[b-hebrew] Re: YHWH Derivation

Walter R. Mattfeld mattfeld12 at charter.net
Wed May 4 13:19:38 EDT 2005

Dr. Joel M. Hoffman recently observed:

"...But the bottom line is that YHWH seems not to have an etymology...Sadly, 
my theory doesn't account for any connection between the verb "to be" (HYH) 
and YHWH..."

I note that Dr. Beitzel expressed reservations concerning a relationship 
between "to be" and Yahweh. Cf. an extract below of his research:

Dr. Beitzel:

"Since the writing of G.R. Driver, a number of scholars have embraced the 
opinion that the divine name, when it first arose, did not have a readily 
intelligible form, instead being an emotional cultic outburst, such as 
dervishes might cry out ecstaticly. In the main basing his conclusions upon 
extra-biblical evidence, Driver affirmed that the antique form of the deity 
worshipped by some pre-Mosaic Hebrw ancestors was the digrammaton Ya, a form 
whose origin was a kind of numinal exclamation. Conclusive for Driver was 
the fact that whereas Hebrew compound proper names were never formed with 
Yahweh, many were formed with Ya. Now over a period of time, such primitive 
ecstatic ejaculations tend to be prolonged. Thus, taken together with 
Driver's belief that the genius of the Exodus event lay in the creation of a 
new national Hebrew diety, the evolution from Ya to Yahweh was easily 
effected. At once, this new form was recognized on the basis of popular 
etymology as closely resembling the verb hayah, therein facilitating its 
general acceptance and interpretation by the Mosaic community...As to these 
presuppositions, it must be asserted that it would be unprecedented for a 
Semetic divine name to originate in a religious exclamation...Furthermore, 
leaving aside the problem of how Ya developed into Yahweh and not some other 
form, Semitic proper names normally begin with transparent appellations or 
sentences and shorten or disintegrate. They do not become prolonged, as 
supposed by adherents of this view."

While the present writer has frequently encountered divine names consisting 
of one-word nouns (e.g. El), genitive compounds (e.g. Dagan-Neri, "Dagon is 
light"), noun plus pronoun (e.g. Yaum-An, "An is mine"), and verb plus noun 
(e.g. Itur'-Mer, "Mer returns"), it would be virtually unparalleld for a 
bare verbal form to exist as a divine name.

What is more, it must be pointed out that a root HWY is inextant in all West 
Semitic languages which antedate the Mosaic era. That is to say, Phoenician 
contains no root HWY; Ugaritic, despite its attestation of a divine name yw, 
bears no witness to this verbal root; and Amorite Akkadian evidences no root 
HWY. The root HWY is attested only in Aramaic, Syriac, Nabatean and 
Palmyrian...At the same time, a host of scholars advance the theory that the 
tetragrammaton derives from the causative stem of a Hebrew verb hayah. In 
this case, "Yahweh" and the verb "to be" are understood to be fused 
etymologically, and the divine name is taken to convey the meaning "the One 
Who causes to be (what is)," "He Who brings things to pass," or "the 
Performer of the Promise.

But again, one is left with a divine name composed wholly of a finite verb 
and, in this case, one of a demonstrably non-existent causative stem...In 
any case, the causative of this root is unattested in Semitic. (Barry J. 
Beitzel. "Exodus 3:14 and the Divine Name: A Case of Biblical Paronomasia." 
Trinity Journal. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. 1980)

Regards, Walter

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

mattfeld12 at charter.net


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