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So who else knows about the formula of the Tetragrammaton? *NM* TheTelesmic - 24/01/2003 08:36:56 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!

.o i AM
in a deep deep well
with a will to escape..

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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
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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
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