Exodus 3: I AM WHO I AM

In this chapter, God communicates with Moses and tells him what His plans are to remove the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. God does not tell Moses every detail, but He reveals enough to Moses and to us ahead of time to confirm that this is His plan and He intends to make it happen. God is faithful and he fulfills His promises.

A few interesting aspects of this chapter:

  • The miracle of the burning bush
  • The promise to bring the Israelites to Canaan (fulfillment of the land promise)
  • Moses will confront Pharaoh
  • Due to Pharaoh’s resistance, God will strike Egypt with wonders (10 plagues)
  • The Israelites will take great wealth with them from the Egyptians

Aside from these momentous events that we will soon be reading in Exodus, there is a fascinating study of the identity of God to be found here. Note how God identified himself to Moses at the burning bush in 3:13-15: “Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’”

Now, of course, God is authoritative in how He presents himself to Moses and eventually the people, to whom Moses will deliver this message. He clarifies the initial statement by saying that He is the God of their forbears, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This connection would have been relevant to the people and would confirm the consistency of their deity across generations. But it is how He names (or doesn’t name) himself that makes a huge statement. What does He say? “I AM WHO I AM.” Now, looking at that sentence structure, we notice that it is the normal SUBJECT – VERB – DIRECT OBJECT structure. The first word, “I” is the subject, the second word “AM” is the verb and the last three words “WHO I AM” make up the direct object. So, understanding this sentence from a technical standpoint tells us that God is Himself. At first, it seems like a nonsensical circular reference. But in reality, God’s statement about His identity makes complete sense when we keep in mind everything else we know about Him from the Bible. He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and capable of any miracle at any time. In this passage, God does not rely on a name to impress the import and impact of His existence. His existence is so strong and emphatic that it stands alone and, in a sense, it transcends the convention of naming because His existence is beyond the idea of names. Analyzing the sentence structure clues us in on the meaning attempted through the translation – God is so powerful that His existence speaks for itself.

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