The Names of God – I AM
by Jared Kern • May 27, 2013 • Hebrew, Jesus Christ • 0 Comments
In Exodus 3:13-15 Moses asks The Lord / Yehovah what he should tell the sons, or children, of Israel when they ask him what the name of God is. There is great importance paid here, and elsewhere in the scriptures, to the names of God. In Ezekiel 39:7 we are told, “I [will] make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel.” Compare this to, “they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” (Psalm 9:10) Finally consider the words of King Benjamin,” Whosoever… shall be found at the right hand of God… shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ.” (Mosiah 5:9) Great emphasis is placed in the scriptures on names and new names.
In response to Moses, God (אֱלֹהִים / elohim) says “אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה / ehyeh asher ehyeh.” (Exodus 3:14)
Hebrew verbs are different from those in English. Hebrew verbs do not have tense (past, present, and future), but rather have stems which denote intensity, causation, reflexivity, and passivity.
אֶהְיֶה / ehyeh is usually parsed as a Qal Imperfect first masculine singular verb. This form is used to express incomplete action in the past, present, or future. Consequently this word can validly be variously translated I was, I am, and I will be.
Scholars have also postulated this occurrence of the verb may also represent other verb stems for two reasons. First, the verb הָיָה / hayah is irregular, as it has both a 1st guttural and 3rd heh root. It is not however hollow, as the yod has a consonantal value in this word.
Second, other stems could easily be represented here as the consonantal text is preeminent. The vowels were not added to the text until much later in the masoretic textual tradition, therefore their accuracy can at times be questioned. This raises the possibility that other stems may also be represented here, such as the Hiph’il indicating active causation. The Hiph’il Imperfect first masculine singular form of the verb would be translated, “I caused to be, I cause to be, I will cause to be,” indicating God is the creator or organizer of all, past, present, and future.
In determining which tense to use in an English translation, context usually helps clarify the issue. The context here is God teaching Moses, and us, about the nature of God, Himself. The translation here would accordingly represent our understanding of God.
אֲשֶׁר / asher is the general purpose pronoun, meaning who, whom, which, that, or because.
Given the above discussion אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה / ehyeh asher ehyeh may be translated as follows:
“I was/am/will be who/that/because I was/am/will be.”
This indicates a constancy of action and presence, the essence of eternity which is not conveyed by the standard translation of these words, “I am that I am.” Consider the word of the Lord to Moses at another time, “Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?” (Moses 1:3)
“Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3:14) Or in other words, “I was/am/will be sent me to you.” This is why the Jews picked up rocks to stone Jesus as he taught in the temple when he said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58-59). They did not believe, they did not recognize Him as He stood in their presence teaching them.
Christ is in our midst (D&C 6:32). Do we believe in and recognize Him?