The Names of God: Yahweh, Jehovah, the LORD

The is the sixth post in a series entitled “The Names of God.”

In the last post we studied the name El-Shaddai. Believers can find great comfort in our all-powerful God. He has made promises to His people throughout history, and He is powerful enough to keep all those promises. God can keep every promise He makes, because He is El Shaddai, strong and immovable.

This week we will study the name Yahweh. “The name Yahweh translates the Hebrew tetragrammaton (four-lettered expression) YHWH.”[1] This is the name that God revealed to Moses as His personal name (Exodus 3:14). It is so sacred that many Jewish people will not pronounce it. Dr. Charles Ryrie explains:

Since Yahweh was God’s personal name by which He was known to Israel, in post-exilic times it began to be considered so sacred that it was not pronounced. Instead, the term Adonai was usually substituted, and by the sixth to seventh centuries A.D. the vowels of Adonai were combined with the consonants YHWH to remind the synagogue readers to pronounce the sacred name as Adonai. From this came the artificial word Jehovah.[2]

In Exodus 3 God appeared to Moses in a burning bush and called Moses to lead the Hebrews out of slavery. Moses asked for God’s name, so he could tell the people of Israel if they asked for God’s name. “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).

“This name is derived from the Hebrew verb, Havah, meaning ‘to be, or being’…”[3] God is self-existent. He exists of His own power. He is who He is, which is God. The LORD is not only existing now, but has continual, eternal existence as God. As the self-existent One, He is also the cause of all things. “Jehovah lives as no other being lives. He is not caused but is the cause of all that is. He is unchangeable, infinite, and eternal.”[4] Since God eternally is, He is unchanging. He cannot change, or else He would cease to be who He is. Eternally, continually, unchangingly God is.

This is the personal name of God that is exclusively found in the Bible.[5] While El is a general name for God found in other cultures, Yahweh is the personal name of the God of the Bible. It is used 6,828 times in the Old Testament.[6] It is the name the Lord used to reveal Himself to His covenant people Israel in relation to His covenants with them (Deuteronomy 29; 2 Samuel 7:1-17; Jeremiah 31:31-40).

Believers in Jesus Christ can find confidence and comfort in their relationship to Yahweh. The One who needs nothing and is dependent on no one has shown grace and mercy toward us and entered a relationship with us (Psalm 117; Exodus 34:6-7). Although He needs no one He desires to have a relationship with us, and He has made this relationship possible through coming as one of us and dying for our sins (Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:5-11). The One who created us and created us anew in salvation, is also the One who sustains and preserves (Genesis 2:7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:17).

[1] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology, Revised and Expanded (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008), 201.

[2]  Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999),53-54.

[3]  Herbert Lockyer, All the Divine Names and Titles in the Bible: A Unique Classification of All Scripture Designations of the Three Persons of the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975),19.

[4]  Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1973), 264.

[5] Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr., eds., “LORD,” Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament (Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1996).

[6] Ibid.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version ®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.