I Am that I Am

I am that I am is a common English translation of the Hebrew phrase אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה‎, ’ehye ’ăšer ’ehye ([ʔehˈje ʔaˈʃer ʔehˈje])– also "I am who I am," "I will become what I choose to become", "I am what I am," "I will be what I will be," "I create what(ever) I create," or "I am the Existing One."[1] The traditional English translation within Judaism favors "I will be what I will be" because there is no present tense of the verb "to be" in the Hebrew language.

The Hebrew text with niqqud


Ehyeh asher ehyeh (Hebrew: אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה) is the first of three responses given to Moses when he asks for God's name in the Book of Exodus.[2] ’Ehyeh is the first person form of hayah, "to be," and owing to the peculiarities of Hebrew grammar means "I am," "I was," and "I will be."[3] The meaning of the longer phrase ’ehyeh ’ăšer ’ehyeh is debated, and might be seen as a promise ("I will be with you") or as statement of incomparability ("I am without equal").[4]

The word ehyeh is the first-person singular imperfect form of hayah, "to be". Biblical Hebrew does not distinguish between grammatical tenses. It has instead an aspectual system in which the imperfect denotes any actions that are not yet completed,[5][6][7] Accordingly, Ehyeh asher ehyeh can be rendered in English not only as "I am that I am" but also as "I will be what I will be" or "I will be who I will be", or "I shall prove to be whatsoever I shall prove to be" or even "I will be because I will be". Other renderings include: Leeser, "I Will Be that I Will Be"; Rotherham, "I Will Become whatsoever I please", Greek, Ego eimi ho on (ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν), "I am The Being" in the Septuagint,[8] and Philo,[9][10] and Revelation[11] or, "I am The Existing One"; Lat., ego sum qui sum, "I am Who I am."

The word asher is a relative pronoun whose meaning depends on the immediate context, so that "that", "who", "which", or "where" are all possible translations of that word.[12]

The New Testament has “But by the grace of God I am what I am …” (1 Corinthians 15:10).


According to the Hebrew Bible, in the encounter of the burning bush (Exodus 3:14) Moses asks what he is to say to the Israelites when they ask what the gods ('Elohiym) have sent him to them, and Yahweh replies, "I am who I am," adding, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I am has sent me to you.'"[4] It is somewhat remarkable that despite this exchange, the Israelites never ask Moses for the name of God.[13] Then there are a number of probably unanswerable questions, including who it is that does not know God's name, Moses or the Israelites (most commentators take it that it is Moses who does not know, meaning that the Israelites will ask him the name in order to prove his credentials), and just what the statement means.[13]

The last can be approached in three ways:

  • "I am who I am" – an evasion of Moses's question;[14]
  • "I am who am" or "I am he who is" – a statement of the nature of Israel's Gods ['Elohiym];
  • "'I Am' is who I am," or "I am because I am" – this version has not played a major part in scholarly discussion of the phrase, but the first variant has been incorporated into the New English Bible.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Stone 2000, p. 624.
  2. ^ Exod. 3:14.
  3. ^ Parke-Taylor 1975, p. 51.
  4. ^ a b Van der Toorn 1999, p. 913.
  5. ^ Biblical Hebrew
  6. ^ Hebrew Tenses
  7. ^ Biblical Hebrew Grammar do Beginners
  8. ^ "Exodus 3:14 LXX". Bibledatabase.net. Retrieved 2014-05-21.
  9. ^ Yonge. Philo Life Of Moses Vol.1 :75
  10. ^ Life of Moses I 75, Life of Moses II 67,99,132,161 in F.H. Colson Philo Works Vol. VI, Loeb Classics, Harvard 1941
  11. ^ Rev.1:4,1:8.4:8 UBS Greek Text Ed.4
  12. ^ Seidner, 4.[full citation needed]
  13. ^ a b Hamilton 2011, p. 63.
  14. ^ Hayes.
  15. ^ Mettinger 2005, pp. 33–34.