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Hi, My Name is Yahweh! or A Debate on The Origin of God's Name The Voice of Lews Therin - 23/01/2003 06:45:21 PM

Given the interest that the “name of Moses” debate has stirred up, I have decided to go straight for the jugular, to rouse the nest of adders, if you will, and go for the BIG ONE. Yes, that’s right, I’m going to talk about the origin of Yahweh, the so-called “name of God” (as though God would walk into a conference room with a sticker saying “Hi! My Name is Yahweh”…hmm…I think I know what to do next time I get one of those silly stickers). Regardless, without further ado, here is…


The “name” of God, as written in the Old Testament, is YHWH, an interesting construct of consonants without any vowels. However, the modern pronunciation “Yahweh” is considered most likely due to the Greek transcription Iaoue by Clement of Alexandria and Iabe by Epiphanius of Salamis. Neo-Assyrian sources point to a pronunciation of “Yau” or “Yahu” as well. Given that the consonants chosen are also the so-called matres lectionis in Hebrew, or consonants which are sometimes used to mark vowels, these pronunciations closely correspond to the “Yahweh” pronunciation.

So what does it mean?

As the Dictionary of Deities and Demons of the Bible notes, scholars agree that the Name of God, Yahweh, is a verbal form. Specifically, it is a third person masculine singular imperfect form. So in other words, “he does X”. The description explains what God DOES. The problem is that HWH is not a proper Hebrew verbal root. Some varying explanations have come forth from this problem:

1. HWH is a by-form of HYH, to be, based on a re-statement in the third person of the first person singular ‘hyh, “I am”. So in otherwords, “he is I AM”. This is unfortunately undercut by its grammatical incoherence, as well as by a predominance of Babylonian names with Yahwi- in the first half and the name of a god in the second half. This leads us to the second possibility.

2. HWH is a variant on the Akkadian root HWY, “to manifest oneself”. Certainly, Yahwi-ilum (“God has manifested himself” and Yahwi-Adad (“the god Adad has manifested himself” were common names in Babylonia, particularly in the Amorite phase. This is a possible source for the name Yahweh.

3. It has been argued, due to the common occurance of “Yahweh Sabaoth”, that Yahweh is therefore an abbreviation of El dhu yahwi saba’oth, “he who creates the hosts”. There are problems with this theory, however, and little evidence to support it. Still, it is a possible source for the name.

4. Returning to the root HWY, this time looking at it in Arabic, a Semitic language more closely related to Hebrew than Akkadian, there are three possible meanings for the verb: 1) to desire (sexually), 2) to fall, and 3) to blow. No scholars have followed up on the name as meaning “desirous,” for obvious reasons – the God of the Old Testament is not shown as being a passionate, lustful god. However, HWY in both Arabic and Syriac (a branch of the Aramaic language) with the form YHWH indicates a causative, i.e., “He who causes to fall”. This is consistent with Yahweh’s association as a storm god (this association likely caused the religious conflict between the people of Yahweh and the Canaanites, who worshipped the storm-god Ba’al. Note also the “sign” that Yahweh sends to Elijah, in the form of fire from the sky that lit the burnt offering, His propensity to “rain down” fire and brimstone, and the description in Judges 5:4-5 of His appearance causing the earth to tremble, the clouds to drop water, and the mountains to quake). Another possibility is the third option, “He who blows”, i.e., a wind deity. After all, the Syriac word for “wind” is hawwe. This is also consistent with a storm god.

The most interesting thing about this debate is that there is no real way to definitively prove one theory or another. Personally, I like the storm-god hypothesis. It makes sense when you look at the Old Testament references in context. God causes manna to fall from the sky, he sends “down” plagues, fire and brimstone, he “thunders” in the heavens, he is a “wrathful” god, he is “on high”, etc.

So what does everyone think? Oh, and yes, I realize that Orthodox Jews will be throwing stones at me for saying “Jehovah”…JEHOVAH JEHOVAH JEHOVAH!

Annoying wotmaniacs for 10 years.

Oh, I don't have time for this. I have to go and buy a single piece of fruit with a coupon and then return it, making people wait behind me while I complain. - Prof. Farnsworth

The Voice of Lews Therin

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Hi, My Name is Yahweh! or A Debate on The Origin of God's Name - 23/01/2003 06:45:21 PM 221 Views
Whatever the name is... - 23/01/2003 06:54:22 PM 53 Views
What if the name is Allah? *NM* - 23/01/2003 06:56:10 PM 15 Views
Why would an omnipotent being bother becoming three facets? *NM* - 23/01/2003 07:16:23 PM 11 Views
nice name (and question ) *NM* - 24/01/2003 12:19:22 AM 11 Views
Thank you kindly. (I'm Lord Just a Newbie, etc. with yet another SN.) *NM* - 24/01/2003 02:13:00 PM 14 Views
I wish that I'd thought of that SN first *NM* - 24/01/2003 04:09:33 PM 9 Views
I told myself I would not get involved in religious debates again.... - 23/01/2003 07:02:47 PM 46 Views
Well... - 23/01/2003 07:07:12 PM 38 Views
Never *NM* - 24/01/2003 12:16:08 AM 11 Views
Meh. That was me, looking over my bro's shoulder. But no, never. *NM* - 24/01/2003 12:17:05 AM 11 Views
Ah...well, it was a Monty Python joke...guess you had to be there *NM* - 24/01/2003 04:40:38 PM 12 Views
just don't claim your meal was good enough to please him *NM* - 25/01/2003 11:47:39 PM 7 Views
Re: My God's name is... - 24/01/2003 01:21:03 AM 30 Views
*marks as favourite* - 24/01/2003 06:08:59 AM 30 Views
The Third Commandment answers one of your questions. - 24/01/2003 10:30:49 AM 43 Views
Perhaps... - 24/01/2003 02:52:18 PM 23 Views
What it sounds like is we were visited by aliens *NM* - 24/01/2003 12:12:40 PM 10 Views
I was always under the impression - 24/01/2003 05:02:10 PM 29 Views
Well...(if this post is still even remotely active) - 25/01/2003 11:59:21 PM 14 Views
So who else knows about the formula of the Tetragrammaton? *NM* - 24/01/2003 08:36:56 PM 16 Views
Re: Hi, My Name is Yahweh! or A Debate on The Origin of God's Name - 26/01/2003 10:32:23 PM 25 Views
The Opening of Genesis does not say "El Elohim" - 26/01/2003 11:55:34 PM 21 Views
I AM MOSES!!!!!! - 01/02/2003 07:36:24 PM 14 Views
hmmm I figure you will be able to tell me - 12/03/2003 05:22:12 PM 20 Views