God instructed Moses to say “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14 New International Version).

The phrase translated “I am who I am” in Hebrew is ehyeh asher ehyeh. The word ehyeh is the first person common singular of the verb to be. It would be used in any number of normal situations: “I am watching the sheep,” “I am walking on the road,” or “I am his father.”

My understanding is that when used as a stand-alone description, I AM is the ultimate statement of self-sufficiency, self-existence, and immediate presence. God’s existence is not contingent upon anyone else. His plans are not contingent upon any circumstances. He promises that He will be what He will be; that is, He will be the eternally constant God. He stands, ever-present and unchangeable, completely sufficient in Himself to do what He wills to do and to accomplish what He wills to accomplish.

Some Bibles translate ‘ehyeh asher ehyeh’ as “I will Become whatsoever I please” (Rotherham Translation) and “I will become what I choose to become” (New World Translation).

Does it make grammatical sense to use the expression “I WILL” has sent me rather than “I AM” has sent me?

This is a related question but does not specifically address what I am asking here: "I am" in Greek Septuagint translation of Exodus 3:14 vs. John 8:58 - how do they compare?

  • 2
    While the answer here is to a different question, this answer also answers your question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/60870/…
    – Perry Webb
    Nov 28, 2021 at 19:43
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    The literature on Gen 3:14 is HUGE and much debated. I doubt that a question here will resolve it.
    – Dottard
    Nov 28, 2021 at 20:22
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    Tyndales Bible from 1526 says “I wilbe did send me vnto you”
    – Kris
    Nov 29, 2021 at 0:18
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    Some would argue that English has no real future tense, only the statement of a 'willingness' for the future. Such is Hebrew. And some might argue that the true translation is 'I be who I be', which is a statement of eternal being, neither present nor past nor future in time.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 29, 2021 at 16:29
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    This explanation was helpful to me: ancient-hebrew.org/god-yhwh/this-is-my-name.htm . I am learning that Biblical Hebrew is very abstract in the sense that one phrase can yield multiple meanings. Of the possible translations and connotations of “ehyer asher ehyer,” it strikes me that this is God’s absolute declaration of his own existence to a world that cannot access this truth on its own, either by logic or empirical evidence.
    – Nhi
    Dec 2, 2021 at 20:10

7 Answers 7


In his commentary of Exodus, Dennis Prager makes this statement about Exodus 3:14:

...God identifies Himself with a name having four possible meanings, each one perfectly accurate.
"I am what I am";
"I am who I am";
"I will be what I will be";
"I will be who I will be";
The reason all four translations are accurate is Hebrew does not have a word for the present tense of the verb "to be." In other words, there is no Hebrew word for "am" or "is" or "are." Therefore, in order to say "I am Joseph," for example, one would say "Ani Joseph" ("I Joseph")." The absence of the present tense of "to be" is not unique to Hebrew; it is also true of Arabic and Russian, among other languages. So here, when God uses the future tense of the verb "to be," it literally means, "I will be."1

Obviously, the present tense "I am..." is appropriate, since God is speaking to Moses. Based on what follows, the future tense is also appropriate since God will reveal His character to Moses, Pharaoh, the Israelites, and the Egyptians. Perhaps the best translation is one which understands the repetition of ehyeh as speaking simultaneously of both present and future: "I am who I will be known as" or "I will be known as who I am."

This name is never again mentioned in the Torah, suggesting God's answer is for Moses, not the Israelites. This fits what God says next:

God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD,[b] the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Exodus 3:15 ESV)
The word Lord, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH, which is here connected with the verb hayah, “to be” in verse 14

ehyeh asher ehyeh is for Moses and YHVH, which means "being" or "will be" or "is," is for the Israelites. The name given for the Israelites, YHVH, is one which God later says He did not make Himself known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. (Exodus 6)

This statement is odd since it is obvious Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew and used the name, YHVH. Austin Surls offers this explanation:

While the patriarchs made some association with the name "YHVH," the designator אֵל שַׁדַּי best represented YHVH's relationship to them as the "God of fertility." The Exodus narrative shows how Moses's generation saw YHVH take the initiative in revealing his name. He accomplished this by using the recognition formula during the execution of the 10 plagues. Through this literary form, YHVH urged Egyptians and Israelites to ascribe these mighty acts to the name יהוה. Thus the statement in Exodus 6:3 should be seen as elliptical: YHVH did not become known to the patriarchs as he would become known to the Israelites of Moses's day.2

Surls sees the culmination of YHVH's self-revelation after the Israelites worship the golden calf:

5 The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6 The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exodus 34)

Their sin prompted three acts of intercession from Moses, in the third of which he urged YHVH to make known his ways and his glory, to which YHVH responded by proclaiming his name (Exodus 33:12-23). This self proclamation is noteworthy because of the repetition of the Tetragrammaton and its third-person modifiers. Exodus 34:6-7 clearly reveals YHVH's character, including the important tension between his kindness and his justice. Central to this proclamation was the remarkable announcement of YHVH's disposition to forgive his rebellious covenant people.3

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did not know YHVH would forgive them for worshipping other gods (because they never did that). Moses and the people learned YHVH would forgive them. The future sense in ehyeh is not that God will change and become something; rather though events which will take place, the people's knowledge of YHVH moves from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to their God, who will forgive their sins, including worshipping the golden calf.

1. Dennis Prager, Exodus: God, Slavery, and Freedom, Regnery Faith, 2018, pp. 44
2. Austin Surls, Making Sense of the Divine Name in Exodus: From Etymology to Literary Onomastics, Eisenbrauns, 2017, p. 182
3. Ibid.

  • I appreciate the way you addressed my confusion regarding tense and I understand your explanation.
    – Lesley
    Dec 5, 2021 at 13:52
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    FYI, Russian has "to be" - БЫТЬ. So does Hebrew. I think what you mean is that these verbs are often omitted. But it is present in this passage, as it is היה. The passage should be translated as "I am who I am". The ambiguity with future tense is because the conjugations are the same in present and future first person, not because the verb doesn't exist or is omitted.
    – Robert
    Jul 30, 2022 at 3:16
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    @grammaplow I understand how the phrase may be interpreted as the LXX shows. But that does not mean the original audience could have that understanding. "am" is impossible in the Hebrew. The Semitic form of self-identification is "I ---" as many passages in the OT show. Moreover, the LXX which does have the ability to say "I am ---" very often preserves the Semitic form by using "I ---" For example, Genesis 15:7 ἐγὼ ὁ θεὸς "I the God" Mar 3, 2023 at 16:25
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    @Robert The Hebrew lacks a present tense form of the verb a fact the LXX preserves by often using "ἐγὼ ----" and not "ἐγώ εἰμι ----." Compare Genesis 15:7 ἐγὼ ὁ θεὸς with 17:1 ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεός. Arguably the Hebrew scholars who translated the LXX used εἰμι, which is superfluous from the Semitic perspective as a means of emphasis. Not ἐγὼ ὁ θεὸς but ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ θεός (emphasizing that I am the one who previously spoke to you). Also found in the NT ἔφη ἐγὼ φωνὴ literally I voice (John 1:23). Mar 3, 2023 at 16:33
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    @grammaplow I believe the quote from Dennis Prager in my answer addresses the issues you raise. Mar 4, 2023 at 20:42

Some would argue that English has no real future tense, only the statement of a 'willingness' for the future.

Such is Biblical Hebrew.

Earlier forms of the Hebrew language did not have strictly defined past, present, or future tenses ...

Wikipedia - Modern Hebrew Verbs

And some would argue that the true translation is 'I be who I be', which is a statement of eternal being, neither present nor past nor future in time.

I would, myself, agree with that argument.

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    I really like this answer, as it uses Habitual/Continuative aspect of AAVE to assist in translation. Not everyone is acquainted with AAVE, but for those who are, this is inspired.
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 29, 2021 at 19:39

My answer was taken from "I AM" - Part 3 with redactions to some portions of it.

Let us examine Exodus 3:14. Those Bible translators who follow the King James tradition translate Ex. 3:13-15 like this:

"(:13) And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them? (:14) And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM; and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel I AM hath sent me unto you. (:15) And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations." - ASV (compare JB; LB; and NEB)

First, we need to note that the original manuscripts (and all copies for many hundreds of years thereafter) had no punctuation and no capitalization (for both Old Testament Hebrew and New Testament Greek). So the only reason "I AM" is capitalized in modern Bibles is that many modern translators believe it should be considered a title or name for God.

The two main points to be made about Exodus 3:14 in the original Hebrew are: (1) the word sometimes translated "I AM" in English is not the name of God but merely an explanation of the meaning of his only personal name ("Jehovah" - English form; "Yahweh" - possible Hebrew form), and (2) translating that Hebrew word (ehyeh) as "I Am" is probably incorrect.

You can see the truth of point #1 by carefully examining Ex. 3:13-15. Especially when you see a translation that honestly translates God's name in Ex. 3:15 as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" (not "LORD"). Notice where God used the word "name" in Ex. 3:15 and what it refers to. (Compare Ps. 83:16, 18 - "fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, O LORD [mistranslation of "Jehovah" - see ASV] .... That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth." - King James Version.)

The New Bible Dictionary, Douglas (ed.), 1962, pp. 478, 479, published by Eerdmans, explains it well:

"Strictly speaking, Yahweh [or Jehovah' in traditional English form] is the only name' of God .... Elohim [the Hebrew word translated God' in English] says, this is my name for ever' (Ex. 3:15). Yahweh [Jehovah], therefore, in contrast with Elohim [God'], is a proper noun, the name of a person .... He [Moses] inquires, when ... the children of Israel ... shall say, what (mah [in Hebrew]) is his name? What shall I say unto them?' (Ex. 3:13). The normal way to ask a name is to use the [Hebrew] pronoun mî; to use mah invites an answer which goes further, and gives the meaning (`what?') or substance of the name. [[For an example of this, see Ex. 13:14 in the NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament. Mah, exactly as in Ex. 3:13, clearly has this meaning and is even translated in the NRSV; RSV; REB; NAB; NJB; JB; NIV as "what does this mean?" Perhaps an even better parallel is the use of mah at Ezekiel 37:18 where mah is rendered as "what you mean" in KJV; NASB; RSV; NRSV; REB; NAB; NJB; JB; NIV; etc. Also carefully examine the use of mah at Gen. 37:10; Ex. 12:26; Deut. 6:20; 29:24; Josh. 4:6, 21; 1 Sam. 4:6, 14; 15:14; Ezek. 17:12; 18:2]]

"This helps to explain the reply, namely, I AM THAT I AM'; and He said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM [ehyeh] hath sent me unto you' (Ex. 3:14). By this Moses would not think that God was announcing a new name, nor is it called a name'; it is just the inner meaning of the name Moses [and the Israelites already] knew. 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.[15] That something like this is the purport of these words, which in English sound enigmatical, is shown by what follows, Yahweh [`Jehovah'] the God of your fathers .... this is my name for ever' (15). The full content [meaning] of the name comes first, the name itself follows." (The New Bible Dictionary, 2nd ed., Douglas, 1982, Tyndale House, p. 430, is nearly identical to the above quote also.) - [Material in brackets and emphasis added by me – RDB.]

“Nevertheless, Exod. 3 does not appear to give a new name for the first time but the explanation of a name known already but now identified as the saving God of Israel....” - The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, p. 69, Vol. 2, Zondervan, 1986.

In its commentary to Exodus 3:14, the JPS Tanakh, Jewish Study Bible, Oxford Edition states:

"God's proper name disclosed in the next verse is YHVH (spelled yod-heh-vav-heh. In Heb., in ancient times, the "vav" was pronounced "w"). But 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."

The name of God

“Israel’s ancestors knew God as ‘the LORD’, Yahweh (or Jehovah) (Genesis 2:4; Gen 12:1; Gen 26:2; Gen 28:21; Gen 49:18), but the name meant little to the Israelites of Moses’ time. God’s revelation to Moses in the ‘I am’ statement of Exodus 3:14 was an explanation of what the name Yahweh should have meant to God’s people.” - Bridgeway Bible Commentary.

“God had made Himself known to Abraham as Jehovah (Genesis 15:7). But here [Ex. 3:14] He gives the explanation of His name Jehovah. The patriarchs knew the name Jehovah, but the blessed significance of that name was not known to them.” - Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible.

NET Bible fn. for Ex, 3:14,15 - “First the verb “I AM” [ehyeh] was used (v. 14) in place of the name to indicate its meaning and to remind Moses of God’s promise to be with him (v. 12). Now in v. 15 the actual name is used for clear identification: “Yahweh…has sent me.” This is the name that the patriarchs invoked and proclaimed in the land of Canaan.”

So we see that Moses is really asking at Ex. 3:13, "when the children of Israel shall say `what is the meaning [mah] of his name?' What shall I say to them?" Therefore, what is given in Ex. 3:14 is not his name at all (which they all knew already) but the meaning (or "explanation") of his personal name "Jehovah." That name (which even Moses knew at this time - his mother's name, in fact, at Ex. 6:20, means "Jehovah is glory" according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance) is plainly stated in Ex. 3:15 and obviously is to be known and used as God's personal name forever by all his true worshipers. Contrast the 7000 times that "Jehovah" is clearly used as God's name in the scriptures with how many times "I AM" (or ehyeh) is clearly used for God's name (none)!

There is high probability that ehyeh is mistranslated as “I am” (as was pointed out by M. Buber in the New Bible Dictionary quote above). I first suspected this when I saw how ehyeh was translated at Ex. 3:14 in the following Bibles: Moffatt’s translation - “I WILL BE”; Byington’s - “I WILL BE”; Rotherham’s - “I WILL BECOME”; Concordant Literal Version - “I-SHALL-COME-TO-BE”; Julia Smith’s - “I SHALL BE”; Leeser’s - “I WILL BE”; New World Translation - “I SHALL PROVE TO BE.”

In addition were the following alternate readings in footnotes: American Standard Version - "I WILL BE"; NIV Study Bible - "I WILL BE"; Revised Standard Version - "I WILL BE"; New Revised Standard Version - "I WILL BE"; New English Bible - "I WILL BE"; Revised English Bible - "I WILL BE"; Living Bible - "I WILL BE"; Good News Bible - "I WILL BE."

Notice how this respected Bible translates Ex, 3:14:

"And God said to Moses, Ehyeh (hyh))-Asher-Ehyeh.' (a) He continues, Thus shall you say to the Israelites, "Ehyeh (b) sent me to you."'" – Tanakh, JPS, 1985.

Tanakh Footnotes:

"(a) Meaning of Heb, uncertain; variously translated: "I Am That I Am; "I Am Who I AM; I Will Be What I Will Be; etc."

"(b) Others "I AM or "I Will Be."

And even one of the earliest English translations renders it:

14 God saide vnto Moses: I wyl be what I wyll be. And he sayde: Thus shalt thou saye vnto ye children of Israel: I wyl be hath sent me vnto you. - Miles Coverdale Bible (1535).

Notice too what the Encyclopedia Britannica had to say on this subject:

"The writer [of Exodus 3:14-15] ... explains it [the meaning of God's name] by the phrase EHYEH asher EHYEH (Ex. iii., 14); this can be translated I am that I am' or moreexactly 'I am wont to be that which I am wont to be' or `I will be that which I will be .'" - p. 995, 14th ed., v. 12.

And, among the most important of the early translations of the Hebrew Bible are the Greek versions of the Jewish Aquila and Theodotion in the second century A.D. [100’s]

According to Jesus' Words Only it appears that they both have translated the Hebrew ehyeh asher ehyeh of Exodus 3:14a and the ehyeh of 3:14b into Greek as "esomai hos esomai" and "esomai" respectively, which in turn translate into English as "I will be who I will be" and "I will be." - Source


An explanation of its meaning, K J Cronin:

"... Jeffrey Tigay, who in his comments on Exodus 3:13-15 in the Jewish Study Bible states that there is a Divine name in Exodus 3:14, but he doesn’t identify which part of the verse it is. He proffers 'I Will Be What I Will Be' for the translation of ehyeh asher ehyeh and interprets its meaning to be, 'My nature will become evident from My actions', which is similar to the first of the six interpretations in Exodus Rabbah 3:6. He proposes ehyeh asher ehyeh as the explanation of the meaning of the name YHWH, as did Maimonides, and the ehyeh of 3:14b as a shortened form of ehyeh asher ehyeh, as did Halevi, and as the first person singular imperfect form of the verb root hayah, as have several other exegetes considered above, and to mean 'I Will Be', as was first proposed by Aquila and Theodotion. He understands YHWH to be the corresponding third-person form of hayah, as did Rashbam and Ibn Ezra, and to mean 'He Will Be'. His interpretation thus draws from a wide variety of sources and from diverse approaches to the interpretation of the verse, as one would expect of a study Bible."

Although it takes some effort to further check out the meaning of ehyeh, it is worth it. With a good Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible you can prove to yourself that ehyeh should be translated "I will be" (or a similar rendering) at Ex. 3:14.

In contrast to the paucity of evidence for an "I am" interpretation of ehyeh you will find that all of the books of Moses (the Pentateuch), including Exodus, of course, and the book of Joshua always use ehyeh to mean "I will be." The list of all uses of ehyeh in the entire OT can be found in this footnote.[16] Check out the various translations of these scriptures. A Hebrew interlinear will back up what I have listed.

Note: 2 Samuel 7:14 in the annotated list is quoted in the New Testament scriptures at Hebrews 1:5. Notice that when ehyeh (2 Sam. 7:14) was translated into the NT Greek by the inspired Bible writer at Heb. 1:5, he didn’t write ego eimi (“I am”) but ego esomai (“I will be”)! (Esomai is also used at 2 Sam. 7:14 in the Septuagint, the ancient Greek OT.)

Ezekiel 11:20 in the list is also quoted in the NT at Heb. 8:10. Ehyeh in Ezekiel 11:20 is translated as "I will be," of course, and the quoting of this word by the NT writer in Heb. 8:10 is esomai ("I will be") not ego eimi ("I am"). (Ego esomai is used at Ezek. 11:20 in the Septuagint also.)

Not only is ehyeh overwhelmingly translated "I will be" instead of "I am," but in the vast majority of these instances you will find Jehovah speaking and declaring his "power and enduring presence with [his people]" precisely as was explained above in the New Bible Dictionary statement explaining ehyeh at Ex. 3:14!

The Today's Dictionary of the Bible, 1982, Bethany House, pp. 330-331, says of Ex. 3:14 -

"It has been rendered, I WILL BE that I WILL BE' as an indication of God's sovereignty and immutability" and "the translation ... that probably comes closest to the intention of God at this point is, I will be there'."

Also see the standard reference The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Eerdmans, 1984 printing, Vol. 2, p. 1254 (#3), p. 1266 (#5), and p. 1267 (#9), and the A Dictionary of the Bible, Hastings, Vol. 2, pp. 199, 200, Hendrickson Publ., 1988 printing.

The clear testimony of the evidence shows that Ex. 3:14 incorrectly translates ehyeh as "I am" in some Bible translations, and that it should be rendered as something closer to "I WILL BE."

Ex. 3:14 (Greek Septuagint)

Now, after examining the Hebrew of Ex. 3:14, we are ready to look at the ancient Greek translation of Ex. 3:14. This translation is known as the Septuagint.

The Septuagint was translated from the original Hebrew into Greek by Hebrew scholars around 200 years before Jesus was born on earth. The oldest New Testament manuscripts available today show Jesus sometimes quoting from that ancient translation.

But let's actually look at a copy of the Septuagint. The Septuagint Greek and English (Bagster ed.), published by Zondervan Publishing House, 1976, really says:

"And God spoke to Moses, saying, I am THE BEING [Ho On; pronounced `Ha Own']; and he said, Thus shall ye say to the children of Israel, THE BEING [Ho On] has sent me to you." - Ex. 3:14. [18] Yes, the Greek words used in the Septuagint here are not ego eimi, but HO ON [o Wn]! - See pp. 83, 84, Marshall.

No matter how you translate it into English Ho On is not the same as ego eimi.

St. Augustine (sometime between 413 and 426 A.D.), interpreted Ex. 3:14 (probably from the Septuagint also):

"I am HE WHO IS; and thou shalt say to the children of Israel, `HE WHO IS sent me unto you!'" - pp. 25, 46, On the Two Cities. (Also see p. 84, Marshall's New Testament Greek Primer.)

The Septuagint Greek at Ex. 3:14 shows God saying Ho On (which probably means "THE BEING," but certainly not "I AM" nor "I have been," etc.). Also the ancient Hebrew manuscripts show God saying ehyeh at Ex. 3:14 (which a search of other uses of the term by God in Moses' writings shows that it actually means "I shall prove to be" or "I will be" but not "I AM").

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    (+1) Thanks for working to refine this answer, Alex. There are lots of strong arguments in this answer which people may find beneficial. I think the key issue with the content is that from the beginning it didn't read like an answer to this question. Rather, it read like an answer to a rather different (doctrinal) question. Hermeneutics is all about beginning with the text, and so good answers should always begin with the text, exegete it, and build upward from there. Beginning with a theological conclusion and then seeking to justify it introduces a strong risk of eisegesis.
    – Steve can help
    Nov 30, 2021 at 9:53
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    As the OP has indicated, I'm sure they would appreciate any further refinement/cleanup you chose to make to further focus this on the text and tidy up some of your quotes/references to read more cleanly at a glance. The huge wall of text still feels rather copy-paste, and there hasn't been any real effort to make this post readable. I've tried a little clean-up for now to try and help get this process started.
    – Steve can help
    Nov 30, 2021 at 9:55
  • @SteveTaylor. Thank you. Nov 30, 2021 at 10:13
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    Very well done. I did find some info that you may consider adding to your answer. The commentary is from the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges on Exodus 3:14
    – agarza
    Nov 30, 2021 at 16:51
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    Really well done! That was very powerful! Good job! THIS should be the accepted answer! Feb 17, 2022 at 21:35

With due respect to the alleged complexity in Ex. 03:14 I still believe the answer is simple. The phrase literally means "I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE" because it is the future conjugation. To those who prefer the imperfect future, the phrase literally means "I WILL COMPLETE WHAT I WILL COMPLETE"

To understand this phrase or any phrase parallel analysis is necessary. The very next sentence simply says "I WILL BE" (or "I WILL COMPLETE")

Again: Examining context and as pointed out by numerous commentaries (I am familiar with the Jewish ones) God appears differently in different contexts. In Egypt, God was "a Man of War" (Cf Ex15:3). However, in Gen 2 and Deut 34 God appeared as a "doer of good deeds", a matchmaker in Gen 2, and a Funeral Home director in Deut 34. Moses when he asked "What is your name" really means "How will you appear to the Jews and how will you accomplish the Exodus"

God responded "I will respond to each situation by completing it" It is interesting that Rashi following Jewish Midrashic commentaries picks up on the parallelism: I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE vs I WILL BE. It was sufficient for the Jews to know that God will take them out of this tragedy (but may redeem them from other situations differently).

To recap and summarize: Asking for a name does sound philosophical. But in essence, it simply means "How will we recognize your redemption process" God responded by simply saying that He addresses each situation uniquely. I think this is the simple meaning of the text and I don't see the need to make it into something sublime and challenging. The translation I just gave is very relevant.

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    Do you have a reference for these assertions?
    – Dottard
    Nov 29, 2021 at 6:08
  • 1
    the prefix conjugation was not fully cemented as a future tense in Biblical Hebrew, still retaining elements of its earlier sense as an imperfective unspecified for tense (in particular, the vav-consecutive is best explained as a remnant of the old perfective/imperfective system understood in terms of the new past/future system). As such it's not at all clear that ehyeh should be understood as "I will be" rather than "I am", "I am being", or even "I was" in this instance
    – Tristan
    Nov 29, 2021 at 15:12

The answer to this question about the "correct" translation of "ehyeh asher ehyeh" in Ex 3:14 is much debated. Most translations make a valiant attempt but it is impossible to fully render the meaning of the Hebrew.

Before proceeding further, let me remind ourselves of a few facts:

  1. Hebrew verbs do not have temporal tense in the same way that Indo-European languages do. Whether ehyeh asher ehyeh is translated, "I am who I am", or "I will be who I will be" is a matter of interpretation which cannot decided on the basis of the grammar.
  2. V15 is salutary. Note that whatever "ehyeh asher ehyeh" means and how it should be translated, Ex 3:15 simply says -

This is My name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.

  1. Note the great similarity between the form and spelling of the name יְהוָֹה (YHWH or "Jehovah" and הָיָה (hayah). Many have argued that one is derived from the other. That is, the proper name YHWH is derived from part of the verb "to be" in Hebrew.

Here is how Ex 3:14 was translated by the Jewish LXX (about 200 BC) translators:

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ Θεὸς πρὸς Μωυσῆν λέγων· ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν. καὶ εἶπεν· οὕτως ἐρεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς ᾿Ισραήλ· ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέ με πρὸς ὑμᾶς. = And God spoke to Moses, saying, I am THE BEING; and he said, Thus shall ye say to the children of Israel, THE BEING has sent me to you.

Here is how Jerome translated (400 AD) translated Gen 3:14 -

Dixit Deus ad Moysen : Ego sum qui sum. Ait : Sic dices filiis Israël : Qui est, misit me ad vos. = God said to Moses, "I am who I am." He said: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: He that is, sent me to you.

The complete Jewish Bible (David H Stern) translate the operative phrase as:

Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I am/will be what I am/will be].

Most modern versions in English render this phrase as:

I am who I am

IMHO - this name simply says that God exists by His own power and He is who He is and no further explanation is required because none can be given. As Gen 1;1 asserts, "In the beginning, God ...". That is enough.

Ellicott observes:

(14) I AM THAT I AM.—It is generally assumed that this is given to Moses as the full name of God. But perhaps it is rather a deep and mysterious statement of His nature. “I am that which I am.” My nature, i.e., cannot be declared in words, cannot be conceived of by human thought. I exist in such sort that my whole inscrutable nature is implied in my existence. I exist, as nothing else does—necessarily, eternally, really. If I am to give myself a name expressive of my nature, so far as language can be, let me be called “I AM.”


Not a scholar here...I have NEVER heard of a proper name being translated. Just transliterated. Example using my name. My name is Jenniffer. If I went to France and someone asked me "What is your name?" I would respond, "I am Guinevere." My name Jenniffer becomes Guinevere in French by replacing English SOUNDS/LETTERS with French ones. This is Transliteration. I would never say "I am THE WHITE SPIRIT." The name Jenniffer means or is TRANSLATED to White spirit. So why is everyone TRANSLATING God's name instead of transliterating it. The phrase ehyeh asher ehyeh is transliterated to I am who is Ehyeh. There is a god named Ehyeh spelled in the Akkadian language as Ea. It just so happens that the proper name Ea sounds like the word for "I am" (which is just how people introduce themselves) It is one of those word tricks found in the bible. He is telling Moses his actual name, but implying his immortality by using the word ehyeh meaning "I will be or I am". It goes along with the rest of the chapter when he tells Moses that he is the god of Abraham and Isaac etc.

  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Jul 30, 2022 at 4:37
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    It's a point worth making, but we don't want to translate the Bible based on Jenniffer's trip to France, so a better argument should be made with respect to translation philosophy, and hopefully citing some sources that discuss this in more depth. I would encourage you to explore this further and update the post.
    – Robert
    Jul 30, 2022 at 17:36

Probably the best translation is "I will be whom I will be." However, this still does not give the full implications of the continuous action of the imperfect tense as used here. It isn't limited to time as are English tenses.

See Doesn’t Moses hypothetical response of the Israelites in (4:1) answer his proposed question in (3:13), then “I AM” is an assurance as in Exodus 3:12?

The Jewish Publication Society's translations doesn't translate it.

And God said to Moses, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.” -- Jewish Publication Society. (1985). Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures (Exodus 3:14). Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.

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