One day I got a call from a man who lived in my area whom I had never met. He said he had heard I knew Hebrew and that he would like to pay me a visit and talk about “the Name.” I was happy to oblige. We talked for three or four hours that afternoon. I shared with him what I had found in the pages of the Hebrew Scriptures concerning the Name. It was not what he expected to hear. When he left that evening, he told me he wasn’t about to change his mind just because I happened to know Hebrew. What could I possibly say to that?
When I was a child, I called my father and mother, “Dad” and “Mom.” I didn’t know their names when I was little. As I grew up I learned their names but I still called them “Dad” and “Mom.” When asked who my parents were, however, “Dad and Mon” simply wouldn’t do. I had to know their names and I had to communicate that knowledge so the person asking would know who my parents were.
Certainly we have a family relationship with the God of Israel. We can call him, “Abba,” that is, “Daddy.” I don’t mean to diminish that in the least, but Abba is not his name any more than “Daddy” was my father’s or your father’s name. Daddy has a name and we don’t know what it is. When asked, we have become used to answering, “The LORD” is his name. Yes, he is the Lord, but again, that is not his name. What, then, is it? Has it been lost forever, as we’ve been told? I don’t believe so.
In the Hebrew Scriptures יהוה represents the personal name of the creator, the Elohim of Israel. It is found there over 6,600 times. Often called the “Tetragram” or “Tetragrammaton” (meaning roughly, “The Four Letters”) by technical writers and lecturers, this word, יהוה, is composed of the four letters Yud י, Hei ה, Vav ו, and Hei ה. In most Jewish and Christian circles it is not spoken. Jews call him in Hebrew, Adonai אֲדֹנָי (Lord), or HaShem הַשֵּׁם (The Name), while Christians use, “The LORD.” Again, these are titles. They are substitutions for his name. But, why? Why is his name not used when speaking to him or about him? To answer this question we must go to the Mishnah, which was compiled at the beginning of the third century. Our answer lies there, in the so-called “Oral Torah” or “Oral Law” which is said to embody Pharisaic/Rabbinic tradition from second Temple times.
All Israel have a portion in the world to come... but these are those who have no portion in the world to come: one who says that resurrection is not found in the Torah, one who says the Torah is not from heaven, and an epicurean. R. Akiva says: one who reads the uncanonical books and one who whispers [a charm] over a wound and says, (Exodus 15) “I will bring none of these diseases upon you which I brought upon the Egyptians, for I am HaShem who heals you.” Abba Shaul says, “Also one who pronounces the Name according to its letters.”
This speaks for itself, does it not? Among those who have no portion in the world to come, according to the rabbis, is he who pronounces the Name as it is written. During the latter days of the second Temple, it appears that the Name was only allowed to be spoken by the priests in the temple courts when they were blessing the people.
How is the Priestly Blessing done? In the province they say it as three blessings, but in the temple as one blessing. In the temple he says the Name as it is written, but in the province, its pseudonym.
According to the Mishnah, when the “Priestly Blessing” of Numbers 6:24-26 was recited over the people in the temple, the Name was spoken as it was written. When the blessing was said outside the confines of the temple courts, the “Pseudonym” was used. It is generally understood that Adonai אֲדֹנָי (Lord) is the pseudonym to which reference is made but we know that HaShem הַשֵּׁם (The Name) was also used. Why is the Name not spoken in Jewish and Christian circles? Because the rabbis have forbidden it. In so doing they violate the will of the One who wants his name mentioned in every generation.
...יהוה...This is my name forever, and this is my mention (“memorial” KJV) to all generations.
The Creator expressly states here that יהוה is his name forever. It is how he wants to be remembered or “mentioned” to all generations. While “memorial” (as the King James Version renders the Hebrew zeikher זֵכֶר) might be appropriate for one who is dead, it is not fitting for him who is The Living One. The word zeikher זֵכֶר, from the root Zayin Kaf Reish זכר, conveys the thought that this is how he wants his people to “call him to mind” or “mention” him. One specific way to mention him is to take our oaths in his name.
You shall fear יהוה your Elohim; him shall you serve, and to him shall you cleave, and in his name shall you swear.
This instruction is for both houses of Israel as well as the Gentile. It is valid for the native-born Hebrew and grafted-in Goy. It is in force for all who would learn his ways and be his people.
“And it shall be, if they truly learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, ‘יהוה lives,’ as they taught my people to swear by Baal, that they shall be built in the midst of my people. But if they will not listen, I will totally uproot and destroy that nation,” says יהוה.
So, how can we obey the Torah by mentioning his name and using his name in our oaths if we are obeying the rabbis who tell us not to do so? It is obvious we can’t do both. We have to make a choice. Where will our allegiance be? Will it be to the Torah or to the rabbis? Should we continue listening to those who set aside the commandments of the Almighty? What does Isaiah say? What does Yeshua say?
To Torah and to testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, they have no dawn.
Adonai has said, “Because this people draw near with their mouth, and with their lips they honor me, but they have removed their heart far from me, so that their fear of me is the erudite commandment of men...”
Then the sages and the Pharisees came to Yeshua and said to him, “Why do your disciples transgress the reforms (תַּקָּנוֹת Takanot) of antiquity in that they do not wash their hands before eating?” But Yeshua said to them, “And why do you transgress the words of Elohim for the sake of your reforms (תַּקָּנוֹת Takanot)?... You despise the words of Elohim by your reforms (תַּקָּנוֹת Takanot)... Woe, hypocrites! Behold Isaiah prophesied of you, saying, ‘Thus says יהוה: Because this people draw near with their mouth, and with their lips they honor me, but they have removed their heart far from me, so that their fear of me is the erudite commandment of men...’”
Matthew 15:1-9 Shem Tov Hebrew Text
The Pharisees and sages sit in the seat of Moses. So now, keep doing everything they tell you , but do not do according to their reforms (תַּקָּנוֹת Takanot) and precedents (מַעֲשִׂים Ma’asim), for they talk and do not act.
Matthew 23:2-3 Shem Tov Hebrew Text
The practice of not saying the Name is one of the “reforms” of the rabbis. It is at variance with the Torah, it is at variance with the Prophets and it is at variance with Messiah. This practice has, like Baal worship, caused the people of God and the world at large to forget his name. We cannot take back the lost ground, however, without a systematic and objective approach to the whole subject and the will to make a difference in our own spheres of influence. In order to approach it thus, we’re going to have to examine and embrace the linguistic evidence we find in the pages of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures.
As you probably are already aware, the majority of the Tanakh was written in the Hebrew language. It would seem logical, therefore, to assume that the creator’s name, first encountered in a Hebrew context, written to a Hebrew speaking audience, would be a Hebrew name. Many, surprisingly, believe that the Name is “heavenly” in nature and therefore not a Hebrew name at all. Such subjectivity must be completely abandoned if we are ever to get to the bottom of the matter. The facts indicate that the creator’s name is a Hebrew name. I am of the opinion that we shall discover within the structure of the Hebrew language itself the form of this name or we shall not discover it at all.
Let’s start with the basics. When the Almighty first revealed his name to Moses in Exodus 3:14 he explained it as signifying, “I Am.” This is extremely important, as the meaning of the Name, יהוה, will eventually lead us to its true pronunciation. Meaning and pronunciation are inseparable.
And Elohim said to Moses, “I Am That I Am.” And he said, “Thus shall you say to the sons of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.” And Elohim said moreover to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the sons of Israel: יהוה the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and this is my mention to all generations.”
“I Am That I Am” translates the phrase eh’yeh asher eh’yeh אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה. Eh’yeh אֶהְיֶה is a verb of the Pa’al, or Kal, conjugation. We’ll discuss the seven conjugations in more detail later. For now it is enough to know that this conjugation is the simplest and conveys action in its simplest or most basic form. The root of this verb is Hei Yud Hei היה and has a basic meaning of, “to be, to exist.” The Aleph א at the beginning of the three letter root signifies the imperfect or future tense, first person singular - “I will...” The meaning of the root Hei Yud Hei היה (to be) taken together with the Aleph א modifier at the beginning (I will) signifies, “I will be,” or, “I am.”
Immediately after saying, “Eh’yeh אֶהְיֶה has sent me to you,” the Creator says, “יהוה... has sent me to you.” This would seem to indicate that יהוה, like eh’yeh אֶהְיֶה, is a verb. We should expect it to also be of the Kal conjugation. The root of this verb is Hei Vav Hei הוה and has a basic meaning of, “TO BREATH... hence, to live... and in the use of the language, to be, i.q. the common word הָיָה.” The Yud י at the beginning of the three letter root signifies the imperfect or future tense, third person singular - “He will...” The meaning of the root Hei Vav Hei הוה (to be) taken together with the Yud י modifier at the beginning (He will) signifies, “He will be,” or, “He is.” Our search, then, is for how to say, “He will be,” using the root Hei Vav Hei הוה.
What can we learn of how he wants to be mentioned from Exodus 3:14? On the surface, it would appear, very little. But in actuality we have already learned a great deal. By way of inference we have learned that the Name is a verb of the Kal conjugation. And by knowing the tradition of “no mention” we can learn how the Name is not said. How? Simply by looking at the vowels the scribes put within it. In Exodus 3:14 and wherever else יהוה stands by itself in the Hebrew text it appears as Y’hvah יְהוָה or Y’hovah יְהוָֹה, depending on the edition of the Tanakh. We get “Jehovah” from this. Whenever יהוה is found with Adonai אֲדֹנָי (Lord) as in אֲדֹנָי יהוה it appears as Y’hvih יְהוִה or Y’hovih יְהוִֹה. Why? Well, it has to do with the nature of the Hebrew language, how it fell into disuse, and, of course, rabbinic tradition.
The Hebrew Language
Hebrew is, and always has been, a language of consonants. A few of those consonants, were sometimes also used to represent vowel sounds. They are four: Aleph א, Hei ה, Vav ו, and Yud י. Not surprisingly, they are known as “vowel-letters.” The Aleph א and Hei ה can represent an “ah” sound like the “a” in “father.” The Vav ו can be an “oh” like the “o” in “no” or an “oo” like the “u” in “flute.” The Yud י can represent “ee” like the “i” in “machine” or “ay” like the “ei” in “eight.”
Different words are often written with exactly the same consonants. For instance, in print, the letters דבר can be understood as, “he spoke,” “it was spoken,” “word,” “word of,” “plague,” or “pasture.” Pronunciation and meaning depends on the context and the place of the word in the sentence. The lack of vowel signs poses little difficulty to native speakers of the language. Context and syntax are usually enough to decide which word a certain combination of letters represents, even when the word contains no vowel-letters. Even if multiple pronunciations are possible for any particular combination, it is not too difficult to know how it should be pronounced. Many more examples could be cited, but it would not benefit us here. Just thumb through the Analytical Lexicon sometime and you’ll see how many combinations are possible for certain words.
Many assert that Aramaic replaced Hebrew as the common dialect of Jewish life in Israel sometime during the Babylonian captivity. John Parkhurst, in his Lexicon of New Testament Greek, gives seven reasons why this is not so. I will quote him briefly.
1st. Prejudice apart, Is it probable that any people should lose their native language in a captivity of no longer than seventy years?...
2dly. It appears from Scripture, that under the captivity the Jews actually retained not only their language, but their manner of writing it, or the form and fashion of their letters. Else, what meaneth Esth. viii. 9, where we read that the decree of Ahasuerus, or Artaxerxes Longimanus, was written unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language?...
3dly. Ezekiel, who prophesied during the captivity to the Jews in Chaldea, wrote and published his prophecies in Hebrew...
4thly. The prophets who flourished soon after the return of the Jews to their own country, namely Haggai and Zechariah, prophesied to them in Hebrew, and so did Malachi, who seems to have delivered his prophecy about an hundred years after that event...
5thly. Nehemiah, who was governor of the Jews about a hundred years after their return from Babylon, not only wrote his book in Hebrew, but in ch. xiii, 23, 24, complains that some of the Jews, during his absence, had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab, and that their children could not speak יהודית the Jews’ language, but spake a mixed tongue... But how impertinent is the remark, and how foolish the complaint of Nehemiah, that the children of some Jews, who had taken foreigners for wives, could not speak pure Hebrew, if that tongue had ceased to be vernacular among the people in general a hundred years before that period?...
6thly. It is highly absurd and unreasonable to suppose that the writers of the New Testament used the term Hebrew to signify a different language from that which the Grecizing Jews denoted by that name; but the language which those Jews called Hebrew after the Babylonish captivity, was not Syriac, or Chaldee, but the same in which the law and the prophets were written...
Lastly. It may be worth adding, that Josephus, who frequently uses the expressions την ‘ΕΒΡΑΙΩΝ διαλεκτον [the Hebrew dialect], γλωτον την ‘ΕΒΡΑΙΩΝ [the Hebrew tongue], ‘ΕΒΡΑΙΣΤΙ [in Hebrew] , for the language in which Moses wrote... tells us... that towards the conclusion of the siege of Jerusalem he addressed not only John, the commander of the Zealots, but τοις πολλοις the (Jewish) multitude who were with him, ‘ΕΒΡΑΙΖΩΝ in the Hebrew tongue, which was therefore the common language of the Jews at that time, i.e. about forty years after our Savior’s death.
On the whole, I conclude that the Jews did not exchange the Hebrew for the Chaldee language at the captivity...
The text of the Mishnah, compiled at the beginning of the third century C.E. by Judah the Prince, corroborates this point of view. Written almost entirely in Hebrew, it reflects not only an oral tradition from Second Temple times, but the language in which that tradition was communicated. In the words of the Mishnah, “A man is obligated to speak in his Rabbi’s tongue” (Eduyot 1:3). M. H. Segal, in discussing the Hebrew of the Mishnah, has this to say on the subject:
In conclusion, we must refer briefly to the linguistic trustworthiness of the Mishnaic tradition... Its trustworthiness is established by the old rule, older than the age of Hillel, that a tradition - which of course, was handed down by word of mouth - must be repeated in the exact words of the master from whom it had been learnt: חַיָּב אָדָם לוֹמַר בִּלְשׁוֹן רַבּוֹ [A man is obligated to speak in his Rabbi’s tongue]. This rule was strictly observed throughout the Mishnaic and Talmudic periods (cf. ‘Ed. i.3, with the commentaries; Ber. 47a; Bek. 5a), and was in fact, the basis of the authority of the Oral Law. So careful were the rabbis in the observance of this rule that they often reproduced even the mannerisms and the personal peculiarities of the Masters from whom they had received a particular tradition, or halaka. This rule makes it certain that, at least in most cases, the sayings of the rabbis have been handed down in the language in which they had originally been expressed.
The decline of Hebrew as a spoken language is thought to have begun with the fall of the Hasmonean dynasty and the rise of Herod to power in 63 B.C.E. A number of circumstances contributed to its final demise. Mr. Segal sums it up well.
The destruction of many of the native families in the bloody wars which accompanied the coming of the Romans and the establishment of the Herodians (whose original language was probably Aram.); the closer connexion between Jerusalem and the Aram. Jewries of Syria and the Eastern Diaspora which followed on the incorporation of Palestine in the Roman Empire; and the settlement of those Aram.-speaking Jews in Jerusalem, all tended to spread the use of Aram. at the expense of MH. But MH still remained a popular speech, as is testified by numerous passages in its literature... Finally, the destruction of Jewish life in Judea after the defeat of Bar Kokba (135 C.E.), and the establishment of the new Jewish centre in the Aram.-speaking Galilee, seem to have led to the disappearance of MH as a popular tongue.
It appears that Hebrew remained a spoken tongue well into the fourth century. As such, its mode of written communication (letters and vowel-letters) was more than adequate to facilitate understanding. As it fell into disuse by the masses, however, it became more and more difficult to decipher written texts. This problem became most acute in relation to the Tanakh. As use of the language diminished, the proper reading of the sacred scrolls increasingly came into question. How could the accepted reading of the text be maintained and perpetuated as the language slowly died? This was the challenge. Sometime in the sixth or seventh century C.E. a group of scribes rose to the occasion. They invented a set of vowel signs or “points” to accompany the consonants and preserve the “traditional” reading of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were placed within, above and below the letters of the text.
Y’hvah יְהוָה and Y’hovah יְהוָֹה
Since Pharisaic “reform” dictated an outright ban on speaking the Name “according to the letters,” whenever the scribes encountered יהוה they inserted into it, with a slight modification, the vowels of the word Adonai אֲדֹנָי (Lord). This was to signify to those who would read the text that Adonai אֲדֹנָי was to be read instead. Depending on the edition of the Tanakh, this looks like Y’hvah יְהוָה or Y’hovah יְהוָֹה. Now, the discerning student is going to notice right away that neither set of these vowels matches exactly the vowels under Adonai אֲדֹנָי. Bear with me for just a few lines. I’ll try to make the reason as simple as possible.
The first difference is in the vowels under the initial letters. Since Hebrew vowels are usually found under the letters, it is hard to show what they look like by themselves, without the letters as points of reference. For that reason, I am going to put both the letter and the vowel in parentheses in these and following explanations. Under the Yud י of Y’hvah יְהוָה and Y’hovah יְהוָֹה is a Sh’va ( יְ ). Under the Aleph א of Adonai אֲדֹנָי is a Hataf Patah ( אֲ ). The difference in vowels is due to the difference in the nature of the two letters. The Yud י, being a standard consonant, can take a Sh’va at the beginning of a word. The Aleph א, being in essence a mild guttural, cannot. It must take a compound Sh’va (in this case a Hataf Patah) at the beginning of a word. The scribes simply transferred the nature of the short vowel under the Aleph א to the vowel under the Yud י rather than the exact vowel.
The second vowel in Adonai אֲדֹנָי is a Dalet with a Holam ( דֹ). In the case of Y’hvah יְהוָה it is missing. This is, I believe, to make doubly sure Adonai אֲדֹנָי would be read, as Y’hvah יְהוָה is quite redundant and impossible to pronounce.
Y’hvih יְהוִה and Y’hovih יְהוִֹה
Often times the words Adonai אֲדֹנָי and יהוה appear side by side in the Hebrew text. When the scribes encountered this combination they inserted the vowels for the word Elohim אֱלֹהִים (God) into the Tetragram so that Adonai Elohim would be read instead of Adonai being read twice. Depending on the edition of the Tanakh, this looks like Adonai Y’hvih אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה or Adonai Y’hovih אֲדֹנָי יְהוִֹה. Again, there is a discrepancy between the vowels under the Yud י of יהוה and the Aleph א of Adonai אֲדֹנָי for the same reasons as stated above. The pronunciation Y’hvih יְהוִה is every bit as impossible as Y’hvah יְהוָה.
It is worth noting that the edition of the Tanakh which uses Y’hvah יְהוָה also uses Y’hvih יְהוִה. The other edition uses Y’hovah יְהוָֹה and Y’hovih יְהוִֹה.
All this has been said to help us see that the vowels under יהוה are not its real vowels. The following entry is from the popular four-volume Even-Shoshan dictionary used in Israel. It verifies what has just been asserted.
יְהוָֹה, יֱהוִֹה... נִבְטָא "אֲדֹנָי" אוֹ "הַשֵּׁם" אוֹ "אֲדשֶׁם" - אִם נִקּוּדוֹ "יְהוָֹה"; אוֹ "אֱלֹהִים, אֱלֹקִים" - אִם נִקּוּדוֹ "יֱהוִֹה", מִשּׁוּם הָאִסּוּר לַהֲגוֹת אֶת הַשֵּׁם בְּאוֹתִיּוֹתָיו
יְהוָֹה, יֱהוִֹה... pronounced “Adonai” or “HaShem” or “Adoshem” - when its vowels are “יְהוָֹה”; or “Elohim, Elokim” - when its vowels are “יֱהוִֹה”, because of the prohibition of uttering the Name according to its letters.
By the looks of the vowel points under the Tetragram in this entry, it appears that there must be at least a third edition of the Tanakh. The vowel under the initial Yud י, when the Tetragram is to be read as Elohim, is the short Hataf Segol ( יֱ ) which regularly stands under the Aleph א of Elohim אֱלֹהִים. This combination in יהוה is ridiculous, as a Hataf Segol is never found under a Yud ( יֱ ) in a legitimate word. It is under the Yud י in יהוה only to remind the reader to read Elohim and not Adonai.
It becomes evident that the vowels assigned to יהוה in the Scriptures are not the vowels which would allow one to speak it “according to its letters.” Y’hovah יְהוָֹה and Y’hovih יְהוִֹה are not, therefore, legitimate pronunciations. They are, in essence, linguistic bastards. They represent the vowels of the nouns Adonai אֲדֹנָי and Elohim אֱלֹהִים, respectively, imposed upon the letters of a verb. Gesenius sums up the matter nicely.
As it is thus evident that the word יהוה does not stand with its own vowels, but with those of another word, the inquiry arises, what then are its true and genuine vowels?
Y’hó יְהֽוֹ, Yáhu יָֽהוּ and Y’hu יְהוּ
Since we cannot learn the Name by looking within the Tetragram itself, we have to look elsewhere. The first step in ascertaining its true pronunciation is, I believe, observing how it is pronounced when it is part of men’s proper names. It appears three ways:
Y’hó יְהֽוֹ is how the Name appears at the beginning and in the middle of a man’s name. It has two syllables. The first letter, Yud י, is pronounced as the “y” in “yes.” The Sh’va under the initial Yud ( יְ ) indicates “the absence of a vowel.” It is such a slight sound that one hears little more than the consonant with which it is associated. The first syllable is Y’- יְ-. The next letter, Hei ה, is the first letter of the second syllable. Pronounced as the “h” in “hoe,” it is often treated as though it were a silent letter and disappears from both speech and the printed page. The horizontal line under the Hei ( הֽ ) is the accent mark. The accent is on the second syllable due to the nature of the Sh’va under the first. The letter which follows the Hei ה is Vav ו, the third letter of the Tetragram. It is not a consonant here, but a vowel, as there is a Holam ( וֹ ) above it. The Vav/Holam combination ( וֹ ) is pronounced “oh” like the “o” in “no.” The second syllable is -hó -הֽוֹ. The Sh’va under the Yud י, followed by the often silent Hei ה, helps us understand why Y’hó יְהֽוֹ is often found in a man’s name shortened to Yó יֽוֹ.
The name Y’hónatan יְהֽוֹנָתָן (Jonathan), found in 1 Samuel 14:6 & 8, is an example of this pronunciation of the Name. Jonathan means, “יהוה Has Given.” In the middle of a man’s name the pronunciation is the same - Y’hó יְהֽוֹ as in El’Y’hóeinai אֶלְיְהֽוֹעֵינַי (Elioenai). Elioenai means, “My Eyes Are Toward יהוה.” We find this name in 1 Chronicles 26:3. As already mentioned, and as is common in modern Hebrew, the Hei ה in Biblical Hebrew often vanishes. So it is that we find Y’hó יְהֽוֹ often shortened to Yó יֽוֹ, Thus Y’hónatan יְהֽוֹנָתָן becomes Yónatan יוֹנָתָן in 1 Samuel 13:2, 3 & 22 while El’Y’hóeinai אֶלְיְהֽוֹעֵינַי becomes El’Yóeinai אֶלְיוֹעֵינַי in 1 Chronicles 4:36.
Yáhu יָֽהוּ is how the Name appears at the end of a man’s name. The accent was assigned to the first syllable. The Kamatz under the initial Yud ( יָ ) is pronounced “ah” like the “a” in “father.” The first syllable is Yá יָֽ-. Instead of the Vav/Holam combination ( וֹ ) after the Hei ה of the second syllable there is a Shuruk ( וּ ) which is pronounced “oo” like the “u” in “flute.” The second syllable is -hu -הוּ. Yáhu יָֽהוּ is often found shortened to Yáh יָֽה.
Examples of this are found in the names MíkhaYáhu מִֽיכָיָֽהוּ (Michaiah) in 2 Chronicles 17:7, and EliYáhu אֵלִיָּֽהוּ (Elijah) in 1 Kings 17. “Michaiah” means, “Who Is Like יהוה?” while Elijah means, “יהוה Is My Elohim.” This pronunciation also gets shortened. Thus EliYáhu אֵלִיָּֽהוּ appears in Malachi 3:23 as EliYáh אֵלִיָּֽה and MíkhaYáhu מִֽיכָיָֽהוּ becomes MikhaYáh מִיכָיָֽה in Nehemiah 12:35. This one-syllable pronunciation is also found occasionally in a stand-alone fashion as a legitimate substitution for the full form of his Name.
Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name YAH (יָהּ), And rejoice before Him.
Psalm 68:4 (NKJV)
We find a dot, called a Mappik, within the Hei ה of this abbreviated form ( הּ ), which serves to vocalize the otherwise “silent” letter. It is used only in the stand-alone, shortened form, never at the end of someone’s name.
Y’hu יְהוּ is how the Name sometimes appears at the end of one particular name. The characteristics and pronunciation of the Yud י and the Sh’va ( יְ ) of the first syllable is the same as in Y’hó יְהֽוֹ. The pronunciation of the Hei ה and the Shuruk ( הוּ ) of the second syllable is the same as in Yáhu יָֽהוּ. Although the second syllable should take the accent due to the nature of the Sh’va under the initial Yud י, the scribes saw fit to exclude it.
There are several examples of this, but only in one particular name. In Judges 17 verses 1 & 4, 1 Kings 22:8 ff, 2 Chronicles 18:7 and Jeremiah 36:11 & 13, where we would expect to find Michaiah as MíkhaYáhu מִֽיכָיָֽהוּ, we find instead MikháY’hu מִיכָֽיְהוּ. To my knowledge, this is the only name in which the Name is ever pointed like this.
Ecclesiastes 11:3 and Sham Y’hú שָׁם יְהֽוּא
We see three evidently related, but distinct pronunciations of the Name in the Hebrew Scriptures. How do we explain this phenomenon? Perhaps we should ask another question first: Do any of these pronunciations reflect a legitimate verbal form? With this question, we reach a critical point in our study. No longer can we simply observe the biblical data. Now we must evaluate it. The key to a proper analysis and the answer to our question is found hidden away in the little read book of Ecclesiastes. There, in the eleventh chapter, is a verse which apparently has been overlooked in all the discussions about the Name. One phrase all but shouts at us from the printed page.
אִם יִמָּֽלְאוּ הֶֽעָבִים גֶּשֶׁם עַל הָאָרֶץ יָרִיקוּ וְאִם יִפּוֹל עֵץ בַּדָּרוֹם וְאִם בַּצָּפוֹן מְקוֹם שֶׁיִּפּוֹל הָעֵץ שָׁם יְהֽוּא
If the clouds fill up with rain, they empty upon the earth; and whether the tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it shall be.
“There it shall be,” translates sham y’hú שָׁם יְהֽוּא. Sham שָׁם means “there.” The Analytical Hebrew Lexicon, which breaks up each word in the Hebrew text into its component parts, gives us some very interesting information about the word y’hú יְהֽוּא. It is a third person singular, masculine, Kal future (he will...) form of the verb Hei Vav Hei הוה (to be)! (“Tree” is a masculine word in Hebrew.) A note in brackets also informs us that y’hú יְהֽוּא is apocopated (abbreviated as “ap.” or “apoc.”). “Apocopated” simply describes “the loss of one or more sounds or letters at the end of a word...” Here is the entry:
יְהֽוּאKal fut. 3 per. sing. masc. [for יְהוּ ap. for יֶהֱוֶה § 24. rem. 3] . . . . . . . הוה
According to the Analytical Lexicon the word y’hú יְהֽוּא is a shortened verbal form of Yeheveh יֶהֱוֶה. It reflects the meaning of the Name exactly and is identical in pronunciation with how it is pronounced at the end of Michaiah’s name sometimes. The note in brackets also directs us to section 24 remark 3 at the front of the lexicon where we read that y’hú יְהֽוּא is a shortened “Syriac” form of Yih’veh יִהְוֶה.
The verbs הָיָה to be and חָיָה to live, which would properly have in the fut. apoc. יִהְי, and יִחְי, change these forms into יְהִי and יְחִי. A perfectly Syriac form is יְהוּא Ec. 11.3, for יִהְוֶה, ap. יְהוּ (from הָוָה to be).
In the first quote from the Analytical Lexicon we are told that y’hú יְהֽוּא is a shortened form of Yeheveh יֶהֱוֶה, while in the second we read that it is a shortened form of Yih’veh יִהְוֶה. The discrepancy arises from the fact that neither of the longer forms is found in any Hebrew literature. The longer forms are hypothetical reconstructions based on what we know of Hebrew verb patterns. Since it is the shortened form that mirrors the pronunciation of the Name in Michaiah’s name, it is the shortened forms of y’hi יְהִי and y’hu יְהוּ which next require our attention.
Y’hi יְהִי and Y’hu יְהוּ
So, we have in the words y’hí יְהִי (root Hei Yud Hei היה) and y’hú יְהֽוּ (root Hei Vav Hei הוה) shortened forms of the imperfect. Or, do we? Normally this shortened form represents a nuance of meaning called the “jussive,” which expresses a “command or wish” and is recognized in Lamed-Hei ל"ה verbs by the loss of the -ה ending of the usual imperfect. The third person masculine imperfect of Hei Yud Hei היה is yih’yéh יִהְיֶה. The shortened form is y’hí יְהִי. Although we have no concrete witness as to the long form of the third person masculine imperfect of Hei Vav Hei הוה, we have the shortened form - y’hú יְהֽוּ. Working backwards from there, based on the vowel pattern of yih’yéh יִהְיֶה, the grammarians surmise that the regular imperfect is yih’véh (yih’wéh) יִהְוֶה or yehevéh (yehewéh) יֶהֱוֶה as seen in the last two quotes above.
It seems odd, though, does it not, that the form of the Name as it appears within so many personal names reflects not the usual form of the imperfect, but the shortened form - the form that usually stands for the jussive? So, what about Ecc. 11:3? Are we to understand it as, “Where the tree falls, there let it be?” Is it a jussive? Actually, no, it is not. The jussive is often used for the regular imperfect. Gesenius cites twenty specific instances where y’hí יְהִי is used in place of the full form yih’yéh יִהְיֶה.
Moreover, in not a few cases, the jussive is used, without any collateral sense, for the ordinary imperfect form, and this occurs not alone in forms which may arise from a misunderstanding of the defective writing... but also in shortened forms, such as יְהִי Gen 4917 (Sam. יִהְיֶה), Dt 288, 1S 105, 2S 524, Ho 61, 114, Am 514, Mi 12, Zp 213, Zc 95, R 7216f. (after other jussives), 10431, Jb 1812, 2023.26.28, 278, 3321, 3437, Ru 34.
It is evident that in the passages cited above, where y’hi יְהִי is used for the ordinary imperfect, the final Hei ה of the full imperfect form disappears. This is common for Lamed-Hei ל"ה jussives. It is also evident that in Ecclesiastes 11:3 where y’hú יְהֽוּא is used for the ordinary imperfect, it does not lose its final letter, but exchanges it for an Aleph א. This is most uncommon for Lamed-Hei ל"ה jussives. Should we understand this phenomenon as a “perfectly Syriac form” as Benjamin Davidson says? Or should we go with the opinion of Gesenius that the true reading of Ecc. 11:3 is found in the few manuscripts which read sham hu שָׁם הוּא (there he is) instead of sham y’hú שָׁם יְהֽוּא (there he will be)? Or is there yet another way of looking at it? Could it be that this shortened form of the imperfect, which does not lose its final letter, is used for the usual imperfect because the usual imperfect was never used for this particular verb? Perhaps we should abandon our search for the “ordinary imperfect” of Hei Vav Hei הוה and view y’hú יְהֽוּא as the legitimate heir to the throne. Perhaps in this particular Lamed-Hei ל"ה verb the jussive and imperfect are not merely interchangeable as they appear to be in other Lamed-Hei ל"ה verbs, but indistinguishable. Perhaps this would explain the presence of Yah יָהּ in the Hebrew Scriptures as a shortened or abbreviated, stand-alone form of the Name.
Stop and think for just a moment. The Name is a third person singular, masculine, Kal future verbal form from the three letter root Hei Vav Hei הוה (to be). At the end of Michaiah’s name it is sometimes represented as Y’hu יְהוּ. It drops the final Hei ה as it does within every man’s name. It appears to be a shortened form. Y’hú יְהֽוּא in Ecc. 11:3 is also a third person singular, masculine, Kal future verbal form, from the root Hei Vav Hei הוה. It, too, appears to be a shortened form, but does not drop its final letter. Rather, it is changed from a Hei ה to an Aleph א. What do we get when we change the “Syriac” style Aleph א back to its original Hei ה? We get Y’hú יְהֽוּה. Is there any difference in speech between y’hú יְהֽוּא with an Aleph א and Y’hú יְהֽוּה with a Hei ה? No. Neither the Hei ה nor the Aleph א affect the pronunciation. They are both, for all intents and purposes, silent. And what do we get when we return the lacking Hei ה to the Name as it sometimes appears at the end of Michaiah’s name? We get Y’hu יְהוּה. And when we supply the accent it would have in normal speech we have Y’hú יְהֽוּה. Is there any difference in meaning between Y’hú יְהֽוּה with a Hei ה and y’hú יְהֽוּא with an Aleph א? Grammatically, no. Both express, “He will be.” But contextually there is a tremendous difference, for y’hú יְהֽוּא means generically, “he will be,” while Y’hú יְהֽוּה is the Name and quite specifically communicates, “He Will Be.” Perhaps that is precisely the reason why Y’hú יְהֽוּ in Ecc. 11:3 was written with an Aleph א and not a Hei ה. A change of the final letter from a Hei ה to an Aleph א would be all that was necessary to distinguish the ordinary, everyday, purely grammatical, “he will be,” from the One whose name means, “He Will Be,” would it not?
By far, the most common pronunciation of the Name is Yahweh יַהְוֶה. One popular line of reasoning in support of this pronunciation has to do with a statement made by Josephus. According to him, the Tetragram consisted of “four vowels.” Speaking of the high priest’s garments, he says the following:
A mitre also of fine linen encompassed his head, which was tied by a blue ribbon, about which there was another golden crown, in which was engraven the sacred name: it consists of four vowels.
After reading this some have mistakenly concluded that since Josephus calls the letters of the Tetragram, “four vowels,” they were pronounced as such: The Yud י is pronounced “ee,” the first Hei ה is pronounced “ah,” the Vav ו is pronounced “oo,” and the final Hei ה is pronounced, “ay.” Put them all together and you have, “ee-ah-oo-ay,” hence - Yahweh. The Scriptural evidence presented here, however, does not lead us to this pronunciation. Nor does the structure and character of the Hebrew language itself. In order to properly understand what Josephus meant by, “four vowels,” we must know something about that language, as he originally wrote The Jewish War in Hebrew. He then translated it into Greek. Here it is in his own words:
I have proposed to myself, for the sake of such as live under the government of the Romans, to translate those books into the Greek tongue, which I formerly composed in the language of our country...
It has already been shown that the common language of Israel during the time of Josephus was Hebrew. The comment about the four vowels, then, was originally expressed in Hebrew. The only thing left of The Jewish War in that tongue is said to be a “pseudepigraphic medieval Hebrew paraphrase...” It would not surprise me one bit to find the Hebrew of that document to be written in a distinctive, Mishnaic Hebrew style. Perhaps closer scrutiny would reveal it to be a bona-fide copy of the original and not from medieval times at all. For now, though, we must be content with the concept that the words, “four vowels,” are an English translation of a Greek translation of a Hebrew original that we do not have. The translation is at best, second hand. It leaves us English-speakers with problems on several fronts.
First, though it is true, as was pointed out earlier, that Hei ה, Vav ו, and Yud י are known as “vowel-letters,” it is not true they are always vowels. It would be accurate to say that in a language of consonants, such as Hebrew, they can double as vowels. And when they do, as a general rule, they are always preceded by a consonant. It is, therefore, quite impossible for the Yud י of יהוה to be a vowel. It must be a consonant. The “four vowels,” for this reason, cannot be four vowels.
Secondly, there is no such thing as a Hebrew verb comprised solely of vowels. It is the prescribed modification of consonants and vowels which colors the verbal root with the various shades of meaning necessary for successful communication. For this reason also the “four vowels” cannot be four vowels.
Thirdly, it is precisely this modification of the Hebrew verb which not only leads us away from the concept of the “four vowels” being pronounced as such, but mitigates against the use of Yahweh as a valid verbal form of any kind. The Hebrew verb is conjugated or “built” in seven different ways. Each conjugation carries a slightly different nuance of meaning. In simplified form they are as follows:
1.Pa’al (Kal) - Simple 2.Nif’al - Simple Passive 3.Pi’el - Intensive 4.Pu’al - Intensive Passive 5.Hif’il - Causative 6.Hof’al - Causative Passive 7.Hitpa’el - Intensive Reflexive
Each conjugation has its own peculiar vowel patterns for the perfect (past), imperfect (future), and present tenses. Each conjugation, with its corresponding vowel patterns, modifies the simple, root meaning of the verb, conveying a slightly different nuance of meaning. Not all verbs use all seven conjugations.
The vowel pattern of the word Yahweh יַהְוֶה identifies it as a verb of the Hif’il, the so-called “causative” conjugation, from the root Hei Vav Hei הוה (to be) which would literally mean, “He Will Cause To Be.” That’s a problem, though, because the root Hei Vav Hei הוה, like its counterpart Hei Yud Hei היה, has never developed forms in the Hif’il conjugation. In other words, Yahweh יַהְוֶה is a verb which does not exist in the Hebrew language. It is purely imaginary and wholly unintelligible. Even if, for sake of argument, Yahweh יַהְוֶה did represent a legitimate verbal form, his name would mean, “He Causes To Be.” However, the “I AM THAT I AM” of Exodus 3 was communicated in the Kal conjugation, not the Hif’il. Therefore the meaning of his name is not to be associated with the Hif’il conjugation.
As a Hebrew speaker, Josephus knew all these things. Unless he was guilty of promulgating disinformation, what he most likely meant to convey by, “four vowels,” and what his contemporaries most likely understood when they heard it, was, “four vowel-letters.” I believe the Hebrew original of The Jewish War would bear this out. From our vantage point, however, there is nothing in the words of Josephus that would lead us to understand that the “four vowels” were pronounced as such, let alone as “Yahweh.” The structure and nature of the Hebrew language defy it.
On the basis of its purely imaginary nature, Yahweh should be disqualified from consideration as the actual pronunciation of the Name. As a Hif’il verbal form or a Hebrew word made up of all vowels it is a phantom. Its legitimacy ought to be seriously called into question. The case for this particular pronunciation rests somewhat precariously on Greek and Latin manuscript evidence. The variants are many.
The best explanation I have heard for the apparent occurrence of the sound Yahweh in ancient Greek and Latin manuscripts is to be found in the name “Jove.” This is the ablative form of the name “Jupiter,” head of the Roman pantheon. It is said that, like most Latin words, “Jove” comes into English and other languages mainly through the ablative case. Based on the research undertaken by W. Sidney Allen, the recognized authority on classical Latin pronunciation, IOVE (the Latin spelling of “Jove”) would have been pronounced very much like “Yahweh.” According to him, “I” is pronounced as the “y” in “yes.” The “O” is something like the “o” in the English pronunciation of “pot” or as the “u” in “put.” The “V” is a “w.” The “E” at the end is not silent, but is like the “e” in “pet.” Put them all together and we hear, in essence, Yahweh, with something akin to a British accent.
One example of the connection between IOVE and Jupiter comes from, of all places, a Latin translation of one of Aesop’s fables. From the year 1687 comes the story of “DE IOVE ET CAMELO” – “JUPITER AND THE CAMEL.” I do not read Latin, but the relationship between IOVE, Iovem, and Iupiter in the Latin text and its English translation is impossible to miss. The following is the text in full:
DE IOVE ET CAMELO
Cum primum visus est Camelus, homines perterriti et magnitudinem admirati fugiebant. Camelus vero sui paenitens, querebatur Tauros insignes ire geminis cornibus, se inermem obiectum esse ceteris animalibus. Orat igitur Iovem ut Cornua sibi donet. Ridet Iupiter stultitiam Cameli, nec solum votum negat, sed etiam et auriculas Bestiae decurtat.
JUPITER AND THE CAMEL
When for the first time the Camel was seen, the people, terrified and amazed at its size, ran away. The camel, in fact, dissatisfied with himself, complained that the bulls went about, so distinguished with their twin horns, while he was exposed to the rest of the animals with no protection. Therefore, the camel begged Jupiter to give him horns. Jupiter laughed at the foolishness of the camel and not only denied his request, he even cropped the beast’s ears.
The same connection is seen in the Latin Vulgate. Take, for instance, these two verses from the New Covenant writings:
And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.
Acts 14:12-13 (KJV)
Et vocabant Barnaban Iovem Paulum vero Mercurium quoniam ipse erat dux verbi sacerdos quoque Iovis qui erat ante civitatem tauros et coronas ante ianuas adferens cum populis volebat sacrificare
Acts 14:12-13 (Latin Vulgate)
Can you hear “De Iove Et Camelo” spoken as “De Yahweh Et Camelo”? According to the experts, that is what a Latin speaker hears. Are we really to imagine a connection between the name IOVE and the name of the Eternal One? If there really is such a connection, we are going to be hard pressed to find it anywhere but in the pagan world, and that leaves us with but one unpleasant conclusion.
As we have seen, Yahweh finds no Scriptural or linguistic support as a bona-fide pronunciation of יהוה . That the pagan world borrowed it from the Hebrews is, therefore, an irrational thought. After all, if the word defies the structure and nature of the Hebrew language, how could it have been borrowed from that language? If there is indeed a legitimate relationship between the Name and the pronunciation Yahweh (and that has yet to be established as far as I’m concerned), there is only one viable conclusion to draw. It was borrowed from the Latin world of the Roman pantheon and applied to the true God. His real name, after all, would have been virtually unknown to those outside the borders of Israel, having been hidden by Pharisaic mandate.
We ought to be asking ourselves a question at this point: Do we really want to embrace a word which (1), has no basis in Hebrew linguistics and (2), for all intents and purposes is the name of a pagan deity? Do we really want to use a name which, with only a slight difference in accent, was used to denote the king of the Roman gods? I found the following insight amusing:
Thus “Jove” was pronounced more like “Yoh-weh.” When you see how much that resembles the Hebrew “YHWH,” it’s hard to avoid making snide little comments.
Those who insist on using Yahweh as the creator’s name are often prone to using Yahshua as Messiah’s name. Like Yahweh, this pronunciation is wholly without precedent in the Hebrew language. As we have seen, Yah (יָהּ and יָה) is a shortened form of the Name as it appears at the end of a man’s name and in a stand-alone fashion as a substitute for the full form of his name. It is never found at the beginning of any name. Yahshua and Yahweh sound equally ridiculous to a Hebrew speaker.
The First and the Last
We began our quest for the creator’s name by looking for a form of the verb Hei Vav Hei הוה which would communicate, “He will be.” This is what his name means. We found such a form in Ecclesiastes 11:3. We found, moreover, that the vowel points of this verb match precisely the form of the Name as it appears in numerous instances at the end of the name, “Michaiah.”
Since y’hú יְהֽוּא at Ecc. 11:3 is an authentic verbal form, is it not simple deduction to consider the form Y’hu יְהוּ at the end of the name, “Michaiah,” as the genuine article as well? Should these two not be taken as corroborating witnesses? When we can take y’hú יְהֽוּא at Ecc. 11:3, exchange the substitute Aleph א for the original Hei ה, and come up with the same thing as when we take Y’hu יְהוּ within the name MikháY’hu מִיכָֽיְהוּ (Michaiah), and restore the proper accent and dropped Hei ה, do we not have everything we need to identify יְהֽוּה as the authentic form of the Name?
This leads us to understand the pointing Y’hó יְהֽוֹ and Yáhu יָֽהוּ within other men’s names as modifications. In both cases the unaccented syllables are the authentic ones. Both unaccented syllables are found together in the unaccented Y’hu יְהוּ at the end of MikháY’hu מִיכָֽיְהוּ (Michaiah). The Name, therefore, is not a “full form imperfect” like Yih’veh (Yih’weh) יִהְוֶה or Yeheveh (Yeheweh) יֶהֱוֶה. If it were, what need would the scribes have had to change the pronunciation of the “shortened” imperfect Y’hú יְהֽוּ to Y’hó יְהֽוֹ and Yáhu יָֽהוּ in the majority of proper names? If his name was Yih’veh (Yih’weh) יִהְוֶה or Yeheveh (Yeheweh) יֶהֱוֶה the shortened form Y’hú יְהֽוּ would have been all the change necessary to keep it from being spoken in keeping with Rabbinical tradition. Yet it is readily apparent that the “shortened” form has been altered. That speaks volumes in and of itself. The authentic “shortened form” is Yah (יָהּ).
Why is the name “Michaiah” not pointed consistently? Why the ambivalence? Why is it written now as MíkhaYáhu מִֽיכָיָֽהוּ, and now as MikháY’hu מִיכָֽיְהוּ? Could it be that the scribes who pointed the text, in those places where it reflects the actual verbal form, wanted to be sure that his name indeed endured “forever,” to “all generations,” at least in a few places? Could it be that the name Michaiah was chosen to carry this honored distinction because his name means, “Who Is Like יְהֽוּה?” Regardless of exactly why, when all the witnesses have been questioned, there it is, the Name above all names. It is available to seekers of every generation, embedded in the name MikháY’hu מִיכָֽיְהוּ and in the text of Ecclesiastes 11:3. Hidden in plain sight.
I have one further observation to make. In each instance where the Name is represented as Y’hó יְהֽוֹ it is at the beginning of the man’s name. The authentic, unaccented Y’- יְ- is the first syllable. In each instance where the Name is represented as Yáhu יָֽהוּ it is at the end of the man’s name. The authentic, unaccented -hu -הוּ is the last syllable. Perhaps it contains a riddle?
יְהֽוּה is the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Thus says יהוה, the King of Israel and his redeemer, יהוה of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last, and apart from me there is no Elohim.”
…The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life…
I am the Aleph and the Tav (Alpha and Omega), the first and the last, the beginning and the end… I, Yeshua…
Revelation 22:13, 16
Is the connection not easy to make? Yeshua the Messiah is יהוה of hosts, the King of Israel and his Redeemer. I do not pretend to understand how he could be the physical representation of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), but I believe it. When he said, “before Abraham was born, I am,” (John 8:58) he was unambiguously claiming to be the Eternal One, the “I AM” who spoke to Moses from the burning bush. “Yeshua the Messiah is the same, yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). As the Elohim of Israel, he does not change (Mal. 3:6). The Appointed Times of יהוה are, therefore, his Appointed Times.
Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, so that they may be one as we are.
What is his name or his son’s name? Certainly, you know.
My Name Forever: Outline
1.Eh’yeh אֶהְיֶה A.Root: Hei Yud Hei היה B.Form: Kal imperfect first person singular C.Literal Translation: I will be, I am 2.יהוה A.Root: Hei Vav Hei הוה B.Form: Kal imperfect third person singular C.Literal Translation: He Will Be, He Is D.Pronunciation: 1.Written Y’hó יְהֽוֹ at the beginning and middle of proper names, often shortened to Yó יֽוֹ. 2.Written Yáhu יָֽהוּ at the end of most proper names, often shortened to Yáh יָֽה. 3.Written Y’hu יְהוּ sometimes at the end of one proper name (MikháY’hu מִיכָֽיְהוּ). 3.Y’hú יְהֽוּ (Ecclesiastes 11:3) A.Root: Hei Vav Hei הוה B.Form: Kal imperfect third person singular. C.Literal Translation: He will be, he is. 4.Yahweh יַהְוֶה A.Root: Hei Vav Hei הוה B.Form: Hiph’il imperfect third person masculine singular C.Literal Translation: If it were a legitimate word it would mean, “He Will Cause To Be,” but this verb has not developed in the Hiph’il conjugation. It has, therefore, no meaning in the Hebrew language. 5.Y’hovah יְהוָֹה A.Root: Hei Vav Hei הוה B.Form: “?” This word is a bastard. It is made up the letters of the verb יהוה and the vowels of the noun Adonai אֲדֹנָי (Lord). C.Literal Translation: As a hybrid, it has no meaning and therefore no translation is possible. 6.Yahuah יָהוָּה A.Root: Hei Vav Hei הוה B.Form: “?” This word is also a bastard. It does not differ significantly from number 5 above. C.Literal Translation: As a hybrid, it also has no meaning and therefore no translation is possible.