Great Answers to
Questions About Everything


Continuing the response to the meta call for contradiction.

In Exodus 4:13-14, Moses is talking to God:

And Moses said to God, "Here I come to the sons of Israel, and I told them, the God of your fathers sent me to you, and they said to me, what is his name?, what will I tell them?"

And God said to Moses "I will be what I will be", and he said "Thus you will say to the sons of Israel, 'I will be' sent me to you."

But in Exodus 4:15, the very next verse, we find out

Thus you will say to the sons of Israel, Yahweh the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, sent me to you, this is my name forever, and this is my memory from generation to generation."

The word "I will be" is "Ehieh", while the name of God is the very similar sounding "Yahweh", which sounds a lot like a nonexistent conjugation "to be", which is a garbling of past, present, and future tense. So the conjunction of the two verses, in close proximity, can be interpreted as an etymology for Yahweh.

But if you want to take this completely literally, there are two (slightly) conflicting commands here: announce God's name as "Ehieh", or as "Yahweh". Why the contradiction?

{ asked by Ron Maimon }


It is not plain to me that ehyeh and Yahweh are related at all.The footnote in the NIV says something like "the two words sound the same and can be derived from each other", which always struck me as a rather dishonest comment. They certainly don't sound alike, regardless of the vocalization you choose for the tetragrammaton, and it is far from obvious what the derivation is (particularly the change between the central yodh and the waw.)

These verses always struck me as reminiscent of the various other Genesis justifications for the names of people, where the names are kind of similar to some other phrase, place name or event. For example, Genesis 5:29, where Noah (Heb. Noach, nun-cheth) was named because of the comfort (Heb. Nacham, nun-cheth-mem ) God would bring. It seems kind of like a post hoc justification. These two verses seem to be in a similar category to me -- it isn't really a derivation, more like a post hoc justification that is perhaps a little shaky.

{ answered by Fraser Orr }