In one of the previous studies I presented to you, the evidence that the name of our Father, the Creator of Heaven & Earth, was clearly communicated to us through His Word ; and that this name appears throughout the Scriptures (more than 6000 times) even though it has been changed to LORD in our English translations. Wherever you come across the word “LORD” printed in CAPITAL letters in your English bibles, it is an instance where God’s name is expressly mentioned. (For a better understanding, please read the first part of this study)
Wherever you see “LORD” in the English translations, the Original Hebrew Manuscripts read “יהוה“ ; or the equivalent in English, which is “YHWH” or “YHVH”. But how do you read “YHVH”? or better yet, pronounce it? The earliest Hebrew manuscripts did not have a vowel system. The readers of that day knew exactly how to pronounce each of the words without having vowels. Today, “YHVH” also known as the “Tetragrammaton” (A fancy word which means “four letters” in Greek) is considered by some, to be too holy to utter, and unpronounceable by others.
In this study, I will attempt in helping you understand the meaning of God’s Holy Name and provide you with the clearest evidence at hand for pronouncing this Eternal Name.
The below study is broken down into 5 parts
- Names that have meaning
- The Meaning of God’s Name & His Divine Character
- Does God really have a name? and is it really YHVH?
- Pronouncing the name YHVH
- The facts behind my belief of YHVH being pronounced as Yehovah
1. Names that have meaning
In my culture, when most parents name their kids, they look at the first letter of their own names and use that letter to come up with a name for their newborn. For Example, if the parent’s name is Roger, the child will be named with a name that starts with the letter R, such as Richard. This was not the case in Biblical times. In the Old Testament & the New, we see parents naming their kids according to what the child represented, or what they wanted the child to represent. The name stood as a witness to the persons character. In fact, their is hardly any name that did not have any meaning, in the Old Testament.
Gen 3:20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. (H2332 – חוּה – chavvâh – Lifegiver)
Gen 17:5 but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. (H85 – אברהם – ‘abrâhâm – Father of a multitude)
Gen 25:26 And after that came his brother out, and his hand took hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob: (H3290 – יעקב – ya‛ăqôb – Heel Catcher)
Gen 29:35 And she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing. (H3063 – יהוּדה – yehûdâh – Praise/Celebrate)
Exo 2:10 And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water.
(H4872 – משׁה – môsheh – Drawing out)
Mat 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (H3091- יהושׁע – yehôshûa‛ – Yehovah Saves)
2. The Meaning of God’s Name & His Divine Character
Just as people in the Scriptures, indicated the meaning of a name or character of the person, alongside the given name (as shown in the examples above), God also indicated the meaning of His name to Moses in much of the same fashion.
Exo 3:13-15 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.
Moses asked God a legitimate question in the above verse. “When the people ask me who sent me, what shall I say Your name is?” To which God answered with “His character” or “Meaning of His name“, “I AM THAT I AM“. But He did not stop there. He then went onto say, You shall tell the people “YHVH“ (LORD in English Capital Letters have been substituted wherever “יהוה“ [YHVH] is written in the Original Manuscripts) God of your Fathers, Abraham, Isaac & Jacob has sent me to you.
The meaning of YHVH – I was that I was, I am that I am, I will be that I will be
Just as Eve means Lifegiver, Abraham means Father of Multitude, Jacob means Heel catcher, Judah means Praise, Moses means Drawn out, Yeshua(Jesus’ real name) means YHVH Saves, the meaning of YHVH is in the statement “I AM THAT I AM” or at least the Hebrew words which are היה(I AM) אשׁר(THAT) היה(I AM).
H1961 – היה – hâyâh – Read explanation given below
H834 – אשׁר – ‘ăsher – Translated as “that”, “which” or “whom” most of the time
H1961 – היה – hâyâh – Read explanation given below
H1961 – היה – is sometimes translated as I Was or He Was (Examples given below)
Hos 11:4 I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love: and I was to them as they that take off the yoke on their jaws, and I laid meat unto them.
Isa 63:8 For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour.
H1961 – היה – is sometimes translated as I Am or He is (Examples given below)
Jer 31:9 They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
Isa 55:6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:
H1961 – היה – is sometimes translated as I Will be or He Will be (Examples given below)
Hos 14:5 I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
Isa 8:14 And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
This shows that the statement made by God in Exo 3:14 היה(hâyâh) אשׁר(‘ăsher) היה(hâyâh) could mean “I was” that “I was”, “I am” that “I am”, “I will be” that “I will be” all at the same time. He was saying that He is the Eternal One. And that His Name “YHVH” encapsulated this character of being the beginning and the end.
3. Does God really have a name? and is it really YHVH?
There is no doubt that His Name is YHVH, as the Scriptures witness to this over and over again – A few examples are given below
Hos 12:5 the YHVH, the God of hosts, YHVH is his memorial name
Isa 42:8 I am YHVH; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.
Jer 16:21 “Therefore, behold, I will make them know, this once I will make them know my power and my might, and they shall know that my name is YHVH.”
Eze 39:7 “And my holy name I will make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I will not let my holy name be profaned anymore. And the nations shall know that I am YHVH, the Holy One in Israel.
Zec 13:9 They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘YHVH is my God.’
Psa 135:13 Your name, O YHVH, endures forever, your renown, O YHVH, throughout all ages.
Psa 9:10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O YHVH, have not forsaken those who seek you.
Micah 4:5 For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the YHVH our God forever and ever.
4. Pronouncing the name YHVH
Among those who understand the importance of His name, there are many theories on how to pronounce the name of our Almighty God, of which Yahweh, Yehovah, Yahuwah, Jehovah are some of the more famous ones.
With this being said, there is a need to explain why there are so many different opinions about this name amongst believers. Vowels were not used in ancient Hebrew, which the Scriptures were written in, and as such, when scribes at that time wrote God’s name on scrolls, they wrote the four Hebrew Letters, Yodh – Hey – Vav – Hey (“יהוה“). At that time, as everyone knew how to pronounce God’s Holy name, this was not an issue. But somewhere down the line, after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70AD, pronouncing the name of God was banned. After this event, the pronunciation has been a well guarded secret handed down from Jewish Rabbi to disciple. Instead of addressing God by the name He wanted to be addressed by, the Jewish Rabbis started using titles such as Adonai (Lord), which was then passed down to the English Translators of the Old Testament (who learned Hebrew from these teachers). As a result, today, we do not know the pronunciation of the name nor have an English Translation that clearly communicates God’s name in print. This is the reason for so many, to have a hard time coming to terms with the idea of God Almighty, having a name.
When I first started to study into God’s Divine name, I believed that one of the prevalent pronunciations used by many Christians which were “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”, could be the correct pronunciation.
Jehovah actually appears in the KJV Bible in Exo 6:3, Psa 83:18, Isa 12:2 & Isa 26:4. “Jehovah” was a credible pronunciation other than the fact of the “J” sound, which is not part of the Hebrew Language. All of the Hebrew names we see in the New Testament which start with “J” actually start with a “Y” sound in the original form, which is Hebrew. (For Example, Judas – Yehudah / James – Yaakov / John – Yohanan / Jesus – Yeshua / Joseph – Yosef) So, if at all, the name should be pronounced “Yehovah” and not “Jehovah”. As I discovered, Yehovah became the most likely candidate, as it lined up with many facts that I found in my research.
5. The facts behind my belief of “YHVH” being pronounced as Yehovah
1.Composition of Hebrew Names
Compound names(Hebrew names that were made of two words) in the Old Testament which included YHVH as one of the words, always started with the pronunciation “Yeho” or ended with the pronunciation “Yahu”. The “Yeho”/”Yahu” part of those names stood as a short in form for God’s name. (I have provided a few names as examples below)
Yehoshua – Yeshayahu – YHVH Saves (Joshua – Exo 17:9 / Isaiah – 2Kin 19:2)
Yehochanan – Chananyahu – YHVH Favours (Johanan – 2Kin 25:23 / Hananiah – 1Chr 3:19)
Yehonatan – Netanyahu – YHVH Gives (Jonathan – Judg 18:30 / Nethaniah – 2Kin 25:23)
Yehozabad – Zabadyahu – YHVH Endures (Jehozabad – 2Kin 12:21/ Zebediah – 1Chr 8:15)
Hebrew names that praise or reveal a characteristic of YHVH always start with “Yeho”. This is a valid clue that the first part of “YHVH” would be pronounced “Yeho”. Hence the pronunciation “Yeho”vah.
2. The Leningrad Codex and the Aleppo Codex
After God’s name was banned from being pronounced around 140AD, the Scribes who copied the Old Testament left out vowels in the name, so that no one would mistakenly read it out. The 2 most oldest, most reliable and most complete Hebrew Manuscripts of the Old Testament to date, which are named “The Leningrad Codex” & “The Aleppo Codex” both contain God’s name with the full vowel set dozens of times, which helps us read YHVH as Yehovah. (The list of these instances is recorded in the book His Hallowed Name Revealed Again by Keith Johnson
alongside links where you can download the photographs of the original and check it for yourself, which I have done! Thank you Keith!)
3. Biblical Hebrew vowel systems
As I am not an expert in Biblical Hebrew, I present a paper done by Nehemia Gordon, who holds a Masters Degree in Biblical Studies and a Bachelors Degree in Archaeology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and has worked as a translator on the Dead Sea Scrolls and as a researcher deciphering ancient Hebrew manuscripts. This paper delves into the vowel systems of God’s name and concludes that the pronunciation should be Yehovah. You can read the paper here. Thank you Nehemia for sharing your knowledge with us!
4. The use of Iehovah in the KJV Bible printed in 1611
The KJV Bible, first published in 1611 carried God’s Name YHVH as Iehovah in 4 places, namely Exo 6:3, Psa 83:18, Isa 12:2 & Isa 26:4 (use the links to examine it for yourself). The KJV translators of 1611, would have wanted to transmit the correct name with pronunciation in the 4 places they allowed the name to be printed, as is. The KJV “Iehovah” & “Yehovah” are both identical in pronunciation. This is another clear reason, that the pronunciation “Yehovah” could be correct. As mentioned above, even the later versions of the KJV Bible use an anglicized version of “Yehovah”, which is “Jehovah”, even though the “J” sound clearly is an English invention.
5. The use of Iehouah in the Pentateuch(5 Books of Moses) printed in 1530 & in the “Great Bible”, which was the 1st complete English version of the 66 Books printed in 1540
One of the earliest versions of an English Translation of the Bible was done by William Tyndale in the year 1530. This translation which dates about 80 years before the 1611 King James Version records God’s Name as “Iehouah” in Exo 6:3 (use the link to examine it for yourself) which is identical to “Yehovah” in Pronounciation. The same can be said of the “Great Bible” printed in 1540. Just as in Tyndale’s Translation, the “Great Bible” also recorded God’s Name as “Iehouah” in Exo 6:3 (use the link to examine it for yourself).
Our Father in Heaven, has a name that he made known through Scripture which is “יהוה“ or “YHVH”. This name, like all other names in Scripture, has a meaning that shows the Character of God Almighty. The famous statement in Exo 3:14 which is translated as “I AM THAT I AM”, actually means “I was that I was, I am that I am, I will be that I will be” all at the same time. This shows God’s character of being the beginning and the end, and that He is Eternal, and is outside of the limitations of time. The name which He reveals to Moses in Exo 3:15, is none other than “יהוה“ or “YHVH” which is also known as the tetragrammaton. Among those who understand the importance of His name, there are many theories on how to pronounce the name of our Almighty God, of which Yahweh, Yehovah, Yahuwah, Jehovah are some of the more famous ones. With the information and evidence at hand, we can conclude that the pronunciation of this name should be done as “Yehovah”. Whichever way we decide to pronounce God’s Eternal Name, we must remember, that it is far better for us to know that He HAS a name, rather than being ignorant of this important fact.