Why Jehovah and Yahweh are not God’s name

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©2019 by George Yazigi

A– Contrary to popular belief, the words Jehovah and Yahweh (including some related variations) are not God’s name by which God Himself wanted to be identified when Moses asked what to tell the Hebrews about who sent him! [Exodus 3:13-15]

There are even sects and cults developed and created around these words, under the pretext that God’s name was given to Moses either in that form or with a slight variation. However, all this, is unsupported Biblically and cannot be proven semantically or even historically. On the contrary, it is much easier to support the opposite thesis as the punch line suggests.

The concept of naming someone or something emanated during the first days of creation when Adam was given the privilege to name Eve [Genesis 3:20] and before that virtually to name all things and creatures under his dominion [Genesis 2:20].

This concept of giving a proper name denotes that the one who is naming is in a way having more prominence or precedence over the named entity. For example, humans would give names to their children, pets, or even computer filenames. Council authorities would name a street, a city or an airport. With God this is not applicable, because God is the Most High Almighty Creator, nobody can have any prominence or precedence over Him. Thus, nobody can give a proper name to God except by identifying Him with a role or function which could evolve into a form of a name but not a proper name in the sense we understand.

Based on this simple principle, the name of God cannot be authored or derived by humans, and must be directly given by God Himself and should denote a unique feature of God’s essence not necessarily His role or character. Something which was not evident in the Hebrew tradition and Tanakh, where the name of the Almighty was mentioned in different verses based on His role or character such as:

Name Meaning in English
El Generic for god or creator [from old Phoenician]
Eloah Another form of generic god
Elohim Denoting the pluralistic oneness of the deity El
Elohai My God [Elohim of me]
El Shaddai The Almighty
Tzevaot Lord of Hosts
Adonai My Lords [pluralistic oneness]
Adoshem Combines Adonai and Hashem [My Lords the Name]
Elah God
El Roi God the seeing
Elyon God Most High
El Olam The Everlasting – Eternal God
HaShem The Name
Shalom Peace
Shekhinah The one who dwells (among humans)
Oshe(kha) (Your) Creator – Maker
Yotser(o) Maker
Po’ali Maker – my maker [doer]
Kadosh Israel The Holy one of Israel
_Rapha The Lord that healeth
_Niss’i The Lord our Banner
_Ro’i The Lord my shepherd
_Shammah The Lord is present
_Tsidkenu The Lord our Righteousness
_Yireh The Lord will provide
_ The underscore is used to indicate that a word was present as a prefix (Adonai, Jehovah or YHWH)

Table 1

These are the main names by which, God Almighty used to be identified in the Tanakh and other books of the Old Testament. None of these names was used as a proper name (noun) for God. As mentioned above, all of these were denoting a function, role, quality, attribute, character or a combination of these, with the exception of HaShem (The Name) which was an abstract hypothetical proper noun of God, and AdoShem which is a combined name meaning My Lords the Name (Adonai + HaShem). Although other names were less common in use, however, none mentioned Jehovah or Yahweh in their original form! In certain translations, Genesis 22:14 mentions Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord will provide). This could have not been the case, because God told Moses after that event in Exodus 6:2-5 “I did not make myself known to them by my name, YHWH”. How come, Abraham, called that place like this before God revealed His name to Moses? The true name of the place should be Adonai-Jireh as indicated in the Jewish Bible, however many translators made a substitution based on the contextual consistency concept in translation and used Jehovah instead of Adonai.

B– Not until we reach Exodus 3:13-15 that God directly told Moses about His proper name (noun) denoting His unique essence “The Existing One” Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh or what in English is rendered in many translations as I Am That I Am. Ehyeh is the perfect tense of “I exist” (or I will exist in imperfect tense) in Paleo Hebrew giving the sense of continuity from the past into the future. Asher is a relative pronoun such as “which”, or “that”. Therefore, Exodus 3:14 becomes: I exist because I exist, I will exist because I will exist, I am who I am, I am that which exists, I will be who I will be. All these combined convey the meaning of Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh due to the dynamic nature of the Hebrew language we cannot limit its translation to one verbal state in English.

Let’s examine Exodus 3:15, God mentions that His name is YHWH (at least this is how it appears in many English translations), the famous Tetragrammaton, basically this is related to the word Ehyeh mentioned in Exodus 3:14. We have two verbs expressing the meaning of God’s existence:

Exodus 3:14: Ehyeh means I exist (the first person of verb H-Y-H pronounced Haya)

Note that the third person of this verb is Yihyeh (He Exists); and

Exodus 3:15: Yihweh also means He exists (the third person of the verb Hawa with Aramaic root older version of Haya) which becomes YHWH when the “i” and the “e” are omitted.

Therefore, when God wanted to talk about Himself, He knows Himself as the eternal being, He used the first person of the verb Haya which is Ehyeh.

When Moses wanted to talk about God he used the verb Hawa (meaning breath, life, or mild wind, it also means to fall, to become in old Aramaic) in the third person which is Yihweh (Exodus 3:15) or also he could have used the equivalent form from the verb Haya as Yihyeh, these two have the same meaning with only a slight difference of “yod” used instead of “waw” (vav) depending on the speaking mode and root of the verb.

Therefore, the proper name of God Almighty is the verb Haya (from “life” Semitic root) but in Paleo Hebrew, it means a continuous existence or “I Exist” or simply the eternally existing one. However, in the third person, this verb becomes Yihyeh if using Haya or Yihweh when using the verb Hawa.

Because God’s name is a verb denoting eternal existence and dynamic continuity, which form should we use depends on the position in the sentence and the speaking mode. We can’t use the first person if we want to talk about God Almighty unless we want to mention the full expression Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh. Otherwise, the person will be in this case addressing himself as “I exist” not implying God. However, when God tells us this is my name Ehyeh we should not translate it because it is already a conjugated verb in a specific language. Therefore, we can call Him in the language He declared Himself with and the way He commanded us to call Him as He is known to Himself: Ehyeh.

If we wanted to talk about God to someone, we need to use the third person of either the verb Haya, or Hawa, which is rendered as Yihweh (YHWH) or Yihyeh (YHYH) meaning He Exists or the one who He Exists or more dynamically, the one who has existed, exists and will exist.

In other words when calling the name of God for prayer it is more appropriate to use Ehyeh, however, when introducing God to someone (Gospel) it is more appropriate to use Yihweh or Yihyeh.

Having said that, if Moses in those days spoke English, the Almighty would have spoken to him in English and told him about His name as “The Existing One” or “I Am That I Am”. Because in the Tanakh there is no reference that God gave Moses a special tongue similar to the ones given to the apostles at Pentecost. It is safe to assume that the Almighty had spoken with Moses in one of the following  Languages:  Egyptian, Midianite,  and Paleo Hebrew. My opinion is that God spoke with Moses in Paleo Hebrew because, Moses wrote that conversation in the Tanakh as if he was reporting what God was saying without mentioning any translation process, and because Paleo Hebrew was a common denominator among all languages in that area, that’s why God told Moses twice about His name in Exodus 3:14 and 15, the first time in Paleo Hebrew in 14 and second time in Hebrew still but with Aramaic and ancient Semitic roots which were understood by the Hebrews, the Midianites, and the Egyptians.

C– The error that many scholars fall in, is when they address God as Yahweh or Jehovah. Let’s investigate first why Yahweh is not the correct name of God, instead, we should use Yihweh.

The question is, does a change in one letter make that difference? Most assuredly yes, especially if we are dealing with two different languages having some common Semitic roots, Hebrew vs Ancient Egyptian (includes other roots as well such as Midianite).

The prefix Yah (Iah/Jah) has long been used as the name of the Moon-god in the Egyptian Pantheon it simply means Moon. Therefore, Yahweh means “becomes (full) Moon” picturing the Moon cycle. Besides, Yahweh was also part of the Moabite and Canaanite Pantheon even earlier than the Exodus took place. Add to this, the Holy Bible describes the neighbors of Israel as pagan nations (such as the Edomites, the Midianites, and the Moabites), but these nations worshiped Yahweh as deity before and after the period of the Exodus. How come they were pagans in the eyes of the Israelites? Well, this is where a single letter (two different languages) made that huge difference! These nations were worshiping the Moon-god of the Egyptians, its name was Yah, and the “weh” was added as a suffix denoting becoming or happening from the verb to fall (HWY Semitic roots very close to the verb Hawa in its Aramaic form but reduced in the ancient Egyptian to just “to fall and to become” but not to exist) to explain the moon cycle of becoming a full Moon with full illumination from the old Egyptian-Canaanite root Yah-wr meaning full moon. The “weh” could have also evolved from “wr” (Canaanite root) meaning full. Till now we indicate that an event falls on a certain day, this comes from that same root HWY used in the word Yahweh. In all cases, these nations were not worshiping the true God of the Bible Yihweh whose name was a verb in Paleo Hebrew denoting eternal and continuous existence! This potentially is one of the reasons (in addition to not taking His name in vain) why the Hebrews avoided pronouncing the name of God and used the Tetragrammaton because it is (as it appears in English) potentially without vowels so that no distinction is made between Yahweh and Yihweh (YHWH). This came to help those of them who fell into idolatry to keep worshiping their Moon-god, while keeping the tradition of Moses in the Tanakh. Even though God clearly warned, among others, against the worship of the Moon in Deuteronomy 4:19.

It would have been impossible that God Almighty identified Himself as a Moon god to Moses especially that he forbade the Israelites from worshiping the Moon as mentioned above. Besides, the Paleo Hebrew text is clear, Yihweh (first-person meaning He Exists or the Existing one) was the name by which Moses introduced God to the Hebrews, not Yahweh (becoming (full) Moon). On top of that, God called Himself as Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh [Exodus 3:14] in the first person (Ehyeh) not Yahweh.

God gave Moses His name in two verb variations to cover the full understanding of Existence and dynamic continuity (eternal life) using the ancient Aramaic root embedded in the Paleo Hebrew (Hawa) and Paleo Hebrew (Haya), both of which were still in use by the Hebrews in the days of Moses.

Therefore, Yahweh denotes a pagan Moon god in Ancient Egyptian.

However, in Paleo Hebrew, Yihweh denotes the Almighty true God which appeared to Moses and gave him His name as two verbs, equivalent in meaning but not necessarily in pronunciation. Due to their semantic roots, conjugation of the verbs, and whether the first person or the third person were used.

D– Where does the name Jehovah come from?

Jehovah is not the name of God, as it is a made-up name, by combining Adonai with YHWH, somehow similar to how AdoShem was made up, by combining Adonai with Hashem. But in this case, a Spanish Dominican monk, Raymundus Martini (1270AD) in order to facilitate the copying of the scriptures (also in his work Pugeo Fidei) came up with a method to combine Adonai (My Lords) with YHWH (Tetragrammaton from conjugating the verb Hawa), he took the vowels from Adonai and inserted them after every letter of YHWH, he ended up with the sound of Yahowah or “Yehovah” When Latinised it became Jehovah especially after introducing the letter “J” by Gian Giorgio Trissino in 1524AD.

(Strong’s #3068)
(Strong’s #136)
יYodYאAlephglottal stop
ְSimple shevaEֲHataf patahA

Courtesy Wikivisually.com

It would have been irrelevant for God to call Himself a combined name in such a way, not even composed of two words, but of interjected vowels and letters (consonants). On top of that, the historical evidence is clear about when the word Jehovah was conceived as mentioned above, proving that this name was deduced by humans and not indicated by God himself following the principle of precedence/prominence discussed earlier.

E– In the above study, I have shown the reader with the help of the Holy Spirit that the true name of God Almighty cannot be Jehovah or Yahweh.

The true proper name (noun) of God, depending on its occurrence in the sentence, who the speaker is, and whether we are using Paleo Hebrew or ancient Aramaic, should either be Ehyeh, Yihweh or Yihyeh.

Thus, when many people declare Hallelujah / Halleluyah they are not praising the Almighty (at least unintentionally), but the Egyptian Moon-god. Some would say, oh yes, the word Yah came into ancient Egyptian worship after the Exodus events! This cannot be supported by following historic evidence. However, it was evident that the Egyptians used to worship the Moon under different names and Yah/Yah-wr was one of these names which started to be used alternatively with other names such as Thoth and Khonsu toward 1700BC, at least 250-200 years before the exodus. The Hebrews took the name of the moon (Yareakh) in their language from this very root Yah-Re-Ank meaning Moon-Sun-Light!

Having said that, what happens to all those names in the Holy Bible which were modified to have Yah in them? The simple answer is that a minor substitution must be done to reflect the correct pronunciation. Instead of Yah we have to use Weh from Yihweh [or Yihyeh] or Yeh from Ehyeh as indicated above. So, for example, Elijah would become Eli-Yih or Eli-Yeh, and Jesus name instead of Yah-Shua would become Yih-Shua or Yeh-Shua and so on.

F– Remember that the prefix Yah means Moon [noun – Old Egyptian], however, the suffix Yih or Yeh [Paleo Hebrew], and Weh [imported from Old Aramaic] are broadly equal verbs conjugated a bit differently (in Paleo Hebrew) which were indicated by God Himself to represent His proper name (noun) meaning Exist or the Existent!

There is no linguistic or historical evidence as to why most scholars preferred to use the name of God mentioned in Exodus 3:15 over the name mentioned in Exodus 3:14. The only nuance we may have is the sentence in verse 15: “This is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” Even though both names Eyheh and YHWH are equivalent in meaning and concept except for that one is in the first person Ehyeh and the second is in the third person Yihweh. Those promoting this nuance are forgetting that the two verses Exodus 3:14-15 where joined using the conjunction “And” at the start of each verse, and what applies to verse 15, logically must apply equally to verse 14. The other reasonable nuance would be that in verse 15, the name of God would be declared to someone (third-person), however, in verse 14 God Himself was declaring His name (first person).

My preference is to use the root from the Paleo Hebrew verb Haya, instead of using the root of the verb Hawa (old Aramaic). Irrespective of which root we use, we must be prudent to use the suffix (verb) not prefix (pronoun), because the pronoun without the verb will have an incomplete meaning.

One could also argue that the root of the name Hawa the original etymological root of the Tetragrammaton YHWH comes from “Avah” Strong H183 meaning to desire or to covet. And that YHWH was inserted in Exodus 3:15 by the deceiver and that the true word must be either the Most High (Elyon) or simply Ehyeh as mentioned in Exodus 3:14. This argument becomes a bit weak when one acquires the proper understanding of old Aramaic and Arabic (a form of Midianite). Whilst this is true in terms of etymology, however, if we think of the use of the word Avah which is the root of the word Hawa. Avah as a verb means to desire, to lust, or to covet, however as a word it means to desire, to long for, even to dream of. Nonetheless, the Paleo Hebrew took that word/verb and used it in a different context which denotes life and existence. For example, in French, the verb “Assiste(r)” means to attend a meeting or to participate in an event, however, in English to Assist means to help! Same root and pronunciation, but two different contexts one for each language. Knowing that when we use the description “Social Assistant” it has the same context as “Assistante Sociale” in French. Assist comes from Latin root “Assistere” meaning to take a stand, stand by, stand near, attend! In English, it became to help. Now if in a sentence I have: “God is assisting His people” should this be translated into French based on the word etymology as “God is [attending] his people”? Of course not, contextually it means God is helping His people, and we cannot go into the Latin root and say it should mean that God is [attending] His people! In other words, in Exodus 3:15, I reckon the Almighty meant to use the Paleo Hebrew context of the verb which is related to the old Aramaic Hawa, not the root of the root of that verb which relates to Avah. Quite obviously God will not declare His name to mean anything that is against His high standard of morality. There is, however, a possibility that the Almighty wanted to join the positive meaning of desiring Him and longing for Him with the concept of Existence and dynamic continuity. If Exodus 3:15 was not manipulated as some are suggesting, the concept of joining [the one who is longed for with the one that has continuous Existence] seems to be the most plausible explanation. However, if it was the case, the best way to identify the Almighty by His self-declared name is to use Ehyeh as mentioned in Exodus 3:14. In addition to the reason mentioned in paragraph C, I believe this type of uncertainty has led some Hebrew scholars not to pronounce the name of the Almighty.

G– I do firmly believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired word of God. Eventually, we as humans, cannot dictate what the Holy Bible should contain. It is evident that the Almighty did not instruct Moses to write YHWH, because God must have pronounced His name correctly either as Yihweh, Yihyeh, or Ehyeh depending on which mode He wanted Moses to tell the people about His name. Some would argue that Paleo Hebrew was consisting of 22 consonants and that it did not include any vowel letters, this is why Moses potentially wrote YHWH. This argument is also weak because Moses must have heard God correctly and clearly, and God would have never pronounced His name incorrectly or incompletely without the proper phonetics. Also, this fails the concept that the word of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit, which should have given Moses the accurate pronunciation. Besides, A (aleph), Y (Yod), H (He), W (Waw, vav) are the weak consonants which were considered the vowel letters in Paleo Hebrew! Therefore, there is no need to interjecting vowels from Adonai into YHWH to make-up the word Jehovah. Besides, the script YHWH is lacking the proper phonetic representative letters that Moses must have used, any reconstruction outside [Yihweh, Yihyeh] would mean that we are departing from the Paleo Hebrew conjugation of the verb Hawa, and may end being confusing the name of the Almighty with the name of a false deity the Moon-god of the ancient Egyptians. Therefore, YHWH may not be used because it doesn’t contain the needed phonetics to render the proper pronunciation semantically accurate and thus makes the name of God not conform to what originally God intended to express in terms of meaning, and allows for confounding between different deities should we approve the addition of “a” instead of “i”. This is like making up the word Jehovah which is based on the Tetragrammaton YHWH, indeed this is clearly considered as a human modification (irrespective of the motives), and therefore should not be accepted based on the simple precedence / prominence principle mentioned in A. Therefore, irrespective of the etymological ramifications and the motives of the copiers / translators, Ehyeh as it is found in Exodus 3:14 is a pure representation of the name of the Almighty, because it is grammatically conforming to the conjugation of the verb Haya and free of any copying and/or translation interventions.

This study may seem to be addressing a critical pronunciation issue to be just based on one letter difference (a) versus (i) in the name of the Almighty, however, in essence it is proving that this slight variation introduced by some translators has entered our worship and corrupted the way we pronounce the name of God, not only from a phonetic perspective but also from a fundamental and structural context on how the twisting of the word order (Prefix versus Suffix) can have detrimental consequences. Instead of calling on the true name of the Almighty God, unintentionally and unwittingly, we would be dragged on calling the name of a false god the Egyptian Moon-god!

One final thought, if addressing the Almighty by His Existential name was essential for Christians, Jesus our Lord, would have mentioned that in the Lord’s prayer. However, Jesus taught us to address the Almighty as “Our Father” not using any other name. This was meant to clarify the shift in the relationship from understanding the nature of God in the Old Testament with Moses, into becoming the Children of God through Jesus Christ. Besides, the Existential name of God Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh was to denote the Godhead as the united relational nature of God not necessarily to indicate individual Persons of the Godhead. In other words, the three Persons of the Godhead were/are Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh the continuously living and existing One, the Eternal Almighty God.

May the blessings of our Saviour God Jesus Christ be multiplied to you.