At first, the question might seem confusing. After all, we had heard the name Jehovah used in church, and in fact, it is in the name of many churches across our nation and the world.
Isn’t Jehovah a Name for God?
We also run into some confusion because the original Hebrew name for God was YHWH or YWHW. They considered the name of God too holy to speak aloud, and the Hebrew written language didn’t have any vowels. So, scholars have debated the actual pronunciation of the True name of God from the original Hebrew.
Guesses have ranged from Yahweh to Yehowah, to Jehovah.
In this article, we’ll discuss the meaning behind Jehovah, whether it is the true name for God (filling in the vowels in the YHWH), and why this matters.
What Does Jehovah Mean?
Tellegrammized by the Greeks, the name Jehovah (Exodus 6:2) points to the nature of God, much like God’s other names do. But this one was particularly special. The YHWH we find in the original Hebrew was only pronounced on the Day of Atonement, a Jewish holiday that focuses on atoning for the sins of the nation of Israel.
In our Bibles, any time we stumble across the word LORD in all caps is the English version of the Jehovah found in the Old Testament.
Although the name can mean many things, it points to Yahweh’s ability to keep covenants or promises (Genesis 1), his relational nature, his ability to provide, etc. It’s a name that has several definitions and can be linked to other names.
- Jehovah-Jireh - The Lord Will Provide (Genesis 22:14)
- Jehovah-Shalom- The Lord my Peace (Judges 6:24)
- Jehovah-Raah - The Lord my Shepherd (Psalm 23)
And so on.
Is Jehovah the Correct Pronunciation of YHWH?
Most likely not.
Although we’ve come to know the version of YHWH pronounced Jehovah, scholars have debated about the actual pronunciation of YHWH and have not reached an agreement.
One of our biggest clues that Jehovah probably does not fit the bill is that the Ancient Hebrew lacked the J sound at the beginning. The Y would not have made a J in the Old Testament Hebrew language.
So, why did people start pronouncing it with a J? Although people have debated even this, we do know that Jehovah appeared in Bibles starting in the 1500s. A Latinized transgrammation of the YHWH name most likely played into the ultimate assumption of how YHWH was pronounced Jehovah.
Why Does This Matter?
Although a great deal of debate has been dedicated to the pronunciation of YHWH, including Jehovah being thrown into the mix, ultimately, it’s not critical for us to know the original pronunciation.
Although knowing how they originally pronounced YHWH would give us some historical insights, we have to remember what the name stands for itself. YHWH, Jehovah, LORD, etc. all point to the nature of God. That he’s not changing, that he keeps his promises, and that he wants to live in relationship with us.
Different languages around the world have different pronunciations of Jesus, for instance. We, in our American society, definitely do not pronounce Jesus the way it would’ve originally been spoken in Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek. Nevertheless, the name has the same meaning for us as it did for the Early Church.
In the same way, Jehovah, YHWH, and LORD all remind us of the one who bears all these names and more.
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Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 500 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her here.