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As you know, God is known by at least two names in the
Old Testament. One of them is Yahweh (or
sometimes, Jehovah), which is usually
translated in the King James version of the Bible as "Lord,"
often written in small caps.
Yahweh is the Hebrew language name used in Genesis,
Chapter 2. Later, in order to reconcile with the use of
Elohim in Chapter 1, he is called Yahweh Elohim.
According to some sources, Yahweh refers to the Mercy
Most Common Name
Yahweh is the most common name of God used in the Old
Testament. The name consists of four consonants, Y-H-V-H
(or sometimes I-H-V-H), which is an English transliteration
of the Hebrew letters, Yod-He-Vau-He. (Of course, the actual
Hebrew letters should be written from right to left, as
is customary in Hebrew. But hey, since I'm writing this
in English, I reversed the letters so that they're correct
Now for a little side note. It's something I learned
when I took a class in Hebrew.
When an ancient Hebrew word was written, it contained
only the consonants — as was true of several other
ancient languages. At a much later date (about the 7th
century AD), vowels were added to the written language.
In Hebrew, vowels originally consisted of dots and other
marks below (and around) the consonants. That's why Hebrew
syllables always begin with a consonant.
In multi-syllabic words, the emphasis is usually on
the final syllable. Just thought I'd throw that one in.
It might help you pronounce some of the more difficult
words in the Bible.
It's why Torah is pronounced toe-RAH instead
Hard and Soft Hebrew H
Of course, none of this will help you know how to pronounce
a name like Rachel, which actually sounds more like Raquel,
since the "ch" sounds kinda like the "ch" in the German
ich or the "ch" in the Scottish loch.
That's because you can tell the difference between the
two H sounds when written in Hebrew, but they're both written
as the single H sound in English.
God's Many Names
As mentioned, God had many names. Yahweh is just one
Ineffable Name of God
This four-letter, sacred, unspeakable name of God that
we've been talking about (YHVH or IHVH) is known as the
Ineffable Name of God. As such, it represents an
extremely powerful, mystical name that should be spoken
only with extreme care and reverence.
The same four-letter name is known in the Qabbalah and
other mystical literature as the Tetragrammaton.
Yaweh Asher Yihweh
Most likely, YHVH is a shortened form of one of God's
full names, as given in Exodus 3:14, Yahweh asher
yihweh, which means "He causes to be what is,"
but which our King James translators turned into "I am
that I am."
God's Longer Names
God also has a 12-letter, 42-letter, and 72-letter name.
I wonder what the Bible translators would have done if the
Hebrew text had used the 72-letter name of God instead of
the 4-letter one? Hmm.
Entire Torah a Single Word
Some Jewish literature claims that the entire Torah is
a single, breathed word in the language of God.
Jehovah — Early Christian Mistake
In our Bible, YHVH (yod-he-vau-he) is translated as Jehovah
... which, unfortunately, is a mistake made by the early
Christian translators. Yes, they did make some
Day of Atonement
You see, because the names of God are so sacred, the
Jewish rabbis (priests) were not allowed to voice any of
God's names aloud in public. That is, except once a year
on the Day of Atonement, just as the entire assembled
congregation shouted praises to God.
On that one day, the High Priest would whisper God's
name. But since everyone was shouting in unison at that
moment, the High Priest could never be heard over all the
Yahweh Vocalized as Adonai
At other public meetings, such as while reading from
the Torah in the synagogue, a rabbi who came across the
Tetragrammaton, always substituted the name-word
Adonai instead (which translated, means
To remind the rabbi to substitute Adonai for YHVH, or
perhaps to confuse someone like me, the vowels in Adonai
(AOA) were added to the consonants of the Tetragrammaton.
Thus, to a gentile (like the Christian translators),
the word would look like Yahovah (there is no letter "J"
in Hebrew). But in reality, it was just a combination of
two separate words cleverly merged together ... one word
that was spoken and one that never was.
If you are interested in finding additional information
about this topic, you can read more on the subject in almost
any comprehensive Bible commentary, Christian or otherwise.
The one by Strong comes to mind.
Man in Image of God
Now let's manipulate the Ineffable Name for just a moment
and see where it takes us. If we write the Hebrew letters
of the Tetragrammaton vertically instead of horizontally,
and then scrunch the letters up a bit (called kerning, if
you happen to be a typographer), then we get the name as
shown in the figure to the right. Hmm.
If you squint, it looks kinda like a stick man, doesn't
it? If not, try squinting a little more ... okay? Now I
ask, is it possible that this resemblance between the name
of God (written vertically) and a human stick figure just
might be where the saying that we're created in the image
of God comes from? Rhetorical question.
How Jesus Performed Miracles?
Incidently, if you read the Jewish Jesus Tales,
they imply that a knowledge of the Ineffable Name was how
Jesus was able to perform miracles.
Bronze Dogs at Temple Gates
You see, legend has it that two bronze dogs were placed
at the gates of the temple to prevent a misuse of the Name.
Whenever a person who knew the Name passed by the dogs,
they barked at the passerby ... causing the frightened person
to forget the Name.
Jesus Used Crib Notes
However, Jesus wrote the Ineffable Name on a piece of
paper (just like a crib sheet some college students use),
which he hid under his skin. When Jesus passed the dogs,
they frightened him into forgetting the Name.
But later, he pulled out the paper so he could remember
it again. Very clever!
Throughout the centuries, the Hebrews came in contact
with a lot of cultures. And over time, their God, Yahweh,
inherited many of the attributes of the gods of those other
For example, echoes of the bloodthirsty Goddess, Anath,
from Ugaritic mythology, found their way into the attributes
which the Hebrews assigned to Yahweh.
Here is how the Ugaritic mythology describes Anath's
conquest of her enemies:
She plunged knee deep in the blood of
Neck high in the gore of their companies.
Until she was sated.
And here is Isaiah's description of Yahweh's vengeance
upon Israel's enemies (Isaiah 63:3):
I will tread them in mine anger,
And trample them in my fury;
And their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments,
And I will stain all my garment.
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