When I ask people, “what is God’s name”, I get many different responses. Almost never do I get the answer as given almost 7000 times in the “old Testament”.
God clearly gives his name, and explains it, in Exodus 3:14-16:
“God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, 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 thus I am to be remembered throughout all your generations.
In the Christian world there is much debate and discussion as to what those verses actually mean. Many come up with saying that his name is “I AM”. Many scholars¹ agree that this is more a definition or clarification of who He is, and not his proper name. There is also the interesting fact that he Hebrew grammar here implies past, present and future tense. But it is more interesting to note that His name, as represented by the four Hebrew letters, yud, hey, vav, hey, (YHVH in English) is obscured by the use of the word, in all capitals, “LORD”. It is this word, “LORD”, that appears over 6800 times and has the letters YHVH behind it in the original Hebrew. Interestingly, this replacement occurs in both Christian and Jewish texts. Most Jews, though, know what lies behind the word. Those four letters are commonly called the “Tetragrammaton”.
Confusion does not exist in the Jewish world. It is clear in the Hebrew what God’s name is. (No, I am not a Hebrew scholar and will not try to give Hebrew lessons. However, there are many linguistic scholars out there that can explain it, and even some Christian scholars. For example, Nehemia Gordon is a Jewish linguist and Keith Johnson is a Christian scholar. Both Keith Johnson and Nehemia Gordon have web sites promoting God’s name²).
There may be differences on how to pronounce His name, and I’m not going into that here, but what His name is is clear. I go with Yehovah mostly. Most Christians have heard of “Yahweh”, which is a mostly Christian attempt at pronouncing His name.
Does it matter if we know His name? Throughout scripture God refers to His name (one minor example: Isaiah 52:6). Do a search on the phrase ‘my name’ in the Bible. It’s an interesting quick study.
Both in the Christian and Jewish worlds, many different words are used in place of His name. LORD, HaShem, ADONAI – are some of them. In scripture, there is a shortened form of His name that is used. It is, “Yah”. Most often you will find this name tacked on to the back or front of a word or person’s or place’s name. Most people know the word, “Hallelujah”, which means ‘praise to Yah.’
In this blog, I will most often use LORD, as this blog is mostly targeted to Christians. However, I may at times also use “Yah”, or spell out His name as YHVH.
¹Some of the commentators that support this idea: Elliott’s Commentary; Benson Commentary; Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary