[b-hebrew] The translation of ehyeh

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Thu Aug 4 11:37:04 EDT 2005

Dear Bryan,

>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."

HH: It is debatable whether 'ehyeh in 2 Sam. 15:34 is in the habitual 
past. Kohlenberger takes it as simple future, with a supplied verb in 
the last two clauses of the verse. Note that the largest disjunctive 
accent in the area is on 'ehyeh, joining it with the preceding words, 
not the ones that follow it: "Your servant I, O king, will be. The 
servant of your father also I (was) in the past, and now also I 
(am/will be) your servant."

>Also compare 2Sam. 16:19;

HH: In 2 Sam 16:19 'ehyeh seems clearly simple future.

>Job 10:19a.

HH: In Job, the imperfect idea seems to carry on from the verbs in 
verse 18, particularly the imperfect verb )egwa( ("I would have 
died"): "Why did you bring me out from the womb. I would have died, 
and eye would not have seen me." Job 10:19 carries on this thought: 
"As though I had not existed I would have been; from the belly to the 
grave i would have been carried." All the verbs from )egwa( onwards 
except "had existed" are imperfect, used in unreal statements. The 
imperfect is the regular conjugation for unreal statements. So Job 
10:19 does not present a true parallel to Ex 3:14 or the 2 Samuel 

>  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]."

HH: To me this is odd translation, taking the same verb and giving it 
two different interpretations within three words.

>  >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.

HH: No one denies that God was saying that He would be with the 
Israelites as He was with the patriarchs. But that fact should not 
necessarily govern how we translate the same word separated by a 

					Harold Holmyard

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