Y‘HoVaH, Y‘HoWaH, YaH–WeH, YaH–WaH, YaHuWeH, or YaHuWaH?
[Modern Hebrew: יהוה] “yud” “hey” “vov” “hey” (sometimes noted in English as YHVH, YHWH, HVHY, IEUE, or EUEI; and called the “Tetragrammaton“) is the Great-Name of the Creator of the Universe. It is not a title or generic term like “Elohim” (God) or “Adonai” (my-Master). is the Creator’s Proper and Greatest Name and it appears in the Hebrew Scriptures 6,828 times. Unfortunately, it is typically translated as “the LORD” in English scripture translations.
- Meaning of The-Name
- Commanded to Use The-Name
- Ban on Pronunciation of The-Name
- More special if you know the exact Pronunciation?
- Pronunciation of The-Name
- The Adonai-Vowel Controversy
- The Best Hebrew Manuscripts
- YeHo- or -YaHu?
- Where does the word “Yah” come from?
- What about the Murashu Archive?
- The “HoVaH” Controversy
- Will we ever know the Truth about The-Name?
- The-Name in Paleo-Hebrew
- Some Alternative Views
What is most important regarding The-Great-Name are the many ramifications of Its meaning. When Moshe (Moses) asked the Creator of the Universe what He is to be called, answered quite clearly. See verses below (taken from the TS98 version):
(13) And Mosheh said to Elohim, “See, when I come to the children of Yisra’el and say to them, ‘The Elohim of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His Name?’ what shall I say to them?”
(14) And Elohim said to Mosheh, “I am that which I am.”(1) And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Yisra’el, ‘I am has sent me to you.'” Footnote: 1The Hebrew text reads: ‘eyeh ‘asher ‘eyeh, the word ‘eyeh being derived from hayah which means to be, to exist, but the Aramaic text here in v. 14 reads: ayah ashar ayah. This is not His Name, but it is an explanation that leads up to the revelation of His Name in v. 15, יהוה namely.
(15) And Elohim said further to Mosheh, “Thus you are to say to the children of Yisra’el, ‘יהוה Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Yitshaq, and the Elohim of Ya’aqob, has sent me to you. This is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance to all generations.’
The root meaning of the Creator’s Great-Name is that “He Exists” and that He “singularly” exists as Creator and as the Most High. Note: Exodus 3:14 does not say “They are has sent me to you.” It reads instead: “I AM has sent me to you”. He is One (Echad). He is THE One, the Only One! Unlike the other elohim (gods) of the nations/peoples, is the El that truly existed, exists, and will exist forever. He was, He is, and He will forever be, which is why He is sometimes called “the Eternal One”. He is not made from clay or stone like many ancient and modern idols. No, He is the One Who IS and created all that is, including clay and stone.
The Hebrew Scriptures command us to Zakar, Qara, and Shaba the Sacred Name (that is: to remember, speak, mention, to proclaim, call upon, read, write, and swear by), thus we are permitted to use the Name of the Most High in written texts and in spoken word (Jeremiah 12:16; Deuteronomy 6:13; Psalms 30:4; 97:12; 102:12; 135:13; Hosea 12:5; Exodus 3:15). The fact that all the tribes of Israel were commanded to “hear” the WRITTEN Torah read out loud every seven years… implies the ancient people of Israel would hear the Name at least 6,828 times every seven years (Deuteronomy 31:10-13). However, Ancient Israel likely heard and used The-Name a great deal more than this in day to day life, especially prior to the Babylonian Captivity of Jew-dah.
What follows are the Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) definitions of Zakar (Strongs H2142), Qara (Strongs H7121), and Shaba (Strongs H7650) with example verses:
1) to remember, recall, call to mind
1a) (Qal) to remember, recall
1b) (Niphal) to be brought to remembrance, be remembered, be thought of, be brought to mind
1c1) to cause to remember, remind
1c2) to cause to be remembered, keep in remembrance
1c3) to mention
1c4) to record
1c5) to make a memorial, make remembrance
Part of Speech: verb
Exodus 23:13 “And in all that I have said to you take heed. And make no mention [zakar] of the name of other mighty ones, let it not be heard from your mouth.”
Isaiah 26:13 O our Elohim, other masters besides You have had rule over us; only in You do we make mention [zakar] of Your Name.
1) to call, call out, recite, read, cry out, proclaim
1a1) to call, cry, utter a loud sound
1a2) to call unto, cry (for help), call (with name of God)
1a3) to proclaim
1a4) to read aloud, read (to oneself), read
1a5) to summon, invite, call for, call and commission, appoint, call and endow
1a6) to call, name, give name to, call by
1b1) to call oneself
1b2) to be called, be proclaimed, be read aloud, be summoned, be named
1c) (Pual) to be called, be named, be called out, be chosen
Part of Speech: verb
Isaiah 12:4 “And in that day you shall say, “Praise , call upon [qara] His Name; make known His deeds among the peoples, make mention [zakar] that His Name is exalted.”
1) to swear, adjure
1a) (Qal) sworn (participle)
1b1) to swear, take an oath
1b2) to swear (of Jehovah by Himself)
1b3) to curse
1c1) to cause to take an oath
1c2) to adjure
Part of Speech: verb
Leviticus 19:12 “And do not swear [shaba] falsely by My Name and so profane the Name of your Elohim. I am .”
Deuteronomy 10:20 “Fear your Elohim. Serve Him, and cling to Him, and swear [shaba] by His Name”
The Orthodox Jewish community will largely not pronounce the so-called “Ineffable” Name because of a Rabbinic ban on Its pronunciation:
“It is forbidden to read the glorious and terrible name as it is written, as the sages said “He that pronounces the name as it is written has no portion in the world to come”. Therefore it must be read as if it were written Adonai.” (Mishnah Berurah 5:2) See also: Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin 90a/10:1
The actual culprit for Judah’s ban on speaking The-Great-Name is a controversial issue in of itself. The ban actually seems to have been issued indirectly by Himself as punishment for Jewdah exalting their own words and vows (oaths) above the words and vows of . See Jeremiah 44:26-30:
(26) Therefore hear the word of יהוה, all Judah who are dwelling in the land of Mitsrayim(1), ‘See, I have sworn by My great Name,’ declares יהוה, ‘My Name shall no longer be called upon by the mouth of any man of Judah in all the land of Mitsrayim, saying, “As the Master lives…” Footnote:1 (Mitsrayim-H4714 is generally defined as Eqypt, but means “Double Straits” . The related word Metsar-H4712 means “Distress, Straits”, thus “Land of Mistsrayim” should be understood as “Land of Distress” or “Land of Jacob’s Trouble“)
(27) ‘See, I am watching over them for evil and not for good. And all the men of Judah who are in the land of Mitsrayim shall be consumed by the sword and by scarcity of food, until they come to an end.
(28) ‘And those who escape the sword, few in number, shall return from the land of Mitsrayim to the land of Judah. And all the remnant of Judah, who came into the land of Mitsrayim to sojourn there, shall know whose word is established, Mine or theirs.
(29) ‘And this is the sign to you,’ declares , ‘that I am punishing you in this place, so that you know that My words are certainly established against you for evil.’
The Rabbinic ban on the pronunciation seems to closely coincide or closely follow the Seleucid Greek ban on the use of The-Divine-Name in the 2nd Century BCE (described in Babylonian Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 18b). The ban was certainly only one of the anti-Torah decrees enacted by the pagan tyrant Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 168 BCE. The Jewish Hasmoneans later defeated the Seleucids and reversed the anti-Torah decrees, including all bans on the usage of The-Name. Even so, the rabbinic elders (i.e. Pharisees) opposed this and other Hasmonean efforts (the Hasmoneans were Sadducees who rejected the “Oral Torah” of the Pharisees).
Before I go further, please know that I do not think one person’s pronunciation of The-Name makes he/she more special than a person who pronounces The-Name differently. Yet, I do believe The-Name is important enough to search out and think on, but love for brothers, for family, is also important… so when we struggle over things such as this we should do so always in love and patience. Brad Scott, in his usual code of humor, states:
I believe that if Rav Sha’ul were around today, and I hear that some have actually seen him, that he would add one more verse to 1 Corinthians chapter thirteen. “… and if you pronounce His name correctly and articulate all vowels with precise clarity, but have not love then you have truly become a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.”
No matter what one’s favored pronunciation, we may all ultimately find that we were all wrong and/or… maybe all right on some level. Good students are humble students… knowing there may be more yet to learn from the Master. And the Master will be amongst us soon.
To hear a pronunciation example, click here.
There is of course much debate about how is pronounced. YaHWeH (most common), YeHWeH, YeHWaH, YaHWaH, YaHuWeH, YiHWeH, YaHUaH, YaHoaH, YeHuWaH, and YeHoVaH are but a few hotly contested pronunciations. The reason there is such debate and confusion stems from the way ancient written Hebrew largely did not make use of vowels the way commonly used in Latin-based languages, until scribes started inserting jot and dash notations in later centuries as the language began to fall into disuse. And for the Divine Name, scribes are most famous for not including the vowel pointer for the middle consonant “Vov” (which is the crux of the controversy). Even so, in a few cases, either by mistake or by deliberation, scribes included this, otherwise removed or missing, vowel pointer.
More on this in a moment.
Anyone who spends significant time investigating how The-Great-Name should be pronounced will inevitably come across those who claim that the vowel pointers for “Adonai” were used to replace the original vowel pointers for יהוה in order to disguise the true pronunciation, thus creating the so-called “false” rendering of Jehovah or Yehovah.
There is of course no “J” in Hebrew, so the Anglicized “Jehovah” should indeed be rejected… at least partially.
Here is a quote from the 1991 Encyclopedia Britannica under “Yahweh”:
“The Masoretes, who from about the 6th to the 10th century worked to reproduce the original text of the Hebrew Bible, replaced the vowels of the name YHWH with the vowel signs of the Hebrew word Adonai or Elohim. Thus the artificial name Jehovah (YeHoWaH) came into being.”
BUT… is this Adonai-vowel-replacement claim accurate? Lets take a look and see for ourselves… since the evidential details of this claim are so rarely, if ever, volunteered.
The vowels for “Adonai” are A–O–A (chataf patach – cholam – kamatz) which are easily seen in the English transliteration of the word.
The vowels for “Yehovah” are e–O–A (shva – cholam – kamatz) which are also easily seen in English.
The vowels for “Elohim” are E–O–I (chataf segol – cholam – chiriq).
Clearly, there is a different set of vowel pointers for each! Cholam is the only commonality and it is the most frequent vowel the scribes removed from the Divine Name when the Name stood alone (not side-by-side with Adonai). To explain further, the scribes would apparently use the vowels for the title “Elohim” when “YeH-VaH” appeared with “Adonai” in order to keep the reader from reading “Adonai Adonai”. They (the Jews) had the habit of reading “Adonai” when they saw “Yeh-VaH” (without the cholam vowel pointer), and they would read “Elohim” when they saw the Name as Yeh-ViH with the chiriq vowel pointer. In other words, they would see “Adonai YeH-ViH” in the text, but they would read “Adonai Elohim” out loud. When YHVH appears alone, it only has the cholam removed and it does not have the vowel pointers for Adonai or Elohim in the first and last positions as so many claim it does.
The “shva” is a semi-vowel or half-vowel. There are two classes: the silent shva and the vocal shva. The vocal shva generally leads the Hebrew reader to make a hurried, short, breathy sound which would be considered almost silent to many listeners (even though it is considered vocal). It is very similar to the first syllable in the word “severe”. And for example, the Hebrew word for “covenant” is ברית (bereet), employing a shva in the first syllable and when pronounced, it sounds like “breet” instead of “bereet”.
To reiterate: “Yehovah”, pronounced with a quick, soft “eh” sound at the first syllable, is not using the same vowel (that is: chataf patach) employed in order to pronounce “Adonai”. If the vowel pointers for “Adonai” were being used, the Divine Name would sound like “Yahovah” or “Yahowah”, instead of “Yehovah”. In other words, it would sound just like the “Yah” piece in “Yah-weh”.
Even in German and English, these things are unmistakable… but why do so many make the mistake?
Frequently, the people who make this false Adonai-vowel-replacement claim are generally ignorant of which vowels are actually employed and/or they are just repeating hear-say. So instead of searching the matter out from the best and earliest complete manuscripts of the Hebrew Scriptures, they embark on a search outside of the manuscripts in order to make “scholarly guesses” and Hebroid estimations because they assume the “Adonai Vowel” accusation is correct and there is no need to consult the actual manuscripts inherited. And typically, “Yahweh” or some similar variant is what is concluded upon.
“The pronunciation of yhwh as Yahweh is a scholarly guess.” – Anchor Bible Dictionary, “Yahweh”, D.N. Freedman, et al, (eds.), New York 1992, vol. 6, p.1011
The Ben Asher manuscripts (Aleppo Codex and the Leningrad Codex) are considered the earliest complete manuscripts of the Tanakh (10th Century CE). They render the Name as YeH-Vah, removing the “o” (cholam) vowel in order to remind the reader not to say The-Name (the 10th Century Masoretes accepted the rabbinic ban on pronunciation). The scribe of the Leningrad Codex (the LenB19a manuscript) deliberately or mistakenly forgot to remove the cholam 50 out of 6828 times. According to Nehemia Gordon (a Karaite Hakham), there were no other vowels accidentally inserted for the Vov in the Divine Name in this manuscript**.
I don’t mean to sound contentious here, but it is intriguing how Yahweh-ists belittle the “YeHo-” prefix which was traditionally supported by ancient Jewish scribes… and yet whole-heartedly claim El-ordained inspiration on those very same texts transmitted by the same Jewish scribes.
Note: A photographic (lithographic) edition of the original manuscript has been published here: The Leningrad Codex; A Facsimile Edition, D.N. Freedman (editor), Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1998.
One of the reasons the pronunciation “Yahweh” is considered Hebroid (void of Hebrew construction) by many native Hebrew linguists is because they cannot find any traditional Hebrew names in the Scriptures where the “yud”+”hey” prefix is ever pronounced as “Yah” or “Yahu”. We only see it as such when the two Hebrew letters are at the end of a Hebrew name (suffix). Below are some examples of common prefix-suffix comparisons found in the manuscripts for which many of our modern Bible translations are derived (i.e. KJV).
“Yah” (Anglicized: Jah) can be found by itself in a few places in the Scriptures (Psalm 68:4; 89:8). It is a poetic and/or abbreviated form of YHVH, following the ancient custom in Hebrew where the first and last letter of a word are used to form an abbreviation (i.e. YHVH) **.
Many languages have actually preserved “-Yah” at the end of Hallelu-Jah (Hallelu-Yah). Note: as covered earlier, notice how “Yah” is at the end of the word.
“Yahweh” proponents argue that the Murashu archive is approximately 1500 years older than the Ben Asher manuscripts and it has Hebrew names with “Yahu-” as the prefix instead of the traditional ‘YeHo-” prefix. When I asked Nehemia Gordon regarding this ancient archive and the “Yahu-” ramifications, he answered: “The pronunciation of ancient cuneiform documents is pure speculation. Scholars have been able to decipher the words but they by no means know how the words were pronounced and certainly not how the vowels of the words were pronounced”.
Another common criticism of the “Yehovah” pronunciation is the Strong’s definition implication of the Hebrew word הוה (Hovah / H1943).
Another form for H1942; ruin: – mischief.
No one wants to associate the Creator with “mischief”, yet it would be prudent to re-evaluate this superstition with something more than a single, short Strong’s definition. For discussion’s sake, here is the Brown-Driver-Briggs (BDB) definition of H1943 (notice mischief is not used):
1) ruin, disaster
Part of Speech: noun feminine
The Hovah controversy focuses in on H1943’s related H1942 (Havah) and its use of the defining word “mischief”, and it is thus reasoned and deduced: The-Name cannot be pronounced as “YeHovah” for He never takes part in mischief.
BUT… how thorough is that reasoning?
The Hebrew verb “Hey Vav Hey” (הוה), in some contexts means “falling down” as in Strong’s depiction with the words “disaster’ and “ruin”, yet the verb’s more basic and primary signification is that of “breathing, blowing, living” (see Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, p. 222). In some cases, it could be surmised (as we will see shortly) that the Most High’s “blowing” can bring ruin and disaster to the wicked, but the breath of His Ruach (Spirit) is where all life comes.
(27) See, the Name of is coming from afar, burning with His wrath, and heavy smoke. His lips shall be filled with rage, and His tongue be as a devouring fire;
(28) and His breath shall be as an overflowing stream, which reaches up to the neck, to sift the nations with a sieve of falsehood, and a misleading bridle on the jaws of the peoples.
Pronunciation-based arguments, like the “Hovah controversy”, simply do not hold water when compared with other pronunciation associations, such as with the Hebrew word for “wickedness” (H7451) which sounds like “rah”, which is a sound similar to the Hebrew word “To-rah“. Yet, associating “wickedness” with “Torah” is unthinkable, but it would be an easy accusation to make for a casual observer. Yet, Hebrew words do not simply change their meaning based upon vowel points and pronunciation. The meanings of Hebrew words are derived from their letters, letter roots, and their context. And no matter how one slices it or pronounces it, הוה (hey vav hey) is a major part of the Divine Name. Whether or not one pronounces those three letters as “HoWaH” or “HoVaH” or “HuWaH” or “HaWaH”, the three letters yet exist and yet keep their basic meaning(s).
Even so, lets consider H1942 and H1943 in more detail. Both are composed of the three Hebrew letters: “hey” “vav” “hey” (HVH). H1943 appears as “mischief” in two verses of the KJV (Ezekiel 7:26 and Isaiah 47:11). In both places the word should have been and usually is translated as “ruin” or “trouble” or “calamity” in many other translations.
Isaiah 47:11 (KJV) Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
Ezekiel 7:26 (KJV) Mischief shall come upon mischief, and rumour shall be upon rumour; then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Strong chose to include the defining word “mischief”, especially because of the modern English speaker’s association of “mischief” with “evil”. Even so, the word “mischief” does not make sense in the above two verses where “ruin” and “calamity” make more sense (in context) as many modern English translators have confirmed, including those of the NKJV.
Isaiah 47:11 (NKJV) Therefore evil shall come upon you; You shall not know from where it arises. And trouble shall fall upon you; You will not be able to put it off. And desolation shall come upon you suddenly, which you shall not know.
Ezekiel 7:26 (NKJV) Disaster will come upon disaster, and rumor will be upon rumor. Then they will seek a vision from a prophet; But the law will perish from the priest, and counsel from the elders.
Ezekiel 7:26 (NASV) Disaster will come upon disaster and rumor will be added to rumor; then they will seek a vision from a prophet, but the law will be lost from the priest and counsel from the elders.
Most students of the Scriptures should be able to conclude: there is nothing wrong with comparing the Master יהוה with the words “ruin” or “disaster” or “destruction” or “calamity”. One only needs to consider the numerous places where יהוה is equated with “Consuming Fire” (Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 9:3; Isaiah 30:27; Isaiah 33:14; Hebrews 12:29). Can you think of anything which brings more ruin and disaster than a consuming fire driven by blowing wind? Those who have experienced forest fires understand such calamity well. We should keep in mind that simply applies His ruin and destruction to evil, things deserving of ruin and destruction, or He may use fire to test and purify His children. Remember, it is good and honorable to destroy evil, and that is exactly what the “All Existing One” has done, does, and will do in the Last Days! Ha-Satan knows this and trembles! But His children should rest in knowing He will not utterly destroy us, but desires pure vessels of gold.
Understanding the above, we can see that deriving “YeHovah” from the word “Hovah” is not disparaging (belittling) of the nature of Elohim (God) because “Hovah” is not truly connected to the words “mischief” or “evil”, but Y’hovah does bring ruin and destruction to the wicked. Read the Song of Moses (Exodus 15) if you need more convincing on this point… for He surely brought RUIN to the House of Pharaoh and Egypt in general (and He will bring ruin again to the ‘proverbial’ Pharaoh/Anti-Messiah in the future).
Furthermore, the-Great-Name is not actually derived from HVH (HoVaH) exclusively, but primarily from “HaYaH” (H1961), meaning “to be”.
1) to be, become, come to pass, exist, happen, fall out
1a1a) to happen, fall out, occur, take place, come about, come to pass
1a1b) to come about, come to pass
1a2) to come into being, become
1a2a) to arise, appear, come
1a2b) to become
1a2b1) to become
1a2b2) to become like
1a2b3) to be instituted, be established
1a3) to be
1a3a) to exist, be in existence
1a3b) to abide, remain, continue (with word of place or time)
Because HaYah (H1961) is the root word for The-Great-Name, any assumed sound relationship with H1943 (HoVaH) in order to diminish the pronunciation of “YeHoVaH” is arguably a moot point, yet HaYaH and HoVaH both in truth bring profound meaning to the Master’s Great-Name (ref. Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, p. 222).
Yes, eventually all uncertainty will be removed. Himself will teach us (Isaiah 52:6)! If we the sheeple cannot agree on The-Name’s pronunciation or ineffability now, have no fear!
Ezekiel 39:7 “And I shall make My set-apart Name known in the midst of My people Israel, and not let My set-apart Name be profaned any more. And the gentiles shall know that I am , the Set-apart One in Israel.”
Below you will see some examples of the Divine Name in Early (c.1500 BCE) and Middle (c.900 BCE) Paleo-Hebrew.
The Divine Name in Early Paleo-Hebrew:
The Divine Name in Middle Paleo-Hebrew:
Another example of Middle Paleo-Hebrew:
* Because of the enormous debate and division on this issue, “the-Name” is generally not transliterated into English on this website. The four Hebrew letters יהוה, , or “YHVH” are used instead, allowing the individual reader to choose to pronounce the Great-Name however he/she feels the most convicted and/or convinced.
** The yet unpublished work on the Ban and Pronunciation of the Name (by Nehemia Gordon) proved very helpful in understanding the history of the Rabbinic Ban and also in understanding his own conclusion of “YeHovah” as the most accurate/probable pronunciation. When his work is made publicly available, it will be referenced in better detail here.
*** There is unfortunate treatment received by those who support and promote the use of the Great Name as it is commanded in the WRITTEN Torah (Exodus 3:15). The accused are frequently called “Sacred Name people” in a disparaging tone. This website is not a part of nor does it find its origin in the “Sacred Name Movement”, and it should be noted that most Karaite Jews use and pronounce the Name and they are certainly not a part of any Christian or Messianic-based Sacred Name movement.
- What is the pronunciation of the Name “YHWH” (the LORD)? by Jeff A. Benner
- My Name Forever (alternative view: “Yehu-?”) by Michael McHugh
- The Name (alternative view: “Yihweh”) by Mordecai Alfandari
- The Sound of Ancient Hebrew (alternative view: “Yehweh”) by Jane Marchant