According to Genesis 4:26,

26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.

The seeming sensus plenoir would thus be that until the time of Seth's grandchildren (235 years after Adam's birth), that people were not "calling upon the name of Yahweh."

If that is the case, whom do scholars saying Adam was calling upon? Was this simply a matter of not knowing YHWH's name, or is some other explanation normally given? Likewise, with whom would Cain and Abel thought they were conversing?

And, how is this generally reconciled with Exodus 3:13 - 14

13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

in which the "name" of the Lord is said to be revealed?

  • @ Affable Geek I hope you get an answer since that is essentially the same question I ask.
    – Cecil Beckum
    Nov 13, 2013 at 15:00
  • I'd be lying if I said it wasn't inspired by yours - hadn't noticed that before. I figured this was a sufficiently substantive change to warrant a new question - and I apologize if it feels like "stealing" yours. Nov 13, 2013 at 15:01
  • It might just be calling God, Adonay again after a period of using Elohim or something else. Ibn Ezra says that it was at this point that prayer started. I like that idea. Nov 13, 2013 at 15:03
  • Also liked the question. Nov 13, 2013 at 15:04
  • 3
    @ Affable Geek I am not the least bit concerned that you might have based your question on mine. I don't care about that, but since there wasn't an answer to mine I am still curious about it. It matters not to me that they are the same I only would like to know the answer, and if you can state the question better than I can please have at it!
    – Cecil Beckum
    Nov 13, 2013 at 15:07

4 Answers 4


In Gen. 4:26, it is written,

וּלְשֵׁת גַּם־הוּא יֻלַּד־בֵּן וַיִּקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמוֹ אֱנוֹשׁ אָז הוּחַל לִקְרֹא בְּשֵׁם יַהְוֶה

And a son was also born to Set, and he called his name, Enosh. Then ______ (הוּחַל) to call on the name of Yahveh.

Many Jewish commentators asserted that the phrase הוּחַל לִקְרֹא בְּשֵׁם יַהְוֶה means that men began to call their idols by the name Yahveh. Rashi wrote that the word הוחל was an expression of profanation (לשון חולין) and interpreted it as, "They began to call the names of men and the names of herbs in the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, in order to make themselves idols and call them 'gods.'"1 Rashi understood הוחל as being related to profanation (חולין) since the root ח-ל-ל, from which the verb הוּחַל is conjugated,2 means "to profane" when conjugated in binyan Pi’el.3

However, the meaning of a verb in a particular binyan does not necessarily transfer to other binyanim. Therefore, while חִלֵּל (chillel) - conjugated in binyan Pi’el - means "to profane," הֵחֵל (hechel) - conjugated in binyan Hif’il - means "to begin."4 Generally speaking, the meaning of a verb in binyan Huf’al - which is the binyan of the verb הוּחַל in Gen. 4:26 - can be determined by simply converting the meaning of the verb in binyan Hif’il to a passive voice.5 Thus, instead of "to begin" in binyan Hif’il, the meaning would be "to be begun" in binyan Huf’al.

However, contrary to Rashi, Avraham ibn Ezra wrote, והטעם שהחלו להתפלל, that is, "And the meaning is that they began to pray." He also notes, ואלו היה מחילול, היה השם סמוך אל המלה, that is, "And if it was from profanation, the noun [שם] would have been next to the particle [את]."6 Indeed, many examples from the Tanakh can be provided to support ibn Ezra's assertion.

In Lev. 18:21, we find the phrase וְלֹא תְחַלֵּל אֶת־שֵׁם אֱלֹהֶיךָ, meaning "and you shall not profane the name of your God." Here, we see the verb תְחַלֵּל ("profane"), followed by the particle אֶת which is joined to the noun, שֵׁם ("name"). This is the typical grammatical construction used in contexts which describe the name of God being profaned.7

On the other hand, in Gen. 4:26, we have the following construction:

הוּחַל לִקְרֹא בְּשֵׁם יַהְוֶה

  • The verb הוּחַל (huchal) is conjugated in binyan Huf’al, 3rd person, masculine gender, singular number, perfect tense. Most translations (e.g., KJV) translate this with the subject "men," as in "men began to call," however the verb is not conjugated according to a plural, but rather a singular subject.
  • The word לִקְרֹא (likro) is the infinitive conjugation of the root ק-ר-א conjugated in binyan Pa’al. It means "to call."
  • The phrase בְּשֵׁם יַהְוֶה (beshem Yahveh) consists of the preposition בְּ (be-), meaning "in" or "on," prefixed to the noun שֵׁם (shem), meaning "name," and the Tetragrammaton יַהְוֶה. It is translated as "on the name of Yahveh."

Wilhelm Gesenius wrote this concerning the phrase קָרָא in his lexicon:

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As Gesenius notes, phrases containing a conjugation of the verb קָרָא followed by בְּשֵׁם יַהְוֶה occur in numerous verses. For example, it is written that Avraham built an altar to Yahveh in the land between Beit-El and Hai, and then "he called on the name of Yahveh."8 He built an altar in the plain of Moreh, and then "he called on the name of Yahveh."9 He also planted a tamarisk tree in Be’er Shava and then "he called on the name of Yahveh."10 Yitzchak also built an altar in Be’er Shava, and then "he called on the name of Yahveh."11 As these examples are also in the Book of Genesis, there can be no doubt that they share the same meaning as the phrase in Gen. 4:26. Avraham ibn Ezra interprets the phrase in Gen. 12:8 as תפילה או קריאת בני אדם לעבוד השם, that is, "He praised [Yahveh], or [it was] a declaration of men to worship Yahveh."12

Similarly, 1 Chr. 16:8 states, "Give thanks to Yahveh; call upon His name; make His deeds known among the people."13 In Psa. 116:3, the psalmist "called upon the name of Yahveh" and said, "Please Yahveh, save my soul!" Thus, calling upon the name of Yahveh did not only involve giving thanks14 and worshipping Him15, but also making an appeal to and beseeching Him.16 Indeed, the prophet Yo'el prophesied,17

"And it shall come to pass, all who call upon the name of Yahveh shall be delivered, for in Mount Tzion and in Yerushalaim shall be deliverance, and in the remnant whom Yahveh calls," as Yahveh said.

וְהָיָה כֹּל אֲשֶׁר־יִקְרָא בְּשֵׁם יַהְוֶה יִמָּלֵט כִּי בְּהַר־צִיּוֹן וּבִירוּשָׁלִַם תִּֽהְיֶה פְלֵיטָה כַּֽאֲשֶׁר אָמַר יַהְוֶה וּבַשְּׂרִידִים אֲשֶׁר יַהְוֶה קֹרֵא

As most know, this prophecy was repeated by both the apostle Petros18 and the apostle Paulos19 to declare that men could be saved from their sins by calling on the name of the Lord Yeshu’a the Messiah. In the New Testament, the Hebrew phrase קָרָא בְּ- ("call upon") is translated into Greek by the verb ἐπικαλέω. We may then further deduce the various meanings of the Hebrew phrase by examining the usage of its Greek equivalent in the New Testament.

Upon his martyrdom, Stephen "calls on" Yeshu’a and says, "Lord, receive my spirit!"20 Before his conversion, the apostle Paulos persecuted Christians, those who "called on" the Lord Yeshu’a.21 Those being baptized would call on the name of the Lord Yeshu’a.22 The verb is also used to describe the apostle Paulos "calling on" ("appealing to") the Roman emperors.23

As for the verb הוּחַל, it should be translated as "had begun." But, what is the subject of the verb? It is certainly not "men," for such is nowhere stated in the Hebrew text, nor does the conjugation of the verb הוּחַל according to a singular subject permit it. Rather, the subject seems to be the infinitive itself, לִקְרֹא, "to call" or "calling."

Therefore, Gen. 4:26 should be translated as,

And a son was also born to Set, and he called his name, Enosh. Then, calling on the name of Yahveh had begun.


1 Commentary on Gen. 4:26. This view is also shared by the Targum of Yonatan ben Uzziel on Gen. 4:26.

2 הוחל is conjugated in binyan Huf’al, 3rd person, singular number, masculine gender, perfect tense.

3 cp. Lev. 21:12

4 cp. 1 Sam. 3:12

5 Gesenius notes that "the meaning of Hoph’al (also known as Huf’al) is (a) primarily that of a passive of Hiph’il (also known as Hif’il)... (b) sometimes equivalent to a passive of Qal (also known as Pa’al)..."; p. 146, §53h.

6 Commentary on Gen. 4:26.

7 cp. Lev. 19:12, 20:3, 21:6, 22:2, 22:32; Amos 2:7

8 Gen. 12:8

9 Gen. 13:4 cp. Gen. 12:7

10 Gen. 21:33

11 Gen. 26:25

12 Commentary on Gen. 12:8.

13 cp. Isa. 12:4

14 cp. Psa. 116:17

15 cp. Zep. 3:9

16 cp. Lam. 3:55; Zec. 13:9

17 Joel 2:32

18 Acts 2:21

19 Rom. 10:12-14

20 Acts 7:59

21 Acts 9:14, 9:21; cp. 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Tim. 2:22

22 Acts 22:16

23 Acts 25:11-12, 25:25, 26:32, 28:19


Avraham ibn Ezra (אברהם אבן עזרא). The Commentary of ibn Ezra on the Torah (פירוש אבן עזרא על התורה).

Gesenius, Wilhelm; Robinson, Edward; Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux. A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament including the Biblical Chaldee. London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1857.

Rashi (רש"י). The Commentary of Rashi on the Torah (פירוש רש"י על התורה).

  • In short, it doesn't necessarily mean that Adam did not know God's name, Yahveh. Rather, it means, that at that time, people began to worship, and/ or give thanks, and/ or appeal to Yahveh in prayer. But, if I were to throw something out there, maybe the phrase is an ominous foreshadowing. Just two chapters later, we see God destroy the entire world (minus Noach's faily) via a deluge because the whole world had been filled with violence and corruption. Perhaps Enosh was calling upon the name of (appealing to) Yahveh for help from the ungodly.
    – user862
    Nov 14, 2013 at 6:39
  • Very good and helpful. This may have been covered, but how do we know that the "calling upon the Lord" is not in reference to Enosh personally instead of mankind?
    – Rick
    Nov 14, 2013 at 12:30
  • I see: "son name called Enosh begin call name Lord"
    – Rick
    Nov 14, 2013 at 12:44
  • Adam spoke face to face with the Creator. After the fall many things slowly began to deteriorate. Cain and Abel brought offerings to the LORD and were spoken to directly also by the Creator. It seems to be that in the next generations, this did not happen as often anymore, so they began to pray to speak to the LORD, as this seems to support.
    – jlaverde
    Nov 14, 2013 at 13:20
  • @Rick: הוּחַל (huchal) is passive voice.
    – user862
    Nov 14, 2013 at 13:27

I'll base my answer on the New Living Translation .

When Seth grew up, he had a son and named him Enosh. At that time people first began to worship the Lord by name. (Genesis 4:26, NLT)

From the time of Enosh, there were now many people and they began to worship God together, just like we are doing right now every Sunday. I surmise that there was no music. They were possibly praying together, calling to God and God might have appeared to them many times, had conversation with them, just as God did with Abraham and Moses.

The question here is; what name actually was called by Adam and also by Abraham?

From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord. (Genesis 13:3-4, NIV)

Worshiping the Lord requires calling Him by name. If Adam and Abraham called the Lord by His name, that would mean Moses was not the first man to call the Lord by name.

Why, then, did Moses ask the name of the Lord?

My speculation

Since Moses had to ask the name of the Lord, I believe that there was some problem with the existing name that they had at the time of Moses. When Moses wrote the book of Genesis, he used 'Elohim' very frequently. Therefore, I believe that the word 'Elohim' or it's simpler form 'El' was commonly used by the Canaanites, as this Wikipedia article on 'El' says. During the 400 years of slavery in Egypt, things had changed a lot. Canaan was now occupied by various inhabitants and the use of 'El' was very common among the Canaanites. During the time of Moses, to differentiate between the God of Israel and other gods, they usually referred to their God as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. (Exodus 3:16, NIV)

By the time of Moses, there was already numerous gods and goddesses. Egyptians had many, Moabites had many and Canaanites also had a bunch of them. If Moses said to the Israelites, "El sent me" or "Elohim sent me", I believe that they will be confused to which god Moses was referring to. Moreover, simply using 'El' was no longer appropriate as it would create confusion. Israelites needed a new name for their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That was probably the reason why Moses asked the Lord for a specific name and God identified himself as "I AM", which is "YHWH" in Hebrew.

So, I believe that Adam and Abraham were simply using the word 'God' in their own language, which could be 'El', 'Elohim' or any other forms of 'El' such as 'El-Shaddai', 'El-Eloin' etc. to call the Lord when they worshiped HIM.


Remember that Moses was the one who wrote all the books up to Joshua. It may be that at that time they did or didn't know the name of god, but when Moses wrote the book of genesis the name of god was known. Table of the books of the bible

Jesus isn't mention until much later in history and the bible so it stand to reason that they where referring to their god YHWH, Yahway, Jehovah or whatever pronunciation you may go by.


My literal translation of the second sentence in verse 4:26 reads: "Then calling out in the name of Adonai was begun."

I get my verb translations from www.pealim.com which are by far the most accurate. Using the correct meaning for the Hebrew verb form is very important to finding the correct translations. "was begun" is the translation of הוּחַל. It is in the passive verb form, past tense, 3rd person masculine of "to begin".

I interpret this by what Eve called Adonai (יְהוָֽה) in verse 25, which was "Elohim" (אֱלֹהִים). People started using the name of Adonai instead of only using the name "Elohim".

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