There is an upbeat song we occasionally sing with my local church family that has, in the chorus, the line, “Yahweh! Yahweh! We love to should your name, O Lord!”
The Bible refers to God in a variety of ways. You may be familiar with Elohiym, Eloah, Elohai, El Rohi, El Shaddai,and sometimes just El. Other places we find Adonai. What we find most often, however, is Yahweh. It occurs 6,823 times, but we are not certain that’s how to spell it or speak it.
The designation Yahweh originates in Exodus 3, where God was persuading Moses to go to Egypt to secure the release of the Hebrew captives. Moses is neck-deep in a flurry of excuses given to God to explain why he can’t go to Egypt when he lands on the excuse, “Well, what about when they ask me your name. Gods have to have names. What should I tell them?” God’s response is “I Am that I Am. Tell them I AM has sent you.”1
The “name” God gave to Moses is the tetragrammaton , a four letter theonym, יהוה, often represented as “YHWH” to refer to the God of the Hebrew Bible. It’s read from right to left (so we could more-accurately write it HWHY) and consists of the letters yodh heh waw heh. It’s not really a name, but rather a statement of God’s reality, God’s unique existence. Truth be told, God has no need for a name in the sense that we think of and use names.
I exist! I am! I am that I am!
The reason we don’t really know how to pronounce YHWH it is that the Hebrew rendering is absent any vowels. Yahweh is just our best guess.
The tetragrammaton is so holy that the Jews did not dare speak it for fear of violating Exodus 20:7 – “You do not take up the name of Yahweh for a vain thing, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who misuse his name.” Even when writing the name, ancient scribes would wash their hands before writing each letter of the tetragrammaton. We would do well to recapture some of that reverence for God Almighty.
You may be wondering, “If Yahweh is in my Bible almost 7,000 times, why don’t I see it?” Well, you do, but most translators have opted to render it with an all-upper-case LORD. Whenever you see that, you can read that as “Yahweh.”
Other translations will render the name as “Jehovah,” particularly in New Testament passages that quote the Old Testament. Others just render it Lord, but not all caps. It’s nothing more than my opinion, but I believe using the rendering “Yahweh” capture a greater depth of meaning that is lost with the use of “LORD” or “Lord.” But even more than that, the use of Yahweh grants us even greater insight into who, exactly, God is.
Yeshua – Jesus
The author of Hebrews references God, speaking of the Son:
He also says, “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.”
– Hebrews 1:10, ESV
In Hebrews 1, above, the writer is quoting from Psalm 102, a prayer Psalm that opens with the line, “Hear my prayer, O YHWH.” The entire psalm is a prayer of praise and petition to Yahweh, yet in Hebrews, it is addressed to and applied to the Son, Jesus, saying, in the beginning the Son laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of his hands. Jesus is the subject of this passage of scripture that describes the Creator God.
All three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tell us of the forerunner role played by John the Baptist. The role, “Prepare the way of the Lord,” was prophesied in Isaiah 40:3.
A voice of one calling:
In the desert prepare the way for Yahweh;
make straight paths in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
– Hebrews 1:10, ESV
Since John was preparing the way as described in both the gospels and Isaiah, there is no conclusion to draw but that Jesus is Yahweh. He is the Creator God. He is LORD. He is King.