I Am that I Am

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The Hebrew text with niqqud

I am that I am is a common English translation of the Hebrew phrase אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה‬, ’ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh ([ʔɛhˈjɛh ʔaˈʃɛr ʔɛhˈjɛh]) - also "I am who I am" or "I will be what I will be" or even "I create what(ever) I create.[1] Its context is the encounter of the burning bush (Exodus 3:14): Moses asks what he is to say to the Israelites when they ask what god has sent him to them, and Yahweh replies, "I am who I am," adding, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I am has sent me to you.'"[2] ’Ehyeh is the first person form of hayah, "to be", and owing to the peculiarities of Hebrew grammar means both "I am", "I was", and "I will be".[3] The meaning of the longer phrase ’ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh is debated, and might be seen as a promise ("I will be with you") or as statement of incomparability ("I am without equal") .[4]

The passage raises a number of issues beyond to its linguistic and theological meaning. It is, for example, somewhat remarkable that despite this exchange the Israelites never ask Moses for the name of God.[5] Then there are a number of probably unanswerable questions, including who it is that does not know God's name, Moses or the Israelites (most commentators take it that it is Moses who does not know, meaning that the Israelites will ask him the name in order to prove his credentials), and just what the statement means.[5] The last can be approached in three ways:

  • "I am who I am" - an evasion of Moses's question;
  • "I am he who is" - a statement of the nature of Israel's God;
  • "'I Am' is who I am", or "I am because I am" - this version has not played a major part in scholarly discussion of the phrase, but the first variant has been incorporated into the New English Bible.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stone 2000, p. 624.
  2. ^ Van der Torn 1999, p. 913.
  3. ^ Parke-Taylor 2006, p. 51.
  4. ^ Van der Toorn 1999, p. 913.
  5. ^ a b Hamilton 2011, p. 63.
  6. ^ Mettinger, p. 33-34.