BBR 2006b 09-Pannell

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Bulletin for Biblical Research 16.2 (2006) 351–353 SHORT STUDY I Would Be Who I Would Be! A Proposal for Reading Exodus 3:11–14 randall j. pannell regent university The notion of this short note is to propose a reading of the ªehyeh ªåser ªehyeh phrase of Exod 3:14 in light of the Hebrew cohortative. The focus of this reading is that God is presented as speaking of his will, wish, and/or desire with regard to who he is. As a response to the Mosaic question “What shall I say to them when they
  Bulletin for Biblical Research  16.2 (2006) 351–353 SHORT STUDY  I Would  Be Who I  Would Be! A Proposal for Reading Exodus 3:11–14 randall j. pannell regent university The notion of this short note is to propose a reading of the  ªehyeh ª ås er ªehyeh  phrase of Exod 3:14 in light of the Hebrew cohortative. The focus of this readingis that God is presented as speaking of his will, wish, and/or desire with regardto who he is. As a response to the Mosaic question “What shall I say to themwhen they ask, ‘What is his name?’” this opens new possibilities for the exegesisof this verse as well as for the meaning of the Tetragrammaton.Key Words: Divine Name, Exod 3:14, Hebrew cohortative, sympathetic magic,Tetragrammaton, Y   hwh  Exod 3:11 : But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pha-raoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?” 12 And He said, “I will bewith you; that shall be your sign that it was I who sent you. And whenyou have freed the people from Egypt, you shall worship God at thismountain.” 13 Moses said to God, “When I come to the Israelites andsay to them ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they askme, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 And God saidto Moses, “Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh.” He continued, “Thus shall you sayto the Israelites, ‘Ehyeh sent me to you.’” ( njpsv ) “Few verses in the entire Old Testament have evoked such heated contro-versy and such widely divergent interpretations.” Thus Brevard Childs begins the discussion of the “Problem of Ex. 3:14 and the Divine Name”within his literary and form-critical analysis of Exod 3:1– 4:17. 1 It is, there-fore, with a certain amount of reticence that I would like to offer one moreconsideration regarding this controversial passage. It is my contention thatthe enigmatic phrase hyha rva hyha  of Exod 3:14 could and should be read 1. B. Childs, Exodus  (OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974), 61.  Bulletin for Biblical Research 16.2 352 as a cohortative construction. This would suggest significant possibilitiesregarding the rendering of the pericope of 3:11–14. 2 Among the varied views and theories regarding hyha rva hyha , a sig-nificant perspective has been overlooked. It is quite likely that either oneor both of the first-person forms of the hyh  verb in this phrase are cohorta-tive . The mere possibility alone adds a certain twist to the search for theimplications of this phrase, first, for the pericope itself and, second, for re-lated considerations regarding the meaning of the divine Tetragrammatonas it relates to Exod 3:14.Although the cohortative form in the h uu l  verbs is not a morphologicalcertainty, it is more than a mere possibility that either or both hy,h}a<  are co-hortatives . Normally the first person cohortative  morphology is designated by a ( h : ) suffix. However, in the h uu l  verbs such as hyh , the suffix typically becomes ( h < ) and replaces the final h radical of the verb. 3  Although theverb’s context must be the ultimate arbiter in such cases, it is plausible that both first-person singulars in Exod 3:14 are cohortative  in force rather than mere  imperfects.The prospects of a cohortative  meaning in Exod 3:14 are significant. No-tably the cohortative  is best described as expressing   “the direction of thewill to an action and thus denotes especially self-encouragement, . . . a res-olution or a wish.” As an optative , “the cohortative lays stress on the de-termination underlying the action, and the personal interest in it.” 4  GKCfurther describes what van der Merwe et al. call “an indirect command tothe 1st person” as an expression, which results from an “inward deliber-ation” (for example, in soliloquies) and is a “more or less emphatic state-ment of a fixed determination.” 5 Davidson adds that, while the basicpurpose of the cohortative  is “to express the will of the speaker in referenceto his own actions, . . . when the speaker is free (as is the case in Exod 3:14)the cohortative  expresses intention or determination, or . . . desire.” 6  Basi-cally stated, just as the imperative  expresses command, intention, or delib-eration in the second person, and the  jussive  the same in the third person, 2. My own suspicion is that it casts this pericope within a polemical context regarding“sympathetic magical” usage of the divine name. I use the phrase “sympathetic magic” to de-note generally the magico-ritualistic mode of gaining the desired and beneficial purposes ofthe practitioner. 3. GKC   130, 210. Although it must be noted that the noncohortative (that is, without the h<  suffix) first-person form of all imperfect  tenses of the h uu l  verbs would also be rendered withthe same pointing (for example, the non cohortative   hc≤[”a< , Gen 2:18). Even though GKC   state,“The ordinary form of the imperfect  with the ending h< serves in verbs h uu l  to express the co-hortative ,” they also contend that “a strongly-marked peculiarity of verbs h uu l  is the rejection of the ending h< in forming the  jussive  and the imperfect   consecutive ,” which seems to indicatea greater probability that the ending h<  indicates a cohortative in verbs h uu l  (p. 210).4. GKC §48e/p. 130; §108/p. 319.5. For example, in English, “Let me . . . ,” “I will  . . . ,” or “I would  . . .” (ibid., 130, 319–20).Compare Christo van der Merwe et al.,  A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar  (Biblical Lan-guages: Hebrew 3; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999), 71.6. A. B. Davidson,  Hebrew Syntax  (3rd ed.; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1901), 88.  Pannell :  A Proposal for Reading Exodus 3:11–14 353 the cohortative  is a particular expression of the speaker’s will, deliberation,determination, or intention(s) in the first person.Thus, as applied to Exod 3:14, if either one or both hy,h}a<  is cohortative ,we have a divine resolution or emphatic wish-intention , perhaps as a resultof an inward deliberation, in which God places stress on his own being . Inother words, the expression could be rendered something like “ Let me be what I would be !” or “I will  be who I would  be!” The emphasis is not on cre-ation, action, or the like, per se; rather, it is an issue of self-determinationor control over his own being. Another way of expressing this idea might be “ No one controls me but me !” 7 Normally an ontology of divine being would seem out of character forthe Hebrew canon. We are then left to ask what interest or concern wouldevoke such a possible agenda here. It seems to the present writer that theissue is rather one of divine freedom of self-expression in light of a pos-sible attempt by the questioner to solicit the divine name within the fre-quently encountered sympathetic magical environment of both the textand even the historical time of the Egyptian sojourn by Israel. The perspective of Exod 3:11–14 (Exod 3–4?) could thus constitute aliterary response to divine concerns regarding syncretism in Israel’s faith.A cohortative  reading in Exod 3:11–14 could establish an important polemi-cal foundation within the divine-Mosaic dialogue in Exod 3–4. Given the fundamental nature of these texts in the definition ofY hwh -Israel relations, a cohortative  reading establishes a particular sort of theologuemon —namely, Y hwh  can and will be known to Israel; this knowl-edge will be the basis of (covenant) relation between the two; but thisknowledge will not  be the basis of either controlling or manipulatingY hwh . The Israelite task is rendered clearly “to hear” and “to obey” thatwhich Y hwh  declares. The task is not to find ways to appease, placate, in-fluence, or control him. 7. See Childs’s discussion of ontology in this formulation ( Exodus , 83, 88); also WalterBrueggemann, “The Book of Exodus: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections,” NIB 1:714;compare with George W. Coats,  Moses: Heroic Man, Man of God  (JSOTSup 57; Sheffield: Shef-field University Press, 1988), 65. Note Fox’s discussion of presence or “ being - there ” in the for-mulation (Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. A New Translation with Introductions, Commentary, and Notes  [The Schocken Bible; New York:Schocken, 1995], 1:270). Also note the similar use of a single hy,h}a<  in Hos 1:9, which could like-wise be translated as a cohortative expression of Y hwh ’s will concerning his own being, “I would  NOT be yours [lit., ‘to you’].” Compare with J. Andrew Dearman, Religion and Culturein Ancient Israel  (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992), 23–24.
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