Dr. Miles Van Pelt of Reformed Theological Seminary has graciously posted to the forums on Exodus 3:12, 14. It is my hope that the forums will become a hub for discussion on Bible translation whether that be translation technique or, as in this case, specific verses. I can’t think of a more apt individual to post on the translation of this verse. What is at stake is the very meaning of God’s name and he has handled it will. So, please please go and read it. I will briefly summarize it here, and I also integrated his translation into the translation section of the site.
I am honored to have Dr. Van Pelt post here and I am indebted to him in more ways than one. He was my Hebrew teacher. More than that, he engendered in me a love for God’s word and a passion to leave no stone unturned in finding out its meaning. Five years ago, I had no idea what a seminary was. During that summer, Miles and I worked out at the same gym. One day I turned to him and asked, “Miles, what do you do for a living?” He said, “I teach Hebrew and I’m the dean of a seminary.” I replied, “What’s a seminary?!?!” After he explained it to me I naively said, “That sounds awesome, can I come?” The rest was history.
Thank you, Miles, for your constant support, your continued mentorship, and most importantly, your friendship.
Here is another link to the forum incase you missed it the first time. Go and read it. Go and read it. Did I mention you should read it? In the following, I will briefly summarize and supplement how awesome Dr. Van Pelt’s post was.
His proposed translation of verse 14 is as follows:
Exodus 3:14 And Elohim said to Moses, “I will be who (that,because) I will be…
Why is this important? I’m glad you asked, let me show you.
This is the Hebrew word for “I will be”: אהיה
This is the Hebrew word for the divine name: יהוה
They look similar, right? It’s because they are!!
They are both from the SAME HEBREW WORD.
In Exodus 3:11, Moses intercedes with the Lord as to who he (Moses) is that he should go to Pharaoh
In Exodus 3:12, God simply replies, “I will be with you (אהיה).”
In Exodus 3:13, Moses asks God what to tell Israel if they as him what is the name of He who sent Moses.
In Exodus 3:14, Dr. Van Pelt has correctly argued that instead of the shift to the English present tense (I AM who I AM) which obscures the meaning of the name, it should be translated “I will be whom I will be.” It gets even better. God then says that Moses is to tell Israel, “I Will Be (אהיה) has sent me.”
As Dr. Van Pelt points out, He will be what?!? The answer is in verse 12..He will be WITH HIS PEOPLE. God’s name is the promise of His presence. אהיה (Ehyey) is simply God’s name when He is referring to Himself because it is in the first person of that verb (“I will be”). יהוה (Yahwey) is God’s name when we are referring to Him since it is in the third person of that verb (“He will be”). He will be what? With His people. The divine name is the promise of the divine presence. Again, please see Dr. Van Pelt’s post for further detail.
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