Truth, Understanding, Insight

To Be & To Become – Revealed in Genesis

27th December 2003, hej


1) To Be & To Become – Revealed in Genesis

The Memorial Name, given to us in Exodus 3:14, is clearly evident in the Hebrew words in Genesis Chapter One, though it does not appear in the English translation. Using a modern Oxford Hebrew-English dictionary to translate the Hebrew of Genesis Chapter one reveals a significant relationship between two ordinary Hebrew words and the Memorial Name. A literal translation of Genesis one would show this significant relationship, though it would make the simple account more challenging to read.

<>Below is a literal translation of part of Genesis One verse 2. The word we are interested in is highlighted. Possible alternative translations are given to convey the sense of that word.

And the earth became (or ‘to be/ to happen/ come to pass/ to come about’) lay-waste and-void and-darkness

Generally ‘became’ or hayah (התיה) here is translated “was”. From our perspective the earth lying waste is in the past. For the Elohim, who are explaining this, ‘it came to be’ or became waste.

Below is a literal translation of Verse 3

And say Elohim (mighty ones) Be/ Exist Light

and Be/ Exist Light

Here the word for ‘be/exist’ in the text is יהי or Yehi. Strong’s concordance and Online Bible both agree it is understood as having the same meaning as Hayeh. The Hebrew-English Oxford Dictionary has an entry יהי with no English translation merely referring the reader to the entry hayehהיה. The word hayeh is translated as ‘be, exist, become, belong, come to pass’. What strikes one is that the dictionary entry for Yehi looks like this:

The Lord (pronounced adonai)


היה (refer) יהי

There is an association of yehi with Yahweh and with hayeh and they all mean “to be, exist, become, come to pass”.

It might be supposed from the fact that that יהי has not the status of a word that yehi יהי is uncommon with the form hayeh היה being more common. But in Genesis one yehi יהי as a word is so much in evidence it could be said to be the motif, occurring 22 times. (It can be noted as an aside that Yahweh הוהי is not used until Genesis 2:4 where there is a break in the narrative, from this point the word hayeh היה also appears again and is used to indicate trees had not yet come into existence.) However yehi יהי is not an uncommon word. With the conjunctive ‘and’, it has been translated as “in those” days, “at that” time (Judges 19:1), “One” day (2 Kings 4:8). In these places the word indicates “it began to exist”. In English idiom “once upon a time” or “one day” has a similar meaning, though by association has come to relate to only ‘fairy stories’. However the Hebrew idiom of ‘And exist’ seems not so much about locating a place in time, but about locating a beginning of the existence of an event. So yehi is about ‘to be’, which is existence or being.

In contrast hayeh היה is about the ‘becoming’ of existence or how existence comes to be. It is significant that in Exodus 3:14 Elohim said the name of Israel’s deliverer was Ehyeh or E hayeh. The Creator has no need to say “I am” or “I exist”, rather, He says, “I will be”. If hayeh is about the reason why things exists and the process of things coming into existence then Ehayeh can be written as “I - the reason all things exist”.

Now Genesis one says, the Elohim say, “exist, light!” and then exists light. It does not say Elohim made or created light. The repetition that all things ‘begin to exist’ after a directive goes out, leads to the conclusion there is an active force that makes things ‘become’. And we are told the Ruarch or ‘wind’ or ‘spirit’ of the Elohim goes out over the face of the water in verse two. This spirit is how things ‘then exist’.

If, the account of the creation ending in Genesis 2:4, was written and in circulation before Moses compiled Genesis, when Moses goes to the Israelites and says, “E-hayeh sent me to you”, they would logically connect this deliverer with the spirit who caused the yehi or being of light. The repetition of the basic word ‘being/existence’ in the creation account prepares them to think of the one who made existence possible.

We should pause here and consider the amazing simplicity and wide ranging implications of this.

Firstly the Name has a strong connection with the account of creation. But it is more powerful than saying in English, ‘He is the Creator’. Yahweh claims He is the ‘to be’ of all ‘being’. There is a subtle distinction here. Creation is about the act of making. But Yahweh, or ‘He who will be’ is the power of the act of making! Think about the fundamental difference. You may think to act and create a table. But Yahweh claims to be one level up: He is the energy to make the table, including the electricity you used and the energy in the food you ate that became the nervous impulses that allowed you to be and move and think.

Secondly ‘to be/to become’ or hayeh is an everyday word. All things exist and have being. And whenever something is planned it must be described as something that ‘will be’ and the act of transforming is where something is ‘to become’. So in claiming the name “He who will be”, the Creator is linguistically associated in common everyday language with all things that ‘will be’. That’s everything. Think of the wisdom of this.

He was

He is

He will be …..

So Elohim say “to be light” and to-be light (is). The tension is there in that statement between word and action – the spirit that covered the face of the water deeply covering the earth was the power that caused things ‘to be’.

Power of things to be