My publisher just told me that I’ve not been doing enough shameless flogging for my books. As such, the following is an excerpt from The Heathen’s Guide to World Religions, (P. 17&18), explaining where the names of God came from.
The dialogue here begins just after Moses was tossed out of Egypt, when he was stuck tending sheep for Jethro…
Moses and the Sheep
Living well is the best revenge.
~George Herbert, Jacula Prudentum
Moses does okay by all this. Sure, he’s not exactly the ruler of Egypt, but hey, sheep can be good company too right? He spends all his time feeding sheep, fleecing sheep, cleaning up after sheep, slaughtering sheep, etc.. On his off days, when traders would come through to provide a distraction for him, he was able to spend his days buying and selling sheep. Then he’d lie down at night next to his wife on his soft sheepskin mattress and drift off, no doubt counting sheep. After settling into this routine and finding peace and contentment in the life of a simple shepherd, Moses did what any good urban-prince-turned-shepherd would do: He snapped.
So there he is, mulling his life over and sick to death of the smell of sheep, when it occurs to him that his people have a deal with this god. The deal was that the god would protect and care for them. Anyone who’d been through Egypt in the last few centuries could tell you these people were not exactly cared for and protected. His adoptive family were basically screwing them around left, right and center and getting away with it.
You have a lot of time to think about this when all you’re doing all day long is staring at sheep. You have a lot of time to consider things. A lot of time for resentment to grow.
“Why,” thought Moses over his mutton stew, “should the Egyptians get away with this when they…er…we have a god right here that’s supposed to be protecting them…er, us? Where the hell is he when we need him? What good is a deal with a god if he’s not going to do a damn thing to help out when you’re getting royally screwed?” (Pun intended.)
The story goes that a day came when Moses finally lost it. In what amounted to a mad frenzy of anger and resentment, he decided to take his bitching to the source. Since he’d already confronted Ramses and lost, he decided it was about time to go after El-Shaddai. Basically Moses says, “Hey, what about these Hebrew people?” and El-Shaddai says, “Well, go free them. I’ll help.” (Okay, it was a tad more dramatic than that. But hey, if you want deep character development, find Cecil B. DeMille. I’m a facts kind of guy.)
It was during this famous conversation that El-Shaddai got his new name: Yahweh. It’s Hebrew for “I am.” (The existential god of the mountain?) According to the story, when Moses asked for El-Shaddai’s name the god said, “I am that I am.” As it sounds a little silly saying “The Great I am that I am,” Jews and Christians alike have kept to the Hebrew word for “I am”: Yahweh.
(It should be noted here that the King James Version of the Bible translates “Yahweh” as “Jehovah.” Both words are translated from the same Hebrew characters, but the KJ guys decided to be different. No real reason there. They just decided they wanted to write it out in English characters in a different way than everyone else did. It’s a small difference that, at the time, meant little. But it has since caused many a poor, innocent party-goers to get up at a ridiculously early hour on Sunday morning to brush off the Jehovah’s Witness at the door. It could easily have been a Yahweh’s Witness.)
The Heathen’s Guide to World Religions.NOT FOR SHEEP.