What Does Yahweh Mean? A Biblical Study

God is called Yahweh.  What does this name mean?  Should we call God Yahweh?

Is YHWH Yahweh?

YHWH is a Tetragrammaton or God’s given name in the Old Testament but Bible scholars cannot agree on exactly how this name of God was or is to be pronounced.  The Hebrew language does not contain vowels (e.g. e, I o, u, a) so that is why God’s name appears as YHWH and that is why all the letters of His name are always capitalized since His name is a proper noun.  When God revealed His name to Moses, He revealed Himself as YHWH or Yahweh which is best translated as “I AM WHO I AM” again, in all capital letters (EX 3:14-15).  The Hebrew for “I AM” is “ehyeh” which could also be read to mean “I will be” but when God refers to Himself it must mean “I AM.”   I AM means that God exists already and is the speaker when this is used but when humans speak of Him it could be said “HE IS” (again, all caps).

God’s name never restricts His nature or any of His characteristics because God does not change but the English translation of “Lord” does not convey the idea of the Hebrew word “YHWH” as His personal name.  Because of God’s name being so holy and the fear of mispronouncing it, Israel preferred to use the substituted the word “adonay” (Lord) for YHWH when reading from the Torah.  Consonants were only added for ease of reading during the medieval periods and “the vowels of “adonay” were used in conjunction with the consonants YHWH.1 This led to an unfortunate and inaccurate reading and pronunciation of Yahweh as “Jehovah” and clearly Jehovah is wrong and any Christian or cultic church that uses Jehovah is misinformed and using a name for God that is unbiblical.

Fear of the Lord

Exodus 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

The nation of Israel was so afraid of misusing God’s name that as I wrote before, they substituted “Adonay” which today may be translated “Adonai.” The 3rd Commandment struck fear in the hearts of the nation because part of this command said that “the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”  God’s name was only spoken one time a year and only once a year by the high priest as he entered into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement.  God did not intend that His name could never be spoken.  This commandment was intended to prevent His name from being used in a vain, careless, meaningless way or used in anger (Lev 24:15; Ex 20:7).  This great fear came from Israel’s reading of Leviticus 24:16 which says “Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”

Today this commandment is broken so often that not only doesn’t anyone seem to notice but no one seems to care; no one that is except for God and some Christians.   Today, believers prefer the name Lord, Jesus Christ or God, however what is a serious and dangerous blaspheme of His holy name is when “damn” is commonly used for God’s last name.  The most frequently uttered statement “Oh my God” is about as irreverent as could possibly be and by definition breaks the 3rd Commandment.  We ought to fear misusing and abusing God’s name for His name is holy and it is a name that is above all names.   When people use His name in swearing and cursing they show that they have a low view of God and a low view of God leads to a low view of the Bible or at least have little regard for its veracity.  When people hold to such a low view of Scripture which leads to a low view of God, breaking the 3rd Commandment becomes routine despite the danger of using His name as a curse word (Lev 24:15; Duet 5:11; Rev 16:9, 11; 2 Tim 3:2; Col 3:8).

Jehovah is not YHWH

No one knows how this name of God is actually pronounced and so this lead to the vowels from “Adonai” (Lord) and “Elohim” (God) being inserted into YHWH to become Yahweh however this does not mean that this is how God’s name was originally pronounced or how God pronounced it.  Again, that is lost knowledge and we can only speculate about how YHWH sounded when it was spoken.   The name Jehovah is never used or seen in the New Testament.  God actually has many names and they are often tied to His attributes like the “God who sees me” (El Roi), “God Almighty” (El Shaddai), and “God Everlasting” (El Olam).  God has many names, just as He has many attributes but so does Jesus Who is also God.  Jesus is known as the Good Shepherd, the Lamb of God, the Bread of Life and estimates are that He has over 200 names.  Sadly, when Jehovah is used, it is not actually the name of the God of the Bible but a man-made, human concocted name.  Besides, God is so much more than His name, He is more than can ever be described.

What Does Yaweh Mean?


God is also called the Father for there is the Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, also God, and these three work together in a person’s salvation;  God the Father calls (John 6:44), the Savior redeems (John 3:16-17) and the Spirit sanctifies and shows us who Jesus is and why we need the Savior (John 14:26, 15:26).  If you do not yet know Christ, then God is not  your Father, Jesus is not your Savior, and the Spirit is not your comforter or teacher and if Jesus is not your Savior then He will be your Judge (Rev 20:12-15).  I beg you today to humble yourself, bend the knee, repent, confess your sins and trust in Christ because the name that matters most is Jesus Christ Whom “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11).

Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book  Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon

1.   Desmond T. Alexander. From Paradise to the Promised Land  (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publish, 2012), 191.

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  • American Reader

    “The name Jehovah is never used or seen in the New Testament.” Suggest you double check this assertion.

    Jerome, in the fourth century, wrote: “Matthew, who is also Levi, and who from a publican came to be an apostle, first of all composed a Gospel of Christ in Judaea in the Hebrew language and characters for the benefit of those of the circumcision who had believed.” (De viris inlustribus, chap. III) This Gospel includes 11 direct quotations of portions of the Hebrew Scriptures where the Tetragrammaton is found. There is no reason to believe that Matthew did not quote the passages as they were written in the Hebrew text from which he quoted.

    Other inspired writers who contributed to the contents of the Christian Greek Scriptures quoted hundreds of passages from the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. Many of these passages included the Hebrew Tetragrammaton right in the Greek text of early copies of the Septuagint. In harmony with Jesus’ own attitude regarding his Father’s name, Jesus’ disciples would have retained that name in those quotations.—Compare John 17:6, 26.

    In Journal of Biblical Literature, George Howard of the University of Georgia wrote: “We know for a fact that Greek-speaking Jews continued to write יהוה within their Greek Scriptures. Moreover, it is most unlikely that early conservative Greek-speaking Jewish Christians varied from this practice. Although in secondary references to God they probably used the words [God] and [Lord], it would have been extremely unusual for them to have dismissed the Tetragram from the biblical text itself. . . . Since the Tetragram was still written in the copies of the Greek Bible which made up the Scriptures of the early church, it is reasonable to believe that the N[ew] T[estament] writers, when quoting from Scripture, preserved the Tetragram within the biblical text. . . . But when it was removed from the Greek O[ld] T[estament], it was also removed from the quotations of the O[ld] T[estament] in the N[ew] T[estament]. Thus somewhere around the beginning of the second century the use of surrogates [substitutes] must have crowded out the Tetragram in both Testaments.”—Vol. 96, No. 1, March 1977, pp. 76, 77.

  • Jack Wellman

    The vast majority of Jewish and Christian biblical scholars and linguists do not believe “Jehovah” to be the proper pronunciation of YHWH. There was no true J sound in ancient Hebrew. Even the Hebrew letter vav, which is transliterated as the W in YHWH is said to have originally had a pronunciation closer to W than the V of Jehovah. Jehovah is essentially a Germanic pronunciation of the Latinized transliteration of the Hebrew YHWH. It is the letters of the tetragrammaton, Latinized into JHVH, with vowels inserted. “Yahweh” or “Yehowah” is far more likely to be the correct pronunciation so Jehovah was not in the original manuscripts but only YHWH. History shows that the name Jehovah was introduced in about 1270 A.D. by a Roman Catholic Spanish Monk, named Raymundus Martini, in his book Pugeo Fidei (Dagger of Faith). The ancient Hebrews had Yhwh for the sacred name of God, purposely written without vowels. Martini substituted the sacred term for God with the consonants Jhvh (possibly deriving this from the common latin term Jove), he then inserted the vowel points of Adonai or Elohim to contrive the first use of the term Jehovah. Thus, this is where humans, not God, have concocted Jehovah.

  • keithcarley

    If there was “no true J sound in ancient Hebrew” as you assert, why do you use the name “Jesus” instead of “Yeshua”? It’s because “Jesus” is the English translation of the Hebrew “Yeshua” or the Greek “Iesous”. It seems to me that the point is not one of transliteration but of translation. “Jehovah” is a translation of the Tetragrammaton, not a transliteration, made valid by its general acceptance over centuries. A word in one language is valid as a translation of a word in another language because it conveys the same designation or concept. Most dictionaries of English define “Jehovah” as the name given for God in the Bible. The use of “Jehovah” since at least 1611 (The Kings James Bible – e.g. Ps 83:18), and, with a slightly different spelling by Tyndale (“Iehouah” – e.g. Gen. 15:2), even earlier, has made it the common rendering of the Tetragrammaton in English.

    Whether or not we should use God’s name, and not just address him by a title, Jesus made clear many times – “Hallowed be thy name…” (Matt. 6:9), :And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it…” (John 17:26)

  • Todd

    You can’t use the name Jesus either than because there was no J in the Hebrew language. In “English” we call God Jehovah. His name means “He causes to become”. He can become whatever is necessary to fulfill His purposes. He’s got the power to do that.

  • Jessica LaRue

    Hey Jack, I really enjoyed your post/essay… whatever you’d call it. My husband and I have been doing research on this very topic and you seemed to be extremely insightful on it and you’ve helped us tremendously. Just wanted to say thank you for the knowledge.

  • mike addison

    Paul warned Timothy about “doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmising [suspicions]” (1 Tim. 6:4). Unfortunately, this is an accurate description of what goes on among many people in the Sacred Name movement. Personally, I would rather fellowship with non-contentious people who call the Messiah “Jesus” than with contentious people who insist that everyone call Him “Yahshua.”

  • http://exousiaglobal.com/ Dean Moore

    Hello you quoted this verse “Leviticus 24:16 which says “Whoever
    blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the
    congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when
    he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”

    but the new testament overrides that commandment by saying this: “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (Luk 12:10)”

    and then there is this one: “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mar 3:28-29)