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What is God’s name?

What is God’s name? Can God be named? What does God say that God’s name is?

There are a couple of examples where God says what the Name is. One is in Exodus 3:13-15. This is after Moses has seen the burning bush and first heard from God. He’s gotten the commission to go to Pharaoh and ask him to set all of Israel free.

13 Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them: The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ what should I tell them?” 14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: Yahweh, the 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; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.

Line 14 is transliterated as “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh” and is translated as “I am who I am” -but Rabbi Lawrence Kushner in “The Book of Words” says it is better translated as “I will be who I will be.” It is a verb – an action. God is doing – not a name.

The Bible Gateway website also offers these translations (caps are theirs)- I AM BECAUSE I AM, or I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.

Then a little later in Exodus 6:2-8 one of the names is repeated.
2 Then God spoke to Moses, telling him, “I am Yahweh. 3 I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but I did not reveal My name Yahweh to them. 4 I also established My covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, the land they lived in as foreigners. 5 Furthermore, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are forcing to work as slaves, and I have remembered My covenant.
6 “Therefore tell the Israelites: I am Yahweh, and I will deliver you from the forced labor of the Egyptians and free you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. You will know that I am Yahweh your God, who delivered you from the forced labor of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you to the land that I swore[a] to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you as a possession. I am Yahweh.”

“Yahweh” isn’t really what God said. The name is unpronounceable, as it is all vowels. It is transliterated as YHVH – yod-hay-vav-hay (transliterated Hebrew letters). The “name” is really a contraction of “I was,” “I am,” and “I will be” all together.

Once again, God is a verb.

It is common for Jews to refer to God as “Hashem” which simply means “The Name” They believe that it is presumptuous to try to pronounce God’s name, because previously, the “name” was pronounced only once a year by the High Priest, while standing in the Holy of Holies. This was on Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. After the Temple was destroyed and they went in to exile, the exact way to pronounce the “name” was forgotten. Rather than try to do it and do it wrong, it is simply not said.

So God doesn’t have a name. God is a state of being, of doing. God is action. God isn’t locked down into a fixed form or state. Even the word “God” is just a job description. It is not a name, so much as how we describe the indescribable Creator.

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