[b-hebrew] yhwh pronunciation

Rolf Furuli furuli at online.no
Tue Jul 19 18:03:22 EDT 2005

Dear Vincent,

Your conclusion regarding the vocalization of YHWH is not a necessary 
conclusion.  Before any conclusion is drawn three questions should be 

1) In what manuscripts and in which languages do we find Yaho, Yahu, and 
Yah ?
2) If the three are variants of the same name, are they full forms, or 
are they abbreviations?
3) How can we know the timbre in ancient times of the vowels shewa, 
patah etc that later were written by the Masoretes?

Only the form Yah with a reference to God is found in the OT, and not 
Yaho or Yahu.  The form Yah evidently is an abbreviation of YHWH - the 
first two letters of the name.  It is not a substitute for YHWH, because 
it is found together with YHWH in Is 12:2; 26:4 and Psalm 111:1. It is 
vocalized with qamets, and the he has a mappiq.

The form YHW is found in the Aramaic Elephantine Papyri from the fifth 
century B.C.E. Wowels are lacking, so we do not know whether it was 
peronounced as YEHU, YAHU, YEHO, YAHO, or even with other vowels.  We do 
not know whether the Amamaic-speaking community viewed this is an 
abbreviation representing the three first letters of YHWH, or whether it 
was viewed as a full form of God's name. In Amon's temple in Soleb in 
Sudan there is an inscription from around 1400 with the text "the land 
of the nomads of YHW(?)" where the fourth letter is broken away but may 
be a W.  In the Greek manuscript 4QLXXLevb we find the form IAW.  This 
may resemble the form used at Elephantine, or it could even represent 
the whole YHWH, because middle or final "h" is difficult to transcribe 
into Greek.

A little less than 150 names in the OT ends in YAH, and a few begins 
with YAH. But those beginning with YAH never have "o" or "u" as the next 
vowel (e.g. YAHO-; YAHU-). But there are several names that begins with 
YEHO-. This means that an argument in favor of shewa being the first 
vowel of YHWH is much stronger than the argument in favor of "a".  
However, one argument in favor of an "a"-sound as the first vowel, is 
that the default pronunciation of shewa in Masoretic times was an 
"a"-sound similar to patah.  But we must remember that this was the case 
in Masoretic times, and the timbre of the vowels in the days of the 
first or second temple is unknown.  So your argument in favor of the 
pronunciation Yahweh has no backing in the OT, but the argument that the 
first two vowels of YHWH would be represented by shewa and holem 
certainly has a backing in the OT.  We should remember that while a form 
resembling YAHWEH is found among different forms in the writings of the 
Greek Church fathers, and possibly at some point was used by the 
Samaritans as well, the form YAHWEH is never witnessed in ancient Hebrew 

Best regards

Rolf Furuli
University of Oslo

Medina, Vincent wrote:

>Yaho, Yahu and Yah all appear to be variant forms of the name. The one
>thing that they have in common, and appear to establish firmly, is that
>the first syllable of the name is Yah. If yhwh is a verbal form, the
>final he would appear to support a final syllable with seghol, "weh,"
>whether the verb stem was either qal or hiphil. A verbal yqtl form would
>almost certainly have two syllables. In my opinion, all this seems to
>support the widely accepted pronunciation Yahweh.
>G. Vincent Medina
>Associate Professor
>Central Bible College
>Phone: 417 887-6559
>Email: vmedina at cbcag.edu

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