In 3:13, Moses does not directly ask, “What is your name?” It’s a dual question; his question is, “What shall I say to them?” In the introduction of 3:6, YHWH does not use His Name, rather the Hebrew pronoun for,”I”. In Ex.3:15, that is replaced by The Hallowed Name and is again followed by the same credentials: “God of your fathers, etc.”. In short YHWH is the only portion of His response to Moses which answers the first part of the question. “I AM” in the second part of 3:14, is only a part of what he is to say to the Israelites, as the similar assurance given to him in 3:12. Moses third expression of doubt isn’t followed by such a verbal assurance, now YHWH offers a demonstration. The same demonstration he is told to use in response to the Israelites doubts. When Moses first expresses doubt, “Who am I?”, YHWH response is the same as in 3:14, though translated “I will be”, this is the same Hebrew word as I believe used emphatically after his second expression of doubt. If that is so necessary to understanding YHWH, why is it not used in many other important verses? In Ex. 4:1, why does Moses not propose that the Israelites response will be, “I AM, has not appeared unto you.”? I understand that it is generally accepted there is a connection between I AM and YHWH, but it does not seem to be what the Bible teaches. Yes YHWH is eternal, but that is descriptive of His Being, not His Hallowed Name.

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    Can you make your question clearer - I am not sure what you are asking.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 29, 2021 at 1:26

2 Answers 2


Answer Summarized

The difference in Exodus between 3:13 and 4:1 is 3:13 gave a name to YHWH distinguished from the Egyptian deities with his superiority later shown by the 10 plagues. God's response in 4:1 gave Moses an initial sign to the people and afterwards to Pharaoh to show that God had spoken to him.

The confusing translations of imperfect "I am who I am," which lead the Jewish Publication society to transliterate the Hebrew “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh” shows the continuing incomplete action of the imperfect, in this case independent of time. Thus, God's attribute of "Who was, is, and will be." YHWH changed this from 1st person (God speaking) to 3rd person (a human speaking).

Full Discussion

Is this question the same as you are asking: https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/84269/in-exodus-314-is-there-a-linguistic-relationship-between-the-tetragrammaton-and

The Brown Driver and Briggs Hebrew Lexicon also has an extensive discussion on יהוה (YHWH)

Because the divine name was not to be pronounced, when the Majorettes added the vowel points, they added the vowel points to Adonai (Lord); what the reader was supposed to say instead of YHWH. Thus, in the 16th century someone incorrectly came up with Jehovah, ignoring explanations of why this was incorrect.

It is generally accepted that YHWH comes from the verb to be (היה). Some take it as Hiphil, meaning "the one who causes to exist." Most take it with Qal with the idea of who "was, is, and will be."

Hebrew does not have past, present, and future tense, only perfect tense (completed action) and imperfect tense (incomplete/continuing action). Past action is usually expressed with perfect tense. Imperfect can express future or present. Here when "I am" is clearly present, the first person pronoun with no verb is use. When Ehyeh is used, once it clearly means future, and never clearly means present.

In 3:6 אָנֹכִי֙ translated "I am" and 3:11 מִ֣י אָנֹ֔כִי translated "who am I?" used the 1st person, singular pronoun to express the present. The 1st person imperfect of הָיָה in Exodus 3:12 has the same verb אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה as 3:14 and usually is translated in English as future tense "I will be". Some interpret what God said in 3:14 as referring back to "I will be with you" in 3:12.

In Exodus translations translated the personal pronoun as "I am" 26 times (Using a pronoun אֲנִ֥י, אָנֹכִי֙ for “I am” 3:6,10,11; 6:2,6,7,8,12,29(twice),30; 7:5,17; 8;22; 10:2; 12:12; 14:17,18; 15:26; 20:2,5; 22:27; 29:46(twice); 31:13; 34:10(twice),11) The only verse in Exodus אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה is translated "I am" is 3:14. אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה is translated "I will" three times in Exodus (אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה is translated “I will” in 3;12; 4:12,15 )

A major Jewish translation leaves "I am who I am" in transliterated Hebrew because it can also mean "I will be who I will be."

And God said to Moses, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.” He continued, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites, ‘Ehyeh sent me to you.’ ” -- Jewish Publication Society. (1985). Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures (Exodus 3:14). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

Maybe better "I will be who I am; I am who I will be" as explaining what God meant by Ehyeh (I am).

The reason YHWH (יְהוָ֔ה) is different is apparently it is 3rd person instead of 1st person; "He will be," "He causes to be." But, with the loss of the pronunciation we also lost the exact meaning.

Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh This phrase has variously been translated, “I Am That I Am,” “I Am Who I Am,” and “I Will Be What I Will Be.” It clearly evokes YHVH, the specific proper name of Israel’s God, known in English as the Tetragrammaton, that is, “the four consonants.” The phrase also indicates that the earliest recorded understanding of the divine name was as a verb derived from the stem h-v-h, taken as an earlier form of h-y-h, “to be.” Either it expresses the quality of absolute Being, the eternal, unchanging, dynamic presence, or it means, “He causes to be.” YHVH is the third person masculine singular; ehyeh is the corresponding first person singular. This latter is used here because name-giving in the ancient world implied the wielding of power over the one named; hence, the divine name can only proceed from God Himself.

In the course of the Second Temple period the Tetragrammaton came to be regarded as charged with metaphysical potency and therefore ceased to be pronounced. It was replaced in speech by ʾadonai, “Lord,” rendered into Greek Kyrios. Often the vowels of ʾadonai would later accompany YHVH in written texts. This gave rise to the mistaken form Jehovah. The original pronunciation was eventually lost; modern attempts at recovery are conjectural. -- Sarna, N. M. (1991). Exodus (pp. 17–18). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

Exodus 4:1 expressed Moses fear God's name would not be enough for the children of Israel. So, God gave Moses a miraculous sign. That answered Moses's fear in 3:13, but not the question. The response in 3:14 to the question in 3:13 distinguish YHWH from the gods of Egypt. Note Pharaoh's response מִ֤י יְהוָה֙ "who is YHWH." [the "God who" tee shirts]. The 10 plagues show Israel YHWH is supreme over the gods of Egypt.

God’s response to Moses’ query cannot be the disclosure of a hitherto unknown name, for that would be unintelligible to the people and would not resolve Moses’ dilemma. However, taken together with the statement in 6:3, the implication is that the name YHVH only came into prominence as the characteristic personal name of the God of Israel in the time of Moses. -- Sarna, N. M. (1991). Exodus (p. 18). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

The Jewish Hebrew experts (such as N. M. Sarna) can answer this question better, but the name (הַשֵּׁם hashem) is a sensitive subject to Jews. Those hearing would need to show proper care with hashem.

The Jews were much more concerned with not speaking God's name in vain than preserving how to say the name.

לֹ֥א תִשָּׂ֛א אֶת־שֵֽׁם־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ לַשָּׁ֑וְא כִּ֣י

לֹ֤א יְנַקֶּה֙ יְהוָ֔ה אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־יִשָּׂ֥א אֶת־שְׁמֹ֖ו

‬ לַשָּֽׁוְא׃ (Exodus 20:7, BHS)

Today Jews write G-d. If they aren't reading scripture or praying they say Adoshai instead of Adonai (Lord), and Eloshim instead of Elohim (God).

  • Perry Webb offers the standard opinion, my question would be better understood, if he translated GOD’s assurance to Moses in Ex.3:12 as “Certainly I AM...”. No translation I’ve seen does so, rather it’s seen as just that, an assurance of His presence, why do the uses of “ehyeh” in Ex. 3:14 need to be interpreted differently? Billy Bob
    – Billy Bob
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 0:49
  • @Billy Bob: What do you mean by certainly?
    – Perry Webb
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 1:32
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    It is the Hebrew word KY, that precedes EHYH, as you I do not claim to be a Hebrew scholar. I’m also new to this site, preferring ink and paper. That word as many seems to have a wide range of meanings in the Old Testament, “Certainly” is the KJV translation in Ex.3:12. There it seems GOD is assuring Moses, it doesn’t matter who he is, He will be with him. That is Who He IS, and always WILL BE, His Name, however is not of human derivation, it’s just as likely that the Hebrew word “ehyeh” is derived from YHWH.
    – Billy Bob
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 3:48
  • JBS translates v12 >12And He said, “I will be with you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And when you have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.”
    – Perry Webb
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 12:07
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    Perhaps all names in the Bible have an etymology, but why assume The Hallowed Name must have one? I AM, is surely descriptive but not necessarily an etymological source. Doesn’t GOD above all, have the right to choose His Name for His reasons?
    – Billy Bob
    Commented May 30, 2021 at 21:03

Two eternal truths about יְהֹוָה HaShem are delivered by the מַלְאַ֨ךְ יְהֹוָ֥ה Mal’ak YHVH to Moshe משֶׁ֔ה (Moses) between Exodus 3:6-14.

[#1.] “Anoki” אָֽנֹכִי֙ (I Am) stated in Exodus 3:6 ; [#2.] “Ehyeh” אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה (I Will Be) stated in Exodus 3:12-14.

After the presence of Ha-Elohim declares the eternal state of HaShem : Anoki (I Am) & Ehyeh (I Will Be), Moshe finally understands the meaning of The NAME of Adon Olam declared as יְהֹוָ֞ה in [Exodus 3:15] “Zeh Shmi LeOlam” זֶה־שְּׁמִ֣י לְעֹלָ֔ם (This [is] My-Name forever).

Y-HV-H = “YiYeh”-“HoVeh”-“HaYaH” | “He [Will Be]”-“He [is]”-“He [Was]” > as an acronym written : יְהֹוָה

HaShem יְהֹוָה is a declaration of the eternal אוֹר Or (Light) our אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם Adon Olam, Who always “Will Be” אֱלֹהֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל Elohei Yisrael (God of Israel).

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    @Perry Webb - Incorrect. | "Mal'ak" מַלְאַ֨ךְ is Messenger / Angel. | a "Melek" מֶּ֔לֶךְ is King. Commented May 31, 2021 at 20:32
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    Right, I should have looked at the Hebrew. The Hebrew is hard for me to read without zooming larger.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 20:38
  • Makes more sense "the מַלְאַ֨ךְ יְהֹוָ֥ה Mal’ak YHVH" = angel of the LORD.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 20:43

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