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#3. GOD'S NAME יהוה YHWH/YHVH is YAHWEH

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Introduction 3

God’s divine name יהוה (Hebrew) or YHWH (Modern English equivalent YHVH), has been the subject of much discussion and debate throughout the centuries. Most Hebrew scholars prefer Yahweh (ancient pronunciation) rather than Yahveh (modern pronunciation), but it is never translated this way in most bibles. In the King James Version the most common translation is LORD (6510x), but in other places it is translated GOD (304x), and in others it is translated Jehovah (4x). In three other places it is translated Jehovah in compound names (Genesis 22:14 KJV; Exodus 17:15 KJV; Judges 6:24 KJV). Everywhere in the Jehovah’s Witnesses bible it is translated Jehovah. So what is his real name? It is important that we find out, because God is seeking for people to worship him "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23), and we cannot do that if we call him by the wrong name. In order to investigate this we have examined the history of how these different translations came about, and concluded that God's name is not Jehovah. That study has not proved what the correct pronunciation of God's Old Testament name should be. LORD was a substitute, Jehovah is definitely wrong, and the alternatives left were Yahweh, Yahveh, Yāhūh, Yāhôh, or perhaps even something else. In this bible study both scripture and Hebrew grammar are used to prove that God's name יהוה is Yahweh.

In doing this analysis we will make reference to several books which the reader may wish to refer to in order to check our statements for his or herself. These are listed below in the order, Author, TITLE, Publisher, Abbreviation.

Page H. - Kelly BIBLICAL HEBREW An Introductory Grammar - Eerdmans - PHK

J Weingreen - A PRACTICAL GRAMMAR for CLASSICAL HEBREW - Oxford University Press - JW

R. K. Harrison - Teach Yourself BIBLICAL HEBREW - Hodder and Stoughton - RKH

Brown, Driver, Briggs - GESENIUS HEBREW ENGLISH LEXICON - Hendrickson - BDB

Bruce K. Waltke, M. O'Connor - An Introduction to BIBLICAL HEBREW SYNTAX - Eisenbrauns - BHS

#3.1 THE NAME REVEALS CHARACTER

For this study the meaning of the name is an important consideration. The name(s) reveals the character and is true for people as well as for God. Nabal is a good example, Nabal means "foolishness", and his wife Abigail said of him, "as his name is, so is he;" (1 Samuel 25:25). Nabal was a foolish man, and his name revealed it. The name Jacob means "supplanter, deceiver, defrauder, heel-catcher", which describes the character of Jacob. Esau said of him, "Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he has supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he has taken away my blessing." (Genesis 27:36). Later, when his character changed, and he wrestled with someone who he thought was "God", and prevailed (Genesis 32:24-30), God changed Jacob’s name to Israel; "Your name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince you have power with God and with men, and have prevailed." (Genesis 32:28). Israel has been variously translated to mean "Prince with God", or "Soldier of God", or "One who wrestles with God". Having prevailed against men (Genesis 25:29-34; 27:1-29; 31:1-55), and now with God (Genesis 32:24-30), as God’s chosen, Jacob’s name had to be changed to suit his new character. Changing someone’s name often went along with a change of position or character; Jesus gave Simon the name Cephas (John 1:42), also called Peter (Matthew 10:2) (Gr. πέτρος, Gtr. Petros), which means "a stone" or "a rock". It was a name which described something solid, steady, and firm, which he eventually was to be like. We have already seen that when Jesus said, "I am come in my Father’s name," (John 5:43), that he came with his Father’s authority, but another meaning to the statement is that he came to manifest his Father’s character. In every way Jesus portrayed the Father, to such a degree that he could say, "I and my Father are one." (John 10:30), and "he who has seen me has seen the Father;" (John 14:9). The very words that he spoke were exactly as the Father gave him to say (John 3:34; 8:28; 8:38; 12:50; 14:10; 17:8), and the works that he did were those given to him by the Father (John 5:36; 9:4; 17:4). One literal name can never reveal the fullness of the character of God, because he has far too many attributes, but in the Old Testament God revealed himself through many names, each one of which he used to reveal to his people some part of his nature or character. In this study we will start by looking for the Tetragrammaton (יהוה) in the Hebrew language, and see whether the meaning of the words that contain these four letters fit the character of God or not, and if the word can be definitely found in scripture. God's name has to have meaning in Hebrew, so when we find one that does fit his nature, then we have found the name of God. As a check we will then look at this name in scripture and see whether the meaning fits with the use of the his name in context.

#3.2 DEFINITION and MEANING of TERMS

There are three words in the Hebrew language that have the consonants of the Tetragrammaton יהוה. They are;

יִהְוֶה Htr. yihweh, which is the third person masculine singular Qal Imperfect of the verb הָוָה Htr. hāwâ, Strong's 1933.
יִַהְוֶה Htr. yahweh, which is the third person masculine singular Hiphil Imperfect of the verb הָוָה Htr. hāwâ, Strong's 1933.
יָהְוֶה Htr. yāhweh, which is the third person masculine singular Hophal Imperfect ofthe verb הָוָה Htr. hāwâ, Strong's 1933.

Here is a definition of the verb הָוָה from BDB p217.

1933 [הָוָה] verb. become (Arabic Arabic word for to 
fall to fall (see הָוָא), also to gape or yawn, and to desire (compare הַוָּה): compare FlDe Job 6:2; Aramaic הֲוָא, Aramaic word for to be the usual word for to be (probably originally to fall out, accidit, hence come to pass, come to be, γίγνεσθαι), Mishna id. very common) a rare synonym of הָיָה q. v. : —
Qal Imperfect apoc. יְהוּא Ecclesiastes 11:3 (for יְהוּ with א otiosum; Ges§ 75 R I 3 e Köp. 597 f.; but Gr plausibly הוּא); Imperative masculine singular הֱוֵה Genesis 27:29, feminine singular, הֱוִי Isaiah 16:4, Participle הֹוֶה Ecclesiastes 2:22; Nehemiah 6:6 : — Genesis 27:29 הֱוֵה גְבִיר לְאַחֶיךָ become lord to thy brethren, Isaiah 16:4 (perhaps in imitation of Moabite dialect) הֱוִי סֵתֶר לָמוֺ become thou (Zion) a defence to them, Ecclesiastes 2:22; Ecclesiastes 11:3; Nehemiah 6:6.

The verb הָוָה Htr. hāwâ is said to mean "to breathe", or "to be" (in the sense of existence), or it can mean "to become" (in the sense of coming into existence). It is only used as a verb six times in the Old Testament and sometimes the last letter is א instead of ה . Three times it is used as a Qal Imperative (Genesis 27:29, Job 37:6, Isaiah 16:4), once as a Qal Imperfect (Ecclesiastes 11:3), and twice as a Qal Participle (Nehemiah 6:6, Ecclesiastes 2:22).

Qal is the simple active form of the verb.
Hiphil is the causative active form of the verb, indicating particularly an action or event.
Hophal is the causative passive form of the verb, indicating particularly an action or event. Therefore, Hophal is the passive of Hiphil.

As these three words containing the Tetragrammaton are all Imperfect forms, we must give a definition of it. The imperfect tense is defined by different authors in various ways:

(WG p313) The imperfect, as opposed to the perfect, represents actions events or states which are regarded by the speaker at any moment as still continuing, or in process of accomplishment, or even as just taking place.
(PHK p129) One of the most common uses of the imperfect is to describe a simple action in future time.
(PHK p130) A second use of the imperfect is to express repeated, habitual, or customary actions, whether in the past, the present, or the future.
(RKH p69) The imperfect is concerned with unfinished activity, and thus includes the future and present alike.
(JW p75) The imperfect generally denotes an incompleted action.

Definition: The imperfect serves to express action, states or events which the speaker wishes to represent from the point of view of being incomplete, ongoing, continual, or habitual, whether they belong to the past, present, or future time.

#3.3 יִהְוֶה yihweh, the third person masculine singular Qal Imperfect of הָוָה

The Qal stem is the active form of the verb. An Imperfect is dealing with actions or states which are viewed as incomplete, ongoing, habitual, or continual. Therefore יִהְוֶה Htr. yihweh literally means "he was", "he is", or "he will be", all in a continuing sense, and depending on the context where it may be used. So if we try to apply it to the nature of God it would refer to all three meanings at the same time. In the past God continually was, in the present God is, and in the future God will continually be. Anyone who does not acknowledge God's existence is called a fool by him (Psalm 14:1, 53:1). Is this then the name (meaning character) of God? The answer is yes, it is a name (character attribute) that applies to God, and here are a few scriptural examples. They all use the verb הָיָה (Htr. hāyâ) which is related to הָוָה (Htr. hāwâ) from which the Tetragrammaton comes:

Exodus 3:14 "I am who I am" (Qal Imperfect)
Leviticus 26:12 "I will walk among you and I will be your God." (Qal Imperfect)
Joshua 1:5 "As I was with Moses so I will be with you." (Qal Imperfect)
Jeremiah 24:7 "And I will be to them for God." (Qal Imperfect)

However, there is is a problem trying to make this THE NAME of God that the Tetragrammaton יהוה represents. Very seldom in the Old Testament is hāyâ used to denote either simple existence or identification of a thing or person. Also this can apply to humans and animals. For example, I existed in the past, I exist now, and I will exist in the future, all in a continuous sense, although not in a timeless sense as it is with God. Here are a few scriptural examples using the same verb:

Genesis 1:3 "Light be, and light was." (Qal Imperfect)
Genesis 9:26 "and Caanan shall be his servant." (Qal Imperfect)
Leviticus 23:15 "seven sabbaths shall be complete." (Qal Imperfect)
Ezekiel 20:32 "you say, We will be as the heathen." (Qal Imperfect)

The same applies to animals and objects such as the earth, mountains, trees, and anything that has a lifespan. For this reason it is not a name (character attribute) that we would apply to God which would separate him from all other beings, and is therefore not likely to be his special name.

#3.4 יָהְוֶה Htr. yāhweh, the third person masculine singular Hophal Imperfect of הָוָה

The Hophal is the causative passive form of the Qal stem of the verb, and so it is the passive of the Hiphil. Of all the seven major verb stems the Hophal is the the rarest. It represents the subject as being caused to be acted upon (or suffer the effects of having been caused) to be in the event signified by the root. As an imperfect it is usually dealing with actions which are viewed as incomplete, ongoing, habitual, or continual. Therefore יָהְוֶה Htr. yāhweh (with a longer "a" sound than the Hiphil) literally means "he was being caused to become", "he is being caused to become", or "he will be caused to become", all in a continuing sense, and depending on the context where it may be used. Does this meaning fit with the nature and character of God? The answer is yes, but only in a very limited sense. Nothing can change the character of God on a permanent basis (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). God can be caused to be angry, or he can be caused pronounce judgement for sin, both on a temporary basis, but in searching the whole of the Old Testament not one case of a Hophal Imperfect which applies to God has been found. If anyone can find one we would be happy for you to contact us and let us know.

Concerning persons other than God, and even to objects, there are some examples. Here are a few, the translations are literal;

Genesis 12:15 "And the woman was caused to be taken into Pharoah's house." (Hophal Imperfect)
Exodus 22:20 "He who sacrifices to any God except to Yahweh only, he shall cause to be destroyed." (Hophal Imperfect)
Jeremiah 46:5 "For their mighty ones are caused to be beaten down;" (Hophal Imperfect)
Isaiah 14:15 "Yet you shall cause to be taken down to sheol." (Hophal Imperfect)

#3.5 יַהְוֶה Htr. yahweh, the third person masculine singular Hiphil Imperfect of הָוָה

The Hiphil is the causative form of the Qal stem of the verb. As an imperfect it is usually dealing with actions which are viewed as incomplete, ongoing, habitual, or continual. Therefore יִַהְוֶה Htr. yahweh (with a shorter "a" sound than the Hophal) literally means "he was causing to become", "he is causing to become", or "he will cause to become", all in a continuing sense, and depending on the context where it may be used. The word "made" is often used with the Hiphil instead of "cause". Does this meaning fit with the nature and character of God? The answer is yes. God is the one who caused everything that we know that exists to come into existence. The first verse in the bible says, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1), which means the same as "God caused them to come into existence". In the past God continually caused things to happen, in the present God is causing things to happen, and in the future God will continually be causing things to happen. Look a few scripture examples, the translations are literal:

Genesis 2:5 "For Yahweh God had not caused it to rain upon the earth." (Hiphil Perfect)
Genesis 2:21 "And Yahweh God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam." (Hiphil Imperfect)
Exodus 9:23 "And Yahweh caused hail to rain on the land of Egypt." (Hiphil Imperfect)
Exodus 14:21 "And Yahweh caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night." (Hiphil Imperfect)
Ezekiel 3:26 And "I will cause your tongue to stick to your palate." (Hiphil Imperfect)

As we can see God causes a great number of things to happen, so this fits perfectly with the character of God. Does man also cause things to happen so that this fits his character also. The answer is yes, but only in a limited way. Here are a few examples:

Numbers 5:26 "And he (the priest) shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water." (Hiphil Imperfect)
Deuteronomy 1:38 "Joshua the son of Nun ... he shall cause Israel to inherit it." (Hiphil Imperfect)
Judges 2:12 "they followed other Gods ... and they bowed down to them ... and they caused Yahweh to become angry." (Hiphil Imperfect)
1 Kings 1:38 "So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet ... caused Solomon to ride upon king David's mule." (Hiphil Imperfect)
Jeremiah 23:27 "Who (false prophets) think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams ..." (Hiphil Infinitive)

So we can see that man can also cause things to happen, but compared to God man is very limited. Usually what man causes is to do with people's interactions and some other relatively minor things, but when it comes to causing rain for forty days and forty nights, or the sun to shine, or the sea to go back by a mighty wind, or this universe to come into existence, then only God can cause these things to happen. Even when man works miracles, like Moses did in Egypt for example, it is still God who causes the miracles to happen. Moses lifted his rod over the red sea, but God caused the sea to be divided (Exodus 14:21). Is this then the name (meaning character) of God? The answer is yes, it is a name (character attribute) that applies to God in an unlimited way. As it does not apply in that sense to anyone or anything else, we can therefore say, Yes, it is most likely that Yahweh is THE NAME of God that the Tetragrammaton יהוה represents.

#3.6 Conclusion: God's name יהוה is Yahweh

We have examined the only three words in the Old Testament that take the same four consonants as the Tetragrammaton which denoted the name of God. They are:

יִהְוֶה Htr. yihweh, יָהְוֶה Htr. yāhweh, and יִַהְוֶה Htr. yahweh.

Yihweh is a Qal Imperfect of hāwâ and implies existence in a continual sense, and although it does apply to God, it also applies to people, animals, and things, although not in a timeless sense as it would to God. However, as it is rarely (if ever - Exodus 3:14 may be an exception) used to imply God's existence, but rather how he will relate to people, we do not think this would be the Tetragrammaton which is God's name so used many times in the Old testament.
Yāhweh is a Hophal Imperfect of hāwâ and represents the subject as being caused to be acted upon. It is the rarest of the seven major verb stems, and although theoretically it does apply to God, we could not find one case of where a Hophal Imperfect for any verb in Hebrew language of the Old Testament applied to God. For this reason we would not regard this as being God's name which is so prolific in the bible.
Yahweh is the Hiphil Imperfect of hāwâ and it refers to causing events to happen. This fits perfectly with the character of God as he caused all things to come into existence, even us human beings, and causes numerous events to occur on this earth day by day. Thus our conclusion is that this word Yahweh is the most likely to be God's name represented by the Tetragrammaton יהוה (YHWH) in the Old Testament.

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