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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Greenberg

Hebrew Names of God #5: ADONAI Yireh

Over the next couple of blogs, we will be looking at compound names of YHWH, ADONAI, most of which derive from specific historical situations and reveal a certain aspect of His character. Quite often in the Patriarchal narratives, the site of a revelation becomes sacred and receives a name somehow reminiscent of the event (for example Gen. 16:14; 21:31; 28:19; 32:3). Before moving on to the first compound name we will discuss, it is important to rehearse the significance of the name YHWH. ADONAI is the personal name of God in covenantal relationship with Israel. It reveals Him as the eternal God of revelation, righteousness, holiness, and love. There is none other.

ADONAI Sees and Provides

The name ADONAI-Yireh is found in the Akedah (Gen. 22), the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac. Most of us can instantly recall the story. Abraham obeys Elohim’s command to take his only son whom he loved to the land of Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering. After Abraham binds Isaac on the altar, the angel of HaShem suddenly calls from heaven telling him not to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham looks up, sees a ram caught in the bushes and offers it instead of Isaac. As a result he names the place ADONAI-Yireh which is a transliteration of the Hebrew literally meaning ‘ADONAI sees’ (Gen. 22:14). Yireh is a common word in the Bible that comes from the root ראה (r a h) meaning to see or to provide. That is why some Bibles translate this name as ADONAI provides. The union of ADONAI with yireh in this verse has brought this common word down to us as a compound name of God.

The word yireh in Gen. 22 takes on a metaphorical sense much like the English idiom, “to see to something,” which carries with it the idea of dealing with something or taking responsibility to provide for someone or something. Look back up at verse 8, Isaac questions his father about the apparent absence of the lamb that was to be sacrificed. Abraham answers him “God will provide for Himself a lamb.” The Hebrew behind “God will provide” is Elohim yireh lo (אלהים יראה לו). The same word “yireh” is used here as in the name given in v. 14. Notice however, that in v. 8 Abraham says “Elohim yireh” but he names the place ADONAI-Yireh.

On the Mountain, ADONAI will See and Provide”

This is not the only word play on the root ראה (rah) in this passage. In verse 14, after Abraham pronounces the name ADONAI-Yireh, there is an editorial comment explaining that a popular saying had arisen based on this episode—Be’har Adonai yeraeh, “On the mountain, ADONAI will provide.” Another way to translate this niphal form of the verb is “appear” or “will be seen,” rendering the translation “On the mountain, ADONAI will appear/will be seen.” To what mountain does this editorial comment apply? The answer is given in verse 2 in another play on the ראה (rah).  HaShem tells Abraham to take Isaac and “go to the land of Moriah.” Mt. Moriah is the place in Jerusalem where Solomon built the Temple (2 Chron. 3:11). Furthermore, it was on Mt. Moriah that HaShem revealed himself to his father David on the threshing floor of Araunah (2 Sam. 24:16-17; 2 Chron. 3:11). Moriah is made up of a form of ראה (rah) and יה YH, which is an abbreviation of YHWH, meaning literally “the shown of HaShem” or the “manifestation/appearance of HaShem. This is a direct reference to the Akedah and ADONAI’s appearance to Abraham. Thus the name ADONAI-Yireh, through the word Moriah, ties into future provision and demonstrates that HaShem not only sees and provides for us in the present, but is already seeing and providing for the future.

ADONAI-Yireh is a commemoration of this great event and the revelation related to it. ADONAI-Yireh is a constant reminder of HaShem’s grace that brought deliverance, foresight that provides for the future even in the present, and plan of redemption provided from Creation ultimately through Yeshua. The significance of this compound name also lies in an expectation of what is to come. Just as ADONAI-Yireh saw Abraham and provided for him, He sees us and will provide for us. No matter our challenges, tests or trials, no matter the situations in which we find ourselves, no matter our sufferings, ADONAI-Yireh sees and provides, “as it is said today” (Gen. 22:14). •

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