- 1 God introduced Himself and the ELOHIM
- 2 The Meeting of Exodus 3
- 2.1 The Messenger of YHVH appeared to Moses and was called ELOHIM
- 2.2 I am the Gods of your father
- 2.3 I Certainly WILL BE with you
- 2.4 What is His Name?
- 2.5 Understanding God’s response in Exodus 3:14–16
- 2.6 YHVH, “He WILL BE,” is not a real name
- 3 The Second Meeting – Exodus 6
- 4 These are your ELOHIM: The Golden Calf and the two Golden Calves
- 5 ELOHIM always has a plural meaning in the Bible
- 6 The early Israelites understood the plural references of YHVH in Genesis
God introduced Himself and the ELOHIM
Now the Word of God is His Son, as we have before said. And He is called Angel and Apostle; for He declares whatever we ought to know, and is sent forth to declare whatever is revealed; as our Lord Himself says, ”He that hears Me, hears Him that sent Me” (Luke 10:16). From the writings of Moses also this will be manifest; for thus it is written in them, And the Angel of God spoke to Moses, in a flame of fire out of the bush.
Justin Martyr (110 to 165 A.D.), First Apology, Chapter 61
Moses’ meetings with the Messenger of YHVH are the most famous Old Testament revelations of the relationship between Christ and God.
In their first meeting, in Exodus 3:
- God revealed the Name of the Messenger as YHVH, “He WILL BE.”
- God distinguished Christ’s Name from His own by saying, “This is My Name forever.” Christ would become “I AM.”
In their next meeting, in Exodus 6:
- The Messenger of YHVH said to Moses, “I, YHVH, appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by My name YHVH I was not known to them.” Of course, they all knew YHVH was the name for God, but not the name of the Messenger. Here, the Messenger was saying that He had appeared to them “as God Almighty.”
- God explained the meaning of “ELOHIM,” why this word is plural, but yet singular.
The Meeting of Exodus 3
The Messenger of YHVH appeared to Moses and was called ELOHIM
In Exodus 3:2–6, we read:
And the Angel of YHVH appeared to him in a flame of fire from the bush . . . So when YHVH saw that he turned aside to look, ELOHIM called to him from the midst of the bush . . . And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon ELOHIM.
In Chapter 5, we saw the Angel was called ELOHIM in Genesis 16:13, 31:10, 32:24, and 48:16. Here again, in Exodus 3, the Angel is called ELOHIM.
In Chapter 5, we also noticed that the Angel sometimes spoke as “Himself,” and sometimes as God.
I am the Gods of your father
In verse 6, the Messenger said,
“I am the ELOHIM of your father—
the ELOHIM of Abraham,
the ELOHIM of Isaac, and ELOHIM of Jacob.”
Jesus referred to this famous passage, when He said, “have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him (Moses), saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’” (Mark 12:26). Peter also quoted these words in Acts 3:13, and Stephen quoted them in Acts 7:32. From Jesus’ words, we know that the Angel was speaking for God.
God used the plural form ELOHIM. He could have used the singular form “EL” to say “I am the God of your father.” But He did not. The invisible God was introducing Himself as one with the Messenger, who stood before Moses. YHVH is one.
We do not know whether Moses was puzzled by the plural ELOHIM, or whether Moses thought that the Messenger was only speaking for Himself.
I Certainly WILL BE with you
In verse 12, the Messenger said to Moses, “I Certainly WILL BE with you.” This promise was for Jacob and his descendants, beginning in Genesis 28:15.
In Chapter 5, we saw that the Messenger repeated this phrase to Gideon, in Judges 6:16. So Gideon replied, “show me a sign that it is You who speak to me.” Gideon recognized these words, as the words of the Messenger, to Moses.
What is His Name?
In verse 13, Moses asked for the Messenger’s name:
Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them,
“The ELOHIM of your fathers has sent me to you,”
and they say to me,
“What is His name?” what shall I say to them?
Moses was asking for the Messenger’s name, and not the name of God.
God’s name was already known as YHVH. Eve used the name of YHVH in Genesis 4:1. Abraham called the place where God provided the Ram, “YHVH Provides.”
But no one knew the Name of the Angel, the Messenger. When Jacob asked the Angel for His Name, the Angel just replied, “Why is it that you ask My Name?”
When God answered Moses, He introduced two Gods: Himself and the Messenger, who was the ELOHIM.
God first introduced Himself, saying, “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE, therefore you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I WILL BE has sent me.’” Then He introduced the Messenger, saying, “Moreover . . . say to them ‘YHVH, the ELOHIM of your fathers . . . APPEARED to me.’” Here, God was certainly speaking of the Messenger’s name, for no one appeared to Moses, other than the Messenger.
Some might think that God appeared to Moses. But why would God need to send a Messenger, if God Himself went to see Moses? God is the invisible God.
Understanding God’s response in Exodus 3:14–16
This is where things get very difficult in most Bibles, because the text has not been translated correctly. There are two things we need to correct to understand this passage: “I AM” is “I WILL BE,” and “The LORD” is “He WILL BE.”
|This incorrect translation of I WILL BE אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה as “I AM” has been noted in Encyclopedia Britannica, 1 Wikipedia, 2 and many Bible commentaries.
Biblical Hebrew has only two tenses, perfect and imperfect – which are completed and incomplete actions. These tenses are roughly equivalent to past and future in English, but not exactly equivalent. For example, אֶרְפָּ֔א in Deuteronomy 32:39 is translated as “I heal,” but in Hosea 14:4 it is translated as “I will heal.” The translation choice is more poetic in Deuteronomy 32:39, “I wounded and I heal.” The translators could have also said, “I wounded, and I will heal.”
Without a doubt, the Israelites did eventually become confused about the meaning of ehyeh – I WILL BE, and YHVH – as He WILL BE as the Prophet Jeremiah told us (Jeremiah 23:26-27). But there was no confusion in the time of the Judges.
All occurrences of eh·yeh, I WILL BE — From Genesis to Judges
I WILL BE has everything to do with God’s covenant – I WILL BE with you. For this reason, the expression I WILL BE, and He WILL BE, YHVH, are often referred to as the Covenant names of God.
The first time the word eh-yeh appears in the Bible is in Exodus 3:12, and has everything to do with the promise that God will be with Moses and the Israelites.
YHVH – He WILL BE
The word LORD we read in our Bibles is actually YHVH, יהוה, ”He WILL BE” in the Hebrew text. This is the imperfect form of the ancient verb HAVAH, meaning “to be.”
The verb HAVAH used for YHVH, יהוה,“He WILL BE” in Exodus 3:15 is the more ancient form of the verb HAYAH, used in Exodus 3:14 for “I WILL BE.” If the verb HAYAH was used in Exodus 3:15, the name of God would be YHYH, and not YHVH. It seems likely that the scribes retained the more ancient verb form, HAVAH, for YHVH in Exodus 3:15, because God said, “This is My name forever.” The scribes saw YHVH, not only as the imperfect form of “to be,” but as “The Name” of God.
Of course, the Jewish people are very aware of the connection between the verbs HAVAH and HAYAH. YHVH simply means “He WILL BE” in basic Hebrew grammar. The placing of a “Yod” in front of the verb creates the third person imperfect verb form.
In the New King James Bible, Exodus 3:14–16 reads:
14And 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.’” 15Moreover, 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.’” 16Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, ‘I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt;’”
But the Hebrew text of Exodus 3:14–16 reads:
14And ELOHIM said to Moses, “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I WILL BE has sent me to you.’” 15Moreover, ELOHIM said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘He WILL BE, the ELOHIM of your fathers, the ELOHIM 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.’ 16Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘He WILL BE, the ELOHIIM of your fathers, the ELOHIM of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, APPEARED to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt;”’”
I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE
This is the truest representation of God’s Name. As Justin Martyr said, “there is no one elder than God to name Him.”3
Through God’s statement, “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE,” we understand that the time has not yet come for God to reveal a real name. For God will be known by another name in the New Testament, the name of His image, the name of Jesus.
Say to the children of Israel “I WILL BE” has sent me to you
Following His statement, “I certainly WILL BE with you,” God told Moses to tell the children of Israel that “I WILL BE” has sent him.
The invisible God, from the beginning, has always assumed the name of His image. “I WILL BE” does not seem like an appropriate name for God. Therefore, the Jewish people tried to change God’s name to “I AM.”
The Jerusalem Targum identifies the speaker in this verse as the Messenger, the Word: “And the Word of the Lord said unto Moses: ‘I am He who said unto the world, Be! And it was.’”
The Jewish people understood that the Messenger of God, the Word, spoke these words on behalf of the invisible God.
Say to them He WILL BE, the ELOHIM of your fathers . . . “APPEARED to me”
There are five truths that confirm that God named Christ “He WILL BE” in verses 15 and 16:
- Everyone already knew that the name of God was YHVH. But no one knew the name of the Messenger, the God of Jacob.
- God addressed the Messenger in the third Person. After calling Himself “I WILL BE,” in the first person, He called the Messenger, “He WILL BE.”
- It was the Angel who APPEARED to Moses, as mentioned in verse 2. He was the ELOHIM that Moses was afraid to look at, as mentioned in verse 6.
- God emphasized the answer to Moses’ question about the ELOHIM’s name, when He repeated the name of Christ, saying, “say to them ‘He WILL BE, the ELOHIM of your Fathers . . . APPEARED to me.’”
- “He WILL BE” is the suitable name for Christ, who would become “I AM.”
This is My Name Forever
After naming the Messenger, “He WILL BE ELOHIM,” the invisible God turned the conversation back to Himself, in the first person, saying, “This (YHVH) is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.”
The invisible God, speaking through Christ, said, “This is My name forever,” to contrast His own name as “He WILL BE,” with the name of Christ, the Messenger. For Christ’s name would change to “I AM” when Christ became a man, but God’s name would always be “He WILL BE.”
|God also compared Himself as “I WILL BE” to Christ as “He WILL BE ELOHIM” in Hosea 1:7, and 1:9, saying, “I will save them by He WILL BE their ELOHIM,” and “I will no longer be your I WILL BE.”
(enki lo EHYEH אֶהְיֶ֥ה lakem).
Unfortunately, verse 9, has been mistranslated as “I will no longer be your God.”
YHVH, “He WILL BE,” is not a real name
The expression “He WILL BE” is not really a name, it is only a comparative expression that God used to compare Himself to Christ, who would be “I AM.”
Justin Martyr, in his day of 150 A.D., told us the Jewish people regarded God as nameless.
As we read in Chapter 5, Manoah asked the Angel for His real name, saying,
“What is Your name,
that when Your words come to pass we may honor You?”
And the Angel of YHVH said to him,
“Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?”
Wonderful is one of the names of Jesus listed in Isaiah 9:6.
The Second Meeting – Exodus 6
By My Name YHVH I was not known to them
In Exodus 6:3, YHVH (the Messenger) met with Moses when he returned from Pharaoh, and He said to Moses,
“I אֲנִ֥י, YHVH יְהוָ֖ה, I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac,
and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name YHVH,
I was not known to them.”
We know that YHVH, the ELOHIM, was speaking of Himself, by the word “appeared.” It is only the Messenger, the ELOHIM, who “appeared” to people.
Here, the ELOHIM clarified that He had only “appeared” to Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob “as God Almighty.” This is one of the most significant revelations in the Old Testament. It tells us that the Messenger, the Pre-Existent Christ, had always been God’s image to mankind. He had previously only appeared as “God Almighty.”
As we mentioned before, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob all knew the name of YHVH was the name of the invisible God. Abraham called the place where he sacrificed Isaac “YHVH provides”(Genesis 22:14). Abraham also used the name of YHVH in Genesis 15:2. The Angel of YHVH, used the name of YHVH in Genesis 16:11. Eve used the name of YHVH in Genesis 4:1; and we are told that men began to call on the name of YHVH, Genesis 4:26.
The Messenger was speaking of Himself when He said, “by My name YHVH I was not known to them.”
The expression “God Almighty” is singular—El Shaddai—and refers only to the Father.
Where does the name God Almighty next appear? In the Book of Revelation. The name God Almighty is used six times in the Old Testament, and six times in the Book of Revelation.
Of course, we might ask why the Messenger was not identified as “the Messenger,” in Exodus 6:3. The simple answer is that YHVH, the ELOHIM, explained the meaning of an “ELOHIM” in Exodus 4-6, and for this reason, it was no longer necessary to identify the Messenger as a “Messenger.”
The Messenger says, “I have also established My covenant with them”
In Exodus 6:4, the Messenger continued, saying, “I have also established My covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan.” Here, the Messenger clearly continues to speak from His identity as the Messenger, which He revealed in verse 3.
Here, the Angel of YHVH was made “the God of the covenant.” This is significant for the people of Israel, because it truly established the Angel of YHVH as their God. The Angel of YHVH repeats this covenant in Judges 2:1: “‘I brought you up out Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers, and I said ’I will never break My covenant with you.’”
In the remainder of Exodus 6, we see that it is the Angel who delivers Israel out of Egypt. In verse 6, He said, “I am YHVH: I will bring you out from the burdens of the Egyptians.” Then in Exodus 12:13, He said, “when I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you.” This is repeated in Exodus 12:23; “YHVH will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer (the plague) . . . to strike you.” However, here the Palestine Targum reads, “the Word of the YHVH will spread His protection over the door, and the destroying angel will not be permitted to enter your houses to smite.” The same Targum reads, “the Word of YHVH slew all the firstborn” in Exodus 12:29.
God explained that an ELOHIM was a “Speaker” for Himself
Without a doubt, Moses and people of Israel must have been very confused about the relationship between the invisible YHVH, and the Angel of YHVH, their ELOHIM.
Therefore, God arranged a little play for Moses and Aaron, so they could understand the meaning of an ELOHIM, as one who spoke the words of the invisible God.
God sent Moses to see the Pharaoh, saying, “I will be your mouth . . . and you shall be ELOHIM to him.” (Exodus 4:15–16)
Moses protested, saying, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh heed me?” (Exodus 6:30)
God, or ELOHIM, continued: “See, I have made you as ELOHIM to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you.” (Exodus 7:1–2)
Moses became a kind of Christ, who said, “as the Father taught Me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28)
This story showed the great sense of humor of God. Moses played the part of ELOHIM and Aaron was his prophet.
God said to Moses,
Say to Aaron, “Stretch out your hand with your rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.”(Exodus 8:5) . . .
Say to Aaron, “Stretch our your rod, and strike the dust of the land, so that it may become lice.”( Exodus 8:16)
Moses, in this little play, became the speaker for the invisible God, not speaking his own words. The meaning of the plural ELOHIM became clear. Moses was not speaking alone—but “Gods” were speaking to Pharaoh.
These are your ELOHIM: The Golden Calf and the two Golden Calves
The children of Israel (Jacob) understood the reason for the plural word ELOHIM. The HIM ending is no different than putting an “S” on the end of a word in English.
They knew the Messenger spoke on behalf of an “invisible” YHVH. This is clear from the story of the golden calf. They made one golden calf, which they addressed in the plural, saying, “These are your ELOHIM, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”(Exodus 32:8)
When Moses delayed returning from His trip into Sinai, the Israelites made one golden calf to worship, and addressed this one golden calf in the plural, calling it their ELOHIM! (The Hebrew text we have underlined below is plural.)
So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are אֵ֤לֶּה your ELOHIM Israel, who brought you up הֶעֱל֖וּךָ out of Egypt.” (Exodus 32:3–4)
God repeated this phrase back to Moses, as if to emphasize it:
“Go down, because your people . . . have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, “These are אֵ֤לֶּה your ELOHIM, Israel, who brought you up הֶעֱל֖וּךָ out of Egypt.”(Exodus 32:7–8)
In 1 Kings 12, this story repeated itself under King Jeroboam, who made two calves, for he knew there were two YHVHs who brought the Jewish people out of Egypt:
After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your ELOHIM, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”(1 Kings 12:28)
The early Israelites really understood the plurality of YHVH.
They knew their national God, the Messenger, was the speaker for the most High God. They also called the gods of other nations “ELOHIMs,” as if they were also Messengers.
ELOHIM always has a plural meaning in the Bible
The Israelites presumed that the gods of other nations were also ELOHIMs, “speakers for an invisible God.” They must have thought that all gods operated as “Messengers,” just like YHVH ELOHIM.
The Messenger of YHVH stopped appearing after the Book of 2 Kings.
It was in the period from Judges to 2 Kings that the Israelites called the named gods of other Nations, “ELOHIMs.”
We can see this in:
- Judges 11:24, comparing YHVH to Chemosh, the ELOHIM of the Moabites;
- Judges 16:23, comparing YHVH to Dagon, the ELOHIM of the Philistines;
- 2 Kings 1:2–3, comparing YHVH to Baalzebub, the ELOHIM of Ekron; and
- 2 Kings 19:37, comparing YHVH to Nisroch, the ELOHIM of Assyria.
The plural form ELOHIM was used to describe the “Messenger of YHVH” who spoke for the invisible God, Moses who spoke for the invisible God, and the named gods of other Nations.
The word ELOHIM otherwise only bears a true plural meaning in the Old Testament as “gods,” 235 times.
So there are no unexplained exceptions in the Bible. The word ELOHIM always carries a “plural” meaning.
The early Israelites understood the plural references of YHVH in Genesis
From the writings of the prophets and the scribes, who described the Spirit of God as “the Word,” we know that the Israelites also understood the reason for the “Us” statements in Genesis, and the two YHVHs in the story of Abraham and Lot in Genesis 19:24: “Then YHVH rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from YHVH out of the heavens.”
The early Israelites knew there were two YHVHs, and the Messenger of God was their ELOHIM.