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A study in the history of doctrine anent God’s name JHVH

By the Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee

Above is a picture of part of a stained-glass window such as is occasionally found in some mediaeval churches.  A friend once asked about the meaning of God’s Older Testament Hebrew name (as in the picture).  Should it be translated as ‘Lord’?   And what is the Hebrew pronunciation of this tetragrammaton [JHVH], at Genesis 2:4 and in Exodus [3:2-16 & 6:2]?”

I replied JHVH is probably to be derived from parts of the future and present and past participles of the Hebrew verb for “to be.”    JeHoVaH would then, as Je- + -ho- + -vah, be from Jihyeh + Hoveh + Havah.   It would thus mean the One Who always shall be Whom He is and always has been.  See too John 8:58 and Revelation 1:4 & 1:8 & 4:8 & 11:17 & 16:5. Then, it would not originate from the vowels of ’A:donaay (the Hebrew word meaning “lord”) – as especially modern Non-Christian Judaists and many other recent Non-Judaistic Scholars maintain, who thus confuse the word JHVH’s transmission with its origin.

Another (currently more usual) alleged derivation of JHVH, is from YaHWeH.  This would mean: “He Who causes to exist and Who maintains in existence.”  That would emphasize not so much the unchangeability of God Himself from and unto all eternity (cf. Malachi 3:6) – but rather the dependent nature of all created existence upon the independent one true God’s Own Being.   Cf. Psalm 33:6-9 & Romans 4:17 & Hebrews 11:3. 

JeHoVaH and YaHWeH – as distinct from their transmitted mispronunciations as ’A:donaay – both imply much the same.  God alone is; so He does not ex-sist (or de-pend on anything else).   And all else is not, but only ex-sists in Him Who alone is (Genesis 2:4f & Acts 17:26-28 & Colossians 1:16-17).   For He “alone is JEHOVAH.”   Psalm 83:18.

JHVH, whether originally pronounced Jehovah or YaHWeH, has been abbreviated in various ways – even in Holy Scripture itself.   This is seen in many “Jehovah”-combinations into place-names in the Bible – such as in Jehovah-jireh or “JHVH shall provide”; Jehovah- nissi or “JHVH is my banner”; and Jehovah-shalom or “JHVH is peace.”  Genesis 22:14; Exodus 17:15; Judges 6:24.  Moreover, JHVH is seen also in the abbreviation Yah or “Jah” (as in Psalm 68:4).  Again, also in Isaiah 12:1-4’s Jah Jehovah or “the Lord JEHOVAH” and “Praise Jehovah.”  So too, of course, in hallelu-Jah (translated as “praise ye the Lord!”) in Psalms 104:35 & 105:45 & 106:1 etc.

There are also the abbreviated “Jeho”-combinations.  Thus: Jeho-adah or “JHVH unveils” in First Chronicles 8:36; Jeho-addan or “JHVH gives delight” in Second Kings 14:2; Jeho-ahaz or “JHVH upholds” in Second Chronicles 25:17; and Jeho-ash or “JHVH supports” in Second Kings 11:21.  So too: Jeho-hanan or “JHVH is gracious”; Jeho-hoida or “JHVH knows”; Jeho-iachin or “JHVH establishes”; Jeho-iakim or “JHVH sets up”; Jeho-iarib or “JHVH contends”; Jeho-nadab or “JHVH is generous”; and Jeho-nathan or “JHVH gives.”   So too: Jeho-ram or “JHVH is high”; Jeho-shabeath or “JHVH makes oath”; Jeho-shaphat or “JHVH judges”; Jeho-sheba or “JHVH swears”; Jeho-shua or “JHVH saves”; Jeho-vah or “JHVH is”; Jeho-zabad or “JHVH endows”; and Jeho-zadak or “JHVH is just…” [keep reading]