“And Abraham called the name of the place, ‘Yahweh is Seen,’ that it may be said that day that on the mountain, Yahweh is seen.”
The traditional rendering of the name of this place is “Jehovah Jireh” or “Yahweh (The Lord) will provide,” though this name is arrived at more through inference than it is through translation of the Hebrew. Literally, this name should be rendered, “Yahweh is seen,” and is a reference back to verse 8 of this chapter where Isaac is asking his father about the lamb to be sacrificed and God replies: “Yahweh will see to the lamb…” Since verse 8 is understood in the context of God’s provision, verse 14 is rendered likewise.
The Hebrew verb in question in both verses is the word hDa∂r (ra’ah). Literally, the verb means to see, to know, or to be aware of something. In verse 14, though, the verb is in the Niphal stem (passive) and thus should be rendered with God being acted upon by the verb: “Yahweh is seen” or “Yahweh is revealed.”
In context, the name of the mountain is given not so much because of God’s provision of the ram to be sacrificed, but because the invisible God revealed himself to Abraham on that mountain. It is here on the mount of Moriah that God teaches Abraham about his plan to send a greater Lamb to sacrifice, it is here that God teaches Abraham about the nature of substitutionary atonement, and it is here that God teaches Abraham about faith and grace. God also reveals to Abraham the nature of a Father’s heart who would give the life of his Son to save a people from their sins … a lesson that does not remain only with Abraham, but continues to us today as well.
So what then do we do with all of the songs based on the mistranslation, songs like “Jehovah Jireh, My provider, His grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me…” or “Jehovah Jireh, My Provider, You’re more than enough for me…”? Do we throw them out? Do we rewrite them: “Jehovah Jireh, My Revealer, Your Grace is shown to me, to me, to me…”? Not quite as catchy, I suppose. The answer is no, though perhaps, in the right context, some explanation ought to be given. For indeed, God is not so much providing a ram for sacrifice as he is a revelation of his redemptive plan.
What perhaps is more interesting is in how we sometimes apply this name. God indeed is a provider, but notice what it is that God is providing. He is not providing food or clothing, he his not providing a comfortable place to live, and he is not providing rest from Abraham’s enemies. God is providing a sacrifice in the person of his Son to redeem us from our sins. Is this what we have in mind when we sing that Jehovah Jireh will “provide all my needs according to his richness and glory”? Indeed, God promises to care for our needs (see Matthew 6:25-34), but this verse in Genesis has nothing to do with that particular matter. Abraham did not come down the mountain rejoicing that God had provided food or wealth or even a substitute for Isaac; he came down the mountain rejoicing that God had revealed himself and his promise of a coming Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world. May we rejoice in the same as we read through this text.