Before we begin this session, do you remember the warning at the end of our last session that we would be taking a deep dive this time? If you are reading this, then I am going to assume that you were not intimidated by the warning and have donned the necessary equipment for the deep dive we are about to take. Part 3 is going to take us into some deep waters! They may even seem murky as we attempt to swim through difficult and complicated Hebrew words and grammar. Don’t look now, but there may also be some Greek waters to swim through as well! I promise I won’t take you so deep that you won’t be able to come up for air whenever you need to! So, take a deep breath. Here we go!
In Part 1-B, I shared Exodus 3:14-15, which is the passage where God revealed His name to Moses at the burning bush. We looked at it briefly in Part 2-C as well. In this portion of the study, we will be dissecting a phrase from these verses to understand the Tetragrammaton, and why God revealed it in the way He did.
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?
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM (Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh): and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM (Ehyeh) hath sent me unto you.
And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Yehovah (יהוה) God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, Yehovah (יהוה) God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:
These are the pivotal verses in the Word of God that declare the Shem HaMeforash and explain it. While the Tetragrammaton is used in the Hebrew Scriptures from Genesis 2:4 onward, Yehovah had not revealed the meaning of His name prior to His encounter with Moses at the burning bush. Verse 14 is where we find the explanation of the Name. When He says, “I AM THAT I AM,” He is giving the explanation of His name which He reveals in the next verse. Now, let’s examine the Hebrew behind our English translation.
אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh
This Hebrew phrase is the key to understanding the Tetragrammaton יְהֹוָה – YHVH.
“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” is the explanation of the unique four-letter name written throughout the Torah, for the Holy One (blessed be he) was without beginning … and he will be without end. This is the meaning of the Name: Hoveh (He Is), and Hayah (He Was), and Yihyeh (He Will Be).
Rabbi Yoseph Bechor Shor on Exodus 3:14
“What is meant by Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh: It teaches that the Holy One (blessed be he) said, I am, I was, and I will be. I was before the world was created, I am He since the world was created, and I am He who will be in the world to come.”
Otiot Rabbi Akiva, Letter Heh
Yehovah – יְהֹוָה means:
Hayah – הָיָה Hoveh – הֹוֶה Yihyeh – יִהְיֶה
He was He is He will be
Clear as mud? I thought so. Let’s keep diving until the waters begin to clear, shall we?
While the explanations above are apparently very clear to Hebrew readers, they are not at all obvious or understandable to us. We need a quick lesson in Hebrew grammar to help us grasp this.
אֶהְיֶה – Ehyeh
Translated “I AM” in most English translations, the Hebrew meaning is closer to “I WILL BE.” It is not the Name, but it is the key to the meaning of the YHVH – יְהֹוָה.
The root of the word ehyeh – אֶהְיֶה – is hayah – הָיָה (HYH), the verb “to be.”
All Hebrew words (nouns, verbs, and adjectives) have a 3-letter root. Verbs are declined (changed in form) according to seven conjugations. Qal is the basic, simple conjugation. All other stems are derived from it. Nearly 70% of verbs are Qal. Within each conjugation, verbs are either perfect or imperfect. Perfect verbs can be understood as indicating one time action. Imperfect verbs indicate continuous action.
Keep in mind as we move forward that where English uses separate words to indicate person (I, you, he, she, we, they, my, your, his, her, our, their, etc.), Hebrew does this through prefixes and suffixes on a single word. A single Hebrew word may contain a prefix and suffix.
איתנ – EYTaN Letters (Aleph, Yod, Tav, Nun)
Below are the four prefixes of Hebrew verbs in the Imperfect (future) forms in all conjugations. When these prefixes are seen on a verb, it indicates incomplete action and is usually translated in the future tense.
א – ‘ = I Will
י – Y = He Will
ת – T = She Will
נ – N = We Will
Qal Imperfect conjugation of the root היה – HYH – “to be”:
אהיה = Ehyeh = I will be (1st person singular)
יהיה = Yihyeh = He will be (3rd per. masc. sing.)
תהיה = Tihyeh = She will be (3rd per. fem. sing.)
נהיה = Nihyeh = We will be (1st per. plural)
הָיָה הֹוֶה יִהְיֶה
Reading from right to left, the first word above Hayah (past tense) means He was. The second word Hoveh (present tense) means He is. Finally, Yihyeh(imperfect or future tense) means He is to be (He will be). Ehyeh (first person singular, imperfect tense) means I will be.
There is a Jewish song called the “Adon Olam” which contains this explanation in the following line:
והוא היה והוא הוה והוא יהיה בתפארה
V’hu hayah, v’hu hoveh, v’hu yihyeh b’tifarah.
And He is He who was, And He is He who is,
and He is He who will be in glory.
From these three words, the Tetragrammaton is formed.
יהיה – Yihyeh (He Who will be)
הוה – Hoveh (He Who is)
היה – Hayah (He Who was)
יהוה – Ye-hov-ah!
God’s personal name is basically an acronym made from these three phrases. The first yod – י – from Yihyeh – יהיה, the heh and vav – הו – from Hoveh – הוה, and the final heh – ה – from Hayah – היה. This acronym means He will be Who He is and Who He was!
So then, if God said “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” (I will be who I will be), then why is His name not Yihyeh (He will be)?
God is communicating through His name His eternal ongoing nature by combining all the forms of the verb ‘to be’ into one unique name! He is letting us know that He always was, He always is, and He always will be! (Does this phrase have a familiar ring to it? It should! We will get to that in a later session.) Yehovah was revealing His nature to Moses, speaking in the first person—I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE (I AM THAT I AM)—Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. But when He reveals His Shem HaMeforash that the Israelites are to remember and mention, He uses the third person – HE WAS, HE IS, HE IS TO BE – Hayah, Hoveh, Yihyeh. In other words, He refers to Himself as I AM – Ehyeh; we call Him Yehovah – YHVH.
Your head is probably spinning a bit after this crash course into Hebrew grammar! Kudos for making it this far! You have earned a no homework week! Just catch your breath and prepare for next week’s dive. See you in Part 3-B!
DISCLAIMER: Much of the information covered in this session regarding Hebrew grammar is greatly oversimplified. Hebrew is a complex language. There are many differences between Biblical and modern Hebrew, and the tenses in Hebrew are not easily explained or translated into English. The same is true for Greek. I am by no means an expert in Hebrew or Greek. I can hardly even be considered a novice. Therefore, I have relied heavily on the understanding of Nehemia Gordon as presented in his video, The Great I AM Revealed, available on his website nehemiaswall.com.1 (This video is found under the Yehovah Studies tab, and requires a membership as a support team member to view.) I have also drawn information from the book Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence — The Hebrew Power of the Priestly Blessing Unleashed by Nehemia Gordon.2
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Feature Image background by titoOns via CanvaPro; Scripture photography by Lisa Urbani; Hebrew calligraphy by Melody Cash.
1Nehemia Gordon, “The Great I AM Revealed,” Hebrew Makor Foundation. https://www.Nehemiaswall.com (accessed November 1, 2018).
2Nehemia Gordon, Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence – The Hebrew Power of the Priestly Blessing Unleashed, (Hilkiah Press, 2012).