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EXEGESIS > Old Testament > Pentateuch > Exodus > Ex. 3:13-15 - YHWH

Ex. 3:13-15

Importance of a Hebrew Name

For the Hebrews the name expressed something about the person who bore the name; it could speak of the character, circumstances in the life, the position of a person, or the purpose of the person; the name provided insight into the nature of the person, the life of the person:

Abraham – Father of a Multitude (Gen. 17:5)
Isaac – Laughter (Gen. 17:17; 21:5-6)
Moses – Drawn Out (Ex. 2:10)
Gershom – Stranger There (Ex. 2:22)

From the above thinking the idea developed that to know the name was to know the person; the name expressed the essence of the person; the name and the person were one and the same; to speak in someone’s name was to speak for that person; to cut off one’s name meant the death of the person.

Regarding God’s name, Pink observed that it is “a depth which no finite mind can fathom.”

God’s Revelation of His Name

In response to the question of Moses regarding His name God says:

“I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.’” Moreover  God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord 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 this is My memorial to all generations’ (Ex. 3:14-15).

In the Hebrew I AM is YHWH, known as the Tetragrammaton (Gr., meaning four letters), and the word appears 6,823 times in the Old Testament, generally translated as “LORD” (the last three letters are lower caps in most Bibles).

Originally Hebrew words were written only with consonants, and the reader supplied the vowels as the words were read. The Hebrews knew how to pronounce this particular word, but stopped pronouncing it because of a fear of breaking the commandment in Ex. 20:7. YHWH is probably pronounced something like Yahweh or Yakveh.

Eventually Adonai replaced YHWH when the text was read by the Hebrews; since Adonai means Lord, YHWH also came to be translated LORD, with the manner of spelling, using lower case and caps, being the means of knowing which word was used in the Hebrew text (YHWH = LORD; Adonai = Lord). Examples of both words in the text are: Ps. 38:21-22 and Amos 5:16.

Meaning of God’s Name

Name speaks of Existence

It is thought that the word YHWH is from the verb “to be”; therefore, the translation “I AM”; God is “The Existent One” or “the One Who Is.”

Of God it must be said simply and profoundly that “He is”; He is alive, not dead, and not a thought or mental construct; He is not the result of man’s creative reflection because of man’s need for something to believe in that is greater than himself.

God cannot not be; He is; He is not was or will be, but AM.

Some affirm that God does not exist (that which exists has been brought into existence); He simply is; God is Being, and only God is Being. To be is to be God.

See: God's Existence

Name speaks of Self-Existence

God is uncaused; the reason for His existence resides within Himself; God is what He is because He is God; no external factor contributes to His being; He is because He is.

It can be maintained that there are two types of existence: self-existence = God, and created existence = man.

Name speaks of Unconditioned or Independent Existence

God is AM; He is not affected by anything else, anything external to Him; He exists within and because of Himself.

No reason can be given for His existence; no reason can justify His existence; He is because He is.

Circumstances do not cause Him to alter His plan or change His purpose, or impact His essence or being: His plan is consistent with His nature, His essence; His nature is unconditioned and independent; His plan is therefore unconditioned and independent. See: God's Essence

God is not dependent upon another; not condition by any aspect of creation; His being, His existence is totally self-sustaining and self-continuing.

See: Ex. 4:21 - God and Pharaoh

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