What shall I say to them?

“If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’
and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”
And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM’ has sent me to you."

Today’s reading:

Bless** ‘I AM’,** O my soul;
and all my being, bless his Holy NAME.
Bless ‘I AM’, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.

’I AM’ has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless ‘I AM’, all you his angels,
you mighty in strength, who do his bidding.

David was a prophet in the eyes of the Church Fathers. The Psalms carry a Christian significance in that they point to the spouse of Christ, the Church, in her liturgical prayer. Jesus is the name that invites people into the heart of what He revealed. “The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer.” (CCC 435)

I find actually translating names into English can be very revealing, as opposed to simply transliterating them:
Peter = Rock - “You are Rock, and on this Rock I will build my Church”.
(my home Parish would be “St. Rock Church”)
Jesus (Yeshua) = ‘I AM SAVING’ - “and you shall call his name ‘I AM SAVING’, for he will save his people from their sins”

The Name YHWH or “He who is” is sacred. It is out of respect we call God LORD.

If we want to get technical, YHWH actually translates to “He who causes / will cause to be” or “He who makes things happen.” Third person masculine singular imperfect (implying ongoing or incomplete action: “he was running,” “he is running,” “he runs,” “he will run”) causative (hiphil). :wink: The Name derives from the root hwy, hwh (havah) or hyh (hayah) “to be(come), to exist, to happen.”

(An alternative interpretation is that the name comes from a root meaning ‘to blow’, hence “He who blows” - which fits in with the storm imagery applied to Yhwh in the OT and the rivalry of His cultus with the storm god Baal (Hadad).)

“I am (being)” or “I (will) be” - first person singular imperfect (ongoing) - is ehyeh. EHYEH ASHER EHYEH - “I am (being) who/what I am (being)” or “I will be what I will be” (i.e. ‘I am whatever I want to be’).

And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘eH Yeh’ has sent me to you.", not " ‘YHWH’ has sent me to you."
There is a seeming fear of saying, " ‘I AM’ is my God"
First the change is to " ‘HE WHO IS’ is my God",
and then to “The LORD is my God”.
But, when asked his Name, he answers, "I AM’.

Well, it’s God referring to Himself, so it’s obvious it would be in the first person. Notice Moses doesn’t call God Ehyeh (first person) from then on in Exodus, but he does call Him Yhwh, in the third person. Notice the following:

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” (Ehyeh asher ehyeh) And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am (ehyeh) has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD (Yhwh), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’.

In verse 14, God uses the first-person Ehyeh, but in verse 15, He uses the third-person Yhwh. It is Yhwh that is used from hereon.

And it’s probably the reverse: the older form of ‘to be, to exist, to happen’ is הוה‎ hwh (havah), which you can still see reflected in the Yhwh יהוה‎ as well as in other Semitic languages like Aramaic or Arabic. At some point, though, hwh became היה‎ hyh (hayah) - reflected in אהיה‎ ehyeh - because there was a general tendency in Hebrew for W (ו waw/vav) root consonants to assimilate to Y (י yodh) in most forms. (This isn’t that much of a major change in terms of writing since the two letters almost look alike anyway.)

Due to this, some people have argued that Yhwh is more original than Ehyeh, because another possible reason for the rise of hyh is due to the original form, hwh, being too reminiscent of the Name. So ehyeh would have originally been *ehweh, which is closer to Yhwh.

Speaking of which, just to go on a bit about the whole history of the name YHWH.

The Name is first attested outside the Bible in Egyptian inscriptions from the time of Amenhotep III (1402–1363 BC) and Rameses II (1279–1213 BC) that speak of “the Shasu of Yhw” (Yahu). The Shasu were these clans of nomads who lived in the southern Transjordan; it is thought that some of these Shasu - there were different groups of Shasu, the ‘Shasu of Yhw’ being one of them - were the Midianites and Edomites, who could have been the ‘Shasu of Yhw’ referred to in this source.

Biblically, this makes sense, because the Edomites were related to the Israelites (Esau was Jacob’s brother), and the Midianites as well (Moses’ father in law - named Jethro, Reuel, or Hobab (who could also be Moses’ brother-in-law) - was the high priest of Midian, and a group of Midianites, the Kenites, joined the Israelites during the Exodus) Not to mention passages in the Old Testament that speak of Yhwh coming from the south, from the direction of Edom and the Sinai, where these peoples lived:

Yhwh came from Sinai,
and dawned from Seir upon us;
he shone forth from Mount Paran. (Deuteronomy 33:3)

Yhwh, when you went out from Seir,
when you marched from the region of Edom,
the earth trembled,
and the heavens poured,
the clouds indeed poured water.
The mountains quaked before Yhwh, the One of Sinai,
before Yhwh, the God of Israel. (Judges 3:4-5)

God came from Teman,
the Holy One from Mount Paran. (Habakkuk 3:3)

‘Seir’ is synonymous with Edom (Genesis 32:3; 33:14, 16; Deuteronomy 2:4, 22); interestingly in the Rameses II list, the “Shasu of Yhw” are mentioned in a context which also seems to mention Seir. ‘Teman’, meanwhile, is a region within Edom (Obadiah 1:8-9; Amos 1:12; Ezekiel 25:13), as well as the name of Esau’s grandson (Genesis 36:11; 1 Chronicles 1:36). ‘Mount Paran’ could either be a mountain in Edom or Midian or a synonym for Mount Sinai (which we actually don’t know the real location - could have been anywhere in the Sinai Peninsula or the Transjordan).

Add this information with the fact that the Name YHWH was not originally known in Canaan before the Yhwh-worshippers - the Israelites and related peoples - turn up in the record. While El and Elohim were already part of the religious terminology of Canaan (El being the highest god, the chief of the gods, the “creator of creatures”), YHWH wasn’t.

The biblical data is a bit confusing at this point: some passages seem to imply that the patriarchs who lived in Canaan did not yet know the Name either (Exodus 6:2-3: “As ‘El Shaddai’ I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but by my name ‘YHWH’ I did not make myself known to them”) and knew God under the name ‘El’ (Genesis 14:18-20 - Melchizedek the priest of ‘El Elyon’ (Most High El); Genesis 16:13 ‘El Roi’ (El who sees); Genesis 17:1; 28:3; 35:11; 43:14; 48:3 - ‘El Shaddai’; Genesis 31:13 - ‘El (of) Bethel’; Genesis 33:20 - ‘El, the God of Israel’; Genesis 46:3 - “I am El, the God of your father …”), but there are other places which has God revealing the Name to them or them using the Name outright (e.g. Genesis 15:7-8 “I am Yhwh who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess” - “O Lord Yhwh, how am I to know that I shall possess it?”)

You can either interpret this as further evidence for the books of the Torah/Pentateuch being made up of various originally-separate documents as the documentary (JEDP) hypothesis or the supplementary hypothesis claim it*, or explain Exodus 3:6 as not so much saying that the Name was literally unknown to Abraham, Isaac or Jacob but either as a rhetorical question (“As ‘El Shaddai’ I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - and did I not [also] make myself known to them by my name ‘YHWH’?”) or meaning that while they knew of the Name, they did not really fully grasp it or its full meaning (of God as One who is, as One who becomes whatever He wants to be and does whatever He wants to do, and as One who causes things to be).

*Tthe difference between the two being that the documentary hypothesis proposes that independent and complete narratives - the Yahwist (J), the Elohist (E), the Priestly (P), and the Deuteronomist (D) sources - were combined by redactors during the process of editing, while the supplementary hypothesis proposes that there was originally one work (the Deuteronomist source (D), comprising most of the book of Deuteronomy), onto which was added other material - the Yahwist-Elohist (JE - many scholars nowadays consider the Yahwist and Elohist to be the same material, since they’re rarely distinguishable) and the Priestly (P) sources - as time went on. Unlike the documentary theory, the supplementary theory doesn’t propose J(E) and P as independent accounts but simple additions, reformulations and corrections to D.

Assuming that the Name was not passed down to the Hebrews in Egypt (in other words, knowledge about it was lost), one possible avenue for Moses to learn about it for the first time would be the Yahu-worshipping Midianites/Kenites he stayed with. Of course, this in no way detracts from the new understanding Moses gained during his encounter with God and His Name at the burning bush: who knows, maybe that was when he finally pieced two and two together. God has many ways of revealing Himself to His people; could not the Kenites have had a part to play in God’s revelation of Himself to Moses and the Hebrews?

It is curious, is it not, that the Jews would want to stone Jesus when he says, “Before Abraham was, ‘I AM’.”
If he were relating himself to their known Scripture as we use it, he would have instead said, “Before Abraham was, ‘HE WHO IS’.” or "Before Abraham was, ‘the LORD’ "
Yet ‘I AM’ enraged them.

Or, when coming to arrest him, they fall to the ground when he says ‘I AM’.

Or, curious that the High Priest tears his garment when asking Jesus if he were the Messiah, and hearing, “ ‘I AM’, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power,"

They all know the Name of God, and all are afraid to utter the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In it God is present and not a ‘third person’ that can be analyzed or discussed at a distance.

The people refused to approach the mountain of the Law, asking only Moses to know God face to face and talk with him and they would learn of God at a distance. The Scriptures are this third person description of God at a distance in using YHWH, and even farther with the addition of vowel points in LORD. Yet, in Jesus, ‘I AM’ is present, just as close as to Moses, even closer. YHWH is the concession of Moses to their fear displayed to Moses in their asking him to alone go near to God, lest they die.

I think the “I am” sayings is not so much a direct reference to ehyeh “I (shall) be” or even to YHWH (I don’t think even Jesus would have pronounced the Name - He’s a good Jew, and besides, He gave us that prayer that has “Hallowed be thy Name” in it), but to another scriptural divine expression altogether: ‘ani (hu’) “I (am) He.”

“See now that I, even I, am he, (אני אני הוא ani, ani hu / ἐγώ εἰμι egō eimi)
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

"I ('ani), YHWH, the first,
and with the last; I am he (אני הוא ani hu / ἐγώ εἰμι egō eimi)." (Isaiah 41:4)

“You are my witnesses,” declares YHWH,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.” (אני הוא ani hu / ἐγώ εἰμι egō eimi) (Isaiah 43:10; cf. John 8:28 “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that egō eimi …”; 13:15 “I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that egō eimi”)

“Listen to me, O Jacob,
and Israel, whom I called!
I am he (אני הוא ani hu / ἐγώ εἰμι egō eimi); I am the first,
and I am the last." (Isaiah 48:12)

Quick rundown:

יהוה YHWH = Κύριος Kyrios (“LORD”)
אהיה אשר אהיה Ehyeh asher ehyeh = Εγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν Egō eimi o ōn (“I am ‘the One who is’”)
אני הוא Ani hu = Εγώ εἰμι Egō eimi (“I (am) he”)

The reaction Jesus receives isn’t because He’s uttering The Name – it’s because He’s equating Himself with The Name!

In other words, in their view, it’s blasphemy – Jesus is calling Himself ‘God’!

I know it is not because he is uttering it - I used this example to show that “I AM” is the Name, rather than “HE WHO IS” being the name of God.
“HE WHO IS” is not the Name of God.
“HE WHO IS” is used for those who keep at a distance.

They knew the name “I AM” is the actual Name, and when they heard him say it in that context they knew he was equalizing himself as himself being “I AM”.

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