The Two Personal Names of the Creator
How many of us know that the Creator of the universe has two personal names? He is much known to those who seek His true Name by the Name YHVH, aka the Tetragrammaton.
He is also known with His titles or attributes by which He manifests Himself in the finite world. The Creator identifies Himself sometimes as El Shaddai “The Absolute Might” to indicate that it is He who has the might to create and sustain the universe. Or, He employs the attribute Elohim Tsevaot when He acts as the Commander-in Chief of the heavenly forces.
But there is an attribute that reflects that He is an eternal Presence: He was, He is, and He will be.
And the four living creatures, each having six wings, were covered with eyes around and within. And they do not cease, day or night, saying, “Set-apart, set-apart, set-apart, Yehovah El Shaddai, who was, and who is, and who is coming!” (Rev 4:8) (see also Isa 6:2-3)
This attribute of the everlasting Creator that defines Him as the Eternal is also one of His two personal Names.
At the scene of the burning bush at Mount Horev, Elohim said to Mosheh,
I am the Elohim of your father, the Elohim of Avraham, the Elohim of Yitschak, and the Elohim of Ya’akov. (Exo 3:6)
Mosheh hid his face, for he was very afraid to look at Him. Then Elohim told Mosheh that He had seen the oppression of His people in Egypt and had already come down to deliver them and to bring them up to a land with milk and honey (Exo 3:7-8). In order to fulfill the promise, He would send Mosheh to Pharaoh with the message to let His people come out of Egypt.
And Mosheh said to Elohim,
Look, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The Elohim of your fathers has sent me to you”, and they say to me, “What is His Name?” what shall I say to them? (Exo 3:13)
And Elohim said to Mosheh,
“I am that I am.” And He said, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I am” has sent me to you. (Exo 3:14)
In this peculiar statement, “I am that I am”, “Eh’yeh asher Eh’yeh” in Hebrew, the Elohim of the fathers began to reveal His attribute that will become known as His personal Name. Until that time He was known by the Name יְהוָֹה Yehovah.
I am Yehovah, who brought you out of Ur-kasdim, to give you this land to inherit it. (Gen 15:7)
For more insight as to the true Name of the Creator, refer to the article “The Hebrew Yehovah vs the Roman Yahweh”.
Although Elohim revealed to his servant Moses the mystical dimension of His attribute אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, Eh’yeh asher Eh’yeh, “I exist that I exist” or “I am that I am”, this hidden dimension of the Creator was contained in “Eh’yeh has sent me”. And what the Creator wanted from Mosheh was that he was to tell His children that the One who called Himself Eh’yeh had sent him to them.
Here is the place to note that it is the present author’s understanding that in this verse, a transliteration of אֶהְיֶה Eh’yeh, would have done a better service to the text than its full translation “I am has sent me”, which we have to admit sounds unnaturally in the current translations.
Let us read again our verse with the transliteration taken place as suggested by the present author,
“I am that I am.” And He said, Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “Eh’yeh” has sent me to you. (Exo 3:14)
We should note that “Eh’yeh” has sent me to you brings more clarity to what actually the Creator had said to Mosheh.
The supposition in Exo 3:13 that the people might ask the name of the Elohim of their fathers is to be attributed to the fact, that as the Egyptians had names for their deities (at least eleven in number), the Israelites also would want to know the name of their own deity.
The question in verse 13 then, “What is His name?”, also presupposes that the Name by which the Creator was known to the fathers Avraham, Yitschak, and Ya’akov-Israel must have vanished entirely from the memory of the people. This we explained in the article “Despite the dishonor of His Name“.
The Creator therefore explained to Mosheh His personal Name יְהוָֹה Yehovah, by which He was known to the patriarchs (Gen 15:7), in this way, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, “I exist that I exist”.
In the phrase אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, Eh’yeh asher Eh’yeh, “I exist that I exist”, the first word Eh’yeh, is the actual personal Name of the Creator; the next words asher eh’yeh, are the explanation of why the Creator called Himself אֶהְיֶה Eh’yeh.
In other words, He said, “Eh’yeh that I exist”, and the reason why the Creator said, “My name is Eh’yeh, is because “I am eternal and changeless”.
He made it clear that His Name is אֶהְיֶה Eh’yeh, seeing that He is eternal and this should be reflected in His very Name. Thus, Eh’yeh became the personal Name of the Creator.
In order to make sure that Mosheh would not think that His Name אֶהְיֶה Eh’yeh, or the whole phrase Eh’yeh asher Eh’yeh, “I exist that I exist”, is the name by which the Creator should be known to the people, He told His servant precisely how to answer the elders’ question about who it was that sent him. Hence Elohim gave the instruction to word it precisely thus,
יהוה Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Avraham, the Elohim of Yitschak, and the Elohim of Ya’akov, has sent me to you. This is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance to all generations. (Exo 3:15)
Or, simply put,
יְהוָֹה this is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance to all generations.
The Creator went even further to re-establish His personal Name יְהוָֹה Yehovah before His children, saying: “This is My Name for ever, and My mentioning unto all generations” (Exo 3:15).
Here, according to the plain meaning of the text, the words “This is My Name forever” refer to the Tetragrammaton יְהוָֹה Yehovah, in verse 15, not to the personal Name אֶהְיֶה Eh’yeh, in verse 14.
Therefore, when Elohim first spoke אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, Eh’yeh asher Eh’yeh, “I exist that I exist”, this was revelation for Mosheh only; this part of the revelation Mosheh was to keep to himself only, since it was indeed only Mosheh who had the privilege to speak face to face and mouth to mouth with the Creator of the universe. And only Mosheh was privileged to know him on a very personal basis and to know the two personal Names of the Creator.
But to the people Mosheh was to reveal His personal Name in third person: יְהוָֹה Yehovah, “He who exists forever”; and this is how the people were to know Him.
In other words, YHVH told His children, “If you want to know My Name, I will tell you that I am the Eternal, and this is how you shall address Me by the Name Yehovah.”
The Creator distinguished His two personal Names, because this is how He speaks of Himself, אֶהְיֶה Eh’yeh, “I exist”, while we mortals do not refer to Him in the first person, but in the third person as יְהוָֹה Yehovah, “He exists”.
The personal name אֶהְיֶה Eheyeh, “I exist”, was to allude to when He address Himself as אנכי, Anochi, “I”, in Exo 3:6, while the Tetragrammaton יְהוָֹה Yehovah was spelled out directly for the people that when YHVH Elohim would speak directly to them at Mount Sinai to give them the Covenant, He would say “I am Yehovah your Elohim” (Exo 20:2).
In conclusion, אֶהְיֶה Eh’yeh, is the personal Name of the Creator in the first person singular. And יְהוָֹה Yehovah is the personal Name of the Creator in the third person. Both names are the personal Names of the Creator that are to be revered.
It will be unlawful and inappropriate for a human being to call the Creator by His personal name, אֶהְיֶה Eh’yeh, “I exist” or “I am”, since it will appear that he is saying “I am who exists forever”.
In this sense, therefore, the Creator gave His other personal Name, which too means “I am eternal and changeless” but in third person, “He who exists forever” that it is lawful and appropriate for men to utter: יְהוָֹה Yehovah. Because it is He only who can say of Himself “I am who exists forever”. No created celestial being such as cheruvim, seraphim, mal’akim, much less a human being can say אֶהְיֶה Eh’yeh, “I exist” even though he may speak of the Eternal.
Therefore, we learned the Creator of the universe has two personal Names equal in reverence, power, and authority: אֶהְיֶה Eh’yeh, and יְהוָֹה Yehovah.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our da