YHWH: WHAT’S IN A NAME?

In researching the name of God, I was overwhelmed by the volume of materials and controversies among Christians and non-Christians surrounding the proper name of God. It made my head spin.  I first wanted the title to be “I AM WHAT I AM”, until the Holy Spirit prompted me this morning to build this paper around these four letters: YHWH.

Our Old Testament refers to the God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac as Adonai and Yahweh.  Biblical literature from the 12th century point to several hypothesis that Yahweh was a typical god in the ancient Near East, the “divine warrior” who leads the heavenly army against Israel’s enemies. Tradition and the exercise of faith throughout the centuries transformed “divine warrior” into “Yahweh”, God of the entire cosmos, creator, and true God.

According to wikipedia, Bible scholars such as Meindert Djikstra (El, the God of Israel, Israel the people of YHWH, 2001), and Robert Karl Gnuse (No Other Gods: Emergent Monotheism in Israel, 1997) wrote that several evidences showed that El was the original god of Israel.  Yahweh probably originated as a warrior-god in the region of Edom and Midian, south of Judah, and was introduced into the northern and central highlands by southern tribes such as the Kenites.  Another scholar, Karel Van Der Toorn, suggested that El’s rise to prominence was due to the influence of Saul, Israel’s first king, who was of Edomite background.  Saul became identified with El, to such an extent that El’s name became a generic word meaning simply “god”.

Polytheism prospered in Canaan in the first and second millennium,  expressed through the concepts of Divine Council and divine family.  This included El and Asherah, the seventy divine children or “stars of El”, including Baal, Astarte, Anat, Resheph, the sun-goddess Shapshu, and the moon-god Yerak.

Between the eight to the sixth centuries BC, El became identified as Yahweh.  Yahweh-El became the husband of the goddess Asherah, and the other gods and divine messengers became expressions of Yahweh’s power.  Yahweh was cast in the role of the Divine King ruling over all the other deities.  In Psalm 29:2, the “sons of God” were called upon to worship Yahweh.  Ezekiel 8-10 suggested that the temple itself became Yahweh’s palace, populated by his retinue.

There are scriptures pointing to the existence of the sons of God especially in the Ten Commandments given to Moses.  “There shall be no other gods before me”, implies that other gods existed.  But those who spiritualize the Bible prefer to imply these other gods as money, idols, leaders, or anything that takes focus away from the real God.

(At this point, may I ask:  How is your Judeo-Christian faith?  Is it strong enough?  Are you confused yet by how our faith developed?)

At the end of the seventh century BC, the worship of Yahweh was restricted to temples in Jerusalem, and his divinity was expressed in petitions for family relationships, protection for the oppressed, and in purity of conduct.  Also, in politics, the king was considered to have been appointed by Yahweh.

Yahweh as the divine king had powers attached to his name.  As compiled by Castle Books’ Bible Dictionary and Concordance, here are some of God’s names:

Yahweh-jireh (The Lord will see and provide) was the name given by Abraham to the place where he was stopped by an angel of the Lord as he was about to sacrifice Isaac. (Genesis 22:14)

There is Yahweh-nissi (The Lord is my banner), the name which Moses gave to the altar which he built after the Israelites had defeated the Amelekites. (Exodus 17:15)

There is Yahweh-shalom (The Lord send peace), the name which Gideon gave to the altar which he built when the Lord said to him, “Peace be unto thee.” (Judges 6:24)

Yahweh-shammah (The Lord is there), the name given to the city spoken of in the prophetical description of the Holy Land as communicated to Ezekiel. (Ezekiel 48:35, marginal notes.)

And Yahweh-tsidkenu (The Lord our righteousness), found in the marginal notes in Jeremiah 23:6 and 33:16.

Adonai, according to the bible dictionary of the New American Bible, is a plural of majesty and signifies “my Lord”.  It is the word which designates God and replaces the ineffable name YHWH, which no one was permitted to pronounce.

Meanwhile, NAB bible dictionary refers to Yahweh as the proper personal name of the God of Israel, signifying “I am who am” (Exodus 3:14-15).  It is commonly explained in reference to God as the absolute and necesary Being.  It may be understood of God as the Source of all created beings.  Out of reverence for this name, the term “Adonai”, “my Lord”, was later used as substitute.  The word “Lord” in the present version repesents this traditional usage.

In the Catholic faith, the word Yahweh was removed from vernacular worship in 2008.  The Congregation for Divine Worship and Disciple of the Sacraments has directed that the word “Lord” and its equivalent in other languages be used instead.  Today almost all Chrisitan bibles substitute “the Lord” and “God” for Yahweh.

But why abreviate the name Yahweh into YHWH?  Mainly because the ancient Hebrew language only uses consonants in its 22 letter alphabets.  This tetragrammaton (I just loved that  word) came from the alphabets Yod Hei Vav Hei.  English translators of the Hebrew Old Testament mistakenly pronounced it as JeHoVah, and the name stuck.  A church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, was even built around that name, and insisted that is the correct way to pronounce YHWH.  NAB Bible dictionary said that the word “Jehovah” arose from a false reading of this name as it is written in the current Hebrew text.

When I was writing my book ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT, EXIT ME, I stumbled upon a nugget, a personal revelation to Pastor Joseph Prince of New Creation Church, who said in his DVD:

“Do you know why the Jews shouted at Pontius Pilate to take down the inscription he had written on Jesus’ cross?  It is because the acronym was YHWH, which to the Jews was the unpronounceable name of God.  But read in full it means Yeshua HaNazorei VeMelekh HaYhudim.  That means “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews!” Church! That was His crime, for being the King of the Jews, and no matter how they railed against it, the Holy Spirit wrote it so that Jesus is YHWH!  And that’s why they had to transcribe it into Latin:  INRI, Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaerum!”  The letter J is inscribed as letter I in Latin.  Letter V is inscribed  as W in English.

Pastor Prince added another personal revelation, saying this was pointed out to him by the Lord:  the pictograms that accompany each letter in the Hebrew alphabet. The pictogram for Yod (Y) is an open hand; Hei (H) is window or Grace; Vav (W) is nail; and Hei (H) is window or Grace.  Therefore, YHWH in pictogram, if the Holy Spirit be praised, means “the hand of Grace nailed in Grace”

Without the Jews and Israelites even knowing it, Jesus Christ was already pointing to Himself as “I am who I am”.  Incredibly, His forthcoming crucifixion as King of the Jews was unwittingly expessed in the ancient tetragrammaton, YHWH!