God’s Name
avatar

Deuteronomy 6:4 in Hebrew

The question of how to properly speak and write God’s name frequently comes up. To answer that question, we first have to determine what God’s name is. It is not “God,” or “Lord,” or “Jehovah.” These are what we would call titles not names. God’s name is “YHWH.”  Because the Hebrews considered God’s name too sacred to pronounce, they substituted the word “LORD.” As a result its actual pronunciation has been lost over the centuries. In Hebrew, “YHWH,” is a form of the verb “to be.”  This is why when Moses asked for His name, God said to tell the people that “I AM” has sent you. This is the first person, singular conjugation for the verb “to be.” Perhaps God was simply saying that all being or existence is in Him. Most religious Jews today would find speaking the name “YHWH” to be sacrilegious.

So how do they handle this when reading the Bible and coming across the name in the Hebrew text? They use the word “Lord” instead which in Hebrew is the word “Adonai.”  To remind themselves to say “Lord” they have the vowels for “Adonai” written next to “YHWH.” In the 12th century apparently English translators did not understand this and they combined the vowels with the Divine name of “YHWH” and came up with “Jehovah.” With apologies to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their New World Translation of the Bible, the word “Jehovah” does not occur in the original texts. It is a corruption caused by mixing the vowels for “Adonai” with the consonants for “YHWH” to produce an entirely new word. So those who say “Jehovah” are not using the Divine name.

Those who say “Lord” are not using the Divine name either as this is simply the word “Adonai” which was supposed to be said instead of “YHWH.” Religious Jews would probably confirm that saying “Adonai” or “Lord” its English translation is perfectly acceptable. In the King James Bible, one can see when “Lord” is being substituted directly for the Divine name because the word is written all in capital letters (LORD). Even then it is not the name of God but the substitution of the word “Lord.”

The word “God” is usually a translation of the word “Elohim.” This also is not the Divine name but is a plural form of the Hebrew word for “God.” The singular form would be “El” as we see in “El-Shaddai.” This is simply a title for God similar to “Adonai” and is usually used in conjunction with Adonai or other titles. Some examples are “Adonai Eloheynu” (The Lord our God), the previously mentioned “El-Shaddai” (God, the Almighty), and “El-Elion” (God, the Highest). None of these are God’s name, but simply titles describing His attributes and most devout Jews would have no problem speaking them.

So how would you pronounce or write the Divine name accurately? Perhaps a better question would be since the Jews consider it blasphemy to say, why would you want to even try? I am with the Jews on this question. I prefer to simply use “Lord”, or “God,” or one of His many titles rather than attempting to try to figure out how to correctly combine the vowels and the consonants to recreate the Divine name. So you will never hear me even combining the vowels for “Adonai” with the consonants for “YHWH”(Jehovah).  If saying “Lord” (Adonai) or “God” (Elohim) was good enough for devout Jews, it is good enough for me.

Share Button

Comments

God’s Name — 25 Comments

  1. I stand accused as being one of those who carelessly use the term Jehovah. My understanding was that it somehow indicated God's status as the Lord of the covenant, which thing I have now understood to be incorrect.

    Thanks for the clarification. :-)

    Like(0)
  2. What an amazing concise explanation!
    As a theology student and with a love for the Hebrew language, I am grateful for your article. We take names too lightly in our society, so the possibility of taking the name of our amazing God in this same light only to ruin it, is not something I am in favour of.

    Thanks bunches

    Like(0)
  3. I enjoyed reading your article. The name of God is sacred and should not be blasphemed. I do, however, have a problem with not using the name at all. I believe the Jews did the world a disservice by not using the name at all and thus forgetting how to pronounce it. The third commandment says: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. It never said that we shouldn't use it. I believe that the Jews went overboard in protecting the sacredness of the name of God and now, no one knows how to pronounce it. Some like to add vowels to the YHWH and call the name of God Yahweh, and yet, know one knows for sure the correct pronunciation of the one and only God. God is a personal God. If God is a personal God, then why would he not want us to know his name? Also, if he did not want us to know his name, then why did he give it to the Jews?

    I enjoyed the part of the article where it talks about the making of the name Jehovah. I did not know that it was a made up name by combining Adonai and YHWH.

    Like(0)
    • There is a thing called "godly fear" that has a lot to do with how we treat GOD's name. Once you have a true sense of who GOD really is, just calling Him "GOD" will cause you to do so with reverence and awe. Do not forget that the Jews saw the grandeur of GOD on mount Sinai and they passed on this sacredness for the name of GOD to their posterity. It would do us all good to treat the name of GOD with reverence and godly fear. As a matter of fact, we have a certain amount of such fear for our parents for we do not go around calling them by their first names. Mommy and Daddy are used not only to show affection but also to show respect. If we can do that for our parents who like us are sinful, how much respect should we show to our holy GOD. Knowing His real name is not the important matter here, but loving Him with all our hearts and minds is.

      Like(0)
  4. I don't want to be a real pain by blowing this business of God's name out of proportion for I believe it is a relatively minor issue compared to the weightier matters that really need to be discussed that determine our destiny.

    When we have a prayer and append the phrase, "in the name of Jesus" what are we actually doing? Should we be concerned about the pronunciation? After all Hispanics will pronounce it differently than the majority of Caucasians in the U.S. and Europeans will say it differently than most people in North America. So, what is the important thing about the name of Jesus or God?

    If we would only realize that when parents in ancient cultures named their children they usually used a combination of common words to describe the qualities that they either saw in the child or wanted the child to have. A very simple study of the names of biblical characters using a concordance will confirm this method of naming. As an example of this from God look at the times He changed a person's name such as Abram ("exalted Father") to Abraham ("father of a multitude") (quotes from BibleWorks, Strong's data; see also Gen 17:5) or Jacob's name change, Gen 32:28. This also was used in the New Testament as well, for instance, Simon's name change to Peter (Matt 16:17-18; study the Greek meanings as opposed to the "Rock").

    To me then, what is important is not how we pronounce a name but rather what meaning we understand the name has. A good example of this idea is the answer that God gave to Moses when asked about His name. "Then Moses said to God, "Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them,`The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they say to me,`What is His name?' what shall I say to them?" And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,`I AM has sent me to you.'" (Ex 3:13-14 NKJ). Jesus understood this when He applied that name to Himself (John 8:58) and again when He said, "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world." (John 17:6 NKJ, the entire chapter is worthwhile reading and understanding). Certainly, the Jews knew what God's name was - or did they? Christians above all other people on the earth should know what God's name is and what it means to them!

    Like(0)
    • Thanks, Tyler. I really appreciate your comment.

      I believe you summarized it well when you wrote:
      "To me then, what is important is not how we pronounce a name but rather what meaning we understand the name has."

      That statement is consistent with the use of names in the Bible. It seems to me that attributing to God the kind of pettiness found in some people who are insulted if their names are not pronounced exactly right misrepresents God's character.

      When God told Moses to tell Pharaoh that "I AM" had sent him, He revealed Himself as the self-existent One to the Egyptian pharaoh, who was regarded as a god by his people. Pharaoh well knew that he was not self-existent, and so the name of God that Moses was asked to use demonstrated to Pharaoh, that the great God of the universe had sent Moses -- not some rival god.

      When Revelation 14:1 refers to the 144,000 having the Father's name written on their foreheads, it's not referring to a physical tattoo or anything similar. The 144,000 will reflect the Father's character in their innermost being.

      Like(0)
    • We should not stop at Exodus 3:13-14 without reading verse 15 where God clearly declared His Holy Name to Moses. The Name which is God's forever name to be remembered by all generations. Yes Jews failed to preserve the exact revelation about God's Name to them by God. However it is not much which is hidden. Only one vowel is in question. We all know that YAH is the correct part of God's Name because when praising God we say HaleluYAH. The question is what vowel is between W and H in the second part of God's Name? Most would agree that it has to be "E". Maybe just because I got used to that form of God's Name YAHWEH I would agree with that.

      Like(0)
  5. I want to add my thanks also to you for enlightening me on this point. I just want to know how some people came up with Yahweh? (I pray I have not been blasphemous!)

    Like(0)
    • I believe that some people came up with "Yahweh" by taking the four consonants and guessing at the vowels. Their purpose seems to have been to create a less corrupted substitute for "Jehovah," in order to satisfy the purists. Evidently, it didn't work.

      Like(0)
  6. Thank you for the well-researched and informative article. There were a couple of statements (opinions?), however, with which I am not quite comfortable. Firstly, I question why we should find it necessary to follow the tastes and opinions of the Jews in regard to the use of God's name? If God had not intended for us to pronounce His name, I question why He would have shared it with us, and explicitly told Moses to use it in introducing Him to the Hebrews. Secondly, I felt that the statements in regard to the use of "Jehovah" were a little on the strong side. When names get transliterated from one language to another, they do tend to get corrupted anyway. But, how much does this really matter? Isn't it the intent that counts? But, if it's not O.K. to use "Jehovah," then I deduce that neither is it O.K. to use "Jesus," for much the same reason. And I've never heard any Christian seriously trying to stop us from saying "Jesus." So, next time you wish to engage Jehovah's Witnesses, I suggest that you deal with more substantive issues, such as the divinity of Christ and the imminent end of the world as we know it.

    Like(0)
    • Thanks for your input, R.G. Perhaps regarding the matter of "Isn't it the intent that counts?" we can look to our current Sabbath School Lesson. Surely Cain's intent was to offer a sacrifice to God when he offered produce from his crops, but from the account in Genesis, his intent was not enough to put him on a right path. Perhaps Proverbs 14:12 and Proverbs 16:25 are helpful on this issue. It seems it was important enough to be said twice.

      Like(0)
      • Well, Stephen, the Bible doesn't tell us precisely what Cain's intent was, does it? ;)

        The way I see it, Cain's "intent" was to offer the work of his own hands to God, while choosing to ignore that the lamb that Abel offered was not just from his own flock (work of his hands), but representative of the Redeemer to come.

        Abel's sacrifice demonstrated His faith in the Seed to come, as promised to Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3:15, Hebrews 14:1)

        For Cain, offering a lamb required that Cain humble himself -- possibly in purchasing a lamb from Abel and definitely in acknowledging his sinfulness and his dependence on God for both temporal and spiritual life. And it seems that this is what Cain was not willing to do. He was not willing to offer a sacrifice of faith in the Redeemer to come.

        So it seems to me that the story of Cain demonstrates that the intent does count. :)

        Like(0)
    • R.G., you wrote:
      "I question why we should find it necessary to follow the tastes and opinions of the Jews in regard to the use of God’s name."

      In the light of the "Sacred Name" movement among Adventists, I thought Stephen's remarks were appropriate -- that since the Jews did not even pronounce God's name, there is no way of knowing how the name given to Moses was originally pronounced. That is significant in view of the fact that some teach that only those who pronounce the "sacred Name" correctly (and different factions favor different pronunciations) will be part of the 144,000 -- possibly because of Revelation 14:1.

      I did not get the idea from Stephen's post that he considered it wrong to use the name "Jehovah," as given in the KJV, but that he thought there was no point in trying to figure out a correct pronunciation. (He can correct me if I got it wrong.)

      Like(0)
  7. I appreciate the article. It was very well written. Nevertheless, some things we may never understand in this life. God knows our hearts and our intentions even in respect to the use of His name.
    I concur with R.G. in that our focus should be on the imminent end of the world. Considering the economy of the world and all the earth changes we are experiencing, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know we are near the end.
    "The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light." James 13:12

    Like(0)
  8. does it matter whom we worship? how can you know what you worship unless you can identify it by name. He is the Great I AM

    Like(0)
    • The great I AM goes by many other names in the English Bible. Jesus simply called Him Father, or "Abba." And in non-English Bible, the names are certainly very different. (In some languages, the English version would be impossible to pronounce, and so would the Hebrew version.)

      Let's put it this way: I am known by a number of names, and each refers specifically to me by particular individuals. Let me count the names: Inge (German pronunciation), Inga (English pronunciation), (even Ingrid!), Mrs. Anderson, Ms. Anderson, Gramma, Grandma, Mom, Mother, Nana and a few other variations, without even mentioning the names on my birth certificate.

      I am not insulted by any of the names, though I prefer not to have my name pronounced to rhyme with "hinge." ;) It is the intent that counts -- even when little lips can barely come close to "gamma."

      Are we not all children of our heavenly Father? Shall we regard God more petty than mere humans?

      My Bible tells me that God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7) -- not the outward appearance, which covers pronunciation and names, the way I see it.

      God wants us to worship Him for Who He truly is -- our Creator and Redeemer, whose character is self-sacrificing love -- no matter what we call Him.

      Like(0)
    • Amen to that. Even pagan gods had names. Everybody on earth, (all people) and in heaven, (all angels) have name. Of course we should know God by His Name. Yahweh is Iam who Iam. He was , He is and forever will be, Holy God with Holy Name. Isaiah 6:3

      Like(0)
  9. (This comment has been edited for content that might appear offensive to others.)

    It is all right to say Lord God but that Lord God has got a Name which is a memorial to all generations. Some, because not being sure what is the vowel between W and H are using first part of God's name only, just like you can find it in NKJB in Isaiah 26:4 "Trust in the Lord forever, For YAH, the Lord is everlasting strength". YAH ADONAI is everlasting strength. Yes Jehovah is corrupted God's Name but we can be sure that YAH is not. Jews may have considered that using God's Name is blasphemy but God Himself never considered that but encouraged us call upon Him by His Holy Name: Isaiah 52:6; Joel 2:32; Jer.29:12... So call upon The Name of YAH without fear as long as you do it in reverence.

    Like(0)
    • Thanks for your post, Jaroslav. It does beg the question, though. All of your Biblical citations are from the Old Testament. If it is an important matter to "Call upon the name of YAH" could you please address why none of the apostles apparently did so?

      Like(0)
      • Dear Stephen,
        yes all those texts are in The Old Testament which has been preserved in original Hebrew language unlike New Testament which has been translated into Greek and then all other languages. Yahshua The Son of God surely did not teach Israelites in Greek language but rather in Hebrew and Aramaic so I believe that originals were written in the same languages. All disciples were Jewish as well as all those who written books of The New Testament.
        However there are Bibles which corrected the mistake of Jews and restored The Name of God and His Son as true as they could be. There are Bible translations, a number of those already. One I like is RNKJV even when I do not like old English language and am looking forward for Restored Names New KJVB and also when it is only Tetragrammaton instead of full Name of God.
        One on line is free and anybody can have a look http://www.eliyah.com/Scripture/
        Then again it does not even matter if God's Name is not mentioned in New Testament. That does not make a difference that God's Name is not going to change because it is forever We can see that is Exodus 3:15 as well as in Revelation 14:1 and 15:4 Glorify Your Name? Which Name? One forever Name of course, YAH or YAHWEH Math.6:9; Rev. 3:12.
        May Yah Father and The Son bless you all.
        ""...they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, YAH or YAHWEH is my Elohim.""" Zech.13:9

        Like(0)
        • Thank you for your reply, Jaroslav. You make a valid point about the Aramaic that was undoubtedly used by Jesus and the Disciples in their daily conversations. However, one cannot help but wonder if the exact pronunciation of the Divine name were so important why they would not insert the Hebrew into the text rather than the Greek? They had no trouble doing direct quotes in other places in the New Testament. See Matthew 27:46 for instance. One might certainly expect the Hebrew for the Divine Name to merit at least as much importance as the other words quoted. Wouldn't you think?

          Like(0)
  10. The way you pronounce his name determinès,wther u r taking it in vain or not.All we hev to do is to use the name only when its necessary.

    Like(0)

What do you think? If you like a comment, just [Like] it or post a thoughtful reply. Please provide a working email address and your real first AND last name to have your comment published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.