”I am who am!”

What does this expression mean?

God expressed Himself like so in the Bible. But what I want to know is what does it mean? What is its intrinsic meaning?

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    Which translation are you using? The one I have presents that as "I am that I am" ... not sure how important that distinction is, but it would be helpful to include which version of the bible you are using for your citation. Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 13:03
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    @KorvinStarmast-Whoah there! There is a vast difference between "Who" and "That". One implies a description, and the other declares a mode of existence. "I am that I am is a statement of Aseity...of self-existence...of an uncaused Cause (as theologians name it). See answer.
    – ray grant
    Commented Sep 19, 2023 at 21:35
  • @raygrant the Hebrew is "אֲשֶׁ֣ר", which can be translated as "who", "which", "where", "that", and "after". Focussing on the English version is a largely futile endeavour.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 30, 2023 at 23:06

6 Answers 6


God said :

I am that I am. [Exodus 3:14, KJV.]

I am that which I am. [Exodus 3:14, Young's Literal.]

'I am' expresses a personal existence, an individual being.

'That I am' or 'that which I am' expresses a form of being, a mode of existence.

Elsewhere, God reveals that he is eternal, he is the Creator of all things :

Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. [Isaiah 40:28, KJV.]

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, states 'God is Spirit' (John 4:24, KJV).

The mode of God's existence is eternal spirit.

As such, he is known by faith, not by human sight or by scientific knowledge.


It is helpful to remember that in the time of the events of the Old Testament, names very often had meaning that were understood by those who heard the name. Moses means "from water," because the daughter of Pharaoh took him from the water, Isaac comes from the Hebrew "he laughs", and so forth.

Often these names will identify a distinguishing characteristic of the person who has the name.

This is the case here with God.

As to the intrinsic meaning of that declaration: the chief distinction between the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, versus any other gods, is that the former actually is, whereas the latter are all fictitious; therefore the true God's name is the statement that He is, which sets Him utterly apart from the false gods invented by man.

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    I want to add: God only gave this name when pressed by Moses what he should tell the Israelites when asked which god sent him. God basically asserts: The only God there is sent you(, why do you even ask for a name as if there were others?!)
    – kutschkem
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 12:43
  • There were a few words missing, and the question asked for an "intrinsic meaning." (Which I believe that you did offer). Please review the edit to make sure that your intended message was preserved. Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 13:06

Aseity The cartoon character, Popeye, was known for saying, "I yam what I yam and that's all I yam!" (thanks, Mike Bordon) He was describing one character trait of his, and excusing it.

But there is only One Person who can say, "I am That I am! (Exodus 3:14) That is, a Being that is self-existing. A Being that is from everlasting to everlasting. (Psalm 90:1-2). A Being (God)that has no "cause" for His existence. (Theologians say, An uncaused Cause.) This statement by God reassured Moses that he was going to face Egyptian gods that were "no gods", but was going to have the backing of the One True God who exists in eternity.

The theological word for this is Aseity. Here in this verse, God is expressing His aseity. And this is something none of the gods of the ancient world could claim. It sets YHWH apart from all other claims to deity.

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    Actually Popeye said, "I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam!". Other than that I agree with aseity. Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 12:12

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8

I agree that it's an expression of His existence or state.

58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” 59 Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.


Ancient Hebrew didn't really do verb tenses.

"I am that which I am" is one meaning of what God proclaimed His name to be, but it's not the only one. It was also "I am that which I was", "I will be that which I am", "I was that which I will be", and so on and so forth, because Ancient Hebrew didnt use verb tenses the way modern Emglish does. It's a statement of God's eternal, unchanging nature, and how fundamental it is to who and what He is.

He's saying that He is there for you now just like He was always there for you in the past, and that he will always continue being there for you in the future. He's saying that his goodness and generosity is never-ending, and you can use his previous acts of goodness and generosity as proof of that.


I am who I am means that God is the consciousness that exists in all consciousnesses and the meaning of this phrase can be deduced from the verse where Jesus is conflicting with the teachers of the law on his age and they challenged Jesus saying

John 8:57

You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham

And Jesus responded and told them

John 8:58

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

That there tells us that the consciousness of Jesus was present when the consciousness of Abraham existed. This consciousness was breathed into us when God created us out of the mud and breathed into us the breath of life. And that's the voice that always tells you you have done wrong. How many times have you done the wrong thing and then you said what have I done? It is the consciousness that was breathed into us and condemns us when we have sinned.

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