The name was originally written in the Hebrew pictographic script. When Israel was taken into Babylonian exile in 597 BC, they found the Aramaic square script easier to write and adopted it for writing Hebrew. At this point the name was written as יהוה. The square Aramaic script adopted by Israel is the same script used today to write Hebrew.
Sometime between the exile and the first century A.D. the use of the name יהוה fell into disuse. It no longer was acceptable to pronounce the name of יהוה, as it was deemed too holy to pronounce. Israel also believed that the actual pronunciation of the name could not be known for certainty. In order to prevent a mispronunciation of the name, they elected not to pronounce the name. This non-use of the name was based, in part, on the command found in the Ten Commandments.
“You shall not lift up the name of YHWH (יהוה) your God falsely because YHWH (יהוה) will not consider innocent anyone who lifts up his name falsely”. Exodus 20:7
It became common during this time to use a different word, called a euphemism, as a replacement for the name. Some of the more common “euphemisms” were “Adonai” (my lord), “hashem” (the name), “shamayim” (heaven) and “hagibur” (the power). Over time, these euphemisms also began to be used to replace other names of God such as Elohiym.
When the Masorites came to the name YHWH, they had a dilemma, how do you add vowels to a word where the pronunciation is not known, and, as they understood it, a sin to pronounce incorrectly? Their decision was to take the vowels from the Hebrew word Adonai – Lord, the standard euphemism for יהוה, and place them in the name hיהוה (YHWH).
Many possible pronunciations for this name have been proposed over the centuries, some of the more common (most used and accepted) ones are Yehovah, Yahveh, Yahweh, Yahueh and Yahuah. While the actual pronunciation cannot be determined with complete accuracy, there are some clues within the Biblical text that can assist with the pronunciation of the name. We go into more detail in our Hebrew studies.
The word “name” is the usual translation for the Hebrew word “shem”. Though the word “shem” has the meaning of a “name”, the Hebraic meaning of the word goes far beyond our simple Western understanding of a “name”.
By gathering together all the words derived from the parent root “shem”, and looking for the common thread that each have in common, we can discover the original Hebraic meaning of the parent root. Each of the words has the basic meaning of a “wind” within them. ”neshemah” is the wind, or breath, of man, ”shamayim”is the wind of the skies, “shamam”, “shememah” and “yasham” is the desolation caused by a dry wind. From this we can conclude that the ancient Hebraic meaning of “shem” is “wind” or “breath”.
The “shem” of a man is his breath, which in the Hebraic Eastern mind is the essence or character of the individual. The actions of the individual will always be related to his character. From this we understand that the “shem”, the breath, is the place of origin of all the actions of the individual. The following are a few passages that demonstrate this Hebraic understanding of “shem”.
“O God, in your name “shem” save me; and in your strength rescue me”. Psalms 54:1
“O LORD, your name “shem” is forever; O LORD, your fame is from generation to generation”. Psalms 135:13
Let’s take this example of “the Name” and “the argument”…
In the debate over the pronunciation of the sacred name יהוה (YHWH), I have frequently heard people say, “Jehovah is not the sacred name because there is no “J” in Hebrew.”
In my opinion this is a very ignorant (and I use this word respectfully and simply meaning “a lack of knowledge”) argument.
Of course Hebrew does not have a “J,” but it also does not have a E, H, O, V or A. These are Latin letters and Hebrew is written with Hebrew letters.
A better statement would be, “Jehovah is not the sacred name because there is no “J” sound in Hebrew.” But this is also an ignorant statement.
In English the letter “J” is pronounced as “dg,” and it is true that there is no “dg” sound in Hebrew. However, in many other languages, such as in the Slavic languages and in German, the “J” is pronounced the same as the English “Y,” which is the same sound as the Hebrew letter yud, the first letter in the sacred name.
Even stranger, I have heard people say, “it is not Jehovah, it is Yehowah.” In the Slavic languages, such as Slovene, “Jehovah” would be pronounced “Yehowah.”
I mean no disrespect but I always chuckle (to myself) at those who think that if you are not spelling or pronouncing this the correct way then you are not worshiping the true God of the Bible.
This is because of a Western mindset that sees a Name as just a way of identification vs the concept of authority and nature/character.
Many will argue; It’s YHVH not YHWH. Then I would argue… It is יהוה, and not YHVH or YHWH!!
We believe that among the Jews Yeshuah spoke Hebrew. Among others He spoke Aramaic, the lingua Franca of the day. In our Hebrew studies, we go into some of the evidence for this and show how those who persist that the Jews did not speak Hebrew are using out dated sources and research.
It is our opinion that The Father do not care that much how we pronounce His name. Many of us have followed God, using the names Lord/God/Jesus/Christ, etc to get where we are spiritually. He doesn’t change because we now call Him differently. He never changes.
From a Hebraic perspective, knowing someone’s name isn’t knowing how to pronounce it, it’s knowing the person intimately and knowing their character. The Hebrew word shem, usually translated as name, more literally means character.
Therefore, we refuse to argue about the Name of our Creator, and rather try to focus on growing in His “shem” (character/nature).