Names of God: Jehovah (Our Righteous Judge)

This Tuesday, we will be working through Chapter 3 “Jehovah” and Chapter 4 “El Shaddai” of Joanne Ellison’s book His Great Name.  These two names for God, Jehovah and El Shaddai, have a close connection.  After Moses’s first encounter with Pharaoh, God tells Moses that “‘I am Jehovah. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make myself known to them by my name Jehovah.” Ex. 6:2-3.  And so the Scripture makes clear, that God’s specific name transitions in history from El Shaddai to Jehovah during this time.  The fascinating aspect of these two interrelated names for God is their etymology and how these words become translated into English.

“Jehovah” is the proper name for God, not unlike the Greek “Zeus” or the Germanic “Odin.”  God discloses this name to Moses on Mt. Sinai in the burning bush. It is here that Moses asks “What shall I tell the Israelites is your name” and God replies, “I AM WHO I AM.  Tell them I AM has sent you.” Ex. 3:14.  The transliteration of the Hebrew of “I AM” is “YHWH.”   Over time, this proper name of God will become so sacred that no one is allowed to pronounce it.  Instead, wherever this Name appears, Jewish readers would say “Adonai” which simply means “Lord.”  Our modern translations preserve this custom by translating “YHWH” as LORD. But because the name was not pronounced, and because Biblical Hebrew lacks vowels, we don’t know how the ancient Israelites did pronounce the Name. The first English translation of the Bible by William Tyndale and later the KJV used the word “Jehovah” as the name of God.  Today, most Biblical scholars that the truer pronunciation is “Yahweh.” 

As we look at the various names for God, the most essential name we have for God is “Jehovah” or “Yahweh.”  In other religious pantheons, the etymology of the proper names for gods is functional or descriptive.  For example, Zeus means “Lord of the sky/heavens,” Odin means “seer/prophet”, or Ba’al means “lord/husband” and becomes “sun god” because he lords over the other gods.  As disclosed to Moses, the proper name for Israel’s’ god has a different character.  After Moses inquires of God’s name, the bible says “Elohim (God) answered Moses, ‘Ehyeh Who Ehyeh. This is what you must say to the people of Israel: ‘Ehyeh has sent me to you.’”  The word “ehyeh” is the root of word for Jehovah/Yahweh and simply is the verb “to be.”  In other words, God’s name “Yahweh” discloses that God isn’t specific to a place or a function, and thereby isn’t limited to that place or function, rather God simply is.  God is self-existent and thereby is the source of existence.   

Usually the “ehyeh” is translated “I AM”; however, the word is without any specific tense.  Clement of Alexandria (c.150-c.215), among other theologians, will therefore, state that since “ehyeh” is spoken three times by the voice, it signifies that all divisions of times of time are truly one time – who was, and is, and is to come – and thereby signifying the true timeliness of God. The Instructor, 1.9. God is immutable and is the “same yesterday, today, and forever.” Heb. 13:8.  This timelessness of God as disclosed in his name does have a functional aspect.  If God is timeless then the promises God makes to Moses out of the burning bush or elsewhere in Scripture is self-executory.  For the God that makes the promise presently is the same God existing at the same time as the God that carries out that promise in the future.

Dinner is at 6. The menu this week is pasta e fagioli. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.

“Because oppressed people are robbed and needy people groan,
    I will now arise,” says Yahweh.
    “I will provide safety for those who long for it.”
The promises of Yahweh are pure,
    like silver refined in a furnace and purified seven times.
O Yahweh, you will protect them.
    You will keep each one safe from those people forever.

Psalm 12:5-7

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