If someone asked you the question, “What is God’s Name?”, how would you answer? You might answer that question by saying, “God’s Name is ‘the Lord.'” But is that an accurate response based on the original Hebrew text of the Bible? Many people are unaware that God the Creator has given Himself a Name. This special Name is found in the Hebrew Bible designated by four Hebrew letters.
The four letters of the Divine Name are “YHWH” (יְהוָֹה), designated by scholars as the “Tetragrammaton”. The word “Tetragrammaton” is Greek and means “four letters.” These very special four letters are used throughout the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible, what some refer to as the “Old Testament”). Some Bible translations print the Name of God as “YHVH”, “Yahweh”, “Yehovah”, “Yahuah”, or other similar forms such as the Aramaic “Mar Yah” or “Yah.”
The shortened form of the Name “Yah” is often found at the end of certain individuals’ names in the Scriptures such as Isaiah (Ishayahu), Nehemiah (Nechemyahu), and so on. The shorter form of the Name is also found in the phrase “Hallelu-Yah” (Hallelujah) meaning “Praise Yah.”
The Jewish Encyclopedia (1906) says of the Name “Yah”: “‘Yah,’ an abbreviated form of the Tetragrammaton… This form is identical with the final syllable in the word ‘Hallelujah’.”
The Name “Yah” occurs fifty times in the Masoretic text. See the following verses: Exodus 15:2; 17:16; Psalms 68:4,18; 77:11; 89:8; 94:7,12; 102:18; 104:35; 105:45; 106:1,48; 111:1; 112:1; 113:1,9; 115:17, 18; 116:19; 117:2; 118:5,14,17,18,19; 122:4; 130:3; 135:1,3,4,21; 146:1,10; 147:1,20; 148:1,14; 149:1,9; 150:1,6; Song of Solomon 8:6; Isaiah 12:2; 26:4; 38:11.
While some scholars disagree on the actual pronunciation of the Divine Name, the Aramaic Tanakh consistently uses “Yah” throughout the Holy Scriptures. This is written as “Mar Yah” – the word “Mar” meaning “Lord.” The Name “Yah” is also used in many Jewish prayer books.
Doesn’t the Bible Forbid Us to Use God’s Name?
The truth is, there is not a single verse in the Bible that forbids the use of God’s Name. If God forbid His Name from being used, He would not have permitted it to be included in the Scriptures and He would not have revealed it to Moses.
“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty [El Shaddai]; but by my name YHWH I was not known to them.” (Exodus 6:3)
What we are told is that we should not use God’s Name in a wrong manner or to “profane” it.
The fact that many Jews no longer use God’s actual Name is due, in part, to a misunderstanding of a certain verse in the Hebrew version of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). The King James Version says, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7).
The 1917 edition of the Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh reads similar to that of the King James translation. However, the Aramaic Tanakh says: “You shall not use the name of the Lord Yah your God falsely, for the Lord Yah will not consider innocent who swear falsely in his name.” The Aramaic text helps us gain a better understanding of the intent of this verse. Thus, it can be seen, from the plain Scriptures, that it is not blasphemous to use the Name of God, but rather to use it falsely, especially if one swears “falsely in his name.”
Many Jews follow the custom of replacing the Name “YHWH” with that of the title “Adonai” when reading from the Torah or from prayer books (siddurim). But this word “Adonai” is simply a title and NOT the Divine Name itself. The word “Adonai” means “my Lord.” The Aramaic equivalent is “Mar” as in the phrase “Mar Yah” (מריא Lord Yah).
Those who have the custom of replacing “YHWH” with that of a title, rather than using the actual Name of God, mistakenly believe that it is blasphemous to use the Name of God in its original form form the Hebrew. However, is it not logical to believe that replacing God’s Name without warrant is blasphemous in itself? If you’re name was “Jonathan”, would you appreciate it if people instead call you by the name “Sarah” or any other name that had no relation to your actual name?
God’s Name in Various Bible Translations
Christians who use the King James Version are often surprised to see God’s Name in that particular translation. The King James translators chose to use “Jehovah” in the following four verses:
“And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.” (Exodus 6:3)
“That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18)
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2)
“Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength.” (Isaiah 26:4)
The same translation uses “Jehovah” in the following three verses in references to places in which the Name was attached:
“And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh.” (Genesis 22:14)
“And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovahnissi.” (Exodus 17:15)
“Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovahshalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” (Judges 6:24)
The shortened form “Yah” (“Jah”) is used in the King James Version at Psalm 68:4. “Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.”
The 1901 American Standard Version (not to be confused with the New American Standard Bible), renders the Name as “Jehovah” in nearly 7,000 places throughout the translation of the Hebrew text. There are other translations of the Hebrew Bible that use “Yahweh”, “Yehovah”, and so on.
The World English Bible, which is a modern English update to the American Standard Version, uses the Name “Yahweh” in every occurrence of the four Hebrew letters “YHWH.”
In some translations, the four letters of the Divine Name have been rendered as “LORD” in all capital letters, where the original Hebrew is “YHWH.”
Why Is It Important to Know God’s Name?
Without knowing God’s Name as shown in the Hebrew or Aramaic Bible (the Name that God gave Himself), we can easily fall into the trap of idolatry. If we forget God’s Name, how can we, or generations after us, know how to call upon the Creator who gave Himself this very Name? We only have to look to our past when our ancestors, the Israelites, forgot the Torah and began worshiping false gods and idols from the nations around them. We only have to look at the present situation where some have fallen into the trap of worshiping the various “emanations” or “aspects” of God which they find in the idolatrous writings within the kabbalistic texts.
Without true knowledge of the Hebrew or Aramaic Scriptures, we can easily repeat the acts of our ancient ancestors, forget the Commandments of the Torah, and break the Covenant which YHWH has made with us. In doing so, we have no covenant with the God of Israel, and we will find ourselves set outside of God’s favor and blessing.
Ezekiel 38:23 says, “I will magnify myself, and sanctify myself, and I will make myself known in the eyes of many nations; and they shall know that I am YHWH.”
“Moses said to God, ‘Behold, when I come to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you;’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What should I tell them?’… God said moreover to Moses, ‘You shall tell the children of Israel this, ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is MY NAME FOREVER, and this is my memorial TO ALL GENERATIONS.” (Exodus 3:13,15)
The fact that scholars do not agree on the actual pronunciation of the Name, that is, whether it is said as “Yahweh” or “Yehovah” or other similar renderings, does not release us from the responsibility of recognizing that Name in its original form of “YHWH” or the commonly used form “Yah”. YHWH says “this is my name forever” and it will be His “memorial to all generations.” Ezekiel, already quoted above, says that we shall know that God is YHWH.
If we wish call upon the true God of Israel and to direct our prayers to Him alone, we must recognize and use His Name. This is very clear from the Hebrew Scriptures. YHWH is the Divine Name of the Creator.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, that you may be no priest to me. Because you have forgotten your God’s Law, I will also forget your children.” (Hosea 4:6)
Returning to the True Faith
If you would like to return to the purity of the ancient Hebrew (the “Old Paths”), you are encouraged to study the original text itself, but if it is not possible for you to learn Hebrew or Aramaic, it would be best to use a decent translation of the Tanakh that faithfully renders the Name of our Creator without replacing it with other words.
The religion of the ancient Israelites who remained faithful to YHWH is recorded for us in the Hebrew/Aramaic Scriptures known as the Tanakh. While later versions and revisions of the texts may not be perfect, we do have assurance that God’s Word is sufficient for us to learn His Law and His Commandments, and to know what Name to call upon Him in our prayers. You are encouraged to associate with those who love the One God of Israel, who do not follow after the ways false religion, and who uphold the sanctity of the original Scriptures.
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. With my whole heart, I have sought you. Don’t let me wander from your commandments. I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, YHWH. Teach me your statutes.” (Psalm 119:9-12)
If you would like to learn more about the religion of the Tanakh and to know more about YHWH and His purposes for humanity, please obtain our free publications at www.torahscribe.org