In the last post I shared with you that early in the project we decided to translate God’s name (YHWH) “the Eternal One” or “the Eternal.” In this post and the next, I want to give you some of our thinking.
First, the name YHWH is clearly understood to be God’s covenant name. It was revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 3:13-15). Here is that classic exchange:
Moses: 13Let’s say I go to the people of Israel and tell them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to rescue you,” and then they reply, “What is His name?” What should I tell them then?
Eternal One: 14I AM WHO I AM.* This is what you should tell the people of Israel: “I AM has sent me to rescue you.”
15This is what you are to tell Israel’s people: “The Eternal One [YHWH], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob is the One who has sent me to you.” This is My name forevermore, and this is the name by which all future generations shall remember Me.
The revelation of God’s name to Moses is associated with two of the most important events in the Old Testament: the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian bondageand the institution of God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai. The declaration affirms that this God is none other than the God who had already appeared and established a covenant of blessing with Abraham and his children. Therefore, it is a covenant name that links past, present, and future: I am the God who was with Abraham. I am the God who hears the prayers of My people now. I am the God who will rescue them in the future. I am the Eternal. It is a relational name that emphasizes God’s saving actions and His “being there” for His covenant people.
Second, the name YHWH appears to be built on the Hebrew verb “to be
.” (hayah). When asked his name, God responds: “I AM WHO I AM” . . . [say] “I AM has sent me to rescue you.” The verbal idea has a timeless quality. This is one reason why we think the English word “eternal” helps to capture something of its meaning. Furthermore, God himself emphasizes that this name is eternal; it stands forever and must be remembered
In the next post, I’ll share with you the final reason we decided to translate God’s name “the Eternal.” You may be surprised to know it has something to do with the Ten Commandments or as we prefer to call them, the Ten Directives.
* 3:14 “Eternal One” is derived from the Hebrew word meaning, “I am.”