This week, days 22 through 28, we are covering Exodus 17:8-16, trying to learn what Yah was trying to teach the earliest Israelites about who He is, and what is expected of them (us). So far we’ve covered the theme of a ‘savior’ in the form of Joshua and his many names. Then we covered Amalek, representing the evil that lasts ‘from generation to generation’. As always, if you are following this 50 day study, I encourage you to pull out your favorite Bible, and read along for context. Today, we are going to look at Yah’s primary strategy as we enter into this battle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’.
Back at the burning bush, we learned that Yah was going to reveal himself to Moses (and the Israelites) by His name YHWH, when Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob only knew him as “El Shaddai”. The victorious redemption at Pesach began that introduction in the most powerful of ways, but each and every lesson from the Red Sea to Shavuot is designed to shine more and more light on that name. I’ve sometimes use a shortened version, YaH, instead of simply using ‘The LORD’ as it’s printed in almost everybody’s bible. The short version, “Yah” is used 50 times in the Torah, so I’m not making that up or being lazy. That being said, here is an important primer on the name YHWH, and why He chose to use those 4 letters as His Name. This will become very relevant to what Moses his crew are doing up on that hill in Exodus 17.
Y.H.W.H. in English letters would be Yod, Hey, Waw (or VaV), Hey in Hebrew letters. If you look at the preface or in your own Bible, it likely has an explanation of why the translators chose ‘The LORD’ (like that, in all capital letters) in the over 6000 places this name is mentioned. Jewish scrolls and bibles often do a similar substitution, replacing those letters with the Hebrew word “Adonai”—which pretty much means the same thing as ‘Lord’. “Ha Shem” is another Jewish traditional name, which simply means “The Name”.
This tradition of NOT using or even pronouncing the Father’s name has led to pretty much every believer on earth forgetting how His Name is actually pronounced.
Jehovah, Yehovah, Yahweh, and Yahooah, are just a some of the popular options.
In my personal life, I rarely use ‘God’ anymore when referring to our Father, the Creator, as the word “God” is so ambiguous that if people declare that they ‘believe in God”, it is practically a meaningless phrase. What ‘god’, specifically? What values does your “god” have? Is that the ‘god’ of the COEXIST bumper sticker? That is not YHWH. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, the Prophets, the Messiah and the Disciples– He is YHWH.
Especially in the ancient Hebrew pictorial language, the letters Y.H.W.H. have meaning regardless of how they are pronounced, and to me that certainly is more important than how we flap our careless, defective, and unholy tongues around anyway.
We should be declaring His Name by the choices in our lives—and only if necessary use our words.
‘Yod’ is a picture of a HAND. His “mighty right hand”, most likely. This represents His active power in the world and in our lives.
‘Hey’ is a little picture of a man with both hands raised. It usually means BEHOLD—like WOW, LOOK, AMAZING, PRAISE! This post has a picture of this little man.
‘Waw’ (or ‘Vav’) is a NAIL.
HAND, BEHOLD, NAIL, BEHOLD. The image above would be read from left to right.
The depth of the meaning of these letters, in this order, deserves an entire book. It deserves the entire internet. I needed to make sure we are on the same page with these crucial letters before we tackle what Moses is doing on the hill.
The double use of “behold” (the letter ‘Hey’) is the letter added to ‘Sarai’ to make her ‘SaraH‘, and to ‘Abram‘ to make him ‘AbraHam‘. The ‘Yod’ is what Moses added to ‘Hosea’ to make him into ‘Yashua’ (Joshua–see Day 22). When YHWH puts His Name (even just one letter of His Name!) on us or in us, it becomes a vehicle of transforming us into His likeness.
However, there’s one more letter that is NOT in YHWH’s name, but is still relevant to this conversation. ‘Lamed’, is a picture of a shepherd’s staff. The most common usage of this letter is in the word ‘EL’ (short for El-o-him), and is usually translated as ‘God’ in English.
The staff refers to ‘authority’, and ‘EL’ implies the “highest authority”.
Once we have all of these letters in play, we can see how the lesson of Exodus 17:8-16 would have instantly made sense in the imagination of the earliest Hebrews who first heard this story. With Hebrew as their native tongue they obviously would have been fluent in the meaning of every single letter. Moses is holding the staff (lamed) of El (the highest authority) in his hand, and lifts both hands (like the hey) up as high as he can. When his hands go down, the battle goes poorly, when the hands and staff are held higher, Joshua prevails. Moses employs Aaron and Hur to make sure the hands stay up.
The most common word that paints the picture of what’s happening here is ‘Ha-lel’—which means ‘praise’.
Hal-le-lu-Yah, is the long form, of halel.
H is ‘Hey’ – Behold. The man with his HANDS RAISED.
L is ‘Lamed’ – The Staff of God.
Y is ‘Yod’ – The Hand of God.
H is ‘Hey’ – Behold. The man with his HANDS RAISED.
HaLLeLuYaH is certainly the most common Hebrew word pronounced throughout the ENTIRE WORLD. It’s spelling is a call-back to the imagery of this very scene in Exodus 17. PRAISE YAH! Lift your hands, lift up His Authority, and PRAISE His Name. Yeshua will fight the battle–our job is simply to expect victory and lift up our hands until the battle is won.
Once Moses has his support network in place, verse 12 says “his hands were STEADY until the going down of the sun.” That word for ‘steady’ is “Amun-ah”. “Amun” a variant of “Amen”, and is the second most common Hebrew word adopted by the ENTIRE WORLD. In Hebrew, “Amun” is the root of the word ‘FAITH.’ Moses’s hands, with the assistance of his friends, were faithful.
When we praise YHWH, with words, songs, and with his favorite form of worship: faithful obedience, we prevail against evil. However, when we fail to praise Him, we invite defeat. If you are struggling to praise Him in the midst of your worst battles, find some fellow believers and get help to keep your hands raised!
You can find verse, after verse, after verse, that repeats the unchangeable truth contained in this lesson but it’s first taught to the people here at Raphidim, and in the most basic way possible. Moses builds an altar here and assigns a name to this place. We’ll look at that very closely tomorrow.