God's name: was Curious abut "G-d"

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at sil.org
Thu Jan 24 05:55:35 EST 2002

To be very precise, at least in the Masoretic text the YAH used as a
short form of the divine name, especially in HLLW YH, is different from
the -YAH ending of personal names. In the latter (with one exception,
Y:DIYD:YFH. Jedidiah 2 Sam 12:25) the final H is unpointed and so a
silent "mater". In the form YAH the final H has a dot (mappiq)
indicating that it is pronounced.


The name ending -YHW could have been pronounced Yahwe in older texts
before a final vowel was (almost) consistently represented by a "mater"
H. I guess most would agree that in the form YHWH the final H was
actually silent, at least I haven't seen arguments for it being
pronounced. But the first H, which is not word final, must have been
pronounced, and so the shortened form with the pronounced final H is


Peter Kirk


Peter Kirk


-----Original Message-----
From: Ken Smith [mailto:kens at 180solutions.com] 
Sent: 24 January 2002 04:57
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: RE: God's name: was Curious abut "G-d"


Yikes, Liz.  You're assuming I know enough to have an opinion on the
Elephantine Papyri - I don't even know Aramaic.  And I'm not really sure
how to explain the various differences in the divine name.  But it does
seem likely that YHW would have been pronounced differently from YHWH,
don't you think?  Given that it can occur both as YH (usually in names,
or in HLLW YH); as YHW (in names, or in extra-Biblical texts); as YHWH
(normally in the Bible); and in Exodus 3:14 - probably as a word play --
as )HYH, it doesn't seem at all unreasonable to conclude that it may
have been pronounced different ways at different times.  Why this is so,
or what significance this might have had, I'm not at all sure.




-----Original Message-----
From: Lisbeth S. Fried [mailto:lizfried at umich.edu] 
Sent: Wednesday, January 23, 2002 8:32 PM
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: RE: God's name: was Curious abut "G-d"


Interesting, Ken. 
Do you think they pronounced the name differently at Elephantine, and if

are these just dialect differences?

Also, in your list of examples, you left out my personal favorite:
David's continually swearing

"as YHWH lives," I'm going to get that bastard, or some such.


-----Original Message-----
From: Ken Smith [mailto:kens at 180solutions.com]
Sent: Wed, January 23, 2002 11:14 PM
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: RE: God's name: was Curious abut "G-d"

I'm hesitant to know how far to carry this conversation, because it
doesn't precisely seem apropos to understanding Biblical Hebrew, and
could very easily (if it hasn't already) degenerate into inter-religious
name calling.  But I'll try to stay as objective as I can on the matter.


I'm not sure which evidence you're asking for, but I'll toss out
evidence for various things I referred to in my last post:


(1) That common, ordinary, every-day people regularly spoke and
pronounced YHWH seems clear just from the Biblical writers' recording of
numerous conversations.  Some very random examples which could be
multiplied repeatedly include Deut. 1:6, which records Moses saying to
the entire assembled nation of Israel, "YHWH our God spoke to us at
Horeb."  1 Sam. 1:11 records Hannah's vow, "YHWH Sabaoth, if only you
will look on the misery of your servant."  In 2 Kings 18:22, the
Assyrian Rabshakeh says that YHWH sent him to destroy Jerusalem.  I'm
not sure how else to understand these passages than to believe that
common Israelites - and non-Israelites - all knew how YHWH was
pronounced, and indeed pronounced it regularly and without a thought.  I
certainly don't intend to tread on Jewish sensibilities here; my
understanding was that even Jews agreed that the prohibitions against
speaking the Name were the result of later developments, of attempts to
"put a hedge around the law" to prevent the possibility of accidentally
using the Name L$W).  If it's normal to argue that even, say, Adonijah
and Elijah and Hezekiah never pronounced the Name, that's news to me,
and difficult if not impossible to support historically. 


(2) Given #1, there's a variety of evidence which might indicate how
those same lay people might have pronounced YHWH.  Part of the problem
in evaluating it is that some of it points in different directions.
Everyone seems agreed that the Masoretic vowel points are a qere
perpetuum taken from )DWNY, so those are out as a pointer.  But there
are a number of theophoric names which contain a shortened version of
YHWH, i.e., "Adoni-Yah", and have the first vowel as a qamets.  The same
is true of "Hallelu-Yah" in the Psalms.  The sere for the second
syllable is more debatable, as it doesn't seem to have been included in
any names.  (It's also possible that the Name was known in multiple
forms: it certainly seems to have been shortened in some instances,
e.g., in the admittedly syncretistic Kuntillet Ajrud fragments, where it
is sometimes found as YHWH, and sometimes as YHW.)  There are some who
put forth arguments that it must be sere based on various linguistic
considerations, but I'm not really qualified to evaluate those, and they
strike me as hypothetical at best.  More to the point are various forms
of YHWH found in Greek transliteration from before the fourth century
CE, where it occurs variously as IAO (perhaps equivalent to the
Kuntillet Ajrud YHW), IABE, IAOUE, IAOUAI, and IAE.  These latter seem
to point fairly clearly towards an original pronunciation as YFH:W"H

Is there other evidence that you're looking for, Shoshanna?


Ken Smith


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