“…I have remembered your name
by Patrick Christian Navas
In most English translations of the Bible, whenever you read the title LORD or GOD (all capital letters), it always denotes these four Hebrew characters (above, read from right to left)—transliterated into English as YHWH or JHVH—generally referred to by scholars as the Tetragrammaton (or Tetragram), meaning ‘four letters.’ The Tetragrammaton represents the unique and personal name of God, ‘Yah×weh’ or ‘Jehovah.’ The name occurs nearly 7000 (6,828) times throughout the Hebrew Scriptures or Old Testament. As one Dictionary of the Bible points out:
The God of Israel is called by His personal name more frequently than by all other titles combined; the name not only identified the person, it revealed his character.
Some scholars believe that in the Hebrew language the divine name was originally pronounced as “Yahweh,” and is rendered as such in several modern English Bible translations. However, it is more likely that the name was originally pronounced in a three syllable form, as “Yeh×o×wah” or some such variation (‘Jehovah’ is the English form of the divine name). Yet it remains true to say that no one knows for an absolute certainty how the name of God was originally pronounced.
In The Bible, An American Translation, the editor made the following comments regarding the translation and use of the divine name in the English Bible:
In this translation we have followed the orthodox Jewish tradition and substituted ‘the Lord’ for the name ‘Yahweh’ and the phrase ‘the Lord God’ for the phrase ‘the Lord Yahweh.’ In all cases where ‘Lord’ or ‘God’ represents an original ‘Yahweh’ small capitals are employed. Anyone, therefore, who desires to retain the flavor of the original text has but to read ‘Yahweh’ wherever he sees Lord or God.
Everett Fox, translator of the Shocken Bible, explains his preferred method of translating the sacred name of the Almighty as follows:
The reader will immediately notice that the personal name of the Biblical God appears in this volume as ‘YHWH.’ That is pretty standard scholarly practice, but it does not indicate how the name should be pronounced… While the visual effect of ‘YHWH’ may be jarring at first, it has the merit of approximating the situation of the Hebrew text as we now have it, and of leaving open the unresolved question of the pronunciation and meaning of God’s name… Historically, Jewish and Christian translations of the Bible into English have tended to use ‘Lord,’ with some exceptions (notably, Moffatt’s ‘The Eternal’). Both old and new attempts to recover the ‘correct’ pronunciation of the Hebrew name have not succeeded; neither the sometimes-heard ‘Jehovah’ nor the standard scholarly ‘Yahweh’ can be conclusively proven.
Although ‘Jehovah’ and ‘Yahweh’ cannot be proven conclusively, both forms do have the merit of preserving the four consonants of the Tetragrammaton (YHWH or the latinized JHVH), and most English Bible translations that include God’s personal name use either of the two forms. Additionally, both forms are familiar to most students of Scripture and generally make possible for easy and immediate identification.
Some Bible students
have taken issue against the English form “Jehovah,” referring to it a “hybrid”
and an “erroneous pronunciation.” It has been pointed out that God’s name could
never have been pronounced that way, and that today we should pronounce and
translate the name as “Yahweh.” However, the claim of Bible translators has
never been that God’s name was originally pronounced as “Jehovah.”
Jehovah is simply the form that conforms to normal English usage with respect
to Hebrew names in the Bible. For example, in Hebrew, the name “Isaiah” was
probably pronounced originally as “Yeshayahu.” Similarly the English “
Steven T. Byington, translator of The Bible in Living English (p. 7), made the following remarks with respect to God’s name and pronunciation:
…the spelling and the pronunciation are not highly important. What is highly important is to keep it clear that this is a personal name. There are several texts that cannot be properly understood if we translate this name by a common noun like ‘Lord,’ or, much worse, by a substantivized adjective [for example, the Eternal].
The avoidance of pronouncing God’s name by the Jews of latter times likely resulted from a misunderstanding of one of the “Ten Words” or “Ten Commandments,” “Thou shall not take the name of the LORD [Jehovah] thy God in vain.” (Exodus 20:7, KJV). As one source commented:
Whenever readers came to the word YHWH, they read adonai [‘lord’], lest they should ‘blaspheme’ God by pronouncing his name out loud. Never did God Himself require them to takes such measures, but that is how they interpreted Exodus 20:7... In order to ensure that they would not take his name in vain, they simply refused to speak His name at all. It is hard to imagine that God intended such an extreme position, considering the fact that his name occurs 6,823 [or 6,828] times in the Old Testament. Furthermore, God inspired a Psalmist to say that he would call on ‘the name of [Jehovah]” in response to His goodness: Psalm 116:13, 17 (13) I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of [Jehovah] (17) I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of [Jehovah].’
The Concise Bible Dictionary based upon the Illustrated Bible Treasury states:
The Jews out of reverence for the holy name, shrank from pronouncing it, and wherever it occurs in the Old Testament, read ‘Adonai’; and this practice, which prevailed from at least the third century b.c., influenced the translators.
Commenting further on the suppression of the divine name, the introduction to Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible has the following observation:
…it remains true to say, that in our public versions the one especial Name of God is suppressed, wholly concealed from the listening ear, almost as completely hidden from the hastening or uncritical eye… It is therefore the most natural presumption that the suppression of The Name has entailed on the reader, and especially upon the hearer, irreparable loss…The motive was good—let that be assumed. It was to safeguard the Divine majesty in the minds of men. It was to prevent the inconsiderate mention of Him before whom seraphs veil their faces…The passages commonly cited as furnishing good reason for the suppression cannot mean what is attributed to them, since there is a wide distinction between not taking His Name in vain, and not taking His Name into our lips at all, even for prayer or praise. In a word, the motive is respected; but the reverence is regarded as misapplied¾the reason is seen to be invalid.
Another example of what is typically offered as an explanation/justification for the reason why translators render God’s name as “LORD (rather than his personal and proper name)” is found in the opening pages of the New American Standard Bible (1979). In its preface the translators state the following:
In the Scriptures, the name of God is most significant and understandably so. It is inconceivable to think of spiritual matters without a proper designation for the Supreme Deity. Thus the most common name for Deity is God, a translation of the original Elohim. The normal word for Master is Lord, a rendering of Adonai. There is yet another name which is particularly assigned to God as His special or proper name, that is, the four letters YHWH (Exodus 3:14 and Isaiah 42:8). This name has not been pronounced by the Jews because of reverence for the great sacredness of the divine name. Therefore, it was consistently pronounced and translated LORD.
It is certainly true
that God’s name is sacred and that his people are to treat his name with great
reverence. But what is frequently overlooked by many is the fact that the above
reasoning offered for substituting the divine name with the title ‘LORD’ (or, ‘GOD’) is,
in reality, an appeal to a post/extra-biblical Jewish tradition/superstition,
rather than an appeal based upon the actual Scriptures themselves. There is no
evidence in the Bible indicating that God ever willed or purposed that his
people follow such a practice, particularly when reading aloud from the Hebrew
portion of the holy Scriptures (where his name occurs nearly 7000 times). It
must be remembered, that the Jews who initiated and followed the practice of
substituting the name Adonai (Lord) and Elohim (God) for YHWH,
were not the same noteworthy and exemplary Biblical men of faith like
Abraham, Moses and David; nor were they the God-appointed prophets of ancient
Although the majority of English Bible translators were influenced by the long held Jewish tradition of replacing God’s name with adonai (LORD), there are several modern English translations that do not follow that practice. Concerning the rendering of the sacred name as Jehovah, the Preface to the American Standard Version (1901) states:
The change first proposed in the Appendix-that which substitutes ‘Jehovah’ for ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ (printed in small capitals)-is one which will be unwelcome to many, because of the frequency and familiarity of the terms displaced. But the American Revisers, after careful consideration, were brought to the unanimous conviction that a Jewish superstition, which regards the Divine Name as too sacred to be uttered, ought no longer to dominate in the English or any other version of the Old Testament, as it fortunately does not in the numerous versions made by modern missionaries. This Memorial Name, explained in Ex.iii. 14, 15, and emphasized as such over and over in the original text of the Old Testament, designates God as the personal God, as the covenant God, the God of revelation, the Deliverer, the Friend of his people; not merely the abstractly ‘Eternal One’ of many French translations, but the ever living Helper of those who are in trouble. This personal name, with its wealth of sacred associations, is now restored to the place in the sacred text to which it has an unquestionable claim.
An article written on the subject of divine name in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Vol. II, p. 1266) points out:
It is illogical, certainly, that the later Hebrews should have shrunk from its pronunciation, in view of the appropriateness of the name and of the OT insistence on the personality of God, who as a person has this name. ARV quite correctly adopts the transliteration ‘Jehovah’ to emphasize its significance and purpose as a personal name of God revealed.
Commenting on the meaning of the divine name, a footnote on Exodus 3:14 in the Contemporary English Version (p. 60) of the Bible states:
LORD: The Hebrew text has ‘Yahweh,’ which is usually translated ‘LORD’ in CEV. Since it seems related to the word translated ‘I am,’ it may mean ‘I am the one who is’ or ‘I will be what I will be’ or ‘I am the one who brings into being.’ (underlining added)
The significance of God’s memorial name was revealed to Moses at Exodus 3:14, 15, in the account of the burning bush. Although several popular Bible translations render God’s words, in his response to Moses’ question about his identity, as ‘I am that I am’ [Hebrew: ‘ehyeh asher ehyeh’] (KJV, NKJV, NASB), several scholarly sources suggest the following:
Some scholars, however, prefer to take the word as a future, ‘I will be,’ in which case the name expresses rather the faithfulness of God, the assurance that He will be with His people as their helper and deliverer. Others, again, take the word to be the causative form of the verb, in which case it will mean, ‘He causes to be,’ ‘the Creator’…
This thesis holds Yahwe to be originally a finite causative verb from the Northwest Semitic root hwy ‘to be, to come into being,’ so that the divine name would mean ‘he causes to be, or exist,’ i. e, ‘he creates.’
…the most accurate meaning of God’s name seems to be ‘He causes to become’ (based upon the causal ה), that is, everything that He wishes to happen is because of his will and becomes a reality (Isaiah 55:10,11), there is nothing God cannot accomplish nor do, except lying (Titus 1:2).
As is always the case in the
ancient Near East, this name is not simply a label for identification, but
much more profoundly a revelation of the divine nature. This means that the
meaning of the four consonants YHWH as they appear in the Hebrew Ex.3:15, 6:3
must be seen as a heightening of the awareness of the nature of God as he
revealed himself to Moses. There is a contrast drawn in chapter three between
the way God revealed himself to the Patriarchs and the way he will now reveal
What follows are other possible meanings associated with the divine name, as the following versions of the Bible would indicate at Exodus 3:14:
“I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.”
¾New International Version (marginal rendering)
“I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE”
¾American Standard Version (marginal rendering)
“I Will Become whatsoever I please.”
¾Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible
“I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHAT I SHALL PROVE TO BE.”
“I will be-there howsoever I will be-there.”
¾The Shocken Bible,
The following reference work explains:
In Exodus Jehovah is explained as the equivalent to ‘ehyeh,’ which is a short form of ‘ehyeh ‘asher ‘ehyeh, translated in RV “I am that I am.”…the imperfect ‘ehyeh is more accurately translated “I will be what I will be,’ a Sem. Idiom meaning ‘I will be all that is necessary as the occasion will arise,’ a familiar OT idea (cf Is 7 4.9; Ps 23)…, yahweh, ‘he will be.’…It is the personal name of God, as distinguished from such generic or essential names as ‘El, ‘Elohim, Shadday, etc. Character knowledge of God as a person; and Jehovah is His name as a person…Then God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM…The optional reading in ARVm is much to be preferred: ‘I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE,’ indicating His covenant pledge to be with and for Israel in all the ages to follow.
Vol. 2, page 507 of The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia also states the following regarding the commonly offered translation “I am that I am”:
‘I will be who/what I will be’…is preferable because the verb hayah [to be] has a more dynamic sense of being- not pure existence, but becoming, happening, being present—and because the historical and theological context of these early chapters of Exodus shows that God is revealing to Moses, and subsequently to the whole people, not the inner nature of His being [or existence], but his active, redemptive intentions on their behalf. He ‘will be’ to them ‘what’ His deeds will show Him ‘to be.’
“My strength and my song is Jah,
and he is become my salvation…”
“Jah,” in English, is the abbreviated and poetic form of Jehovah in the Bible (represented by the first half of the Tetragrammaton, Y/J and H respectively). The psalmist declared, “Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.” (Psalm 68:4, KJV) The name Jah is almost always associated with more moving and emotional expressions, like poems or songs of praise and affection expressed for Jehovah. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “Lo, God is my salvation, I trust, and fear not, For my strength and my song is Jah Jehovah, And He is to me for salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2, YLT) Expressions of praise to Jah are found throughout the Book of Psalms (50 times total) and 4 times in the Book of Revelation: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments.” (Revelation 19:1-2, NIV) The expression “Hallelujah” means “Praise Jah,” literally, “Praise ye Jah” (Psalm 148:1, YLT) or “Praise Jah you people!” (Psalm 146:1, NWT) Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible reads, ‘Praise ye Yah’ [Yahweh] (Psalm 150:6) “Jah” also enters into the composition of many Hebrew words and names, for example: Elijah [my God is Jah], Abijah [my father is Jah], Jedidiah [beloved of Jah], Jesus [salvation (or help) of Jah (Jehovah) or, Jah saves].
“Jehovah of Armies is his name,
the Holy One of
Throughout the holy
Scriptures, God is called (in Hebrew): “Yahweh Sabaoth,” English: “Jehovah
of hosts” (ASV) or “Jehovah of
Armies” (BLE), “the LORD of hosts” (KJV). God’s prophet observed
the seraphim crying, “Holy, holy, holy is Yahweh Sabaoth [Jehovah of Hosts].
His glory fills the whole earth.” (Isaiah 6:3 NJB). This divine title, “Jehovah of hosts” may originally have
been referring to the “hosts” or “armies” of
Regarding the occurrence of the divine name in the Christian Scriptures or New Testament, one Christian author made the following observation:
As to the Bible books written in the first century, there is no extant Greek manuscript evidence that the name appeared in any passage (Matthew to Revelation). Regarding the possibility that this was the case in the original text when quotations were made from the Hebrew text, George Howard (in a Hebrew Gospel of Matthew, 1995) writes:
“The occurrence of the Divine Name in Shem Tob’s Matthew
[contained in his treatise Even Bohan, a 14th-century polemic
work designed to help Jews defend their faith] supports the conclusions I
reached in an earlier study of the Tetragrammaton in the New Testament, basing
my observations on the use of the Divine Name in the Septuagint and in the Dead
Sea Scrolls. Some pre-Christian copies of the Septuagint, for example, contain
the Divine Name written into the Greek text…In my previous study, I concluded
that the New Testament writers, who had access to such copies of the
Septuagint, may have preserved the Tetragrammaton in their biblical quotations
from the Septuagint. Now Shem-Tob’s Matthew testifies to the use of the Divine
Name in the New Testament…t is very unlikely that Shem-Tob inserted the
Divine Name into his text. No Jewish polemist would have done that. Whatever
the date of this text, it must have included the Divine Name from its
inception. One final note regarding the Divine Name: Shem Tob’s Matthew shows a
very conservative attitude toward its usage. The author of this text was not a
radical Christian, arbitrarily supplying the gospel with the Tetragrammaton.
His attitude was one of awe and respect. In fact, his use of the Divine Name
corresponds to the conservative practice found in the Septuagint and in the
Whatever conclusion as to the written text of ‘New Testament’ writings that one may reach on the basis of such evidence, there is no reason to doubt that, when seeing his Father’s name in the Scriptures, Jesus would have read what was recorded and would have done likewise when quoting from memory. It was, however, the close filial relationship that Jesus expressed in calling God his Father that enraged the unbelieving Jews. (John 5:17, 18) He repeatedly addressed God as Father and taught his disciples to do the same. (Matthew 6:9; John 14:1-17:26) Therefore, if the divine name did occur in the original Greek manuscripts of the ‘New Testament,’ this would understandably not have been frequent, the emphasis being on the sonship of Jesus’ disciples.
Knowing and calling upon the name of Jehovah can contribute to a sense of trust and confidence in the Creator. It can also fill believers with great comfort and hope, especially when the significance of the name is understood—that is, there is a far richer meaning when one comes to know, intimately, the person represented by that name. The name itself can serve to remind the faithful that God “will always be there,” and that “he will fulfill every promise” he has made to his people in the holy Scriptures. Although we identify the Most High as “YHWH,” scripturally, it is entirely acceptable and appropriate for Christians to think of and refer to God as “Our Heavenly Father,” as Jesus himself did and as he taught his disciples to do. (Matthew 6:9, 26; compare Galatians 4:6). It should never be overlooked that perhaps one of the most fitting and unmistakable ways to identify the one true God now is by the apostolic (divinely authorized) designation found frequently throughout the inspired Christian writings. He is: “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ...the Father of Mercies and God of all Comfort...” (Romans 15:6, 2 Corinthians 1:2, , Ephesians 1:3; 17)
“O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
—Jesus Christ, John 17:25, 24, ESV
Some notable Bible Translations that include the Name of God
1. (ASV) The American Standard
Version 1901 [Jehovah] available at: Baker Book House 2768
“In the Scriptures there is the closest possible relationship between a person and his name, the two being practically equivalent, so that to remove the name is to extinguish the person (Numb. 27:4; Deut. 7:24) To forget God’s name is to depart from Him.”
—Zondervan Pictorical Bible Dictionary, p. 571 (1964)
Insights and Notes on the Divine Name and its meaning (Ex. ): Sources ranging from Jewish, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Conservative Evangelical, Liberal and other Christian/non-denominational and independent scholarship:
Since, with the exception of Exod. 3:14, the OT itself
makes no attempt to explain the meaning of the Tetragrammaton, it is not
surprising that scholars have been unable to reach agreement on its linguistic
meaning…Some commentators who advocate the imperfect of the simple stem find in
this usage of the verb “to be” the conception of Israel’s God as “the One who
the absolute and unchangeable God. Recent interpreters, however, have sought to
do greater justice to the dynamic, activistic character of Israel’s historical
faith…Many scholars, however, defend the causative interpretation, though
disagreeing on the basic meaning of the verb…The theory which perhaps has
aroused the greatest interest is one which derives the Tetragrammaton from hwh (later form hyh) in the sense of “come to pass, come into being, be” Yahweh
is the one who causes to be what comes to past…The causative meaning. Another
interpretation, which has much to commend it, takes the verb in the causative (Hiph’il)
stem, which is precisely the grammatical form of the word “Yahweh.” On this
view, instead of “I am” we should read “I cause to be.” When the whole
enigmatic formula is changed into the causative, it means: “I cause to be what
comes into existence.” It is conjectured that behind this was an older
formulation in the third person: “He causes to be what comes into existence” (Yahweh
’asher yahweh) ¾i.e., He is the Creator of all. This
interpretation has the merit of putting the accent on Yahweh’s dynamic
lordship: He is the One who causes to be what is (or what happens)¾i.e.,
historical events and natural happenings have their origin in his sovereign
will. In either case, Exod. 3:14 does not give a philosophical definition of
God in terms of eternal, changeless, passive Being, as implied in the LXX
translation [‘I am the being/the existing one’]. Such metaphysical
speculation would have been foreign to
[God] is what He is by virtue of His deeds. That is to say, you cannot really know Him until you experience Him in your own life… [the] name is not further explained. Still, Moses makes no additional inquiry, and we may therefore assume that the name was meaningful to him, or at least he believed he understood its import. What then was it? Over the centuries a number of answers have been attempted, though none has won universal acceptance…Ehyeh is quite evidently the first person singular of the word “to be”. One problem is that the tense is not clear. It could mean “I am” or “I will be” (or “I shall be”). This uncertainty is multiplied in the name Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh, for the first Ehyeh might be one tense (for instance, “I am”) and the second another (for instance, “I will be”), or they might both be the same tense (“I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be). To add to the difficulty, Asher could mean either “who or “what.”…The majority of commentators have understood both occurrences of Ehyeh to convey the future tense and to mean: “I will be what tomorrow demands,” that is, God emphasizes that He is capable of responding to human need. This was the message, they say, Moses was to take back to the enslaved people and thereby assure them that the God whom they called YHVH was also “Ehyeh,” who would be ready in the near future to redeem them. ¾The Torah, A Modern Commentary, Edited by W. Gurther Plaut (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981) p. 405.
I AM WHO I AM (Heb. ’ehyeh ’asher ’ehyeh). An expression used to explain Yahweh, the covenant name of the God of Israel, given to Moses when he encountered the burning bush (Exod. ). It is also rendered “I will be what I will be” or, perhaps more correctly, “I create what(ever) I create.”…Although the meaning of the name remains subject to debate, Yahweh is most likely a verbal form of Heb. hayâ (perhaps originally hwy) “be, become.” It is frequently held to be a hiphil form “cause to be,” and as such may represent the initial element in a compound such as Yahweh-El (“God, who causes to be”). ¾The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary, Edited by Allen C. Myers. (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1987) pp. 511, 1075.
Proper Signification of the Term.—A c[lue] to the real import of this name appears to be designedly furnished in the passage where it is most distinctively ascribed to the God of the Hebrews, Exod. iii, 14: “And God said to Moses, I shall be what I shall be…and he said, Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel, The I SHALL BE has sent me to you” …he shall be, i. e., He that shall be; since this form, if a verb at all, would be in the Hiphil…and would signify he that shall cause to be, i.e. the Creator… ¾McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume IV (First published by Harper and Brothers (1867-1887), Reprinted by Baker Book House) p. 810.
The meaning of the name etymologically is much disputed. The LXX rendered it by “He who is,” and the V[ul]g[ate] “I am who am.” There is general agreement that the name is derived from the archaic form of the verb to be, hawah; but other etymologies proposed are too numerous for listing. W. F. Albright has interpreted the name as derived from the causative form and proposes that it is only the first word of the entire name yahweh- ’aser-yihweh, “He brings into being whatever comes into being.” The name therefore designates Him as creator, and this etymology is regarded as most probable by many scholars. ¾McKenzie Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J. (Macmillan Publishing Company. First Touchstone Edition, 1995) p. 317.
All these explanations [advocating the translation: “I am that I am”], however, overlook the fact that in Ex a merely folk etymology of the name, based on the qal form of the verb ‘to be,’ is given. Grammatically, because of its vocalization, yahweh can only be a hi’phil or causative form of this verb, with the meaning ‘He causes to be, He brings into being.’ Probably, therefore, yahweh is an abbreviated form of the longer, yahweh aser yihweh, ‘He brings into being whatever exists.’ The name, therefore, describes the God of Israel as the Creator of the universe. ¾The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, p. 1065 (1967)
The meaning [of God’s name] is obscured by the conventional translation I am who I am…The Hebrew verb denotes, not abstract being, but manifestation in a definite character, or name; and its form indicates habitual manifestation in past, present, or future. Since English requires a tense, the best rendering is “I will be as I will be.” The Famous declaration signifies that God is known in his dynamic confrontation of man and in man’s active response to God. This truth may well have been apprehended by Moses and expressed in the development of the divine name with this verbal sense from an original exclamatory “Yah” or “Yahu.” ¾The Interpreter’s One-Volume Commentary on the Bible (Nashville Abingdon Press, 1971) p. 39.
The translation I am is doubly false: the tense is wrong, being present; and the idea is wrong because am [in an incorrect translation] is used in the sense of essential existence. All those interpretations which proceed upon the supposition that the name is a name of God as the self existent, the absolute, of which the Septuagint’s ‘ho on’ is the most conspicuous illustration, must be set aside...the nature of the [Hebrew] verb and the tense pre-emptorily forbid them.” ¾A. B. Davidson, The Theology of the Old Testament in “The International Theological Library”, 1920, p.55. (emphasis added)
Properly speaking, this verb hayah never has the meaning of static being like the copular verb ‘to be.’ Its basic notion is that of becoming or emerging as such and such, or of coming into being… ¾Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (footnote), p. 184. (emphasis added)
[‘The God who is’] The verb in the Hebrew text can be translated ‘I will be’, and it is possible to understand the formula as meaning, ‘I will be what I will be’. In the second half of the verse, according to the Hebrew text, the name used is ‘I am’ (or, ‘I will be’), rather than ‘He who is.’ ¾Knox, The Holy Bible (footnote), A Translation from the Latin Vulgate in the light of the Hebrew and Greek originals (1956)
The meaning of the divine name (v.12) is repeated and expanded, God’s freedom from and control of history are denoted by the phrase, “I will be what I will be.” ¾Oxford Study Edition The New English Bible, ftnt.
Hayah [“to be,” root of “ehyeh”] does not
mean ‘to be essentially or ontologically [i.e., what He is basically or that He
exists], but phenomenally [i.e., what He will do]...it seems that in the view
of the writer “‘ehyeh and yahweh are the same: that God is ‘ehyeh, ‘I will be’
when speaking of himself, and yahweh ‘He will be,’ when spoken of by others.
What he will be is left unexpressed¾He will be with
them, helper, strengthener, deliverer.” ¾Prof. A.B. Davidson, in
We have here a play upon words; ‘Yahweh’ is interpreted by ’ehyeh. M. Buber translates ‘I will be as I will be’, and expounds it as a promise of God’s power and enduring presence with them in the process of deliverance (Moses, pp. 39-55). That something like this is the purport of these words, which in English sound enigmatical, is shown by what follows, ‘”Yahweh, the God of your fathers,…has sent me to you”: this is my name forever’ (v. 15). The full content of the name comes first; the name itself follows. ¾The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Volume 1 (Wheaton: Tyndale Hose Publishers, 1980) p. 572.
…here God first tells Moses its meaning. ‘Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh,’
probably best translated as “I Will Be What I Will Be,” meaning, “My nature
will become evident from My actions.” (Compare God’s frequent declarations
below, that from His future acts
In Exodus Jehovah is explained as the equivalent to ‘ehyeh,’ which is a short form of ‘ehyeh ‘asher ‘ehyeh, translated in RV “I am that I am.” This has been supposed to mean “self-existence,” and to represent God as the Absolute. Such and idea, however, would be a metaphysical abstraction, not only impossible to the time at which the name originated, but alien to the Heb[rew] mind at any time. And the imperfect ‘ehyeh is more accurately translated “I will be what I will be,” a Sem. Idiom meaning “I will be all that is necessary as the occasion will arise,” a familiar OT idea (cf Is 7 4.9; Ps 23)…, yahweh, “he will be.”…(ARV quite correctly adopts the transliteration “Jehovah” to emphasize its significance and purpose as a personal name of God revealed…Then God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM…The optional reading in ARVm is much to be preferred: “I WILL BE THAT I WILL BE,” indicating His covenant pledge to be with and for Israel in all the ages to follow.” …I will be who/what I will be”…is preferable because the verb hayah [to be] has a more dynamic sense of being- not pure existence, but becoming, happening, being present- and because the historical and theological context of these early chapters of Exodus shows that God is revealing to Moses, and subsequently to the whole people, not the inner nature of His being [or existence], but his active, redemptive intentions on their behalf. He “will be” to them “what” His deeds will show Him “to be.” ¾The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. II (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1939) pp. 1254, 1266, 1267.
[Yahweh] replied by linking his name, or rather title,
with the verb to be (hayah). He said ehyeh asher ehyeh, generally
translated “I Am Who (That, What) I Am”, which was the understanding of the
Septuagint, which took it as an affirmation, congenial to Greek thought, of the
immutability of God. It could well be this, though we may question whether such
an essentially philosophical concept suits the time of Moses. Others have seen
it rather as an affirmation of God’s inscrutability, into whose being man
cannot penetrate, and possibly including a rebuke to Moses for his question.
Many leading commentators, from Rashi, a twelfth-century Jewish rabbi, on, have
however pointed out that ehyeh is grammatically far better rendered “I
shall (will) be”, and so render “I will be That (What) I will be”; see margin
of RV, RSV, NEB, TEV, NIV. J.H. Hertz explained the title, “No words can sum up
all that He will be to his people, but will more and more manifest themselves
in the guidance of
Such a translation [in English] as ‘I am
what I am” appears to be ruled out completely by the fact that the [Hebrew]
verbs here are imperfects. “I am” is the normal translation of the Hebrew
perfect, not an imperfect...The translation offered here relates this
explanation of the name to covenants with the patriarchs. As such it was a
basis of assurance concerning Yahweh’s presence and support. This thought is
made explicit in the verse that follows, and the proper name Yahweh, the
memorial name, is made synonymous with the description “I shall continue to be
what I have always been.” This makes the description a restatement of Yahweh’s
faithfulness an assurance that he will fulfill the covenants with Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob.” ¾J. Washington
In addition, there is a large debate over the meaning of this name. It seems related to the Hebrew root H-Y/V-Y/H (Yod י, He ה, and Waw ו are interchangeable in some cases), which is used to describe various aspects of being. Therefore, many scholars have decided that it means something like “I am the One Who Is”. Appropriate reference points in the Old Testament to start an investigation into this name include: Genesis 2:4, Exodus (others?). Nevertheless, the most accurate meaning of God’s name seems to be “He causes to become” (based upon the causal ה), that is, everything that He wishes to happen is because of his will and becomes a reality (Isaiah 55:10,11), there is nothing God cannot accomplish nor do, except lying (Titus 1:2). ¾Wikipedia (Multilingual) the Free Encyclopedia (2001)
Most moderns follow Rashe [Shelomoh Ben Yishaq c.1040-1105] in rendering ‘I will be what I will be’ i.e., no words can sum up all that He will be to His people, but His everlasting faithfulness and unchanging mercy will more and more manifest themselves in the guidance of Israel. The answer which Moses receives in these words is thus equivalent to, ‘I shall save in the way that I shall save.’ It is to assure the Israelites of the fact of deliverance, but does not disclose the manner. ¾J.H. Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 1950, ftnt to Ex.3:14.
Scholars have long noticed the connection
between Exodus 3:14, “I am that I am,” (better translated, “I will be what I
will be”) and Yahweh. The main thrust of “I will be what I will be” was that
God was a covenant God to the Hebrews and, unlike the nations that had a god
for every possible need, God would be for his people whatever they needed. They
needed no God but one. ¾Graeser, Lynn, Schoenheit, One God & One Lord, Reconsidering the
Cornerstone of the Christian Faith, (
This thesis holds Yahwe to be originally a finite causative verb from the Northwest Semitic root hwy “to be, to come into being,” so that the divine name would mean “he causes to be, or exist,” i. e, “he creates.” ¾Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1973) p. 1177.
Some scholars, however, prefer to take the word as a future, ‘I will be,’ in which case the name expresses rather the faithfulness of God, the assurance that He will be with His people as their helper and deliverer. Others, again, take the word to be the causative form of the verb, in which case it will mean, ‘He causes to be,’ ‘the Creator’ ¾The One Volume Bible Commentary, edited by Rev. J. R. Dummelow (New York: The MacMillian Company, 1966) p. 51.
There is a similarity between ’ehye and YHWH in that two of the consonants (H and H) are identical, and the third (W) is probably identical. So, what is the meaning of YHWH? It is near impossible to determine with certainty the etymology of such an ancient word; we simply do not know! One suggestion is that the name represents the causative form of haya, meaning, “he causes to be.” This may very well be the case. Against this, however, it may be argued that a causative form (hiphil) of haya is unprecedented, and that a third person singular is strange indeed for the personal name of God. We would have expected “I cause to be” rather than “he causes to be,” just as we see in the ’ehye (“I will be”) of the following verse. Because the ehyeh-clause describes God and YHWH names God, it is not unreasonable to think that there is some connection between them, but what that connection is may be difficult to determine, with certainty. ¾Rolf Furuli, The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation (Huntington Beach: Elihu Books, 1999) p. 243.
First, if God says in Exodus 3:14 “I am who I am” that involves one speaking of God would say “He is who He is”, but most of the Hebrew scholars agree, at the present time, that God said “I shall be” and therefore one would rather say speaking of God “He will be who He will be”. However the meaning “He will be” (or “He will prove to be”) [will] not allow finding a vocalization because this meaning is above all a religious explanation without scientific purpose (grammatical)…Very early etymology intervened, not to vocalize the divine name again (which was usefulness) but ‘to explain the real sense’ of this name. Indeed, the Hebraic Bible gives an etymological definition of this name in Exodus which is “I shall be which (who) I shall be”. Generally the Talmud and Targums commented on this sentence by clarifying that God strengthened his servants by saying to them ‘I shall be [with you]’…However, the translators of the Septuagint (towards 280 BCE), under the influence of Greek philosophy, modified this etymology by translating this sentence into “I am the being” that is ‘I am He who is’, God becoming ‘the one who is’. Then at the beginning of the third century there was a slight development of this definition. In the Christian environment, Clement of Alexandria explained that God’s name Iaoue means ‘the one who is and who will be.’ In the Jewish environment the Targum of Jonathan explained that in, Deuteronomy 32:29, that God’s name means “I am the one who is and who was and I am the one who has to be”. At the end of the twelfth century Maimonides explained the name as meaning: ‘The necessary being’…When the understanding of the Hebraic language rose again in Europe during the thirteenth century, some scholars tried to vocalize this name YHWH from an existing verbal form. The choice was only between two possibilities: YeHaWèH (piel form 3rd person of masculine singular), which means ‘He will make to be’ or ‘He will constitute’ a Hebraic reconstituted form and YiHWèH a West Aramaic form (peal imperfect, 3rd person of masculine singular) which means, ‘He will be’. The vocalization yehaweh had the favor of a few cabalists (see the Academy of Jerusalem) and the vocalization yihweh had the favor of some Hebrew Christian scholars. The vocalization YiHWèH rather than YèHèWéH (B. Davidson - The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon) derives from the word YeHU’a (Qo 11:3) meaning ‘He will be.’ ¾Gérard Gertoux; Hebrew scholar, specialist of the Tetragram; President of the Association Biblique de Recherche d'Anciens Manuscrits since 1991.
God’s reply [to Moses] in Hebrew was: ’Eh×yeh ’Asher ’Eh×yeh. Some translations render this as “I AM THAT I AM.” However, it is to be noted that the Hebrew verb ha×yah, from which the word ’Eh×yeh is drawn, does not simply mean “be.” Rather, it means “become,” or “prove to be.” The reference here is not to God’s self-existence but to what he has in mind to become toward others. Therefore, the New World Translation properly renders the above Hebrew expression as “I SHAL PROVE TO BE WHAT I SHALL PROVE TO BE.’ Jehovah thereafter added: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘I SHALL PROVE TO BE has sent me to you.’” ¾Ex 3:14, ftn. That this meant no change in God’s name, but only an additional insight into God’s personality, is seen from his further words: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘Jehovah the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of me to generation after generation.” (Ex 3:15; compare Ps 135:13; Ho 12:5) The name Jehovah comes from the Hebrew verb ha×wah’, “become,” and actually means “He causes to Become.” This reveals Jehovah as the One who, with progressive action, causes himself to become the Fulfiller of promises. Thus he always brings his purposes to realization. Only the true God could rightly and authentically bear such a name. ¾Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2, p. 12. (1998)
[Volumes] have been written on the meaning of this Name. But our best clue is the word for “I am” in this very discussion with Moses. For God has given his first answer to Moses’ objections the promise, “I will be with you” (3:12). The word for “I will be” is the same word translated “I am” and it has the same significance…Furthermore, the name Yahweh is associated with the fulfillment of his promise. As Yahweh he has promised to bring Israel out of her misery in Egypt and bring her into the land of the Canaanites. The repeated “I am YHWH” in this book will continue to emphasize the One who has come into relationship by covenant with this people and so is committed to faithfulness to them…Because he is Yahweh, his promise will be fulfilled. He not only makes covenants, he establishes them by his active intervention. The sovereign Creator God is able to bring about his purposes as easily through insignificant persons and incidental events as he is through massive use of natural forces. Yahweh was present with them even when they did not know it. God’s sovereign control of circumstances produced deliverance out of the most calculated oppression… It is then that God must remember because he is Yahweh¾the one who has promised and the one who will fulfill. It is he who finally causes all things to work together for his good purposes…The name Yahweh functions as a guarantee that the reality of God stands behind the promise and will execute its fulfillment. ¾Albert H. Baylis, From Creation to the Cross, Understanding the First Half of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) pp. 103, 105, 111.
The Name Explained. 1. It certainly appears to be explained in Exodus iii. 14...An Individual Opinion respectfully submitted. (a) The conclusion formed may be thus expressed : and the formula by which that significance is sustained and which is rendered into the Authorised Version “I am that I am,” expresses the sense, “I will become whatsoever I please” ; or, as more exactly indicating the idiom involved, “I will become whatsoever I may become.” We amplify the “may,” and more freely suggest the natural latitude which the idiom claims, by saying : “Whatsoever I will, may or can become.” (b) The reasons for this conclusion are two: FIRST, that it gives the simplest, most obvious, most direct force to the derivation of the Name itself, as generally admitted. Yahweh is almost always regarded as the third person, singular, masculine, imperfect tense, from the root hawah, an old form of the root hayah. The one meaning of hawah is “become.” So that the force of yahweh thus derived, as a verb, would be “He will become” or, as expressive of use and wont, “He becometh.” Then, passing into use as a noun, it is ¾“He who becometh,” “The Becoming One.” That is precisely how any other Hebrew name would be formed and would yield up its inherent significance. Thus viewed, its human-like simplicity would be its greatest recommendation…SECOND, the sense of the formula given above is very simply and idiomatically attained. The formula itself ’ehyeh ’asher ’ehyeh, in which it should be noted that the verb ’eheyh, “I will become,” runs forward into a reduplication of itself; for it is that which constitutes the idiom…We thus gain needful countenance for the idiomatic explication of Exo. iii. 14 : I will become whatsoever I will-may-can-become…Perhaps the best word on this momentous occasion is : “what I please,” since we know that the Divine resources are infinite, and that God will please to become to His people only what is wisest and best. Thus viewed, the formula becomes a most gracious promise; the Divine capacity of adaptation to any circumstances, any difficulties, any necessities that may arise, becomes a veritable bank of faith to such as love God and keep His commandments. The formula is a promise, the promise is concentrated in a Name. The Name is at once a revelation, a memorial, a pledge. To this Name, God will ever be faithful ; of it He will never be ashamed ; by it He may ever be truthfully proclaimed and gratefully praised. ¾Joseph Bryant Rotherham, Introduction to Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible (Grand Rapids: Entire Bible published 1902; Kregel Publications, 1994.) pp. 25-28.
Traditional Protestant/Evangelical scholars have generally objected to the translation and understanding of God’s words at Exodus 3:14 as advocated (or implied) by the above scholarship and respective Bible translations (favoring the translation: ‘I AM that/who I AM,’ KJV, NASB). Objections have been cited on the grounds that ‘I will be/become/prove to be/be there’ “doesn’t make sense,” that it leads to “open theism,” or “process theology.” However, if such were in fact the intended meaning of God’s words, one could certainly find sense in such a meaning and it would not need to imply or involve a so-called “process theology/open theism” by any means. On the contrary, the implications of such an understanding would reveal YHWH to be the God who “causes to be what comes to pass (or, into existence; that is, he is the Creator)” and/or the God who will always be “faithful to his promises.” It would point to him as the God who would always “be there” for his people, or, rather “becoming” toward them whatever is necessary, whether that be Savior, Redeemer, Protector or Deliverer. It would also seem to express and emphasize that YHWH is in fact a living God, actively involved in working out his sacred purposes and redemptive intentions with respect to his people, ultimately, to the glory of his own name; and in light of this, our own faith in God and in the divine promises are strengthened.
“God said to Moses, “I-will-be-what-I-will-be: tell the Israelites that I-will-be has sent you to them.” God also said to Moses, “You must tell the Israelites that the Eternal [Jehovah], the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent you to them…” ¾The Bible, A New Translation, by James Moffatt
“And God said to Moses, “I will be what I will be”; and he said “You are to say to the sons of Israel ‘Will Be has sent me to you.” And God said to Moses again “You are to say to the sons of Israel ‘Jehovah, your fathers’ God, Abraham’s God, Isaac’s God, Jacob’s God, has sent me to you’…” ¾The Bible in Living English
“And God said unto Moses, I will become whatsoever I please, And he said¾Thus shalt thou say to the sons of Israel, I Will Become hath sent me unto you. Thus shalt thou say unto the sons of Israel, Yahweh God of your fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob hath sent me unto you…” ¾Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible
“Then Elohim [God] spoke to Moses: I shall come to be just as I am coming to be. And He said: Thus shall you say to the sons of Israel, I-Shall-Come-to-Be has sent me to you. And Elohim said further to Moses: Thus shall you say to the sons of Israel, Yahweh, the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac and the Elohim of Jacob, has sent me to you.” ¾Concordant Version of the Old Testament, The Book of “Exodus,” These are the Names
At this God said to Moses: I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHAT I SHALL PROVE TO BE.” And he added: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘I SHALL PROVE TO BE has sent me to you.” “Then God said once more to Moses: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘Jehovah the God of YOUR forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” ¾New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, With References
Then Deity said to Moses, “I will be who I will be.” And he said, “Thus you will say to Israel’s Sons: ‘I-will be” has sent me to you.’” And Deity further said to Moses, “Thus you will say to Israel’s Son: ‘Yahweh your father’s deity, Abraham’s deity, Isaac’s deity and Jacob’s deity¾he has sent time to you’; this is my name to eternity, and this is my designation age (be) age.” ¾The Anchor Bible, Exodus 1-18, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary
“God said unto Moshe: EHYEH ASHER EHYEH/ I will be-there howsoever I will be-there. And he said: Thus shall you say to the Children of Israel: EHYEH/ I-Will-Be-There sends me to you. And God said further to Moshe: Thus shall you say to the Children of Israel: YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Avraham, the God of Yitzhak, and the God of Yaakov, sends me to you…” ¾The Five Books of Moses, The Shocken Bible, Translated by Everett Fox
English Bible translations that relegate the alternative rendering for Exodus 3:14 (‘I will [prove to] be who/what I will [prove to] be’) in the footnotes include:
The MacArthur Study Bible, Holy Bible, New King James Version (1997) American Standard Version (1901), Revised Standard Version (1952), New Revised Standard Version (1989), English Standard Version (2001), New International Version (1984), New English Bible (1970), Revised English Bible (1989), Amplified Bible (1964), Today’s English Version (1992), Contemporary English Version (1995), The Living Bible (1971), New Living Translation (1996), Knox, The Holy Bible, Translated from the Latin Vulgate in light of the Hebrew and Greek Originals (1956), The Torah, The Five Books of Moses (Jewish Publication Society, 1992) The Tanakh, A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Traditional Hebrew Text (JPS, 1985)
*************** YHWH ***************
“This is my name to times age-abiding,
And this my memorial to generation after generation.
Praise ye Yah
For good is Yahweh,
Sing praises to his name.
For it is sweet.
Praise Yahweh, all ye nations,
Laud him, all ye tribes of men;
For his loving kindness hath prevailed over us,
And the faithfulness of Yahweh is to times age-abiding…”
Exo. iii. 15; Ps. cxxv.3; Ps. cxii. Cp. Jer.xxxii.27.
¾Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible
 McKenzie Dictionary of the Bible, p. 316.
 Some other suggested forms for the original pronunciation of the divine name include: ‘Yahowah,’ ‘Yehwah’, ‘Yehaweh’, ‘Yehayeh’, ‘Yehova’, ‘Yahovah,’ ‘Yahuweh’, and ‘Yahaveh’.
 Preface to the American Translation, p. 15
 The form “Jehovah,” however, is not an attempt to recover the correct pronunciation of the Hebrew; it is an anglicized (English) form or expression of the divine name.
 Graiser, Lynn, Schoenheit, One God & One Lord, Reconsidering the Cornerstone of the Christian Faith, p. 326. ([CES] Christian Educational Services) (emphasis added)
 p. 49
 p. 23
 Preface to the American Standard Version, p.4 (emphasis added)
 The One Volume Bible Commentary, edited by J.R. Dummelow, p. 51.
 Unger’s Bible Dictionary, p. 1177.
 Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia
 Today’s Dictionary of the Bible, pp. 330-331 (emphasis added)
 The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. II, p. 1254, 1267.
 Young’s Literal Translation
 See: The New Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, p. 431.
 From the article: What Can I Do? by Commentary Press
 “I made known to them your name” does not simply mean “I have (merely) made your label for identification known.” The “name” here must represent who God is and everything he stands for in relation to his people; as NIV puts it, “I have made you known to them.”
 Objections may also have had to do with reluctance to abandon the desired connection between Exodus 3:14 and Jesus’ statement at John 8:58, which has been held by many evangelicals for a long time to be a proof text for Jesus’ identity with Jehovah God.