The Name of God: ‘I BECOME WHO I BECOME’ (Exodus 3:14)
From: You shall be as gods, Erich Fromm, 1966.
God makes repeated concessions to various pleas made by Moses, who states that the pagan Hebrews
cannot understand the language of freedom or the idea of a God who reveals himself only as the God of
history, without mentioning a name: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and
the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6).
Moses argues that the Hebrews will not believe him: Moses tells God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say
to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to
them?” (Ex. 3:13)
Moses’ objection is well taken. The very essence of an idol is that it has a name; every thing has a name
because it is complete in time and space. For the Hebrews, accustomed to the concept of idolatry, a
nameless God of history could not make sense, for a nameless idol is a contradiction in itself. God recognizes
this and makes a concession to the understanding of the Hebrews. He gives himself a name and says to
Moses: ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Ex. 3:14).
What does this strange name which God gives himself mean? The Hebrew text says EHEYEH asher
EHEYEH; or “Eheyeh has sent me to you.” Eheyeh is the first person of the imperfect tense of the Hebrew
verb “to be.” In Hebrew there is no present tense but only two basic tense forms: perfect and imperfect. The
present can be formed by the use of the participle, as in English “I am writing,” but there is no tense
corresponding to “I write.” All relations of time are expressed by certain secondary alterations to the verb.
Fundamentally an action is experienced as being either perfected or nonperfected. With words denoting
actions in the physical world, the perfect necessarily implies the past. If I have perfected writing a letter, my
writing is finished; it is in the past. But with activities of a nonphysical nature, like knowing, for instance, it is
different. If I have perfected my knowledge, it is not necessarily in the past, but the perfect of knowing can —
and often does — mean in Hebrew “I know completely,” “I understand thoroughly.” The same holds true of
verbs like “to love,” and the like.
In considering God’s “name,” the importance of the Eheyeh lies in the fact that it is the imperfect of
the verb “to be.” It says God is, but his being is not completed like that of a thing, but is a living process, a
becoming; only a thing, that is, that which has reached its final form, can have a name. A free translation of
God’s answer to Moses would be: “My name is Nameless; tell them that ‘Nameless’ has sent you.” [Or: “I
Become Who I Become” — Raquel]* Only idols have names, because they are things. The “living” God
cannot have a name. In the name of Eheyeh we find an ironical compromise between God’s concession to
the ignorance of the people and his insistence that he must be a nameless God.
This God who manifests himself in history cannot be represented by any kind of image, neither by an image of
sound — that is, a name — nor by an image of stone or wood. This prohibition of any kind of representation of
God is clearly expressed in the Ten Commandments, which forbid man to bow down before any “graven
image,” nor any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the
water under the earth” (Ex. 20:4). This command is one of the most fundamental principles of Jewish
* The meaning of a nameless God has been beautifully captured by Master Eckhart. “The final end of being,” he said,
“is the darkness of non-knowing of the hidden Godhead, in whom this light shines, and this darkness did not
comprehend it. Hence Moses said: ‘He who hath sent me’ (Ex. 3:14). He who is without a name, and who never obtained
a name, for which reason the prophet said: ‘Truly thou art a hidden God’ (Isaiah 45:14) in the ground of the soul where
God’s ground and the soul’s are one ground. The more one seeks Thee, the less one can find Thee. You should seek
Him in such a way as never to find Him. If you do not seek Him, you will find Him.” (James M. Clark, Meister Eckhart: An
Introduction to the Study of His Works with an Anthology of His Sermons [Edinburgh: T. Nelson Sons, 1957], Sermon
XXIV, p. 241. [My italics, E.F.]
|The God of the Jews vs The Logos of Christ
Insight from: The Controversy of Zion, Douglas Reed, 1978
Reed's book is graduate studies in Zionism.
This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear
of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven,
who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in
anguish because of thee.
He loved thy fathers, therfore he chose their seed after
them . . . to drive out nations from before thee greater and
mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their
land for an inheritance . . .
And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before
thee, thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou
shalt make no covenant with them, not shew mercy unto
them; neither shalt thou make marriages with them.
. . . ye shall destroy their alters and break down their
images . . . for thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy
God; the lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a peculiar
people that are upon the face of the earth.
. . . thou shalt consume all the people which the Lord thy
God shall seliver thee; thine eye shall have no pity upon
them . . . But the Lord thy God shall deliver them unto
thee, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction
until they be destroyed.
. . . He shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou
shalt destroy their name from under heaven, there shall
no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have
. . . Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread
shall by yours . . . Of the cities of these people, which the
Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shall
save nothing alive that breatheth . . . thou shalt lend
nunto many nations and thou shalt not borrow . . . Ye shall
utterly destroy all the places wherein the nations which ye
shall possess served their gods . . .
Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the
children of God . . . I am not come to destroy" (the law of
the Prophets) but to fulfil.
. . . Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love
thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you,
Love your enemies.
. . . Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth . . . what
is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose
his own soul?
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God . . . this is the first and
greatest commandment; and the second is like unto it,
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two
commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
. . . Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees . . . ye are the
children of them which killed the prophets . . . Forgive
them for they know not what they do.
-- The Gospels