Yehovah or Yahweh?
Hiding from God
If you have friends in the theatre, then you will have heard of the superstitions connected with one of Shakespeare’s plays: Macbeth. Actors refer to the play as “The Scottish Play” for fear of provoking ill fate. Or alternatively, consider the mystery and pending doom J K Rowling introduced into the Harry Potter novels with the phrase “he who must not be named.” The fictional characters believed that it was dangerous to even speak Lord Voldemort’s name.
But why have we attached such unfounded fear to the name of God our Father? His name is recorded in Hebrew by four consonants יהוה (YHVH or YHWH). Abraham, Moses and David called upon him by name. English speakers need to search the preface section in their Bibles to find an explanation:
“In regard to the diving name YHWH, commonly referred to as the Tetragrammaton, the translators adopted the device used in most English versions of rendering that name as ‘LORD,’ in capital letters to distinguish it from Adonai, another Hebrew word rendered ‘Lord,’ for which small letters are used. Wherever the two names stand together in the Old Testament as a compound name of God, they are rendered ‘Sovereign LORD.’”
The name Jehovah was used by the Protestant Reformers in their translations of the Bible in the 16th and 17th Centuries but has fallen out of usage in most 20th and 21st Century translations. The reason given for replacing God’s name with the LORD is that there is no certainty as to the correct pronunciation; there is a fear of using God’s name in vain and so breaking the 3rd Commandment. Numerous commentaries on Judaism and Christianity document the development of this custom which has introduced the element of fear into our relationship with God. But for Christians and Messianic believers today “there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
The first action that Adam and Eve took after disobeying God was to cover their bodies and hide from God (Genesis 3:10). When Moses first encountered God at the burning bush, he hid his face:
Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
That was only the first time that Moses had met with God, later he would talk with him face to face as a friend.
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.
Jesus came to restore our broken relationship with God. His death on the cross frees us from the power and punishment of sin. There is no longer any reason to hide in fear; like children we can call him by name without fear of the consequences. Personally, I prefer the pronunciation Yehovah, yet I know many use Yahweh. I use Yeshua and Jesus interchangeably and also Father, Abba, and Lord. I love the many other names of God we can find in the Scriptures.
Quoting from my book Identity in Messiah :
"In the context of relationship with man, the name that is revealed is Yehovah which means “I am” (Genesis 2:24). The name Yehovah is sometimes translated as Jehovah into English. Wherever you see LORD in capital letters in modern English translations then the Hebrew is Yehovah. Sometime over the centuries in Jewish tradition people began to think that this name was too holy to use. When reading the Bible in Hebrew, the name Yehovah is replaced with Adonai (Lord) for fear of breaking the third commandment by using this holy name of God in vain (Exodus 20:7). As followers of Jesus we are led by love not fear. Just as a mother will delight in the “m...m...m…mama” sounds that a young baby makes trying to call her, God delights in us calling him by name however anglicised or mispronounced that might be.
• “Yehovah is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).
• “The name of Yehovah is a strong tower” (Proverbs 18:10).
• “The Spirit of the Lord Yehovah is upon me because Yehovah has anointed me” (Isaiah 60:1).
Yehovah is the name for God in relationship with mankind: the God who entered history to rescue his children…
Jesus used a different name to talk to his disciples about God and to call upon God in prayer. His name for God was Father… Abba… Daddy. This name breaks through all the religious nonsense that men have put in between God and themselves. It is the name a little child uses to come close to God in a loving embrace."
Wendy Halloun, Identity in Messiah 2018 p30 &31
Asher Intrator of Revive Israel Ministries has more information on why many Messianic Jews prefer the pronunciation Yehovah:
“A name is a word that describes a person. The names in the Bible had prophetic meaning. They described a person's character, his destiny, his purpose. To the degree that we are looking at a name to have power by its sounds, we have fallen into superstition. However, when we seek to understand the spiritual significance of a name, we are touching the root of its power.
So, if I were asked how to pronounce the name YHVH, I would like to respond:
And YHVH came down in a cloud and stood with him there and called upon the name YHVH. And YHVH crossed before His face and cried, "YHVH, merciful God and gracious, longsuffering and great in mercy and truth, keeping mercy to thousands…"
“… In this format, the "e" (sh'va) stands for the future tense, the "o" (holom) for the present tense, and the "a" (patach) refers to the past tense. That gives meaning to the name YeHoVah as "He will be, He is, He was." In other words, the Eternal One. This meaning fits the understanding of the early patriarchs.”
For the full article see reviveisrael.org...yahweh_yehovah
God is our loving father. There is no reason to hide our faces. There is no reason not to call upon him by name.
Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Preface to the Holy Bible, New International Version, International Bible Society 1998