© Jeff Stacey | Last updated: 11 April 2017
5A1(a) God more specifically identified Himself
5A1(a)(i) What was the name of the God of the Israelite patriarchs?
God began His commissioning of Moses by again identifying Himself as the God of the Israelite patriarchs Ex 3:6 [4A1(b)(iii)]. After more than 400 years since Joseph, this greeting vitally linked Moses with all of the Israelites’ prior history and encounters with God.
It seems surprising that Moses would not have known God’s name Yahweh. Perhaps this name had been forgotten by the Israelites during their 400 years in Egypt! Later at Mt Sinai they quickly turned to Egyptian worship of a golden calf Ex 32:1-6. About 40 more years later Joshua exhorted them to turn from worshipping Egyptian gods and even the gods of Abraham’s forebears in Mesopotamia Joshua 24:2,14b. Had worship of Yahweh long been abandoned by most of them?
5A1(a)(ii) The meaning of God’s name Yahweh
God replied to Moses by confirming that His name forever was Yahweh Ex 3:15b but then also gave the meaning of this name: “I AM WHO I AM” Ex 3:14. God had not revealed this meaning to Abraham, Isaac or Jacob Ex 6:2-3(NLT) (see Gen 32:29).2
This meaning of God’s name was brilliant in its simplicity! It emphasised that He always exists and His whole nature is unchanging forever [1A1(b)(i, iii)]. It also gave great significance to His previous “I am” statements about Himself.
5A1(b) Further “I am” statements by God
As “I am” statements, all of these were now directly connected with God’s name. So they emphasized aspects of His nature as expressed in His Covenant with the Israelites.
5A1(b)(i) “I am Yahweh“
God had already declared to Abraham and Jacob “I am Yahweh” [4A1(a)]. This now meant the same as “I AM WHO I AM”.
Having established the meaning and significance of His name, God then used it four times formally, “I am Yahweh,” in the great declaration of His exodus intentions for the Israelites Ex 6:2,6,8,29 and when declaring the last plague on Egypt Ex 12:12.
“I am Yahweh” is repeated a total of 46 times in Era 5, mostly in Leviticus to emphasise the authority of God’s requirements.3
Nine of the sixteen occurrences of “I am Yahweh” in Exodus were declarations by God that He would be accomplishing His primary purpose by making Himself known TO and THROUGH people Ex 6:7b, 7:5a,17a, 10:2b, 14:4b,18a, 16:12c, 29:46a, 31:13c.
5A1(b)(ii) “I am Yahweh your God”
God then made a highly significant connection to His name Yahweh. He applied it specifically to all the Israelites: “I am Yahweh your God”. This was repeated 31 times in Era 5, again mostly in Leviticus.4
5A1(b)(iii) Various extensions to “I am Yahweh your God”
Further additions to “I am the LORD your God” indicated aspects of God’s nature as expressed in relation to the Israelites.
5A1(b)(iii.i) “Then you will know that I am Yahweh your God”
5A1(b)(iii.ii) “I am Yahweh your God who brought you out of Egypt”
This was declared by God 7 times to the Israelites in Era 5 Ex 20:2, Lev 11:45, 22:33, 25:38, 26:13, Num 15:41, Deut 5:6. These included several further extensions that mostly stated His intentions, especially that He would “be their God”. Again these emphasized the Covenantal relationship by reminding the Israelites of God’s mighty deliverance from slavery.
5A1(b)(iv) Other “I am” statements
# “I am Yahweh . . . God Almighty” Ex 6:2-3a
# “I am Yahweh who heals you” Ex 15:26b
# “I am compassionate” Ex 22:27b
# “I am your share and inheritance” Num 18:20b
# “I am he” Deut 32:39a
# “I am with you” Joshua 3:7b
5A1(b)(v) Inclusion of “I AM” in box 5A1
A person’s name was a Hebrew way of referring to their whole character. So “I AM” has been added in box 5A1 because it gives the meaning of God’s name Yahweh.
5A1(c) Further information about God’s other attributes
Already the use of God’s name Yahweh and much information about seven attributes of His nature have been identified [1A1(b), 2A1(sub-title, a), 4A1(b)].
This information was further expanded greatly in Era 5. Obviously God’s direct statements about Himself were the most significant. These and various statements by others about Him are summarised below. They are also expanded in more detail in 5A4, 5A5 and 5A6.
5A1(c)(i) God is infinite
God’s name “I AM” was a declaration that He always exists, regardless of time, and that He is forever unchanging. It meant that He would always be present and especially relevant to every current and future situation, as He had always been in the past with the Patriarchs. God emphasised this in His initial statements to Moses Ex 3:15b. When blessing his sons at the end of his life, Moses also referred to God as “eternal” Deut 33:27a. In his old age he also worshipped God as “everlasting” Psalm 90:2b.
5A1(c)(ii) God is unique
God emphasised this by describing Himself as “a jealous God”! Ex 20:5a, Deut 5:9a, 32:21a. He even referred to His own name as “Jealous” when He warned Moses not to make any treaties with the Canaanite peoples Ex 34:13-14 because of the risk of being drawn into their idolatry Ex 34:15,16.
So although God was gracious He absolutely demanded that Israel honour Him exclusively as their God. He required them to be “as zealous for my honour . . . as I am” Num 25:10-11.
5A1(c)(iii) God is spiritual
Nowhere in Era 5 is God quoted as speaking directly about Himself as “spiritual”.5 But He does speak about His “Spirit” a number of times.
In the four previous Eras God had only spoken once about His “Spirit” Gen 6:3. There was one other mention of God’s “Spirit” Gen 1:2 (also Gen 41:38?). But in Era 5 God spoke of His “Spirit” three times, as follows:
# God chose Bezalel and “filled him with the Spirit of God” Ex 31:1-3a (see also Ex 35:30-34). This equipped him to be the chief artisan in making the sacred equipment for the Tent of Meeting Ex 31:3b-5. It is also implied that God equipped in the same way Oholiab and other craftsmen for this work Ex 31:6-11, 36:1-2.
# Moses was weighed down to breaking point by having to bear alone the people’s complaining Num 11:11,12,13,14-15. So God told him to select 70 elders of the Israelites and bring them to the Tent of Meeting Num 11:16. God then said He would equip them with “some of the power of the Spirit” that was “on” Moses Num 11:17a. This would enable them to share the burden of leadership with Moses Num 11:17b. When God had done this Num 11:25,26,27 Moses was so pleased with the outcome that he longed for Him to do it for all Israelites! Num 11:28-29.
# Moses requested God to provide the next leader for the Israelites Num 27:15-16,17(NLT). So God told him to lay his hand upon Joshua who already had “the Spirit in him” Num 27:18(NLT) to commission him as Moses’ successor Num 27:19(NLT). Yet this again was only to transfer some of Moses’ authority to Joshua Num 27:20(NLT) in the leadership transition period prior to Moses’ death Deut 34:9(NLT).
In Era 5 there were eight other mentions of the Spirit that were not in speeches by God, as follows:
# When Balaam saw that God was pleased to bless Israel Num 24:1a he turned away from using divination again Num 23:29-30, 24:1b. Instead when he looked out at the Israelites and spoke, “the Spirit of God came on him” Num 24:2 and he said that he was giving true prophecy Num 24:3-4.
# Later there were seven occasions when the Spirit of the Lord “came on”, “began to stir” or “came powerfully upon” various leaders or “judges” of the Israelites Judges 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 13:25, 14:6,19, 15:14. This enabled them to win battles or otherwise overcome enemies.
Yet the nature of the “Spirit” of God as one of God’s attributes remained mysterious. The most that may be said is that His Spirit came directly into or upon various people to inspire and enable them to carry out God’s purposes successfully and sometimes miraculously.
5A1(c)(iv) God is perfect
“Perfect” is first used once in Era 5 to describe an attribute of God, but not in a direct speech by God Deut 32:4. Moses was declaring that God’s works are “perfect” and He is a God who is faithful, upright, just and “does no wrong”. Only two of these same “ethical” attributes of God had previously been mentioned briefly by God Himself Gen 18:19b (“just”) and Ex 34:6b (“faithfulness”).
In Era 5 God Himself referred once to His “goodness”. Moses had asked God to show him His glory Ex 33:18. God’s response was profoundly positive although restricted Ex 33:20-22,23. In mercy He would show Moses His “goodness” and proclaim His name Yahweh to him Ex 33:19.
This connected with God’s initial declarations that His whole creation was “very good” Gen 1:31a. In that context “goodness” was God’s own qualitative assessment of His creation. This could only mean that as the vast expression of God’s own nature, it was all absolutely perfect [1A1(b)(iii)]. So His other references to His ethical qualities could also be regarded as implying absoluteness or perfection. This especially applied to the word “holy”.
The words “holy” and “holiness” emerged in Era 5 as a major theme emphasising God’s ethical perfection [see 5A5]. For the Israelites this referred to the sacredness of everything to do with Him, especially in the requirements of the Covenantal laws. It was the basis of Israel’s “separation” from all other nations, as God’s own people and “holy nation” Ex 19:5-6.
But God went further in stating His requirement that the Israelites must be holy. It was because He Himself is holy Lev 11:44-45, 19:1-2. He also referred to His name as holy Lev 22:2. So to accomplish His primary purpose THROUGH Israel, everything they did must be in His likeness – living entirely as a holy people. In this way they would reflect God’s perfection.
5A1(c)(v) God is relational
The extent of these direct interactions between God and people, especially Moses, was an obvious indication of the significance of these communications. Having created people with Godlike capabilities [1A3(e)(ii)] He continued to show that these included their ability to interact with Himself as well as with each other. These interactions were vital to His whole ongoing involvement with His creation. So they can be regarded as an indication of God’s own relational nature [1A1(b)(v)].
5A1(c)(vi) God is generous
God had declared to Moses that His name represented His mercy and compassion towards various people Ex 33:19b. Later God again declared His name as representing His grace and compassion, using four other phrases to describe His own generous attitudes towards people Ex 34:6,7a.
The Israelites had previously reverted to idolatry at Mt Sinai Ex 32:1-6 and later refused to obey God and invade Canaan Num 14:1-4. So Moses in desperation appealed to God for forgiveness Num 14:17-18a,19 based on His own declaration that He is “abounding in love” Ex 34:6b. Moses knew that love is an attribute of God’s own nature [see 5A6(title), 5A8].
These events and God’s declarations in response, emphasised that everything He had done for people since the FALL was “in grace” [2A8(c)]. He would indeed bring judgment upon those who disobeyed Him Ex 34:7b, Num 14:18b. Yet His heart is full of loving generosity, as poignantly echoed in His response to a later repentance by Israel Judges 10:16b.
5A1(c)(vii) God is purposeful
All of these and related statements by God are explained in detail in 5A3, indicating that God is purposeful.
5A1(d) God’s nature was sometimes expressed visibly as His “glory”
In Era 5 there are 25 occurrences (in the NIV) of the words “glory” (23) or “glorious” (2).7
“Glory” was a wide-ranging word referring to various spectacular displays of God’s awesome presence, power, holiness and love. These were all visible demonstrations of God’s nature, being very direct ways that He was making Himself known TO the Israelites and Egyptians.
They occurred in both positive and negative contexts, as follows (they are outlined in more detail in later sections, as shown):
# THROUGH Moses Deut 33:29 [see 5A4]
# TO the Israelites
* at the Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle in the wilderness:-
– in response to the intercession of Moses and Aaron when the Israelites again complained about lack of water Num 20:6 [see 5A4, 5A5]
# THROUGH the Israelites
* in their worship Ex 15:11 [see 5A5]
* when challenged to honour God Josh 7:19-20 [see 5A5]
Because of its breadth of usage, as well as its lack of specific meaning, “glory” can be taken as an all-embracing noun (and “glorious” as an adjective) to indicate all of God’s attributes, which simply cannot be precisely described! On this basis “glory” has been added to the overall description of God, as follows:
Yahweh, “I AM”, whose glory is infinite, unique, holy, spiritual, relational, generous and purposeful.
1. This was another indication that names and their meanings were vitally important to the Israelites as well as to God (see W.J.Dumbrell, Covenant and Creation, pages 82-84).(Return to reading).
2. God said that He had not made Himself known TO Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by His name, Yahweh. Yet Yahweh was used as God’s name as early as Gen 4:26. Apparently what was intended here was that the meaning and significance of that name had not previously been revealed by God.
The Hebrew word yahweh (the four Hebrew letters YHWH, translated as “The LORD”) is almost the same as the Hebrew word translated as “I AM” (the four Hebrew letters AHWH) and rhymes with it (often a Hebrew way of associating the meanings of words).
“I AM WHO I AM” can also be translated as “I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE” (see NIV text note).(Return to reading).
3. The occurrences of “I am the LORD” are in Exodus (16 times), Leviticus (27 times), Numbers (3 times).(Return to reading).
4. The occurrences are in Exodus (8 times), Leviticus (18), Numbers (3), Deuteronomy (1).(Return to reading).
5. In the NIV, the word “spiritual” only occurs in the New Testament.(Return to reading).
6. God’s direct speeches to Moses take up about 46% of Exodus, 86% of Leviticus, 33% of Numbers and 6% of Deuteronomy!(Return to reading).