Continuing the response to the meta call for contradiction.

In Exodus 3:13-14, Moses is talking to God:

And Moses said to God, "Here I come to the sons of Israel, and I told them, the God of your fathers sent me to you, and they said to me, what is his name?, what will I tell them?"

And God said to Moses "I will be what I will be", and he said "Thus you will say to the sons of Israel, 'I will be' sent me to you."

But in Exodus 3:15, the very next verse, we find out

Thus you will say to the sons of Israel, Yahweh the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, sent me to you, this is my name forever, and this is my memory from generation to generation."

The word "I will be" is "Ehieh", while the name of God is the very similar sounding "Yahweh", which sounds a lot like a nonexistent conjugation "to be", which is a garbling of past, present, and future tense. So the conjunction of the two verses, in close proximity, can be interpreted as an etymology for Yahweh.

But if you want to take this completely literally, there are two (slightly) conflicting commands here: announce God's name as "Ehieh", or as "Yahweh". Why the contradiction?

  • 2
    Not really a contradiction. More like synonyms.
    – user764
    Commented Sep 16, 2012 at 7:41
  • 1
    @Nathan: These are not synonyms! They are textually different, and used differently. The text also has an obvious seam between the two, with a repetition of "thus you will say to the sons of Israel..." with two different continuations, in different styles and usage, in different voices, and either half works better without the other. It's a real contradiction, you should read the passage.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Sep 18, 2012 at 5:41
  • Please indicate the translation you are using. Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 5:37
  • Note that the vowels assigned to the tetragrammaton in the Hebrew text are not Yahweh but Yehwah (sheva then qamats). As far as I can tell this is the garbled version. Yahweh (patakh then segol) would be the expected 3ms prefix conjugation in the qal. Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 15:48

5 Answers 5


It is not plain to me that ehyeh and Yahweh are related at all.The footnote in the NIV says something like "the two words sound the same and can be derived from each other", which always struck me as a rather dishonest comment. They certainly don't sound alike, regardless of the vocalization you choose for the tetragrammaton, and it is far from obvious what the derivation is (particularly the change between the central yodh and the waw.)

These verses always struck me as reminiscent of the various other Genesis justifications for the names of people, where the names are kind of similar to some other phrase, place name or event. For example, Genesis 5:29, where Noah (Heb. Noach, nun-cheth) was named because of the comfort (Heb. Nacham, nun-cheth-mem ) God would bring. It seems kind of like a post hoc justification. These two verses seem to be in a similar category to me -- it isn't really a derivation, more like a post hoc justification that is perhaps a little shaky.

  • 2
    Hi Fraser and welcome to our site! These are interesting observations. I hope you will look around the site and try your hand at answering some of our other questions. Even if they are answered, we like having several points of view. I hope to see you around! Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 19:29
  • 1
    I agree, it's like the other stretchy folk-etymologies, but this one is not so ridiculous (neither is noach), because "Yahweh" sort of sounds like a nonexistent conjugation of to be, which mangles the future and past tense. But they don't sound very much alike, you are right. I have already explained the main point, that it is one more place that you can clearly see the JE authorial division in Genesis/Exodus.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 22:39
  • Oh, I see! You think the "post-hoc" etymological justification for the name is being done here by the same author! It's the redactor, the person who put the J/E together this way, who is making the post-hoc justification by the juxtaposition, neither J nor E gives an etymology for Yahweh, and the etymology is implicit, not parallel to neither J nor E stuff (although it's in a similar spirit). This answer is incorrect--- the "J part" and the "E part" are in different voices, the seam is obvious and clunky, and this is the first place where they start to agree on the name of God.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 12:55
  • 4
    @RonMaimon FWIW, Ron, I am not an advocate of the JEDP documentary hypothesis (or more specifically the JE part of it.) I think it is largely baseless speculation. However, I don't suppose the comments section here is the place to engage in such a discussion. FWIW, though, I think Josh McDowell's "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" pretty much eviscerates the idea.
    – Fraser Orr
    Commented Nov 11, 2012 at 1:54
  • @Ron, Fraser, you are right, this isn't the best place to discuss JEDP—either the site chat room or a specific question on the topic would be much better! Fraser I do hope you register and continue to contribute, we value your input on the site. Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 5:37

In brief, Moses was supposed to say Yahweh, as that is the Name of God in the 3rd person, to be pronounced by a creature, meaning "He causes to be". In contrast, Ehyeh, meaning "I Am", is the Name of God in the 1st Person, to be pronounced by Himself, as Jesus did in Jn 8:24,28,58 and 13:19.

For a longer answer: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/23305/15789

  • 1 of 2: Strickman N. and Silver A. (trans), Ibn Ezra's Commentary on the Pentateuch: Exodus (Shemot), (NY: Menorah, 1997), p.64. In a footnote to Ibn Ezra's comment on Ex.3:14, the authors explain his interpretation as follows: "According to I.E., That I Am explains I Am. In other words, God's name is not I Am That I Am. His name is I Am, the meaning of which is, That I Am". Ibn Ezra's comment on Ex.3:15 describes the name YHWH in the following terms: "Another name meaning the same as the first one. However, one name (EHYH) is in the first person and this name (YHWH) is in the third person".
    – Johannes
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 2:26
  • 2 of 2: The content of the previous comment was taken from a site by a Jewish scholar on the subject of the Name revealed in Ex 3:14: exodus-314.com/references-and-endnotes.html?id=32
    – Johannes
    Commented Feb 4, 2018 at 2:28
  • The LXX text of Ex 3:14 is not a literal but an exegetical rendering of the Hebrew text. It interprets the verse as stating the absolute and eternal existence of God. So, its support is not at the linguistic but at the exegetical level.
    – Johannes
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 1:56
  • Self-identification in 3:14a: (Hebrew: Ehyeh asher ehyeh, "I Am Who I Am"; LXX: Ego eimi ho on, "I Am The One Who Is"). Name in 3:14b: (Hebrew: Ehyeh, "I Am"; LXX: ho on, "The One Who Is").
    – Johannes
    Commented Feb 5, 2018 at 1:58
  1. The verse say: "אהיה מי שאהיה" and God's "personal" name is "יהוה".

  2. The letter י (Yud) and the letter ו ( wow/Vav) are closely related not just in the shape and how it written, but also in the core funcionality of them (when it part of the root): In order to say " to give birth" Hebrew say: ילדה. But the baby is called ולד or ילד. So here we have יהיה that is the same as יהוה (if one is looking the way to pronunce God name).

  3. So basically this verse say two things: a. God's name meaning is "one that always exist" or even "make things to exist" and/or b. This is not matter what is God's "personal" name - he/she exist.

Jewish sages find basically 70 names to God in the bible and this verse is one of the options.

If we read Exodus 5 we see that Moses actually say that יהוה send him, and Pharoe as a replay first ask him back "who is this יהוה that i need to listen what he say to me".


The form hjh seems to be an actualization to the older form hwh that persisted in the Name. And by God revealing Himself to Moses (and the people) in first person He gave actuality to what otherwise may have sounded somewhat merely traditional and reminiscent. The waw (in the Semitic dialects) was close enough to the jodh in order for God to be understood as being the same One. To speak to the people with God's Name in grammar's first person would be quite authoritative in regard to the task Moses was about to perform. The form of Name that had been handed and whispered down from the forefathers was to persist. That's why it was given in second instance, with no doubt or delay.

(Eve's grammar might be compared: chawah and chajah. Or the Arabic weled (give birth) to jeled.)

  • Except "Ehieh" is not "hayah", so the difference is much bigger than waw to jud.
    – Ron Maimon
    Commented Apr 23, 2013 at 18:43

If a person was truly being guided by the Holy Spirit, there would be no doubt as to whether Moses used the name/title Ehieh or the name/title Yahweh to refer to יהוה‎. God makes many references to certain aspects of Himself-- the God of Wisdom, the God of Truth, the God of Righteousness-- and all of these aspects are suitable for whatever situation God is speaking about or dealing with.” I Am” would seem refer to Ehieh (the all-knowing identity of God that sets Him apart from other gods, but does not clarify exactly who He is). Ehieh seems to be saying I am God, this is what I am (not this is my name).

Yahweh, the personality of God that is wise, didn’t really become prominent until the priesthood. Moses was of the tribe of the Levites, but was not raised a Levite. Aaron was the practicing Levite, so the aspect of God that is wise (Yahweh) wouldn’t have been fitting for Moses at the time he asked God what he should be called (especially since Moses is said to have been ignorant in some fashion).Since God told Moses that "I will be what I will be," obviously He was talking about the future and, as such, could have very well been telling Moses, don't worry about my name right now, I'll tell you when it's time to be revealed(especially since the Israelites had no idea what God’s name was at that time, Aaron included).

I am (Ehieh) would, then, seem more appropriate for Moses since he was ignorant (simple minded) and did not need to know Who sent him, simply what sent him. Religious Christian make this mistake on a regular basis by saying that God is His name, when God is what He is (I am). Yahweh, the personality of God that is wise, would not be able to work very well with Moses, or any other simple minded person (I realize that Moses was said to have had a speech impediment, but his ignorance and arrogance showed itself on many occasions). Maybe Moses ignorance/state of simpleton is why once Moses joined with Aaron, he was then able to perform miracles (or actually, Aaron was the one performing the miracles, especially since Wisdom knows all things, spiritual operations included).

Any way you look at it, arrogance and self-righteousness are not attitudes that the Holy Spirit works well with (and tend to taint or pervert and lead to misinterpretation). Whenever a discussion turns into a debate, that usually means that arrogance, or some other negative personality trait, has something to prove, and the Holy Spirit cannot operate within a person who is arrogant. Contradictions occur when truth is convoluted by personal conviction.

  • Hello and welcome to the site. Acceptable answers here need to cite primary sources. Your answer seems to be based on what you perceive people with bad attitudes to be saying, what you think the Holy Spirit wants etc. rather than analyzing the Hebrew, citing commentaries or in other ways doing analysis of the text (hermeneutics). Also, please use the formatting tools above the edit box to format your text. Thanks.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 19:58
  • With all due respect, my answer is based on what I received from The Spirit, but you are assuming that what I have said may be based upon personal conviction. It would seem that what I have said should make perfect sense (arrogance and self-righteousness are not of God, and that a person who claims to be of God has no reason to debate or prove anything). Jesus was hated by the Pharisees for the very same thing. That being, that the Pharisees kept questioning his authority. After reading your response, I realize that you will not recognize my authority for the same reason. Peace. Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 19:46
  • I didn't fully realize that site was dedicated to Jewish beliefs exclusively. I am a Christian with Jewish practices, so to speak, so I'm not welcome here in the first place. Commented Mar 11, 2018 at 19:49

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.