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I will unquestionably be opening a can of worms with this post, so to all reading this (or watching the video) I ask that you please do not shout back at the monitor or bang your fist on the table shouting “NO! NO! NO!” until the end.
I think this will blow a lot of people’s minds. I know it did mine.
Let’s start with the simple question: What is a “name?” When I searched on line for an answer, it said, “a word or set of words by which a person, animal, place, or thing is known, addressed, or referred to.”
In the ancient days, many names were more than just a means of identifying someone. Some of the names were almost prophetic in that they described who the person was. Jedidiah is someone beloved by God; Joshua is God’s salvation; Abraham is father of multitudes; Emmanuel means God is with us. These names didn’t just identify the person but also indicated what we should expect from them during their lifetime.
What about God’s name? There are many names that are used to identify God: God (of course), El, Yah, Shadai, and the Holy Name that is called the Tetragrammaton (I will use the term ‘Tetra” in this discussion just to make it easier to type) which is Y-H-V-H, or also shown as Y-H-W-H.
Most people believe this is God’s Holy Name, the very one he told Moses to use when Moses asked to know what name to tell the people in Exodus 3:13-15. But they are wrong! This is what God told Moses:
Then Moses asked God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ What should I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also told Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, 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, and this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.… (Berean Study Bible)
So God didn’t give a specific name, he gave a description of who he is when he told Moses to say “I am has sent me to you.”
I have looked in the JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh (one of the most respected interpretations of the Tanakh today), my Chumash (The Pentateuch and Haftorahs) edited by Dr. Hertz (Soncino Edition) and also my Tikkun.
NOTE: For those who may not be familiar with the Tikkun, it is a book of the Torah scroll with the Torah Hebrew (a very different font of Hebrew), the modern Hebrew with vowel points and the English translation with commentary of the scriptures. It is used for preparation of chanting the Torah when reading the weekly parashah.
In every one of these highly authentic Jewish volumes, the word used for God in this passage is Elohim (generally meaning is “God is judge”) and he doesn’t use the Y-H-V-H anywhere in this passage. What is used is: אה’ה אשר אה’ה, which means “I am who I am.”
So, nu? What’s this mean? It means that the Tetra is not the name God gave to Moses to identify who he is to the children of Israel. So now we have to ask, “Where did the Tetra come from?”
It was first used in Genesis 2:4. The very first appearance of the Tetra in the Torah is right after God finished making the earth, in the second half of verse 2:4. The Hebrew says: ב’ומ עשות ‘הוה אלה’מ which in English is translated as ‘When the Lord God..”, which tells us the Tetra is translated from the Torah as “Lord.” The word we use for the Tetra in Judaism is “Adonai”, which means “Lord.”
The Tikkun explains what the Tetra means: it is really an acronym. Each of the letters represent a word, and those words are (I will transliterate): Hah-yah Ho-veh veh-yee-yeh, which means “He was, he is and he will be.”
So after all the hullabaloo about the correct spelling of God’s name and how it should be pronounced, we find out that what we have always thought to be God’s Holy Name isn’t really a name! It is an acronym for words that describe the eternal nature of God.
And that fits with God’s command to Moses in front of the burning bush that the name he gave to Moses is how he should be remembered in every generation. God was not giving Moses a name we should use to call him but how we should remember and refer to him. Remember at the beginning the definition of a name can also mean how we refer to someone? God doesn’t want us to have a specific name for him, he wants us to refer to him for who and what he is. He is our eternal Lord. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And that is what he told Moses he wants us to call him.
People are given a name we can call them during their lifetime, but because God has no lifetime he is known only by his eternal nature.
He is and he was and he shall be: that is what the Tetra means. It is not a name as we define what a name is, it is a memorial to remind us that God is eternal.
And from the very first time we see the Tetra in the Torah it is interpreted as “Lord”, who are we to change it?
So where do we go from here? I suspect that those who absolutely must use the Tetra and pronounce it as they believe it should be pronounced will continue to do so. I hope at least some will reconsider their understanding and verify what I have said here. And there may be some who will start to use “Lord” or “Adonai” as we Jews have been doing forever.
Others may just wander around the house muttering to themselves, “What should I believe? What is right? Who can I trust?”
I can answer that last one: trust God and trust his word. Trust that the interpretation Jews have been using for thousands of years is more dependable (and probably more accurate) than the one many Gentile’s just now learning about God and Yeshua are using.
And always, always, ALWAYS go to the Jewish versions of the Torah and Tanakh (Old Covenant) to see what the Hebrew says. The Torah is absolutely dependable to be the exact same way it is today as it was when it was first written. If you knew all the different ways the Torah is verified when a new one is written you would be able to trust that it is absolutely dependable. The Hebrew, that is- the interpretations are subject to individual bios and predetermined understanding.
I have been reading and studying the bible for over 20 years and after all this time I just now learned that what I have always known to be the Holy Name of God isn’t a name at all. OY! I just love the exciting and new things we learn from God’s word when we really look at it.