Jehovah is the name with which most of us are familiar in one form or another. It is also the name that is used most frequently throughout the Old Testament – 6,519 times. In fact, it is – in our contemporary mindset – God’s most famous name.
The reason why this name is so important is not merely comprised in the number of times that it is used. This name, Jehovah (I Am who I Am) is important because it is God Himself telling Moses – and essentially His chosen people of Israel – that this is who He is. In fact, so sacred was this name in Jewish culture that the Jews would not even speak it. At this point in history, we do not even know how to correctly pronounce it because in the 3rd century A.D., the Jews ceased from saying it altogether for fear of braking the commandment of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Therefore, in time, we lost touch with the correct pronunciation.
Even when the scribes would write or copy the Bible and they would come upon this particular, sacred name of God, they would read over what they had just copied and not pronounce or say His name.
The four consonants which comprise this self-revealing name of God are called the Tetragrammaton. In fact, the literal translation of the word Tetragammaton simply means, “the four letters.” They are the letters Yud, Hay, Vav, Hay. Because all four letters are consonants, vowels were later added in order to help us to be able to pronounce a name in some form or fashion which we did not possess the ability to pronounce correctly. Initially, this rendering of God’s name YHWY was Yahweh, in the original language. When it was translated into English, it became the name which most of us reading this today know it as – Jehovah. The combination of these consonants is derived from a word that means, “to be.”
If Elohim is God’s creative and powerful name, then Jehovah is God’s personal name. It is His self-revealing name because this name comes to us directly off of the question, “What is (your) name?” Essentially, when we study the name Elohim, we study the God who is the Creator. We can talk about His power, presence and prowess. Yet when we talk about Jehovah, we are talking about His person, His character. Elohim is the side of God who created the heavens and the earth. Jehovah is the side of God who relates to His creation personally. A person can believe in Elohim without knowing Jehovah. In fact, plenty of people believe in God (Elohim.) Yet plenty of people do not know the God whom they believe in (Jehovah.) Jehovah is the God who personally reveals Himself to us, oftentimes through trials and struggles that we are facing. Jehovah reveals the depth of God’s concern and care for each of us individually, and it lets us know He is nearby at all times – closer than a brother.
Excerpted from The Power of God’s Names, Dr. Tony Evans, Harvest House Publishers (2014)
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