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Who is Yahweh?

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This post is also available in: Norsk (Norwegian)

If you have been reading through the different articles at this site, you will have noticed that I occasionally refer to God as “Yahweh,” and the “Lord,” written with capital letters. Perhaps you’re wondering where Yahweh comes from. It might not be apparent right away, but it occurs over 6000 times in the Old Testament, beginning with the first book, chapter two:

These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.

Genesis 2:4, ESV

The Lord written with capital letters is an indication from the Bible translators that the underlying Hebrew text is the divine name for God: Yahweh. This is not a secret that the Bible translators are trying to hide from Christians (unlike what certain other groups want you to believe).

Bible translators are quite open about it. As far as I know, every Bible translation includes a notice about this. For instance, the preface to the acclaimed English translation, the ESV, includes this note:

In the translation of biblical terms referring to God, the ESV takes great care to convey the specific nuances of meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words. First, concerning terms that refer to God in the Old Testament: God, the Maker of heaven and earth, introduced himself to the people of Israel with a special personal name, the consonants for which are YHWH (see Exodus 3:14–15). Scholars call this the “Tetragrammaton,” a Greek term referring to the four Hebrew letters YHWH. The exact pronunciation of YHWH is uncertain, because the Jewish people considered the personal name of God to be so holy that it should never be spoken aloud. Instead of reading the word YHWH, therefore, they would normally read the Hebrew word’ adonay (“Lord”), and the ancient translations into Greek, Syriac, and Aramaic also followed this practice. When the vowels of the word’ adonay are placed with the consonants of YHWH, this results in the familiar word Jehovah that was used in some earlier English Bible translations. As is common among English translations today, the ESV usually renders the personal name of God (YHWH) by the word Lord (printed in small capitals).

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

As the translators noted, we cannot be entirely sure about how the divine name was initially pronounced—but the most likely choice is “YAH-weh,” or something akin to it like “YAH-way.” Most contemporary scholars agree on this. They surmise this for a couple of reasons. First, there are related names and phrases in the Bible. For instance, “Halleluja,” which in Hebrew is literally “Praise Yah,” a short form of Yahweh. Then based on other Semitic languages related to Hebrew, they have reconstructed the pronunciation, Yahweh. The result seems to be related to the Hebrew word for “he is/he will be.” Which makes sense since God links the name to his self-existence, which is the second reason. After God had first appeared to Moses out of the burning bush, and Moses asked him for his name, he answered:

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: ‘Yahweh, 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 generations.”

Exodus 3:14–15, ESV, edited to include the divine name

Pay attention to the bolded text. The three different occurrences “I Am” in verse 14 are different forms of the verb “to be,” which God proceeds to link to Yahweh. After God had told Moses, “I Am Who I Am,” God commanded Moses to say the same thing twice in a different way:

Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I Am has sent me to you.’
Say this to the people of Israel: ‘Yahweh … has sent me to you.’

Note the parallel between “I am” and “Yahweh.” Since both of these names seem to be related to the Hebrew word for “to be,” God says first that his name “I am/I will be,” and then that it is “he is/he will be.” The same idea underlies both, that “God is.” Finally, God concluded his decree by saying, “This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”

God is

But now the question arises: What exactly does it mean that “God is”? That is one of the great questions that has captivated Jewish and Christian scholars for millennia, for obvious reasons. When you start to think about it, you realize that the expression encompasses infinite truths about God. God just is. God is who he is. His absolute perfection doesn’t change. What he is now, he will be in the future. He is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore (Heb. 13:8). He doesn’t have a beginning nor will he ever end (Is. 40:28). God is entirely independent, not dependent on anything else to sustain him, unlike everything else in creation, which relies on him. The Bible enunciates these truths in other places, but nothing encapsulates it the same way as these words in Exodus 3:15: “I am who I am,” and his name, “Yahweh.”

Then the next question arises. Who is Yahweh? Is it just the Father who is Yahweh? No. Yahweh is the whole eternal triune God. While the term trinity doesn’t appear in the Bible, the Bible teaches that the Father is Yahweh, that the Son is Yahweh, and that Holy Spirit is Yahweh, and that these three persons are not each other, hence the Trinity. It is the logical conclusion of Scripture. I’m covering this in an upcoming article, which is about how the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is Yahweh.

You should incorporate the name Yahweh into your prayer vocabulary and use it as a profoundly personal, venerable name for God. We should revere every name for God. When we call upon the name of the Lord, we have to remember that we are addressing the author of our lives who sustains our breath at this very moment. Without his help, we wouldn’t even be capable of enunciating the first consonant of his name. Thoughts like this should fill us with awe and gratitude. Whenever we utter any of God’s names, we should do it trembling lips and a venerating posture, with everlasting joy in our heart over the bountiful grace that he continues to bestow upon us each and every day.

The Faithful One

Returning to Exodus 3, Before God gave Moses His name, God gave him three promises, first that he would be with him, second that he would lead him out of Egypt, and third that he would serve God on this mountain (Ex. 3:12), all of which came true.

Because how his name expresses his eternal, immutable, and perfect nature, it serves as a reminder, first to Moses and the Israelites, and now to us, that God’s promises are sure and trustworthy. There is no need to doubt the word of the infinite one. He will always fulfill all of his vows because of who he is.

He declares the end from the beginning (Is. 46:10), and knows everyone who are his personally by name (Ex. 33:12, 17; 2 Tim. 2:19; John 10:14). Before you were born, he knew you, and he has always had a plan for you. It might not be the plan that you and your flesh would choose, but it is glorious, far more glorious than you could ever imagine because he will lead you by the Holy Spirit. It could involve everything from proclaiming the cross and being stoned to death like Stephan (Acts 7:54–60) to working quietly with your hands to earn a living (1 Thes. 4:11). Regardless of what it is, everything will glorify your savior, Jesus Christ, and work out for your good (Rom. 8:28).

Because of his great love, when the time had come, while you were still dead in your transgressions and sins, he called you out of the darkness into his light (Eph. 2:1–7). He knew that you would continue to stumble and sin from time to time, but his promises stand firm (Ps 33:11). God is never surprised by your stumbling; he knew about your stumbling before you stumbled, yet he still called you. God has set his everlasting love on his children, and he intends to bring them home to himself.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28–30, ESV

If you know him, you have been adopted into his family, safe and sheltered forever inside of the wings of the Most High (Ps 91:4). He has given you his word, and his word stands firm (Is. 40:6–8; Matt. 24:35). 

However, if you do not know him, you are coming closer and closer to hellfire for every day that passes. Jesus warned us that:

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matthew 7:22–23, ESV

Search the scriptures and “be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election” (2 Pet. 1:10; 1 John 5:13). Remember that: “no one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God,” (1 John 3:7–9; John 14:15; James 2:17). A Christian sins, but he doesn’t live in sin. If you are, then I am terrified for your soul. I don’t want to see you perish.

I beg you, get inside the Scriptures and get to know the perfect Messiah, who is the only one who can snatch your soul away from the flames and lead you into his eternal kingdom. Get to know him, personally. That is the only way to eternal life (John 17:3). The Scriptures testify of him, so if you seek him, you will find him. When you draw near to him, he will draw near to you (John 5:39; Matt. 7:7; James 4:8).

Without Jesus, you have nothing, absolutely nothing. Even if you gain the whole world, you will still have nothing. A maggot would still have more than you because it hasn’t incurred an insurmountable sin-dept (Rom. 6:23; Col. 2:14; Mark 8:36; 9:43–48). You and everything you own will pass away, and then you will be left with only your debt on judgment day.

With Jesus, you have everything in abundance forever, every good and perfect gift: mercy raining down from heaven opened up above you, grace flowing out from the holy temple of God, and the love of Yahweh shining upon you forever, not because of anything you have done, but because of what Jesus did on the cross for you (James 1:17; Matt. 7:11; Rom. 6:23). Jesus took away your filthy rags and gave you his righteous robes, bringing you from rags to royalty. It is finished. Therefore, the Father can make his face shine upon you, declaring, “You are my child, with whom I am well pleased.” Behold, what great love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are! How gracious and compassionate God is to adopt sinners like you and me! His love is beyond words (1 John 3:1; 4:8).

The Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins and took upon himself the punishment that you deserve. You have to search the Scriptures to understand what this means, more and more. Save yourself from the decadent generation (Acts 2:40). Get to know Yahweh. Grab hold of his eternal promises and let him lead you out of this decaying world into his new earth, where he will dwell together with his people. He has promised that he will, and his promises endure forevermore.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:3–5

Soli Deo Gloria

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As long as we are wandering around in this fallen world, we will struggle with sin. Everyone will, as the Preacher of Ecclesiastes said: “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”

Yahweh — Titles of Jesus

Many Christians only associate the Father with Yahweh and the Old Testament. However, when one realizes that Jesus is Yahweh too, their eternal unity becomes more evident throughout the Bible. Indeed, the divine name itself, Yahweh, can remind us of their intimate relationship, their oneness, one in love and justice, together forever in everything.