In ancient Egypt, a large part of knowing a god’s name was knowing… what does my brother call it, its “area of effect.” In video games, your avatar/character/creature thing has a specific area of effect. This is what they have control of. This is how much damage they can do and under what circumstances. This is how far they can reach. And each Egyptian god had an area of effect. Ra, god of the sun. Hapi, god of the Nile. Etc. etc. etc. Here’s where they’re strong. Here’s how far they can reach.
Here’s the problem with that. Ra, the god of the sun, may have been powerful, but only during the day. During daylight hours, he was king, ruling the sky and the other gods and everything, but the moment his sun-boat went down, he had to battle all the forces of darkness just to survive, just to rise again the next morning. During the night, Ra was little more than a bruised and beaten sun-boat captain who might not last the night. Hapi, god of the Nile, was powerful right on the river, and wherever the river’s waters make the ground fertile, but stick Hapi in the Sahara Desert, and he was just an overgrown crocodile with no power.
So the legends go.
Chased out of Egypt, on the run for his life, afraid and in exile, Moses encountered God. And the first thing he wanted to know was God’s name.
When I was younger, I was bugged to no end by God’s answer. “I Am Who I Am.” Then again, what was God supposed to say? I am… how was He supposed to define Himself? Limit Himself? Put Himself into words? So He kind of landed on I am… me.
Imagine for a second He had given Moses a different name. He could have called Himself the God of the sun. He’s the One who called it into existence. He’s the One who sets the cycle of day and night. The sunrise is proof of His faithfulness, and He’s the One who pulls the sun up past the horizon every morning. He could have called Himself the king of the gods. All lesser powers, demons or kings, are subject to Him and He knows all their names. But if He had claimed, in essence, the same power as Egypt’s greatest god, Moses might have imagined God capable of beating Ra, but that was only one god in a pantheon, and Moses was going up against all ten.
Suppose He had called Himself the God of peace. Would that have implied to the Egyptian-taught Moses that God was less effective or less than effective at waging war? The God who provides. Would Moses have feared their provision would dry up the moment God left them for greener pastures? The God who keeps His promises, then. All these names lack one thing: the entirety of God.
So rather than limit Himself to an area of effect, an AOE, God made the highest claim He possibly could have. He claimed to be… Himself.
Excerpt from “Peace and How to Keep It.” Coming fall 2020.