Blog Archive

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

יהוה / YHWH

For the month of July, each day will examine a name of God from the Old Testament.

יהוה / YHWH
(Pronounced "yahd hay vahv hay")

Thus says YHWH:
"Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am YHWH,
exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight," says YHWH.
~ Jeremiah 9:23-24 (author)

YHWH is the covenant, personal name of God specifically revealed to Moses (Exodus 3:14-15; 6:3; 34:5). It is also referred to as the Tetragrammaton.

YHWH is usually translated into English as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah," though other variations are occasionally seen. Following the Hebrew tradition of substituting Adonai ("Lord") for it, YHWH is usually not actually translated, but the name “Lord” (or its foreign language equivalent, such as Señor) is instead substituted. English Bible translations usually render YHWH as “LORD” or “GOD” in small caps (or all caps) to distinguish it from Adonai. When the two names appear together—Adonai YHWH, or "Lord YHWH"—they are rendered “Lord GOD” in the NKJV, ESV, NASB, and “Sovereign Lord” in the NIV.

Although most English Bibles substitute "Lord" for it, YHWH (together with its variation, Yah) actually appears in the Hebrew text some fifteen times as often as Adonai (and Adon, about 6872:470).

It is commonly held that the meaning of YHWH is “to exist.” Among other Hebrew words perhaps related to the meaning of YHWH are: ehyeh (I AM, spoken to Moses in Exodus 3:14); hayah (to be or exist – it can also denote ruin); havah (to be, apparently in the sense of “to breathe,” though not translated “breathe”); and ahvah (to wish for, covet, greatly desire).

The Jews came to so greatly fear speaking the divine name YHWH (lest they violate the third commandment) that they began substituting Adonai when the Scripture was read aloud. By the time written vowels were added to ancient Hebrew, the pronunciation of YHWH's phonetic vowels had been forgotten—probably part of the fulfillment of Jeremiah 44:26: "Therefore hear the word of YHWH, all Judah who dwell in the land of Egypt: 'Behold, I have sworn by My great name,' says YHWH, 'that My name shall no more be named in the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Egypt, saying, "The Lord YHWH lives." ' "

Many of the faithful (both Christain / Messianic and Jewish) use the title Ha-Shem (“the Name,”) to refer to the name YHWH. Another common practice is to say YHWH as individual Hebrew consonants ("yad he vav he"). Since the Hebrew vowels for YHWH are lost to us, this is the only pronunciation of YHWH which is known to be accurate.

When this pronunciation of YHWH is spoken, the meaning is “behold hand, behold nail.”

Your feedback is appreciated. Post to "Comments" or e-mail to Copyright 2009, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.


  1. This is just rocking my world (in a good way).

  2. You tell people to stop by for some daily edification...and that is exactly how I feel, edified!

    I once heard a pastor say that people wouldn't even say YHWH b/c of the holy fear of God. What do you know of this.

    Your posts pump up my spiritual muscles!
    ~ Wendy

  3. Jennifer, rock on! You bless my socks off (and with highs in the 60's in Michigan today, I've been wearing them.)

    Wendy, praise the Lord that you're edified here! (And woo-hoo! from me, too.)

    To address your question: many Jews (and some Messianics—Jewish believers in Jesus "Yeshua") use "Ha-Shem" to refer to the Lord, as I described above. Many do not even use vowels when they write the Lord's name, and you'll occasionally see something like G-d or L-rd.

    As offensive as it is to hear the Lord's name misused, the Lord is blessed when we bless His name and use His name to bless others. If you note, satan's plan against Job was to move Job to curse the Lord. The second time around, satan's words are even in the mouth of Job's wife. But Job's words are, "The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." (Job 1:21)

    So I do not at all believe in the practice of not speaking His name. I love the name YHWH. With practice, "yad he vav he" rolls nicely off the tongue.

  4. Thanks for lifting God up daily, I love you.

  5. Thank you for the long explanation. I hope it was clear I was referring to the Jews (I believe around the time of the Patriarchs) not even uttering God's name out of holy fear.

    I love to call on His name and I love that we can b/c of Jesus--that HE changed everything.

    It just seems such a stark contrast to how readily people will let his name slip in an abused or flippant way.

    I so appreciate your knowledge and come here for nourishment.
    ~ Wendy


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