[b-hebrew] yhwh

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Tue Dec 2 17:42:54 EST 2008


In the Hebrew Bible, presumably reflecting Iron Age practice, YHWH is 
more-or-less the personal name of the God of Israel, as opposed to El, 
Elohim, Shadddai and so on, which are actually descriptive titles (and were 
used of other gods as well). There is much debate on the exact origin and 
meaning of the name YHWH (and this has been discussed on this list in the 
past). Since YHWH is also mentioned as the Israelite God in the Mesha 
inscription and "Yahwistic" names (that include the letters YW, YHW and YH) 
were common in Israel and Judah (Yehoshua/Joshua, Yehonatan/Jonathan, 
Yirmiyahu/Jeremiah etc.) and especially in royal names (Jehoram, 
Jehoshaphat, Ahaziahu etc.), YHWH was certainly the patron God of the 
Israelite kingdoms. We also have several letters from places like Lachish 
and Arad, in which the writer blesses his addressee in the name of YHWH, one 
letter from Arad that mentions "the house of YHWH" (either the Temple in 
Jerusalem or a local shrine) and the 5th century letters from Elephantine in 
Egypt, in which the Jews there have a house of "Yahu".

At some point during the Second Temple Period, the Tetragrammaton was 
considered to be too sacred to actually vocalize, and it was pronounced 
"Adonai" instead. "Adonai" means "my lord(s)"/"my master(s)", the 
plural-like form usually considered an honorific. This form was probably 
chosen because there are places in the Bible in whch God is addresses as 
"Adonai" anyway, and especially in the combination "Adonai-YHWH" (such as 
Deut. 3:24), and this practice survives in Judaism to this day. According to 
Rabbinic tradition, the name of YHWH was only actually pronounced out loud 
by the High Priest once a year, as part of the Yom Kippur ritual. After the 
destruction of the Temple, the actual pronounciation was lost. When the 
vowel-points that are used in Hebrew were invented centuries later, the name 
YHWH was (usually) given the vowels of Adonai, as an indication to the 
reader that this is how the Name is to be vocalized. This is what led to the 
English forms "Jehovah" and "Yahweh". In the Greek translation we call the 
Septuagint, Adonai was translated as "Kurios". In Latin this became 
"Dominus", which became "Lord" in English.

As far as Jer. 23:6, I at least understand "YHWH-cidqenu" 
("The-Lord-Our-Rightiousness") as being symbolic, showing that in the 
Messianic Age people will realize that true rightiousness lies with God. I 
would not wait for an actuall Messiah by that name.

Yigal Levin

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Doug Belot" <dbelot at bigpond.net.au>
To: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2008 11:49 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] yhwh

> Could you tell me when the name of God became YHWH and who did decide to 
> place English those letters to what was a Hebrew word.
> And is this YHWH the name used in the LORD Our Righteousness in Jer 23:6 , 
> and would that suggest that the Messiah will have that name.
> doug belot
> _______________________________________________
> b-hebrew mailing list
> b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/mailman/listinfo/b-hebrew


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