[b-hebrew] The translation of ehyeh

B. M. Rocine brocine at twcny.rr.com
Thu Aug 4 09:39:00 EDT 2005


The following discussion took place on the b-greek list where the 
esteemed Professor Niccacci made some important comments on Exo 3:12-14. 
  Please enjoy!


On 31/3/97 (Re: The Verb HYH) Lee R. Martin wrote:

 > Dear Professor Niccacci,
 > You wrote of the verb HYH:
 > > The presence of HYH is needed to express past and future information as
 > > well as volition (jussive). For present information, no form of HYH 
 > > since this verb is not (normally) used in the participle.
 > My search of 'eHeYeH (yiqtol, 1c sing) is consistent with your statement
 > above. It is not used for the present indicative. Two puzzling cases,
 > however, are Job 12:4 (with a ptc.) and 17:6.
 > How do your conclusions impact the translation of Exodus 3:12-14? "I am
 > that I am"?
 > --
 > Lee R. Martin
 > Adjunct Faculty in Old Testament and Hebrew
 > Church of God School of Theology
 > Cleveland, TN 37311
 > Pastor, Prospect Church of God

Dear Lee,

Here is a summary of a paper I worte (in Italian) on Exodus 3:14 in _Liber
Annuus_ 35 (1985) 7-26.

Interpreters analyze Exod. 3:14a chiefly under two syntactic types:
    (a) as a relative paronomastic sentence: *esomai hos esomai* (Aquila,
Theodotion), *ego sum qui sum* (Vulgata); and
    (b) as relative clause with a pronominal antecedent: *ego eimi ho 
on* (LXX).
I suggested that Exod. 3:14a should rather be taken as a verbal sentence
with a correlative pattern; compare 2Sam. 15:34a *'abdeka 'ani hammelek -
'ehyeh 'ebed 'abika - wa'ani me'az - we'atta we'ani 'abdeka "As for your
servant, I, o king - I used to be a servant of your father - and I was it
since long time - and now, I am your servant." Also compare 2Sam. 16:19;
Job 10:19a. These examples show a correlative pattern linking two pieces of
information having a different time setting, e.g. *'ehyeh 'ebed* is set in
(habitual) past and *we'ani 'abdeka* in the present.
Exod. 3:14a should then be translated: "I will be [first-place, volitive
yiqtol: I promise I will be, i.e. for you] what I was [yiqtol for habitual
past, i.e. or your Fathers]."

 >From the point of view of interpretation, God's answer is the key-stone of
the dialogue in Exod. 3:6 ff. The text makes it clear that "the God of YOUR
[Moses'] father" (3:6) is to be recognized and believed (3:18) as "the Lord
God of YOUR [the people's] Fathers" (3:13); for this purpose, it is
necessary that God be presented to the Israelites as "THE LORD (YHWH) God
of your Fathers" (3:15); and God reveals Himself as "THE LORD (YHWH)" by
the fact that HE WILL BE for the Israelites in Egypt what HE WAS for the
Fathers in Canaan. Thus, the God of the Exodus reveals Himself as the same
as the Lord of the Patriarchs. This is done by a word-play on God's
personal Name based on verb HYH. The Lord's Name is then significant for
the present situation of the people and is capable of letting them find
their identity and their link with the Fathers and the promises done to

The correlative pattern proposed here for Exod. 3:14b underlies several
Jewish interpretations, especially that of Midrash Hagadol: "As I was with
Abraham, Isaak and Jacob, thus I will be with you".
Compare Targum Ps.-Jonathan of Deut. 32:39: "See then that I am the one who
is (now) and have been (in the past) and I am the one who will be (in the
future)". Of course, this phrase recalls the title of Christ in Revelation
1:4 (and other passages): *ho on - kai ho en - kai ho erchomenos*.
Since Exod. 3:14 has been an issue also discussed in the Biblical Greek
list, I send the present message over to it too.

In the paper menioned above I also suggested an Old Egyptian parallel from
the Report of Wenamun 2:27-28 - a parallel both syntactic and theological.
The parallel suggested more that 50 years ago by A. Alt is to be abandoned.


Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Tel. +972 - 2 - 6282 936
POB 19424 - 91193 - Jerusalem Fax +972 - 2 - 6264 519
ISRAEL mailto:sbfnet at netvision.net.il
Home Page: http://www.christusrex.org/www1/ofm/SBFmain.html

B. M. Rocine
Living Word Chruch
6101 Court St. Rd.
Syracuse, NY 13026
(W): 315.437.6744

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list