Editor's note: We are continually seeking the truth in God's word. All content has suggestive conclusions. We recommend that all readers of this website search the scriptures for themselves and pray for understanding to prove or disprove all content.
Did an Angel Want to Kill Moses?
The words of Exodus 4:24 have long been a source of doubt and concern to most Bible students, because, what is said in both the Hebrew and Greek texts is that an angel wanted to kill ‘him' at an inn. For, the person mentioned in the preceding verse was Moses, so we would logically conclude that he the person that the angel was planning to kill. Of course, this scenario is illogical, because God had just commissioned Moses to go to Pharaoh and demand that His people be freed. So, why would a messenger from God try to thwart God's plans?
The fact that a specific person isn't mentioned in this text allows that the ‘him' spoken of here, likely isn't Moses. Frequently, this portion of the Bible uses personal pronouns such as ‘him' without disclosing whom it is referring to. And that's why you will often find names in brackets [ ] in this Bible, to clarify the name of the individual who is being spoken of by use of a personal pronoun.
Note in this case, that the person who was spoken of in the following paragraph (in connection with this event) is Moses' son. And his mother apparently saved his life by circumcising him right there on the spot. Why was this important? Because God's instructions to Abraham were that every Hebrew male was to be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. And if that wasn't done, he was to be put to death (see Genesis 17:14).
So, the ‘him' that was likely in danger of being killed by God's messenger was probably Moses' son, since God's Law had been violated.
Why hadn't Moses circumcised his son? We don't know, but the fact that his mother circumcised him likely indicates that she was the one to blame... and she knew it. Remember that her father Jethro is described as being ‘the priest of Midian.' Thus he could have been a priest to a pagan god. And if so, this may have been the reason why she opposed the circumcision of her son.
What is a ‘God?'
At Psalm 82:1 we read, ‘Our God has stood in the gathering of gods, and in the midst of the gods He judges.'
This verse - in fact, this entire Chapter - is usually not (or is only vaguely) understood. Who are the ‘gods' that God meets with and judges? Psalm 82:6 tells us, ‘I said You are gods; of the Most High you're sons.' So, these words seem to apply to those who were created directly by God, His messengers (angels), and what became known as the demons (those who receive God's adverse judgment).
The usual explanation of Psalm 82:6 is that God was speaking to humans, for Jesus quoted this scripture at John 10:34-36, when he said, ‘Isn't it written in your Law, I say that you are gods? If He called those who were spoken against in God's Word gods (and you can't void the Scriptures), how can you tell me (one who was made holy and sent into the world by the Father) that I blaspheme because I say I'm God's Son?'
However, notice that Jesus wasn't saying that his listeners were gods; he was saying that the ones God met with and judged (who were mentioned in the Psalms) were called gods. And these were not only God's sons (direct creations of God), but they live in ‘dark places' or Tartarus (see Psalm 82:5).
God has not come and met with gatherings of men, but He has met with all His spirit creation, as Job 1:6 tells us. So, from the context we must assume that God was calling His wicked spirit sons gods, and He was warning them that when the old ‘earth and sky' pass away (see 2 Peter 3), they too will be destroyed.
Notice that at Exodus 7:1 God told Moses, ‘Look! I've made you a god to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron is your Prophet.' So, was Moses literally turned into a god? Yes he was, if you understand what that really means.
Now, we recognize that this concept may be a bit difficult to grasp for people who were raised in a monotheistic society where the word god refers to just one individual. However, remember that the Greeks (whose language we are translating) were a polytheistic society (they worshiped many gods), and to them the word theos (god) referred to a large group of individuals who were more powerful than men. So in Greek, theos just means powerful one, not Creator.
Also, notice how God again used the word gods at Exodus 22:28 to refer to men. In Greek this verse reads, ‘theous ou logeseis,' or, ‘You aren't to speak badly of the gods.' But if you read the context, you will see that God was telling the Israelites not to speak badly of powerful humans here, not to demon ‘gods.' Therefore, the term god just means powerful. So even men can be called gods... that is, in the word's truest sense (powerful ones).
Thus the terms god and gods just refer to the powerful. And even men can be gods... that is, in the truest sense of the word's meaning (powerful ones). So a word-for-word literal translation of John 1:1 can read, ‘In the beginning was the Word; and the Word was toward the Powerful One; and powerful was the Word.'
Gnats or Fleas?
The third plague that God sent to Egypt during the time prior to the Israelite exodus was a countrywide infestation of small, biting insects. The Greek word for them is skniphes, which has been translated as gnats, fleas, mosquitoes, etc. However, we have decided that they were likely some sort of flea, because gnats aren't thought of as biting insects, and the text indicates that they lived on the ground, which would preclude mosquitoes.
Gadflies or Stable Flies?
The fourth plague that God sent to Egypt during the time prior to the Israelite exodus was a countrywide infestation of biting flies. The Greek word for them is kunomuian, which implies (and is often translated as) dog fly. And in other Bibles, they are called gadflies.
Unfortunately, both of those terms (dog fly and gadfly) are unfamiliar to most readers. However, when researching the term dog fly, we found that this is just another name for the common stable fly, which bites like a horsefly but is about the size of a housefly. That is why we have settled on this term.
You Must Not Kill or Murder?
In recent years the idea of putting murderers to death has become repulsive to many people, and to prove their argument, they often quote the words of God as found at Exodus 20:15, which say (in the King James Bible), ‘Thou shalt not kill.'
So, was God forbidding putting murders to death? That isn't likely, for notice His instructions regarding what should be done to those who stepped on Mount Sinai while He was present there. He said at Exodus 19:13, ‘Anyone who [touches the mountain] must be pelted with rocks or shot through with arrows. Whether it's a man or animal, [he or she] won't live.'
Also, notice the clear instructions concerning this as found at Exodus 21:12, ‘If any man hits another and kills him, he must absolutely be put to death.' So, God's clear instructions were that the Israelites were to kill gross violators of His Laws.
Now, the Greek word that is translated as kill at Exodus 20:15 is phoneuseis. And to be honest, most Bible translators aren't sure of its exact meaning. However, the main Greek word for kill (there are a few of them) is ktino. And since we know that God wouldn't give anyone conflicting laws, we must assume that the best word to translate phoneuseis is murder.
The ‘Chest of Proofs' or ‘Ark of the Covenant?'
We are sorry to use such an unfamiliar term, but Ark of the Covenant may not accurately describe the sacred box that eventually held the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the writings of Moses and
Joshua, the manna, and the walking stick of Aaron. First, the meaning of the ancient English word ‘ark' has been lost in history. And the second word, ‘covenant' (meaning, sacred agreement) isn't
always used as part of the name in the Greek text. In some places it is called the kiboton marturion, which literally means Box [of] Testimony. So, although it may have been built to illustrate the
Sacred Agreement (Covenant) between God and the Israelites, it was also built to hold the Proofs of the things that God did for Israel. So, wherever the words kiboton marturion appear in the text, we
have called it the Chest of Proofs. But it was also referred to as the Chest of the Sacred Agreement (or, Ark of the Covenant) at Exodus 27:21, for example, so that term must be correct too. In fact,
after the Israelites settled in the Promised Land it was thereafter always referred to as the kiboton marturion, or the Chest of Proofs.
Unfortunately (during the time of Samuel and the High-Priest Eli), the Philistines captured the Chest, emptied its contents, and returned it to Israel, because their having it brought a plague on them (see 1 Samuel 6:12). But later, during the time of King Solomon, the sacred tablets containing the Ten Commandments were found to be still in the Chest, but nothing else (see 1 Kings 8:9).
Editor's note: Where is the Chest of Proofs or Ark or the Covenant today? Well there are many stories being told about who has this priceless artifact and many seek it wherever these stories lead....but the bible seems to tells us where it really is! And at this, the heavenly Temple of God opened up and the Chest of his Sacred Agreement could be seen inside His Temple. Then there was lightning, voices, thundering, an earthquake, and a great hailstorm. (Revelation 11:19) Is this the same Chest as the one Moses had built? We think so...
We have searched hard for a modern English synonym for this difficult and obscure word, and have found none. Sure, it was just a cover for the sacred Chest, but cover wouldn't properly reflect the full meaning.
The Greek word that we are struggling with is ilasterion. Other Bibles have translated it as Propitiatory, Expiation, and Mercy Seat. Yet, the first two words are unfamiliar and Mercy Seat doesn't accurately describe what it was, because nobody was to sit on it. It was actually an Altar where the Priests sprinkled the blood of Propitiation on the Day of Atonement. And what does Propitiation mean? It refers to something that is done to sooth God's feelings and to improve relations with Him.
The Expression of Judgment
This was the term (gr. logeion ton kriseon) that God used to describe the special jeweled chest covering of gold cloth that identified the Israelite High Priest when he served in his capacity on special occasions. It had twelve different types of gems, each of which had the name of one of the Sons of Israel engraved upon it. The different types of stones likely signified different qualities of these individuals and/or their tribes.
It is interesting that the names were to be of the Sons of Israel, not the names of the tribes, so Joseph would supplant the tribal names of his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, and the Priestly tribe of Levi would have its own stone.
The Revelation and the Truth
How did JoShua learn of God's decisions? The text at Numbers 27:21 tells us, ‘Then he must stand alongside EliEzer the Priest, and whenever they come before God to ask for the judgments of
the Revelation, they must do whatever he says.'
The Greek word that we have translated as Revelation is delon. And while other Bibles have translated it with the Hebrew word urim, or urim and thumim, the Greek word just means revelation.
Delon is a conjugation of the word delosin, which is found at Exodus 28:26, where God told Moses (when He was describing the High Priest's official clothes), ‘You are to put the Revelation and the Truth (gr. ten delosin kai ten aletheian) on the Expression of Judgment, and Aaron will wear it on his chest when he enters the Holy Place before God.'
Unfortunately, this description is only found in the Greek Septuagint, where just what the Revelation and the Truth is, isn't identified. However, tradition has it that this item, which was referred to in the Hebrew text as the Urim and Thumim, was used in some way to indicate God's decisions. And according to the wording, JoShua (Joshua) was to stand next to the High Priest who wore this item on his chest, to determine God's will. For, since he wasn't from the Priestly tribe of Levi, he couldn't enter the Most Holy place, as did Moses, to speak directly to God.
At Exodus 29:29 we find that Aaron and his sons were to be ‘anointed' as Priests to God, and that this action would make them ‘holy' or clean. It also signified that they had been chosen to this
office by God. And in Leviticus, when we read of the ‘anointed' Priest, the reference seems to be to one of the Priests who has been chosen for the special office of what later became known as the
High Priest, which gives credence to our translating Christos as Anointed One, rather than Christ, in the NT.
The Greek word that we translated as anointed here is chriseis, which can also be translated as Christ (it's just a conjugation of Christos), since christ and anointed both come from the same root, which is Greek for olive oil (it may also mean Judged, since the words are similar). So, Jesus wasn't the first or the only one to be correctly referred to as a christ.
Why olive oil? Because, that substance was traditionally poured over the heads of those who God chose to be Priests and kings over Israel. However, at least in the case of Aaron and his sons, fragrant herbs were added to the oil to give it a pleasing odor. This is implied at Exodus 25:7, where the Israelites were asked to donate ‘fragrances for anointing oil.' And we find the exact formula for the anointing oil at Exodus 30:34, where we read that it was to be made of ‘sixteen pounds of choice myrrh flowers, eight pounds of sweet-smelling cinnamon, eight pounds of sweet-smelling calamus, sixteen pounds of cassia (for the Holy Place), and a gallon of olive oil.'
The physical anointing with oil also appears to have pictured their receiving of God's Holy Breath, making them ‘holy,' which was an appropriate description for Jesus years later. And remember that both the ‘anointed' priests and the kings pictured Jesus. So, the term christ is apropos.
The ‘Tabernacle' or the ‘Tent of Proofs?'
We are sure that many will object to our calling God's place of worship in the desert a ‘tent' rather than a ‘tabernacle.' However, tabernacle is just an obsolete word that would be unfamiliar to many new Bible readers, so for clarification, we have opted to use the modern word, tent. And, it was for a fact, a portable building made of cloth.
Actually, this tent is often referred to in Greek as the skenes tou marturion, or, tent of witness. And the reason why they called it that, was because it housed the kiboton marturion(box [of] witness) which is also referred to in other Bibles as the Ark of the Covenant. So following this reasoning, we have translated it as the Tent of Proofs wherever the appropriate Greek words are found.
Did Aaron Personally Make the gold Calf?
Although the Bible text of the creation of the gold calf in the desert seems to indicate that this was the personal handiwork of Aaron, the next verse indicates that he had likely authorized
someone else (skilled craftsmen) to do the actual work, because, he didn't build an Altar to it until after he saw the idol. So, the reason why he was spoken of as ‘making' the calf was because he
was responsible for building it... and that's why we have rendered these texts as we have... to clarify that point. He likely didn't have the necessary craftsmanship skills to do the work.
Also, notice that the calf was supposed to represent God, so the people didn't really think of themselves as worshiping another god. They just wanted something they could SEE to worship, like the gods they could see in Egypt... ‘Memory aids.' And since a calf was often the first (and most valuable) sacrifice offered, this might have been the reason for its being carved in the shape of a calf. However, remember that God had already forbidden building or using idols, and that's why He was so displeased. They shouldn't have needed anything to see as proof that He was there.
Why wasn't Aaron held more to blame for his part in building the idol? Apparently, God still saw something good in Aaron. Remember that the previous few Chapters told of what God was saying to Moses while he was on the mountain, and He knew what was going on down below. Yet, there God still spoke of the honor and position that was to be shown to Aaron and his sons.
This situation may be very difficult for many to understand, because of the history of knowledge that we have accumulated about God today. What most people don't realize is how rudimentary the knowledge and ideas about God were at the time... even for Aaron. Because, prior to the previous few months when they had been delivered from Egypt, there had been little contact with God for a couple of hundred years. So, the proper ways of serving God had been forgotten. And as the result, God had to start from scratch in building and shaping a nation of worshipers... and they had to be taught some very hard lessons along the way. Often death was involved, because people had to understand that this was a life-and-death matter.
Also, notice that when Moses asked, ‘Who is on God's side?' and called a small army together to slaughter the unfaithful, ‘the Sons of Levi,' which could have included Aaron and his family, came to Moses and took their stand for the Almighty.
Was Moses Alone on the Mountain With the Eternal?
If you were to ask the majority of Christians or Jews this question, most would likely answer yes. But, that isn't what the Bible tells us. It shows that; when he ascended the mountain and stayed there for forty days to receive the commandments, Joshua was there too. However, he wasn't in the presence of God as Moses was. For, notice what we read at Exodus 24:13: ‘So, [the next day] Moses got up and took his assistant Joshua to climb the mountain of God with him.' Then, as Moses was descending the mountain with the stone tablets, Joshua was still there, because Exodus 32:17 tells us, ‘And when Joshua heard the voices of people shouting, he said to Moses, That's the sound of a war in the camp.' So, Joshua played a greater role than most people believe, even before he led the people into the Promised Land.
Hebrews, Israelites, Jews, and ‘Semites'
We often hear people using the above terms interchangeably, as though they all refer to the same people, and they don't. Abraham and all his descendants were Hebrews. That is, they all descended through Abram's (or Abraham's) great, great, great grandfather, Heber. However, many other lines of descent also came from this man, so; perhaps many other races are also Hebrews. The first mention of the word is found at Genesis 14:13, where Abraham was referred to as a Hebrew. Isaac, IshMaEl, and Abraham's other sons were also Hebrews, as were Jacob, Esau, and all their descendants.
The first Israelites (who were also Hebrews) were the twelve sons of Jacob (who God renamed Israel). The families thereafter were often referred to as the ‘Sons of Israel' and as ‘Hebrews' until sometime before the era of kings. Especially do we find this division during the time of David, for during the first portion of his reign he ruled over just Judah, and then he and Solomon later ruled over all the tribes.
However, the split between the tribes arose once again after the rule of Solomon, when the northern ten-tribes rebelled, creating their own kingdom called Israel, leaving the southern two tribes (Judah and BenJamin) who were referred to (in English) as the Jews.
And actually, many people were called both Jews and Israelites who weren't related to either Judah or Israel. This is because God's Law allowed foreigners to become a part of the nation. In fact, RaHab, the prostitute of Jericho (who was a Canaanite, not a Semite, Hebrew, or Israelite) became the ancestress of Kings David and Solomon, and eventually Jesus.
The Anglicized term ‘Jew' is a corruption of the word ‘Judean.' And although Jesus and many of his disciples were in fact Judeans, they were often referred to by people who lived in the Roman province of Judea, as Galileans, because they came from an area outside Judea near the Sea of Galilee. Also, when Jesus and his disciples spoke of the Jews, they were often specifically referring to people who lived in and around the city of Jerusalem.
The term ‘Semite' even predates the term ‘Hebrew,' because it refers to descendants of Noah's son Shem, which likely covers one-third of the people on the earth. So when someone accuses another of being ‘anti-Semitic,' he or she is actually accusing the person of being biased against a broad range of peoples, including many so-called Arab nations. And many Arab nations are also Hebrews, and some even descend from Abraham and Israel.
We find the word synagogue (gr. synagoges) mentioned several times while the Israelites were in the desert. Just what type of building was this?
Well it wasn't a building at all. Actually, synagogue means a gathering, and the entire nation of Israel was usually referred to as a synagogue. It wasn't until later years, after they entered the Promised Land and possibly after their return from exile in Babylon, that they built buildings for worship (other than the Temple). Then later, they started referring to the buildings as synagogues. And while synagogues are mentioned several times in the Christian Era Scriptures, the only mention of it as a Christian meeting place can be found at James 2:2. In every other instance, it refers to Judaic houses of worship.
This situation (of referring to a building as a gathering) is similar to what happened in Christendom. In the Bible, Christian gatherings of people were called churches (gr. ecclesias, or callings) in old English, but before long, they also started referring to the buildings as churches.
What was manna? All we know is what the Bible tells us. At Exodus 16:31 we read, ‘And the children of Israel called this [food] manna. It looked like white coriander seeds and tasted like crackers and honey.'
The manna appeared miraculously every morning after the dew dried. The account says it looked like white coriander (cilantro) seeds, which are perfectly round and about a quarter-inch in size. And the description that they tasted like (whole-wheat) crackers and honey provides us a good idea of its flavor. In the Hebrew text, we read that it looked like (hoar) frost on the ground... and we are sure it did. However, the description of each portion looking like a coriander seed (in the Septuagint) is far more descriptive.
What does manna mean? It is thought that those were the first words they said in Hebrew when the saw it, ‘Man hu?' or, ‘What is it?'
Was manna the result of some natural phenomenon? That isn't likely, because there is no other account of anything like it in history. And the fact that no matter how much of it a person gathered, it was always enough... and that it spoiled every night after sundown - except on the night before the Sabbath - is a pretty-good indication that God was its source. However, the mention of the dew drying may indicate that the moisture in the air gathered it.
Was manna all that the children of Israel ate? No, God provided birds for them to eat on at least one occasion, so they could hunt for ‘clean' animals. And don't forget that they were herders of sheep, goats, and bulls, which were also sources for food on special occasions. This is proven by the fact that they were allowed to eat the meat of some sacrifices. So theirs wasn't a bland, humdrum diet as many think.
The first mention of dogs as human companions in the Bible is found at Exodus 11:7, where Moses was promised that in Egypt, ‘not even a dog will snarl at a man or an animal' among the Hebrews. So, we must conclude that dogs were kept as companions among them, and were likely used to herd their cattle.
The next mention of dogs was when God was giving them commandments as to what the Israelites could and couldn't eat. We find this at Exodus 22:31: ‘And you must be holy [people] to Me. You must not eat the flesh of wild animals. You should throw it to the dogs.'
So, we know from this account that dogs also traveled with the Hebrews into the desert during their forty-year trek, and, since they weren't allowed to eat them, into the Promised Land.
According to historians, the people in the land of Canaan (such as the Israelites) were possibly the first to domesticate dogs and keep them as pets, for the Latin name for dogs, canis may come from the term Canaanite.
Should Christians Agree on Everything?
At Exodus 23:2 we read the wise words, ‘You must not join a mob to do bad things, nor should you agree with the majority when they are wrong.' In Greek this reads, ‘Ouk esemeta pleinon epi kakia ou prostethese meta plethous ekklinon meta pleinon oste ekklinai krisin,' or, ‘Not join the/majority on bad or go/along with the/majorities' inclinations with many who are/inclined/toward judgment.' Agreed, the words are different, but the thought is the same.
Among some Christian religions there seems to be a common idea that the minority must always yield to the majority, to show harmony... as in a form of Democracy. But is that the Christian way? To prove that this is the right thing to do, religious leaders like to quote Paul's words as found at 1 Corinthians 1:10, which say, ‘Now, through the name of our Lord Jesus the Chosen One, I want to encourage you brothers to all teach the same thing. There shouldn't be any divisions among you, but you must all learn to think the same way and share the same opinions.'
So, was Paul encouraging Christians to go along with the majority, even when they are wrong on doctrines and spiritual issues? Those who are in charge might like to tell us this is so. But God's commandment at Exodus 23:2 says that this should never be done. Then was God contradicting Paul? No, for notice the problem that Paul was discussing at 1 Corinthians 1:11-13: ‘Now, those of the house of Chloe have told me that you do a lot of quarreling, my brothers. What I mean is that, some of you are saying, I follow Paul, or I follow Apollos, or I follow Cephas, or I follow the Chosen One; so the Chosen One is divided. Paul wasn't hung on a pole for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?'
As you can see, he was addressing a situation in the Corinthian congregation where the group was becoming divided into various sects or followings. And what Paul was saying, was that they should be trying to find harmony in the teachings of Jesus, not that they should follow the majority, right or wrong. There should be unity in TRUTH, not in following the crowd.
Sinai, Horeb, or the Dry Place?
On what mountain did Moses meet with God, Sinai or Horeb? Actually, both names seem to be mentioned interchangeably in most Bibles, for at Exodus 34:2 Moses was told, ‘So, be ready to climb Mount Sinai in the morning, then stand there [and wait] for Me on top of the Mountain.' But at Exodus 33:6, we find that the Israelites were gathered at Mount Horeb. Why were both names used?
Well, Horeb may not actually have been a name but a description that was mistranslated as a name... something that has happened with several other words in the Bible. Ho'reb is a Hebrew word for dry, which aptly describes this land in the Sin (pronounced Seen and/or Sheen) Desert near the southern tip of Arabia. For it is where Moses, by the power of God, struck the rock to bring out water for the people to drink, since there was no other source of water there.
Sinai may have gotten its name from its prominent place toward the end of the Sin Desert, for Sin-ai could possibly mean the City in the Sin (Desert). However, Hebrew scholars say Sinai means bush, referring to the burning bush where God spoke to Moses.
Which of the Pharaohs of Egypt Did Moses Speak To?
This subject has been debated among Bible scholars and archeologists for centuries; however, due to a general lack of trust in the accuracy of the Bible accounts, most of them have assumed it was a Pharaoh who lived much later than the Bible account suggests.
What we have found in written history, is that a people known as the Hyksos (from the land of Canaan) invaded Egypt somewhere around the 1700s B.C.E., and that they dominated Egypt. Then, according to archeologists, sometime in the mid 1500s, a Pharaoh arose who conquered them (who could have been Kamose of the seventeenth dynasty).
Now, if such people (the Hyksos) were different from the Hebrews, and they did in fact conquer Egypt, we would expect to read of them in the detailed Bible accounts in Genesis or Exodus, and we don't. However, if you consider what happened through the eyes and propaganda of the Egyptians, you can see that the Hyksos could possibly have been the Hebrews. After all, they lived in the land around the same time, and Joseph did become the effective ruler of all Egypt. Thereafter, the Egyptians became frightened of them, for we read at Exodus 1:9, 10, ‘Look! The children of Israel have [grown tremendously] and they are now more powerful than we are. So, let's be smooth in the way we deal with them, because, if they continue to grow and then we find ourselves at war, they could side with our enemies. And after they beat us in war, they will leave our land.'
So, you can see how (with a little governmental propaganda to justify their actions against the Hebrews and a total defeat in war) the story that the Egyptians tell, is about their being dominated by the Hyksos, and how they fought a war to liberate themselves. Yet, the Egyptian history of where these people came from, what part of Egypt they lived in, and many more details, indicate that Hyksos (pronounced heeksos) could have been just the Egyptian pronunciation of Hebrews.
Moses' Question about the ‘Name' of God
An inaccurate translation of Exodus 3:13 leads to a faulty understanding of this verse. In numerous Bibles one can read the question: ‘What is his name?' as in Judges 13:17, when Manoah wanted to know the name (that is, the pronunciation of the name) of the angel who came to meet him. On the other hand, the Israelites asked Moses: ‘How is his name?' - that is, ‘what does His name mean?' or ‘what does His fame mean?'
One can verify that in Hebrew the interrogation ‘what is,' or ‘how is,' is ‘mâ,' and ‘who is,' is ‘mî.' Thus, there's a big difference between asking to know a name because one is in ignorance of it (as in Ezra 5:4) and asking the meaning of a name, which one already knows, as in Genesis 32:27 where the angel asks Jacob to remind him of the meaning (He will supplant) of his name, which meaning was already known to him (Genesis 27:36), in order to give him a new one (He will contend - Genesis 32:28).
Thus, when Moses asked God: ‘How is his name?' God gave the explanation ‘I shall [prove to] be who (or what) I shall [prove to] be' (èhyèh ashèr èhyèh). Even here, regrettably, numerous translators are influenced by Greek philosophy on The Being as existing that was developed by Plato in some of his works, including ‘Parmenides.' For example, the Septuagint translated this passage as ‘I am the Being (égô éimi o ôn in Greek), or, ‘I am He who is.' Yet Aquila's Translation (which is more faithful to Hebrew) translates this sentence as, I shall be: I shall be (ésomai ésomai in Greek).
As you can see from a study on the translation of this sentence, the difficulty results from translators who want to explain this translation by means of their personal beliefs, which are very often influenced by Greek philosophy; otherwise there is no difficulty. For example, one finds the word èhyèh just before Exodus 3:12 and just after Exodus 4:12, 15, and here translators have no problem translating it as ‘I shall [prove to be] with you.' Moreover, the Talmud retains this explanation for the meaning of the Name.
A better translation of Exodus 3:13, 14 would then be: Then Moses said to God, ‘Look, I'll go to the children of Israel and tell them the God of our ancestors has sent me to you, but they're going to ask, How is his name? What should I tell them?' And God told Moses, ‘I shall [prove to] be what I shall [prove to] be! Just tell the children of Israel that I shall [prove to] be has sent you.'