The Name of YHWH

Exodus 12:1, “Now YHWH spoke to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt saying…”

We learned back at the burning bush 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”.   In Exodus 3:15, YHWH says this, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you,’  This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”  

The Pesach in Egypt was the time YHWH chose to glorify His name.  In Exodus 9:16, YHWH tells Pharaoh, “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my Name may be proclaimed in all the earth.”   YHWH renewed that same power on Pesach in the Gospels.   Messiah said in John 12:28, “‘Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven: ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.‘  The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered.  Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.'”   We see the third and final time He does it again in Revelation 15:4, “Who will not fear you, YHWH, and glorify your name?  You alone are holy.  All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”   All three events point back to liberation from bondage, and all three occur with a demonstration of YHWH’s awesome power.

In my personal life, I rarely use ‘God’ anymore when referring to our Father the Creator, as the word God is ambiguous.  The phrase ‘I believe in God” is practically meaningless.  What ‘God’, specifically?  What values does “He” have (if it’s a “He” or a “he”)?  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.   Throughout this series I’ve often used the “Tetragrammaton” (which is Greek for “four letters”, instead of using ‘The LORD’ as it’s printed in almost everybody’s bible.   In Hebrew, the shorter version, “Yah” is actually used 49 times in the Torah, so if I use that instead, I’m not making it up or being lazy.  That being said, here is an important primer on the name YHWH (repurposed from an earlier study on Shavuot) and why He choose to use those 4 letters as His Name. 

Y.H.W.H. in English letters would be yod, hey, waw (or vav, if preferred,hey in Hebrew.  If you look at the introduction to your own Bible, it likely has an explanation of why the translators chose ‘The LORD’ (like that, in all caps) in the over 6000 places YHWH is spelled out.  Jewish scrolls and bibles often do a similar substitution, and call Him Adonai—which pretty much means the same thing as ‘Lord’.  This tradition, of NOT using or 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. “Ha Shem” is another Jewish traditional name, which simply means “The Name”.    

We should be declaring His Name by the choices in our lives—and only if necessary, pronounce it.   

Especially in the ancient Hebrew pictorial language, the letters Y.H.W.H. have meaning regardless of how they are pronounced.  Here’s what the 1st and 3rd letters imply, followed by the 2nd and 4th letters (which are identical).

‘Yod’ is a picture of a HAND.  YHWH’s own “mighty right hand”.  This represents His active power in the world and in our lives.  This is important, as YHWH points highlights this at the burning bush when first sharing His name with Moses, “I know that Pharaoh will not let you go, except by a mighty hand.  So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders that I will do in the midst of it.  After that, he will let you go”.  When it comes to freeing us, we rely entirely on His power and His authority.  That reliance and that allegiance is the faith that saves us.  This is mighty right hand is not-so-subtly demonstrated during the ten plagues in Egypt, plus the bonus power during the parting of the sea.

Waw (or vav) is a picture of a NAIL.  Waw is most often used as the grammatical conjunction “and”, as it refers to the simple nail that connects one thing to another.  In the context of His name, it’s hard to escape the nail’s proximity to the hand–which could imply a piercing.  Psalm 22:16, “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles m-e; they have pierced my hands and my feet”.   Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that when they look at me, on him whom they have pierced, the shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”   Of course we don’t have to speculate on the first fulfillment of this verse, as John 19:37 specifically says it happened on the cross on Pesach.

The ten “plagues” in Revelation (there are ten) mirror the plagues in Egypt, as they occur for the same purpose–to liberate His people from captivity.   Revelation 1:7, “Behold he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.”

Finally, hey is a picture of a little man with his hands raised.  It implies “Behold!”  In other words, pay attention.  Appropriately, His name has a double-dose of behold!  This is also alludes to the double use of the letter hey in the original covenant with Abraham.  Hey is the letter added to ‘Sarai’, to make her ‘SaraH‘, and to ‘Abram‘ to make him ‘AbraHam‘.  

On that note, the aforementioned yod (the hand) is what Moses added to ‘Hosea’ to make change him into ‘Yashua’ (Joshua–see Shavuot Day 22).  When YHWH puts His Name (even just one letter!) on us (or in us) it becomes a powerful vehicle which transforms us into His likeness, and into the likeness of His Son.  

Here are the four letters, Y.H.W.H., meant to be read from Right to Left.

HAND, BEHOLD, NAIL, BEHOLD.   The image above would be read from left to right.

Another aspect of the letters that make up His name is that these are the three most common letters employed as vowel-sounds in Hebrew.  Vowels are the soft sounds in words which require the most breath.  The yod is similar to a ‘y’, the hey is similar to a breathy ‘h’, and the waw often is a ‘u’, ‘w’, or ‘oo’.   When pronounced as YeHOOaH, or even as YaHWeH, it recalls the sound of breathing.   It is His breath that gave us life, it is His breath that returns to him at our death, and it will be His breath (given back to us at His discretion) that will resurrect us in the future.

In Hebrew, these letters (along with alef, the letter that implies POWER, and ONENESS) can also be seen as three sets of Hebrew verb tenses (I am, I have been, and I will be) overlaid upon one another.  YHWH’s name tells us that he is outside of time.   It’s commonly taught in Christianity that no one could be “saved” until Messiah’s death on the cross.  One could also argue that no one is truly “saved” until Messiah’s return.   However, it seems as if the promise of salvation is as timeless as the name of YHWH is timeless.  On Pesach we embrace the reality that YHWH’s name eternal, as is the offer of salvation.  The Father and the Son only exist sequentially from our limited perspective.

Joel 2:32,”And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name YHWH shall be saved.”   This verse is quoted by Peter in Acts Chapter 2, and Peter connects Messiah and the name of “Yeshua” to this same saving spirit only two chapters later, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no name under heaven (given to men and women) by which we must be saved.”   

The Father, the Only Begotten Son, and the Israel (the Firstborn Son) are all one, in and through His name.   Messiah’s lengthy Pesach prayer tells us as much:

John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”

John 14:20, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”

John 15:10, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

John 17:11, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”

John 17:19-21,”I do not ask for those only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

We, as Hebrews, unite with the Father through the power of the Father’s mighty right hand.  We, as Hebrews, identify and unite with the Son through his pierced hands and feet.  We remember this unity each Pesach.  Let they that have the breath to behold, behold.

Amen

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