Exodus 3:13-15: The Divine Name, Jehovah

Verse 13:[1] 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?


What is his name?: Since I must go to them in thy name, and thou hast variety of names and glorious titles, and some of them are ascribed to idols, not only by the Egyptians, but by too many of thy own people; what name shall I use, whereby both thou mayest be distinguished from false gods, and thy people may be encouraged to expect deliverance from thee?


Verse 14:[2] And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, (Ex. 6:3; John 8:58; 2 Cor. 1:20; Heb. 13:8; Rev. 1:4) I AM hath sent me unto you.



[I am who I am] Thus the Septuagint, the Syriac, Tigurinus, Ainsworth, Junius and Tremellius. Correctly. Brugensis[3] says that it belongs to God that He knows neither past nor future (Drusius). It is common among the Hebrews that the imperfect/future is put in the place of the present[4] (Vatablus). He that is (Samaritan Text). The Eternal who does not pass away (Arabic).


[אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה] I will be who I will be (thus Montanus, Pagnine, Oleaster). Who I will be (Chaldean). The Hebrews (and our interpreters [Fagius]) write that by this expression the eternity of God is signified. For the future is taken up three times (Fagius, Vatablus). It denotes in God necessity, eternity, immutability, and plenitude of being (Lyra); and that He is the fount of every being (Vatablus). That is to say, The being of the creatures with respect to me is rather non-being (Tirinus). Thus He instructs Moses, so that he might establish confidence in his calling and of his mission, by proclaiming the eternity and omnipotence of the one sending (Junius). This name is expressed in Revelation 1:4. Hence also Jehovah[5] is derived (concerning which, Psalm 1:2[6] [Vatablus, Grotius]) with a י prefixed (as in human names) and the י between the two הs changed into a ו, as it often does for the sake εὐφωνίας, of euphony (Grotius on verse 15). Rabbi Chizkuni[7] thus explains this passage: My name is I SHALL BE (this is the name of God), because I SHALL BE forever; secondly, because I SHALL BE also with you, so that I might redeem you from the Egyptians. And Rabbi Salomon thus: I will be with you, both in the present tribulation, and in future calamities (Fagius, Vatablus). Thus it distinguishes God from idols, which began and will come to an end in time, Deuternomy 32; Jeremiah 10. But I am the eternal God. Or, I will be who I will be, who was toward you in fulfilling the promises; I will not change, although I have appeared to this point to dissemble (Oleaster). Plutarch writes in The Worship of Isis and Osiris: In Saï[8] (a city of Egypt) there is a temple of Minerva (whom they think to be the same as Isis), which temple has this inscription, I am everything which exists, is, and will be; and no mortal has yet removed my robe (Malvenda). The inscription on the temple of Apollo at Delphi teaches the same, Εἶ, Thou art. Plato affirms in Timæus that that alone is which is eternal and immutable; that the other things are more truly said not to be, than to be. And Numenius, in Concerning Good 2, found in Eusebius’ Preparation for the Gospel 11:10, etc., has these things: I say that οὐσίαν καὶ ὂν, substance and essence, is a name proper to incorporeal being: because it does not become, nor pass away, nor admit of any change, either willingly, or compelled by another of necessity (Gataker).


I am that I am; a most comprehensive and significant name, and most proper for the present occasion. It notes, 1. The reality of his being; whereas idols are nothings, 1 Corinthians 8:4, all their divinity is only in the fancies and opinions of men. 2. The necessariness, eternity, and unchangeableness of his being; whereas all other beings once were not, and, if he please, they shall be no more; and all their being was derived from him, and wholly depends upon him; and he only is by and from himself. 3. The constancy and certainty of his nature, and will, and word. The sense is, I am the same that ever I was; the same who made the promises to Abraham, etc., and am now come to perform them; who, as I can do what I please, so I will do what I have said. Hebrew: I shall be what I shall be. He useth the future tense; either, 1. Because that tense in the use of the Hebrew tongue comprehends all times, past, present, and to come, to signify that all times are alike to God, and all are present to him; and therefore what is here, I shall be, is rendered, I am, by Christ, John 8:58. See Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8. Or, 2. To intimate, though darkly, according to that state and age of the church, the mystery of Christ’s incarnation. I shall be what I shall be, that is, God-man; and I who now come in an invisible, though glorious, manner to deliver you from this temporal bondage, shall in due time come visibly, and by incarnation, to save you and all my people from a far worse slavery and misery, even from your sins, and from wrath to come. Of this name of God, see Revelation 1:4, 8; 16:5.


Verse 15:[9] And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is (Ps. 135:13; Hos. 12:5) my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.



[The Lord] Hebrew: Jehovah.[10] This name is subjoined to the preceding name, as more well-known and familiar. It also denotes eternity and the power to bring to pass (Junius). The preceding name declares more: that is to say, Just as His essence is immutable, so also is His will, or His decree to lead you out, etc. (Piscator).


The Lord; Hebrew, Jehovah: a word of the same root and signification with I am. See Exodus 6:3.[11] This he adds, because God was best known to the Israelites by that name; and to show, that though he had given himself a new name, yet he was the same God.


[This is to my name, in æternum, forever (thus the Chaldean, Samaritan Text, Syriac, Ainsworth, Malvenda, Septuagint), לְעֹלָם] In seculum, forever (Arabic, Montanus, Oleaster, Junius and Tremellius). Maimonides[12] rightly renders it, will be:[13] for in the priestly benedictions in the temple יְהוָה was pronounced,[14] which contains the force of that which preceded (as already stated) (Grotius). Since the vowel points were missing, it was able to be read, to hide:[15] for the Jews completely hide it (Drusius). In the Talmud they say, Whoever expresses the name of God by its letters has no part in the future age (Munster).


[My memorial[16]] By which name men shall remember me (Vatablus). Or, rather, a memorial of me: by which I am recalled into memory by my people (Piscator).


This is my memorial, by which I will be remembered, owned, and served by my people, and distinguished from all others. See Psalm 102:12; 135:13.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶל־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֗ים הִנֵּ֙ה אָנֹכִ֣י בָא֮ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ וְאָמַרְתִּ֣י לָהֶ֔ם אֱלֹהֵ֥י אֲבוֹתֵיכֶ֖ם שְׁלָחַ֣נִי אֲלֵיכֶ֑ם וְאָֽמְרוּ־לִ֣י מַה־שְּׁמ֔וֹ מָ֥ה אֹמַ֖ר אֲלֵהֶֽם׃


[2] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֔ה אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה וַיֹּ֗אמֶר כֹּ֤ה תֹאמַר֙ לִבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה שְׁלָחַ֥נִי אֲלֵיכֶֽם׃


[3] Lucas Brugensis (1549-1619) was a Jesuit scholar, who labored in the collation of manuscripts. He was skilled, not only in Greek and Hebrew, but also in Syriac and Chaldean.


[4] Hebrew: אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה. Note the imperfect form of הָוָה, to become.


[5] Hebrew: יְהוָֹה. Here, יְהוָֹה is derived from the verbal root הָיָה, to be or become.


[6] Psalm 1:2: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord (יְהוָה); and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”


[7] Precious little is known about the French commentator, Rabbi Chizkiyah ben Manoach Chizkuni. However, his commentary on the Torah, written around the year 1250, survives. Chizkuni reveals his commitments both to the interpretive tradition of the Rabbis and to the literal meaning of the text.


[8] Sais is in the Nile delta.


[9] Hebrew: וַיֹּאמֶר֩ ע֙וֹד אֱלֹהִ֜ים אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֗ה כֹּֽה־תֹאמַר֮ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ יְהוָ֞ה אֱלֹהֵ֣י אֲבֹתֵיכֶ֗ם אֱלֹהֵ֙י אַבְרָהָ֜ם אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִצְחָ֛ק וֵאלֹהֵ֥י יַעֲקֹ֖ב שְׁלָחַ֣נִי אֲלֵיכֶ֑ם זֶה־שְּׁמִ֣י לְעֹלָ֔ם וְזֶ֥ה זִכְרִ֖י לְדֹ֥ר דֹּֽר׃


[10] Hebrew: יְהוָה.


[11] Exodus 6:3: “And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah (יְהוָה) was I not known to them.”


[12] Moses Maimonides, or Rambam (1135-1204), is reckoned by many to be the greatest Jewish scholar of his age. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Rabbinic tradition, natural science, and Aristotelian philosophy, Maimonides demonstrates great command and almost equal facility.


[13] The clause is verbless, Mlf(ol; ymi#$%;-hzE, this my name forever; a verb must be supplied.


[14] Numbers 6:23-27: “Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord (יְהוָה) bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord (יְהוָה) make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord (יְהוָה) lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.”


[15] עָלַם signifies to conceal; עוֹלָם signifies a long duration.


[16] Hebrew: זִכְרִי.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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