In the verses we quoted in the last posting, we saw three names of God:
1) יקוק The four letter name of God
2) א-להים E-lohim
3) א-ל ש-די Eil Shaddai
Note: Because of the holiness of God's four letter name in particular, it is not written out properly (which would find the letter ה where I have substituted the letter ק) except when written in a Torah scroll, or printed in a book of learning or a siddur where it is unlikely that it will be defaced. The sages learned from the Torah that God's name, once written, must never be erased, even partially. For essentially the same reason, I have modified the writing of the other names of God mentioned in our passage by placing a hyphen between letters.
In classic biblical criticism, at least the little I know, the first two names on this list are used by two different authors of the Torah. Very nifty but that doesn't explain much about the meanings of the names as used in the context of our verses.
In Chapter 6:1 God addresses Moshe as יקוק. Immediately after in the next verse, God addresses Moshe as א-להים but explains to Moshe that He is יקוק. This is a bit odd for two reasons I can see right off:
1) If He is indeed יקוק then why doesn't He speak to Moshe as יקוק? The verse says that א-להים spoke to Moshe, not יקוק.
2) God already told Moshe that He is יקוק back in Exodus 3:15. In fact, He tells Moshe that “this is My name forever and this is My rememberance from generation to generation.”
God then goes on to tell Moshe that He appeared to the Patriarchs with “Eil Shaddai” whereas the name יקוק he did not 'make manifest' to them. This is also a bit odd as God spoke to each of the Patriarchs using the name יקוק.
The midrash and the commentaries all deal with these issues as well as the issues I brought up in the last posting.
For today, I just want to point out that the Torah here (and elsewhere!) makes a big deal about God's names. The notion that any name is significant is seen pretty early on in the Torah when God has Adam (Genesis 2:19,20) give names to the various animals He created. Later passages also attest to the significance of names. So it is understandable that God's names would be important, too.
We might ask, though, if God is singular and completely unique, why should He have more than one name?