Have you ever wondered what our God's name is?
The Old Testament often uses the word LORD (all 4 letters in capital) to denote the one true God in the Scripture and interchanging with the “name” Yahweh.
We will try to see what the name “Yahweh” actually means. Although the name first appeared in Genesis 2:4, we would have to go to its origin story in Exodus 3:12. In this narration, God spoke to Moses through the burning bush and gave him the mission to end all missions: freeing the Israelite people from Egyptian captivity. Moses understandably had some concerns, the main one being how he would convince his fellow Israelites that this really is a mission from (and blessed by) God, and for that matter how he should called Him before the people.
In Exodus 3:12-15 (NIV):
v.12 And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."
v.13 Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"
v.14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
v.15 God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob--has sent me to you.' "This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.
The name Yahweh is all over the Old Testament (to be precise 6,519 times), translated as LORD in the NASB, NIV and other versions. It is often said that Yahweh means “I am” because in verse14 God replied to Moses to say "I am who I am... I am has sent me to you", Yahweh would therefore be meaning "I am" and used as His name.
God is “I AM”. Is this entirely true? Well... it may not be.
From the Biblehub.com, often used for interpretation by Bible students to read into Hebrew and Greek. Note that the Hebrew for
"I AM WHO I AM" is [eH-YeH a-ser eH-YeH]
and He continued to say, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM’ [eH-YeH] has sent me to you.'"
Again from the Biblehub.com, part of verse 15
In newer Hebrew translations, [Yahweh] is plainly translated as [Yahweh] and not using the word [I AM], or other words.
Now in verse 15, God furthermore said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The LORD [YaHWeH] – (the word actually meaning [He is], in the third person), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
It could have been awkward for Moses to go to the Israelites and Pharaoh (the Egyptians would always expect a name) and say, “[I am] has sent me.” So, in verse 15 one can see that God actually revised this phrase for Moses and changes it to the third person by saying, “Tell them that [He is] has sent you.” Yahweh is therefore [He IS] and not [I AM].
In ancient Hebrew “I AM” is “HWH”. “I AM” is first person and saying the same thing in the third person is “HE IS” or “YHWH”. YHWH comes from the Hebrew letters Yud, Hay, Vav, Hay. In modern Hebrew it becomes YaHWeH (יהוה). [YHWH is known as the tetragrammaton (4 letters representing the God of Israel) which cannot be pronounced because it only contains 4 consonants and no vowels].
Thus in v15, Moses is to say (dictated by the LORD) that [YHWH] and not [a-HaYeH] has sent him. English translators usually avoid using God’s literal name in a tradition out of respect. But to the patriarchs, God is always “YaHWeH” or “HE IS”, a fact ingrained in Israel’s memory.
This exposition is in line with the JPS Torah Commentary by the Jewish Publication Society, a very respected source of Old Testament exposition
“....... Verse 13-14. Moses’ second objection is related to the inability to represent Israel without a mandate from the people and without even knowing the name of the God for whom he is now asked to speak. The title “God of your father” was a widely used Near Eastern epithet, also applicable to any of the pagan gods, as noted in Excursus 3. By asking for God’s name, Moses implicitly denies knowledge of it, as Rashbam notes.
Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh (a-hayah asher a-hayah) This phrase has variously been translated, “I Am That I Am,” “I Am Who I Am,” and “I Will Be What I Will Be.” It clearly evokes YHVH, the specific proper name of Israel’s God, known in English as the Tetragrammaton, that is, “the four consonants.” The phrase also indicates that the earliest recorded understanding of the divine name was as a verb derived from the stem h-v-h, taken as an earlier form of h-y-h, “to be.” Either it expresses the quality of absolute Being, the eternal, unchanging, dynamic presence, or it means, “He causes to be.” YHVH is the third person masculine singular; ehyeh (a-hayah) is the corresponding first person singular .......” (JPS Torah Commentary)
It is very important to realize that Yahweh is therefore not a name. It just means [He is], and therefore it can be said that the LORD has no name. He is too big to be captured or contained in a name. This is a mind-blowing concept for in ancient times, all gods have names, the grander the better. Only in scriptures it is documental that our God actually has no name. The Yahweh is given to Israel because God understands that humans need to have a memory tag and so God tell Moses to report that Yahweh has sent him. Furthermore, the concept that God has no name is stated plainly as a matter of fact, with no blistering arguments to convince the reader. Our God is not only great but totally confident of his greatness.
Often the name Yahweh is associated with the famous “I AM” connotations referring to the fact that God has always existed and will always exist. He causes to become and causes to exist. He will exist forever. Though this is true, it is also necessary to have a very basic understanding of the meaning of Yahweh.
One should also distinguish between the varies “names” of God, namely,
Elohim meaning God in general (Hebrew: אֱלֹהִים) and referring to deities (Supernatural god) in general.
LORD (in all 4 capital letters) meaning the same God Yahweh and the Jews used this to reflect that they thought the name Yahweh is too sacred to be pronounced.
Adonai A replacement for Yahweh (אֲדֹנָי,). In the old Hebrew Bible, it is always used to refer to the LORD.
El Shaddai (אֵל שַׁדַּי), meaning God Almighty.
Around the time of 500 BC, the Jews became very concerned with not blaspheming the name of the Lord. So rather than saying the name Yahweh, they would say Elohim instead, which is the Hebrew word for God. However, this did not solve the problem of what to do when one came across the name Yahweh during the reading of the Scriptures.
The Jews decided that when they came to the name “YHWH” they would say the Hebrew word “Adonai”, which means “Lord.” To remind the reader to say “Adonai,” and to maintain the presence of the word “YHWH,” they assigned the vowels of “Adonai” into the consonants of “YHWH.” It was also not intended that this form be read aloud, but rather whispering.
In Exodus 6:3, it says, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty (El Shaddai), but by my name ‘the LORD’ (Yahweh) I was not known to them.” The times that the name Yahweh appears, like for example in Genesis 2, it does not appear in isolation, rather it appears along with another name of God (or LORD God). It is not until Exodus that the name “Yahweh” appears in isolation. The statement in Exodus 6:3 could mean that Moses, being the author of both Genesis and Exodus, may have inserted the name “Yahweh” alongside the other names of God in Genesis so that his readers would know that the God of Genesis and Exodus are not different gods; rather, He is the same God with different names.
Now, let’s take a look at the other most commonly used name of God: “Jehovah”
Jehovah (dʒɪˈhoʊvə ) is a Latinization of the Hebrew יְהֹוָה, which became another vocalization of the unpronounceable Tetragrammaton ( יהוה YHWH) and this usage spreads out from the Latin translation of the Bible, the Latin Vulgate mainly translated by Jerome.
The consensus among scholars is that the historical vocalization of the tetragrammaton is still most likely to the phonetic tone of “Yahweh”. The historical vocalization was lost during the 3rd to 2nd centuries BCE, as the pronunciation of the tetragrammaton came to be avoided, being substituted with Adonai. The Hebrew vowel points of Adonai were added to the tetragrammaton, and the resulting form was transmitted around the 12th century as Yehowah. The derived form Jehovah first appeared in the 16th century. Because the Germans were the first to make this transfer it was written Jehovah instead of Yehowah since j’s and w’s are pronounced as y’s and v’s.
"Jehovah" was popularized in the English-speaking world by William Tyndale and other pioneering English Protestant translations such as the Geneva Bible and the King James Version. It now no longer appears in current mainstream English translations, some of which use Yahweh but most continue to use "Lord" or "LORD" to represent God. (Excepted in part from the Wikepedia article on Jehovah)
To sum up:
What is God’s name? The name YaHWeH (from the original Hebrew YHWH) is used all over the Old Testament, translated as LORD in NASB, NIV and other versions. It is often said that Yahweh means “I AM” because in Exodus 3: 14 God replied to Moses to say "I AM who I AM... I AM has sent me to you". Yahweh would therefore be meaning "I AM" and used as His name, along with much of its accompanying interpretative connotations.
This however may not be an entirely accurate exposition.
We have noted that from careful reading of Exodus 3:15 : 'The LORD (YaHWeH – a word which should mean in Hebrew “HE IS”, in the third person), ... has sent me to you.' ... And… “This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations”; that as a memorial name or “token” of the name of God, “HE IS” should be a more appropriate interpretation.
YHVH is the third person singular, while eh-yeh (a-hayah) is the corresponding first person singular. The use of YHWH is verse 15 is narrating God’s decision to change it to the third person for the sake of Moses going back to speak to the Israelites, or for that matter to Pharaoh.
How can Moses come out with such a truth? – Indeed God reveals it to him. The amazing truth is... God has no name. This is a mind-blowing concept for in ancient times, all gods have names, the grander the better. Only in the scripture it is documental that our God actually has no name. Yahweh is given to Israel because God understands that humans need to have a memory tag and so God tell Moses to report that Yahweh has sent him.
Furthermore, the concept that God has no name is stated plainly as a matter of fact, with no blistering arguments to convince the reader. Our God is not only great but totally confident of his greatness.
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