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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Attributes of God That Belong to Him Alone

Don Stewart :: Why Is God Called Yahweh?

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Why Is God Called Yahweh? (Jehovah)

The Attributes of God That Belong to Him Alone – Question 22

The Hebrew words Elohim and Adonai are applied to something other than the true and living God. We find each of these terms used for human beings in some contexts in Scripture. However, there is one term for God that is never used of human beings, angels, or anything else.

1. Yahweh Is the Sacred Name for God

There is one name that is unique to the God of the Bible. This name is Yahweh. An alternative transliteration is the well-known word Jehovah. Yahweh, or Jehovah, refers to “the self-existent, eternal God” the name God revealed to Moses.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14 NASB)

He is the great “I am.”

Moses later wrote,

“The LORD [Yahweh] is a warrior! The LORD [Yahweh] is his name.” (Exodus 15:3 God’s Word)

Moses said that the name of their God is “Yahweh.”

The prophet Isaiah records the Lord Himself saying that this is His name.

I am the Lord, [Yahweh] that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. (Isaiah 42:8 NRSV)

He calls Himself by that name.

The Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah and emphasized that He was God Yahweh. We read the following words of the Lord.

“Therefore I will teach them—this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the LORD [Yahweh].” (Jeremiah 16:21 NIV)

When He teaches them, the people will know that He is the Lord.

Jeremiah also recorded the Lord saying,

“Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD [Yahweh] who formed it to establish it, the LORD [Yahweh] is His name...” (Jeremiah 33:2 NASB)

Yahweh is the Creator God.

The prophet Amos also stated that the Lord, or Yahweh, was the Creator. He wrote,

The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord [Yahweh] is his name... (Amos 5:8 NRSV)

He is the One who made all things.

In the writings of Amos, it also says these things about the Lord, Yahweh.

The upper stories of the LORD’s [Yahweh] home are in the heavens, while its foundation is on the earth. He draws up water from the oceans and pours it down as rain on the land. The LORD [Yahweh] is his name! (Amos 9:6 NLT)

The home of Yahweh, or the Lord, is in heaven.

Therefore, the name Yahweh or Jehovah (LORD) is the name that God uses of Himself.

His Name Is Sacred

There is something else which we must appreciate. The name Yahweh is sacred. The Jews considered it as unpronounceable, and incommunicable. Yahweh is the covenant-keeping name of God. When the creative aspect of God is recorded then the name Elohim is used (Genesis 1).

However, when there is a relationship involved with humanity the name Yahweh is used (Genesis 2). These differences are consistent throughout the entire Old Testament. Indeed, it is no coincidence that we find Elohim in one context and then Yahweh in another context. There is always a reason as to why one term is used instead of the other.

2. The Vowel Points Were Taken from Adon

The name Jehovah or Yahweh is taken from the consonants of the divine name while the vowels come from the Hebrew word for master Adon. The four letters that spell the divine name (YHWH or JHVH) are called the “Tetragrammaton.” Therefore, Jehovah, or Yahweh, is a combination of two Hebrew words; consonants from one word and vowels from another.

There Are Small Capital Letters in English Translations

In English translations of the Old Testament, whenever we usually find the word Lord spelled LORD with all capital letters, whether they be small capital letters or large capital letters, it is the translation of the name Yahweh. This is the divine name of the Lord.

3. Yahweh Is Used in Combination with Other Names for God

Yahweh is used in combination with other names for God. They include the following.

Yahweh-Elohim

Yahweh-Elohim is translated “the Lord God.“ This title is used of God relationship to humanity as the Creator, and Redeemer. In summarizing the creation account in Genesis chapter one, this term is used. We read,

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God [Yahweh-Elohim] made earth and heaven (Genesis 2:4 NASB).

It was Yahweh-Elohim who created the universe.

Later, in the same chapter, we again read of Yahweh-Elohim. It says,

So the LORD God [Yahweh-Elohim] caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. (Genesis 2:21 NASB)

It was Yahweh-Elohim who created the woman, Eve.

When Adam and Eve sinned, it was Yahweh-Elohim made them garments of skin. The Bible explains it in this manner.

The LORD God [Yahweh-Elohim] made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21 NIV)

Thus, we find this name of God prominent in the explanation of the original creation as well as the fall of humanity.

This name is also used of God’s relationship to Israel. Abraham used this designation of God when he sent his servant to find a bride for his son, Isaac.

“The LORD God [Yahweh-Elohim] of heaven took me from my father’s home and the land of my family. He spoke to me and swore this oath: ‘I will give this land to your descendants.’ God will send his angel ahead of you, and you will get my son a wife from there.” (Genesis 24:7 God’s Word)

It was Yahweh-Elohim who swore an oath to Abraham.

Moses also wrote,

God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.” (Exodus 3:15 HCSB)

Thus, we find this compound name for God a number of times in the Old Testament.

Adonai Yahweh

The combination of Adonai Yahweh is also found in Scripture. Moses said,

“O Lord God, [Adonai Yahweh] you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your might; what god in heaven or on earth can perform deeds and mighty acts like yours!” (Deuteronomy 3:24 NRSV)

Here it is translated “Lord God.”

Joshua wrote about Adonai Yahweh who brought Israel across the Jordan.

And Joshua said, “Ah, Sovereign LORD, [Adonai Yahweh] why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan!” (Joshua 7:7 NIV)

This is another use of the term of Yahweh with another name for God.

Yahweh Sabaoth—The Lord Of Hosts

He is also known as the Lord of Hosts; Yahweh Sabaoth. We read of this title in First Samuel where it says the following.

This man would go up from his town every year to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts at Shiloh, where Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were the Lord’s priests. (1 Samuel 1:3 HCSB)

This combination occurs at times with reference to warfare. It occurs mostly when the nation Israel is in some type of crisis. For example we read,

The LORD of hosts [Yahweh Sabaoth] is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Psalm 46:7 NKJV)

Here the Lord of hosts is with the people of Israel when they had a pressing need.

The psalmist also speaks of God’s power and glory. He wrote,

Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory. (Psalm 24:10 HCSB)

The primary idea behind, “hosts” is the angels but the name also refers to the divine power that is available to meet the needs of the Lord’s people.

4. The Word Yahweh Implies a Relationship between the Lord and His People

It is crucial to realize that He is Yahweh only to those who have a relationship with Him. The name Yahweh is used throughout the Old Testament with compound words that describe something of His character. We cite the following examples.

He Is the Lord Who Provides

Yahweh is the providing God. Abraham was told that the Lord will provide a sacrifice in place of Isaac.

Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided.” (Genesis 22:14 NASB)

As the providing God, the God of the Bible, Yahweh, is the One who meets all of our needs. Only He is able to do this.

He Is the Lord Who Heals

He is the Lord who heals. The Bible cites the Lord Himself as the One who heals the diseases of the people. We read,

And He said, “If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the LORD your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have put on the Egyptians; for I, the LORD, am your healer.” (Exodus 15:26 NASB)

The God of the Bible, the Lord, is the one who heals diseases.

He Is Our Banner

He is called the Lord our banner. Moses used this term of Him.

And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-LORD-Is-My-Banner... (Exodus 17:15 NKJV)

The Lord is our Banner.

Yahweh Is Our Peace

The Lord is also our “peace.” Gideon, the judge, built an altar to the Lord and then used this term to designate Him.

So Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The LORD is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites. (Judges 6:24 NIV)

He is the One who gives us peace, and who is our peace.

He Is a Shepherd

The Lord is the Shepherd to believers. In the famous twenty-third Psalm, David describes the Lord in this manner.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. (Psalm 23:1 NIV)

As a shepherd, He looks after His sheep.

Yahweh Is the Lord, Our Righteousness

He is also the Lord, the One who is our righteousness. Jeremiah wrote,

“And this is his name: ‘The LORD Is Our Righteousness.’ In that day Judah will be saved, and Israel will live in safety.” (Jeremiah 23:6 NLT)

The righteousness of believers can only come from the Lord. Indeed, we have no righteousness in our own character.

He Is the Lord Who Is There

When His kingdom comes to this earth, He will be “The Lord who is There.” Ezekiel the prophet wrote about this coming time. He said,

The circumference of the city shall be eighteen thousand cubits. And the name of the city from that time on shall be, The LORD is There. (Ezekiel 48:35 NRSV)

The Lord will be there will His people as He presently is there for those of us who need Him. Again, we can take much comfort in this characteristic of the Lord.

Each of these names of the Lord shows how He meets the needs of humanity.

5. The Divine Qualities of God Are Stressed with His Name

There are also a number of the divine qualities or attributes of the Lord that is stressed. These include the following.

The Lord Is Mighty

The Lord, the God of Scripture, is mighty. Isaiah compared Him to a mighty warrior who triumphs over His enemies. He wrote,

“The LORD will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies.” (Isaiah 42:13 NIV)

Mighty has the idea of One who is powerful and victorious. This is a perfect description of the God of the Bible.

The Lord Is Our Maker

Scripture emphasizes that God is the Creator. We are also told that this Creator/God is is the Lord our Maker. The psalmist encouraged believers to worship the Lord as our Maker.

O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! (Psalm 95:6 NRSV).

The testimony of the entire Scripture is that the Lord has made us; we are not here as a result of blind chance. We should always acknowledge this.

The Lord Most High

He is called “the Lord Most High.” Again, we read about this in the Psalms.

I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. (Psalm 7:17 NKJV)

The Lord, as the Most High, is above all things. Nothing can compare to Him. Consequently He is worthy of our praise.

The Lord Is the Judge

Scripture says that the Lord is the Judge. This is one of the aspects of His character that is usually forgotten. However, central to the teachings of Scripture is the idea that God will be the righteous “Judge.” In the Book of Judges, we read of this.

It is not I who have sinned against you, but you are the one who does me wrong by making war on me. Let the LORD, who is judge, decide today for the Israelites or for the Ammonites (Judges 11:27 NRSV).

He judges us for our sin. While we do not like to think of Him in this way, this is one of His attributes. He is “the Lord who is to Judge.”

Conclusion: Yahweh, or Jehovah, Is the Sacred Name of God: It Implies a Relationship with His People

Therefore, the divine name Yahweh or Jehovah is used in a number of ways in the Bible to testify to the covenant, or revelational, side to His character. As we have observed, every time the personal name of God is used there is something relational which is stressed.

This is why we find Yahweh used instead of Elohim, the general name for God. Consequently, we should always pay attention when His personal name is used in Scripture. It is there for a reason and we can learn many lessons from it.

Summary – Question 22
Why Is God Called Yahweh? (Jehovah)

In the Old Testament the divine name for the God of the Bible is "the LORD." The Hebrew word is pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah. The name is made up of four consonants of the Hebrew alphabet. It is known as the Tetragrammaton. This is the name which the God of the Bible uses for Himself. Indeed, the name Yahweh is the covenant name between God and His people. It is not used of false gods.

There are a number of important things which we need to know about this divine name and how it is used in Scripture.

In the English Bible, it is spelled with all capital letters LORD. Whenever we see this, we know that this is God’s personal name, Yahweh or Jehovah. It is not the same as the designation “God.” This is the Hebrew word Elohim.

As we search the Old Testament we discover that there is always a reason as to why some passages use the term Elohim to speak of the God of Scripture while other passages uses the divine name Yahweh or Jehovah. Consequently, there are always lessons to be learned when we come across this divine name. Something personal or relational is being taught to us.

This divine name is also used in compound form with other divine names. This includes Yahweh-Elohim, Yahweh-Adonai, and Yahweh Sabaoth. The compound forms of the divine name emphasize the various ways in which the Lord relates to humanity.

As mentioned, this name always implies a relationship which the Lord has with His people. God is not only a majestic God, the Almighty One who is the Most High, He is also a God who is personal involved in the lives of His people. He is a relational God who wants a relationship with His creation, the human race. This is one of the many wonderful truths we learn from the use of the divine name. Indeed, there is much we can learn when we consider how the name of the Lord is used in Scripture.

What Does the Hebrew Term Adonai Stand For? ← Prior Section
What Does the Greek Term Theos Mean? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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