breadYahweh, Yahveh, God, Jehovah, Sacred Name, Yahwist, Holy Name, God's name, Memorial Name, tetragrammaton, Hebrew name
Isa 42:8 “I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images.”
I’m sorry. “the LORD” is not a name. It is a title. For reasons we will examine later most English Bibles replace the name that is in the Hebrew text with this title. Fortunately not all bibles do this. The Emphasized Bible is one that does not.
“I, am Yahweh, [Hebr. hwhy] that, is my Name,––And, my glory, to another, will I not give, Nor, my praise, to images.” (Emphasized Bible (EB), by J.B.Rotherham, see also, Ex 15:3, Jer 33:2, Amos 5:8, 9:6, Isa 47:4)
" Therefore, behold me! causing them to know, by this stroke, I will cause them to know my hand, and my might,––That they may know, that, my name, is, Yahweh!”( Jer 16:21, EB)
Although it is not clear in many Bibles the God of the Hebrew Scriptures has a name. God or Lord, the titles typically used to refer to the Creator are not the only way He was referenced in the original Hebrew Scriptures. Actually most of the time a title is not used at all, but the name. Of almost 10,000 references to the Creator in the Hebrew Scriptures almost 7000 are made using His name, typically transliterated Yahweh in English. In Hebrew it is written, hwhy, (YHVH being the rough English equivalent. Hebrew reads right to left). These characters are referred to as the Tetragrammaton. Considering the above scriptures it seems evident He intended His name to be known.
Consider as well that many Hebrew names and words include this name of the Creator in abbreviated form. Yo, as in Yowceph (Joseph, meaning: Yahweh has added Gen 30:24). Yah, as in Eliyah (Elijah: Yahweh is God). Hallelujah, is praise you Yah. So use of the name in one form or another was pervasive in Hebrew speech. Even a nick name, an abbreviation, is used in scripture and is easily visible in many translations.
Ps 68:4 “Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name YAH , And rejoice before Him.”
Abusing His Name
It seems apparent that the Creator was quite comfortable with people knowing His name and using it. Unfortunately, with use can come abuse. He instructs us "You shall not take the name of Yahweh(the LORD) your God in vain, for Yahweh (the LORD) will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." (Ex 20:7) The Hebrew (shawv) behind ‘vain’ means: emptiness, vanity, falsehood. The Emphasized Bible interprets this as connecting His name with falsehood. For instance, it was evidently not uncommon to swear by ones’ God that something was true or would be done (Gen 24:3, Josh 2:12). A similar command was included later in the Law reinforcing that aspect of the command in Exodus 20.
Lev 19:12 "Nor swear by my name, falsely,––And so profane the name of thy God: I, am Yahweh.” (EB)
Evidently swearing truthfully by Yahweh was allowed with the Law. He did not appreciate being connected with falsehood even indirectly. Of course, Jesus/Yeshua (another identity issue) taught that swearing by anything really had its source from Satan and should not be done (Mat 5:33-37). It simply was not necessary. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the original instruction in Exodus 20:7 may have intended more than just a separation from direct falsehood.
Paul accused Jews of causing the name of God to be blasphemed by gentiles because of the Jews transgression of the Law (Rom 2:23-24). He also instructed that wives obey their husbands so the husbands don’t blaspheme or denigrate the Creators instruction (Titus 2:5). Messiah also condemned following the teachings of men in place of the instruction of the Father as vain worship (Mat 15:9). It stands to reason that one who teaches these doctrines of men claiming they are of the Father are using His name, His authority, to promote falsehoods. Any conduct unrepresentative of the Creator by someone who claims to represent the Creator is taking His name in vain. That is the thought behind Proverbs 30:9 where Solomon equates stealing to taking the name in vain. If we say we follow Christ, but don’t live to His standard we bring reproach on Him and the Father. We have attributed our actions to Him falsely.
Some also use the title God or some form of it or the name of Jesus as an expletive. This can be similar to an oath or it might just be a filler or exclamation. Certainly there is no serious desire for divine involvement by people who reference Him this way. The speaker usually just has a thoughtless habit of making a reference to one of the deities. Certainly this trivializes the sometimes critical times when we do need to call for divine intervention. It is certainly not showing respect, but trivializing. As such it could be taken as using the name in vain, emptiness. There is no uplifting purpose for it.
In scripture ‘Yahweh’ is described as a name, not some other description. Except for the fact that He is somewhat unique in that He created us, we should reasonably expect that His name would be used like any other name. Like our parents, who also created us, He is deserving of respect, even more so. His name is holy, as is everything else about Him. Since He doesn’t tell us otherwise, having special rules when referring to Him by name as opposed to referring to Him by some other designation smacks of superstition and the occult, where magic words bring special reactions from the spirit world.
Fear of abuse is evidently why the name fell into disuse. The Jews evidently started avoiding His name after they returned from Babylon. By New Testament times the practice was fairly well entrenched. To this day His name is avoided in Jewish synagogues in favor of Adonai (Lord) or Ha Shem (the name).
Fear of Abuse
The Jews are so careful about the name that even the material on which it is written is considered holy. When the document becomes old or unusable it is not thrown away, but must be handled according to a prescribed way. Geniza’s are basically closets where Jewish documents on which His name was written are stored until someone goes through the trouble of destroying them. ‘a "geniza" is a repository for worn documents that bear the name of God and therefore according to Jewish halakhah must be disposed of in a prescribed way’. (http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/divinity/rt/dss/abstracts/ddcr/ ).
Some have postulated that the Jews originally maintained the Hebrew Tetragrammaton in their Greek writings. This is seen in a Greek fragment of a Septuagint translation found in Egypt (Biblical Archaeology Review 3/78 Vol IV #1 PP 13-14). There is also a Hebrew document written in square Aramaic script found in Qumran where hwhy is written in the older Paleo-Hebrew characters. Evidently in some cases the Name is preserved in gold letters. Certainly this shows a deep respect for the Name. Is this what Yahweh intended?
What purpose is accomplished by using an old style of Hebrew script for the Name in a newer and otherwise equivalent Hebrew document? Would it change the pronunciation? Would it change the meaning? Would it change the reference from one Creator to some other? There doesn’t seem to be anyone saying it would. In that case one must regard this practice as superstition or at least partially unfounded paranoia. There is no instruction in the Scriptures that indicates Yahweh’s name is to be handled any different than any other name except that it is assumed some will abuse it and even take the authority of the Creator Himself for their own unrighteous purpose.
This influence rubbed off on the entire Jewish community in New Testament times. Quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures with the name ‘Yahweh’ are not quoted as written, but with the name replaced with a title.
Mat 4:4 “But He answered and said, "It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’" This is a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3.
Deu 8:3 " So he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna which thou hadst not known, neither had thy fathers, known,––that he might lead thee to consider that, not on bread alone, shall the son of earth live, but, on whatsoever cometh from the bidding of Yahweh, shall the son of earth live.” (EB)
The name was in the original Hebrew text, but a substitution was made in the quote. This shouldn’t be a big surprise. There are a number of indications that the Apostles were not entirely free of Jewish tradition.
Peter tells us: "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." (Acts 10:28)
John 4:9 ‘Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.’
Gal 2:11 “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.”
It was Jewish tradition to avoid gentiles. There is nothing in the Law that requires this. In fact the instruction of the Law requires Israel to be careful for the gentiles that were among them. (Ex 22:21, Lev 19:34).
What is the point?
Jer 23:26 "How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, 27 who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal”.
It is interesting that ‘baal’ actually means ‘lord’. So here Yahweh equates those who tried to turn people from Yahweh’s way to a false way, with their fathers who exchanged His name, Yahweh, for Lord. And what stands in the place of Yahweh’s name in our Bibles…’the Lord’. This obviously didn’t please our Creator then, why would we think it appropriate now?
When Jews read the Hebrew scriptures they typically read Yahweh as Adonai, which is Hebrew for Lord. Undoubtedly that is why ‘the Lord’ is substituted in our English Bibles. Those who try to make people forget His name have struck again.
While this is certainly a problem, it doesn’t seem to be nearly the problem that turning people from His ways is. In saying “who try to make My people forget My name”, He does not seem to be focused on the pronunciation of His name. He is concerned about those who “prophesy lies in My name” as if from Him (vs 25, 26) and “prophets of the deceit” (vs 26). Yahweh wants His message spoken as delivered: “let him speak My word faithfully” (vs 28). Not replaced with another message so that the truth is lost or rather stolen: “who steal My words every one from his neighbor” (vs 30). The end result is that they: “cause My people to err by their lies” (vs 32).
Why is He concerned about His name?
Ex 3:15 "Moreover God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD [Yahweh] 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 this is My memorial to all generations.’"”
Yahweh considers His name as a fitting sign and affirmation to the human race of who He is. What does His name show us that using a title would not? Titles, by their nature are usually somewhat formal. They do not engender a close intimate relationship. We call our friends by their name, not by title, because they are our friends. People whom we address by title we typically don’t know very well. Our Creator does not intend to be a distant and unapproachable potentate who wishes to remain aloof and unknowable. To the contrary, He is approachable and wishes an intimate first name relationship with those who recognize His position in the grand scheme of things and conduct their life accordingly.
II Chron 16:9 "For the eyes of the LORD (Yahweh) run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him..."
Jas 2:23 “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.” This is referencing II Chron 20:7 "… Abraham Your friend forever”
Ex 34:5 “And Yahweh descended in the cloud, and took his station with him, there,––and proclaimed himself by the name Yahweh. 6 So Yahweh passed before him, and proclaimed,––Yahweh, Yahweh, A GOD of compassion, and favour,––Slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and faithfulness: 7 Keeping lovingkindness to a thousand generations, Forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin, Though he leave not, utterly unpunished, Visiting the iniquity of fathers Upon sons, And upon sons’ sons, Unto a third and unto a fourth generation.” (EB)
Ex 25:8 "And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”
Deu 4:7 "For what great nation is there which hath gods nigh unto it,––like Yahweh our God, whensoever we have cried out unto him.” (EB)
Jer 23:23 "Am I a God near at hand," says (Yahweh) the LORD, "And not a God afar off?”
Mat 15:32 ‘Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, "I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way."’
Heb 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
The memorial that could be established through the use of the Creators name would be a testimony to His closeness and approachableness. He has a committed desire to share life with us as our friend. He is not a regent in an ivory tower who cares little about the peasants. English speakers have largely been robbed of the concept of the personal relationship He hoped to communicate with this memorial, His name.
Although some have tried to hide His name and the implication that Yahweh is real and personable and within reach, others seem to think that any time one refers to Yahweh one should use His name. While His name is obviously important to Him, walking in His ways are even more so.
Mat 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing exactly what Yeshua said in place of ‘Lord’. He undoubtedly spoke Hebrew or Aramaic. The text generally considered the best representation of what He said is Greek. Even if it were Hebrew He could have still used Yahweh’s name and it could have been recorded as Adonai because of Jewish tradition. It could be that Yeshua even deferred to that tradition. Actually it seems that He did.
While Messiah was on earth the Jews among whom He lived had already established the tradition of avoiding the use of the Father’s name. This is why the kingdom of God is often described as the kingdom of heaven in the New Testament. It’s the same thing, but for people of that time it avoided the use of the name. Consider that Yeshua and later His disciples and apostles were frequently in contact with participants and leaders from the religious community that supported avoidance of the name. It was His custom to be at the synagogue for the Sabbath. Yet we read of no definitive contention about that matter. Paul also typically sought out the local synagogue on the Sabbath when he went about evangelizing. He would typically be allowed to speak. There is never any discussion about the use of the Father’s name. Neither is there any instruction to newly converted Jews or gentiles to disregard the tradition and use the Hebrew names. Neither are non Hebrew speaking converts told to use the Hebrew names. The vast majority of Paul’s converts were from Greek speaking areas. The Father’s name was not an issue.
Mat 7:22 "Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’"
Messiah didn’t dispute that these people had done things in His name. He rejected them because of their conduct. They did not uphold the standards of their Creator.
In any case, just because one addresses our Creator respectfully doesn’t guarantee acceptance. One must conduct Himself in a way that is properly representative of the Creator. Even those who address Him respectfully and appropriately are contrasted with those who do His will. Properly addressing is not foremost in His mind when it comes to doing His will. If it were of great importance it seems Yeshua would have said ‘but he who also does the rest of the will’ or “but he who does all the will’ or ‘but he who does the whole will’ of the Father. In fact, it is how one conducts one’s life rather than the name or title one uses to address the Savior or the Father that will be the basis for acceptance into His kingdom.
Calling on the Name
The concept of calling on the name of Yahweh is found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. Some think that if one calls on ‘the name’ of the Creator they should absolutely use His name. In fact, to call on the name of Yahweh is to seek Him to walk in His ways to come under His protection and authority. It is not automatically an exhortation to verbalize His name. Certainly it should be no surprise that His name would be used.
Prov 1:27 “When your terror comes like a storm, And your destruction comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. 28 Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD, 30 They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke."
Calling on His name is equivalent, parallel, to seeking Him diligently. Not diligently seeking the ways of Yahweh, not fearing Him and ignoring His advice is what one does when one does not call on Him. Calling on Him involves diligent seeking, great respect for Him and His advice, but this can’t be done at the last minute. The pronunciation of the name is not mentioned one way or the other.
1Pet 1:17 “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear”
Calling on the Father or calling on His name requires we conduct ourselves in respect of the time when He will examine our work, what we have done, our conduct. Part of that is respect for His name, but there are many other aspects of our conduct that are more important. The mouthing of His name is not singled out as a key component of respect for Him any more than time appropriate mouthing of our parents’ names or anyone else.
Lev 22:31 "So then ye shall observe my commandments, and do them,––I, am Yahweh. 32 So shall ye not profane my holy name, So shall I be hallowed in the midst of the sons of Israel,––I, am Yahweh, who am hallowing you.” (EB)
Just like calling on Him does not necessarily require mouthing His name, even so profaning His name is not primarily mispronouncing it or neglecting its use. He does not specifically tell us how He wants it pronounced, but He tells us many other things about how to honor Him. Of course, observing the commandments is foremost. By observing His commandments we automatically avoid profaning His name, indeed we hallow it.
We have the Hebrew spelling of His name, but the original Hebrew spelling did not include the vowel sounds. Actually there is a significant amount of disagreement as to how the name should be pronounced. Some have speculated this is thanks to disinformation that came from Judaism.
When scripture is specific about the pronunciation of names it typically tells us to ‘call his/her name’ a certain way (Gen 16:11, 17:15). To call the name of someone is different than calling on the name. Calling the name is making the sounds necessary to identify who in being referenced. To call on the name involves a deeper purpose, a request for protection and support, a reliance on the authority or power of Yahweh. Yahweh expects those who call on His name to support His cause and live by His standards.
Ac 19:13 “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches."
They called the name, but evidently didn’t call on the name in their lives by the conduct expected. That was insufficient and resulted in these Jews being beaten up.