passages the person being referred to in the third person is the person speaking.

Let's look:

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.
Genesis 4:23 (ESV)

And Jonathan said to David, “The LORD, the God of Israel, be witness! When I have sounded out my father, about this time tomorrow, or the third day . . . But should it please my father to do you harm, the LORD do so to Jonathan and more also . . .
1 Samuel 20:12-13 (ESV)

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 . . .
Est 8:8 (ESV)

But does God refer to Himself in Genesis 19:24? No.

As I've demonstrated, every one of these passages, where the third person "idiom" is used, the subject is always the one speaking. In fact this is why I believe this argument commits a fatal error by trying to equate 2 distinct Hebrew linguistic features into 1. The particular form of speaking where a person addresses themselves in the third person is one, and another is the writing style where the subject (being spoken about, not the one speaking) has their name in place of the pronoun "himself" or "themselves".

i.e. John Doe told his son to buy groceries, to bring them to John Doe at his house.

Anyways, the only two clear examples of this are 1 Kings 8:1, and 1 Kings 12:21. That being said, did you notice something about these two passages that's different from Genesis 19:24? Let's look at these passages.

Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah . . . from the LORD out of heaven.
Gen 19:24 (ESV)

compare that to:

Now Solomon assembled the elders of Israel . . . to king Solomon in Jerusalem . . .
1 Kings 1:18 (NKJV)

When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah . . . to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.
1 Kings 12:21 (ESV)

I will agree, the phrasing does seem quite similar. However, similar phrasing should never determine the meaning of a passage, rather its context should determine its meaning.

Suppose you knew that King Solomon was in East Manasseh, wouldn't it be odd if the verse then said "to King Solomon in Jerusalem"? In fact, you would rightly conclude that there are actually 2 king Solomons in that case. One in East Manasseh and one in Jerusalem.

And suppose you knew Rehoboam was the son of Jerubbaal, wouldn't it be odd if the verse then said "to Rehoboam the son of Solomon"? You get the point.

Case and point, the YHWH that was just standing physically in front of Abraham (Genesis 19:27, Genesis 18:22, Genesis 18:1-2) in the form of a man, is now reigning fire and brimstone, not from earth, but from the YHWH out of the heavens. Note that the phrase "out of the heavens" is not speaking about the fire and brimstone alone but also speaking of YHWH, the person. In other words the action of the reigning of fire and brimstone by YHWH is being done "from the heavens" by a YHWH that's in the heavens. Whereas the other YHWH is still on earth.

Contextually there is no parallel to this passage. We cannot simply defer it to "a Hebrew idiom" (hence the disputes amongst Jews even after the time of Christ) merely because we see similar language being used. When we read the whole context, it becomes clear that there is a YHWH standing on earth, and a YHWH who's being commanded to reign fire and brimstone out of heaven on Sodom and Gomora.

Not only that, but is it just a coincidence that in almost every single passage that God references the destruction of Sodom and Gomora he just happens to be speaking in the third person? I think not. It seems to me like a very convenient way to get out of having to deal with the fact that there's 2 distinct persons who are both referred to as YHWH in Genesis 19:24.

And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.
Isa 13:19 (ESV)

As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities, declares the LORD, so no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her.
Jer 50:40 (ESV)

I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah . . .
Amos 4:11 (ESV)

Very convenient that all of these passages just happen to be in third person.

To Conclude

I agree with the Targums, and the ancient "heretic" Rabbis, and the earliest Christians of the Church, that the Angel of YHWH (who is also YHWH, and the Son) reigned fire and brimstone from YHWH who was in heaven (i.e. the Father). Proving that YHWH is 2 distinct persons who share the 1 name.

Lastly, if you're an honest unitarian who loves truth, stop using Deuteronomy 6:4. Unless you can prove to me that men and women become like Siamese twins after they have sex (Genesis 2:24), it's perfectly and undoubtedly reasonable for a sane person to read the Hebrew OT, and see echad as "compound unity" and not "absolute singularity" (i.e. 1 person).

Have a blessed day.

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It seems to me that the very end of the verse (מֵאֵת יְהוָה מִן־הַשָּׁמָיִם) may have been a gloss, with the purpose of explaining (rewriting) that it was Yahweh, not the sun god, who sent the stones and the fire.

Why do I mention the sun god?... Well, for some reason, the author of the story makes a point of saying that הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ יָצָא עַל־הָאָרֶץ, “the sun went out over the land” (v. 23), right before the stones fall from the sky.

Similarly in Joshua 10, the sun rises, stopped in the midst of the skies, and then Yahweh sent the stones down from the skies. In the Ancient Near East, the sun god is typically the god of law and order, which included the execution of judgment.

Perhaps in both cases (Gen 19 & Josh 10) the original story had the sun god sending a divine judgment? This would explain the awkwardness of the Gen 19 passage, where over a long period of time a gloss was retained (through scribal copying of texts), despite the fact that at some point the original divine name was replaced by Yahweh.

I don't know if that makes sense, but I think it is a real possibility.

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    Yahweh, welcome to BH, and thanks for your contribution. +1.
    – Bach
    Oct 27 at 20:41
  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Oct 27 at 21:00
  • Welcome! That's a pretty big name you have to live up to there. In Joshua 10, which occurred after Moses died, Yahweh stopped the sun which would show his superiority over any sun god. Oct 28 at 4:12
  • Thank you all for the welcome. I did not mean to say Gen 19 and Josh 10 were necessarily the same narrative originally. Also, "before or after Moses' death" is not typically used in biblical scholarship as a way to date texts. Moreover, sun gods are not always identified with the solar orb itself, but often are the 'spirit' within the sun disc. The Egyptian Re is certainly a sun god, yet he controls the sun and rides in it like a vehicle; Yahweh is said to be shrouded in light, wearing it as a garment; etc. Oct 28 at 13:11
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    The question of Mosaic authorship is just not raised in academic inquiries. There is no evidence for any one single author writing the Torah (or even Genesis). What I was trying to say is that the original version of Gen 19 did not likely include the phrase מֵאֵת יְהוָה מִן־הַשָּׁמָיִם. If so, it was likely speaking about a different god (which is why such a gloss was added). Actually, it seems possible that just מֵאֵת יְהוָה was later. The Joshua passage was cited merely as a "similar" text. I never suggested they both go back to the same source. Oct 29 at 16:32
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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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  • 2
    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..." Jun 20 '19 at 1:25
  • It does account for it, since it's the same type of idiom.
    – truefusion
    Aug 19 at 18:30
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The Bible uses repetition for emphasis. Especially with reference to the name of God. Although many in our day have forgotten his name, the Hebrew scriptures have emphasized the importance of knowing and respecting the name of God. Also to emphasize the failure of false gods to be able to protect their worshipers from the judgement of the True God, (Jehovah or Yahweh in english). Repetition is used in other areas as well such as Proverbs 6:16.....so what is it six or seven? lol

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No, the author is not trying to give us some cryptic clue about the Godhead in this text. It is not as if he is implying that there is one Yahweh of fire and another of brimstone. As Calvin said in his Commentary on Genesis.

The proof which the ancients have endeavored to derive, from this testimony, for the Deity of Christ, is by no means conclusive: and they are angry, in my judgment, without cause, who severely censure the Jews, because they do not admit this kind of evidence. I confess, indeed, that God always acts by the hand of his Son, and have no doubt that the Son presided over an example of vengeance so memorable; but I say, they reason inconclusively, who hence elicit a plurality of Persons, whereas the design of Moses was to raise the minds of the readers to a more lively contemplation of the hand of God.

Repetition was a common device in biblical poetry. It indicated passion in Psalm 22:1,

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Psalm 29 8 has a similar construction to our passage in question.

The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

This doesn’t mean that one Yahweh shakes the desert and another shakes the Desert of Kadesh. It is one God described in poetic cadence rising to a crescendo. This style fits well with the dramatic description of the destruction of the desert cities. We could paraphrase it poetically in English this way.

Fire from Yahweh upon Sodom and Amora!
Brimstone from Yahweh - from heaven!

There is no mention of any Yahweh being on earth at the time of the spectacular calamity. There is not one Yahweh (person 1) torching the cities from earth and one Yahweh (person 2) raining down brimstone from heaven. The text is emphasizing from where the destruction came – heaven not earth. This was not some volcanic eruption. In fact, the sulfur balls which have been discovered in the area are of a purity found nowhere else on earth.

It is perhaps impossible to have a very complete idea of who Yahweh is and who the angel of the Lord is and how they are related to Elohim, etc. He is far beyond our ability to comprehend. But unfortunately, Gen. 19:24 does not shed much light on that subject. All we can deduce is that Yahweh destroyed Sodom.

You may be able to get more mileage out of Amos 4:11 on the Godhead question since the word for God is “Elohim”. If you subscribe to the notion that God is One in the "echad" sense of a single entity comprised of more than one part, you could surmise that the plural form of “Elohe” gives credence to the notion that at least two different persons in the Godhead could have been working together to destroy Sodom.

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  • Martin this is an interesting answer here. However I didn't follow your evidence from Psalms. This is indeed a known device in poetry and prose. Psalms 29 clearly belongs to that genre, so the device employed is appropriate. Not so Gen. which is just a telling of Sodom's downfall, it seems unlikely that the author would repeat himself in this specific genre, where the crescendo effect is completely lost.
    – Bach
    Oct 28 at 13:39
  • Thanks for your comment, @Bach. Yes, it is a different genre but it also was an unprecedented and dramatic event the author was describing. To me, that is less of a stretch than to believe 2 distinct Yahwehs were acting in concert. Oct 28 at 17:00
  • Of course, the two Yahwehs theory is unworthy of consideration. But I would prefer the gloss theory rather than positing that the author was employing a crescendo. Just my personal opinion.
    – Bach
    Oct 28 at 23:13
  • That's okay, @Bach, we are all entitled to our opinions. For me, inserting Yahweh posteriorly into a sun god role detracts from his deity and omnipotence almost as much as having to divide himself into two Yahwehs. Oct 28 at 23:58
  • 1
    Martin, that is a quite provocative suggestion, and I'm not so sure I'm comfortable with that either. All I suggested was a redundant gloss, not a rewrite of a paganastic mythological text.
    – Bach
    Oct 29 at 0:37

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