The Divine Name of Elohim

     As mentioned elsewhere, many of the names being used on this web site may seem strange to anyone unfamiliar with the Hebraic roots of our faith. The purpose of this article is to help clarify our choice of terminology, as well as to demonstrate the proper name of Elohim (God).

     Before we begin, it needs to be understood that English is NOT the original language in which the Scriptures were written. English is a relatively new language that did not even exist when any of the Tanak (Old Testament) or Messianic Scriptures (New Testament) were first written. This may seem obvious, but there are some who don't understand this very basic principle. The King James Version (KJV) was the first major translation into the English language and it was created approximately 1600 years after Yahushua the Messiah came to Earth.

Translation vs. Transliteration

     We also need to understand the difference between 'translate' and 'transliterate'. To translate means to take a word in one language and wholly supplant it with a word having an equivalent meaning in another language. When we take something written in one language and render it into another language, we call that process translation. For example, the Italian word 'verde' is translated into English as 'green', because that is what the word means in Italian.

     To transliterate, on the other hand, means to take a word in one language and represent it with the corresponding letters or characters of another language. The goal here is to reproduce the sound of the word. Bringing the exact sounds across to another language is known as "transliteration". When we transfer the proper nouns of people and places to another language, they are not translated, but rather transliterated and sound the same the world over. One can listen to a foreign newscast and note the names like "Bush", "Saddam", "Moscow", "Washington" and "London" are easily discernible. Proper nouns simply do not change from language to language, but remain the same, allowing for ethnic accents.

     These two processes, translating and transliterating, may produce entirely different results. When employing a translator, say from French to English, the translator is concerned exclusively with supplanting the French words in a phrase or sentence with English words having an equivalent meaning. The translator gives no thought whatsoever to trying to make the English words that have been translated 'sound' like the French words that he started with. An example would be the French word dieu. Translated into English, this would be god. Dieu does not sound like god in any way, shape or form, but it is nevertheless an exact translation.

     If, on the other hand, the French word 'dieu' was transliterated into English, the result - because French and English happen to have the same alphabet - would still be 'dieu'. However, 'dieu' has no meaning in English. The equivalent English characters have been supplanted for the original French but one must be aware of the original French meaning in order to understand the word if it were, hypothetically speaking, 'transliterated' into English.

     When two languages have entirely different alphabets, such as Hebrew and English, the process of transliteration becomes much more precarious. Here are some examples of names from the Bible that demonstrate transliteration from Hebrew to English:

Adam (Hebrew) transliterates to Adam (English)
Qayin (Hebrew) transliterates to Cain (English)
Noah (Hebrew) transliterates to Noah (English)
Abram (Hebrew) transliterates to Abram (English)
Sedom (Hebrew) transliterates to Sodom (English)
Mosheh (Hebrew) transliterates to Moses (English)
Kena'an (Hebrew) transliterates to Canaan (English)

     Of course, this is only an example of transliteration for our demonstration. To truly transliterate from Hebrew, we would need to represent the original Hebrew names using the Hebrew character set. Even so, one can see that there are some slight variations in some of the pronunciations, such as with Qayin/Cain and Kena'an/Canaan, due to differences in accents between Hebrew and English.

The Tetragrammaton

     The Tanak was originally written in Hebrew and in Exodus 3:15, the Almighty revealed to us His personal, memorial Name, which is preserved in the Hebrew as , or as h w h y (read from right to left). Known as the Tetragrammaton, meaning "four letters", His name is represented by our English as YHWH, generally pronounced the same in both English and Hebrew as Yahweh.

     However, when we look in our modern English Bibles for the Tetragrammaton, we don't find Yahweh, but rather "The LORD". Let's look at how some of the popular English translations render the name of Yahweh in that verse:
     Exodus 3:15 (NIV): God also said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers-the God of Abraham, the God of Issac and the God of Jacob-has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

     Exodus 3:15 (KJV): And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.

     Exodus 3:15 (NASB): God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.

     Exodus 3:15 (NRSV): God also said to Moses, 'Thus you shall say to the Israelites, "The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you": This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.
     Most all English translations have chosen to replace the name "Yahweh" with another title or name of their choice, usually "the LORD" or "GOD" in all capital letters. To understand the reasons behind this, we'll have to look to the various prefaces and introductions of the Bibles themselves.

Traditions of Men

     Quote from the New International Version preface:
     In regard to the divine name YHWH, commonly referred to as the Tetragrammaton, the translators adopted the device used in most English versions of rendering that name as "LORD" in capital letters to distinguish it from Adonai, another Hebrew word rendered "Lord", for which small letters are used.
     Quote from the New Revised Standard Version preface:
     Careful readers will notice that here and there in the Old Testament the word LORD (or in certain cases GOD) is printed in capital letters. This represents the traditional manner in English versions of rendering the Divine Name, the "Tetragrammaton", following the precedent of the ancient Greek and Latin translators...
     Quote from the New Living Translation preface:
     We have rendered the tetragrammaton (YHWH) consistently as "the LORD," utilizing a form with small capitals that is common among English translations.
     Quote from the Today's English Version preface:
     Following an ancient tradition, begun by the first translation of the Hebrew Scripture (the Septuagint) and followed by the vast majority of English translations, the distinctive Hebrew name for God (usually transliterated Jehovah or Yahweh, is in this translation represented by "LORD."
     So essentially, they're saying that as long as everyone else does it, it must be okay. And sure enough, when we go to look throughout Scripture for the name of the Almighty, we find it has been REPLACED by another title that was invented and substituted for His true name, Yahweh - all in the name of tradition. Here's how the same passage reads from The Scriptures, one of the few English translations that TRULY transliterates His name:
     Exodus 3:15 (The Scriptures): And Elohim said further to Mosheh, "Thus you are to say to the children of Yisra'el, 'Yahweh Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Yitshaq, and the Elohim of Ya'aqob, has sent me to you. This is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance to all generations.'
Examples from Scripture

     Take a look at some examples from the Tanak and see how dramatically the essence of the Scripture changes:
     Joel 2:32 (KJV): And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
     Joel 2:32 (The Scriptures): And it shall be that everyone who calls on the Name of Yahweh shall be delivered. For on Mount Tsiyon and in Yerushalayim there shall be an escape as Yahweh has said, and among the survivors whom Yahweh calls.
     Now keep in mind that in The Scriptures translation, all proper nouns are transliterated as precisely as possible, which is why the names of places like Zion and Jerusalem are spelled differently in these verses. But look how different the context of the message is. In the former example, one is commanded to call upon the name of 'the LORD', and yet the name of 'the LORD' is not even given! In the later example, the actual name is specified.

     By removing the shroud of a centuries-old tradition, we suddenly realize that 'the LORD' is not even a name but rather a title. When we replace 'the LORD' with the original Divine Name, the Scripture suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. Or more accurately, the Scripture reverts back to its original meaning. Here's a few other quotes from The Scriptures as examples of the Divine Name:
     1 Kings 18:24: "And you shall call on the name of your mighty one, and I, I call on the Name of Yahweh. And the Elohim who answers by fire, He is Elohim." So all the people answered and said, "The word is good."
     Isaiah 42:8: "I am Yahweh, that is My Name, and My esteem I do not give to another, nor My praise to idols."
     Psalms 105:1: Give thanks to Yahweh! Call upon His Name, Make known His deeds among the peoples.
     Psalms 116:17: I bring you a slaughtering of thanksgiving, And call upon the Name of Yahweh.
     Isaiah 12:4: And in that day you shall say, "Praise Yahweh, call upon His Name; make known His deeds among the peoples, make mention that His Name is exalted.
     Zechariah 13:9: "And I shall bring the third into fire, and refine them as silver is refined, and try them as gold is tried. They shall call on My Name, and I shall answer them. I shall say, 'This is My people,' while they say, 'Yahweh is my Elohim.'"
The Third Commandment

     Take a look at the third commandment and see how it suddenly takes on its true meaning when the Divine Name of Yahweh is restored:
     Deuteronomy 5:11 (KJV): Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain [7723]; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain [7723].
     Deuteronomy 5:11 (The Scriptures): You do not bring the Name of Yahweh your Elohim to naught [7723], for Yahweh does not leave the one unpunished who brings His Name to naught [7723].
     Suddenly the commandment has greater meaning. There is an actual name that is not to be taken in vain (or brought to naught). To gain a better understanding of how this applies, here's how the Webster's dictionary defines the word "vain":
     vain 1. Having no real substance, value, or importance; empty; void; worthless; unsatisfying. "Thy vain excuse." ... 2. Destitute of forge or efficacy; effecting no purpose; fruitless; ineffectual; as, vain toil; a vain attempt. ...
     Considering the meaning of the word 'vain', what greater way to bring Yahweh's name to emptiness, worthlessness, and having no real substance, value or purpose than to remove His name altogether from Scripture and substitute it with a title of our own choosing? To further demonstrate this point, we need to look at the original Hebrew word that is translated "vain" in this verse.

     In the Strong's Concordance, the word translated as 'vain' or 'naught' is the Hebrew word 'shav' (Strong's #7723). This same Hebrew word (#7723, 'shav') can also be found in another commandment just a few verses later. But in this instance, it is translated differently:
     Deuteronomy 5:20 (KJV): Neither shalt thou bear false [7723] witness against thy neighbor.
     Deuteronomy 5:20 (The Scriptures): You do not bear false [7723] witness against your neighbor.
     Here we have the same Hebrew word (7723, 'shav') translated as "false" in the ninth commandment. Could this shed light on the third commandment as well? We know that to say that the name of the Heavenly Father is "The LORD" is actually a false statement. Let's look again at Isaiah 42:8 as it reads in the King James Version:
     Isaiah 42:8 (KJV): I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
     We know that the above is not a true statement. His name is not "the LORD". His name is Yahweh. "The LORD" is not a translation of the original, it is a substitution of the original.

     Of course, there are other ways that a person might bring His name to "naught" besides taking His name falsely: using His name alongside a swear word or profanity, taking His name on our lips while living a life of sin, etc. But replacing Yahweh's name with a false name or title of our own choosing would certainly be a violation of the third commandment. Ironically, in most English translations, the third commandment (as written) is actually a transgression of itself!

How Did This Tradition Start?

     The original Hebrew written language consisted only of consonants and no vowels. Vowels in the Hebrew language were remembered only as part of an oral tradition. Around the time of the exile to Babylon, the Jews began to forbid the utterance of Yahweh's name, largely due to the increasing exposure to the Gentile community as well as from a misinterpretation of the third commandment (regarding taking the name of Yahweh in vain).

     It was feared that His name would become 'discovered' and defiled by the heathen. As a result, the name of Yahweh began to be substituted in worship and when reading the Scriptures. Whenever it became necessary to utter His name, the Hebrew word 'adonai' was spoken instead, which actually means 'lord' or 'master'.

     Then sometime around 700 A.D., for fear of losing the ability to read and speak Hebrew, the practice of applying special markings known as vowel points came into existence in the Hebrew Scripture. With the name of Yahweh, according to the now long standing oral tradition of substituting 'adonai', the vowel points of 'adonai' ('a', 'o', 'a') were applied, indicating to the reader that he was to pronounce the Hebrew word 'adonai' instead of Yahweh.

     This practice went on for many more centuries and eventually, when medieval Christian scholars came to study the Scripture, they mistakenly applied the three vowel points ('a', 'o', 'a') to the name of Yahweh. In this manner, the Divine Name of YHWH was mistransliterated into 'YaHoWaH'. It literally was a combination of the consonants of Yahweh (YHWH) and the vowels attached to it by the Masoretes for the word adonai.

     With the eventual creation of the 'J' sound and the 'V' sound in the Middle Ages, this was eventually Europeanized into 'Jehovah'. Even though the word "Jehovah" does not accurately represent any form of the Heavenly Father's name ever pronounced in Hebrew, we can be totally certain that His name is not pronounced "The LORD".


     In Jewish thought, a name is not merely an arbitrary designation, a random combination of sounds. The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It represents the history and reputation of the being named. An example of this usage occurs in Exodus 3:13-22 when Moses asks Elohim what His "name" is. Moses is not asking "what should I call you", but rather, "who are you; what are you like; what have you done". That is clear from the response. Yahweh replies that He is eternal, that He is the Elohim of our ancestors, that He has seen our affliction and will redeem us from bondage.

     So just how important is His name? When we worship "God" or "the LORD", we worship a title - not an actual name, which is a big difference. While certainly applicable to Yahweh, those generic titles could conceivably apply to any pagan god or lord; Jupiter, Zeus, Ba'al, etc. On the other hand, when we worship Yahweh, we worship the one and only true Creator of heaven and earth according to his personal, self-identified Name. The worship is direct and properly attributed.

     It is abundantly clear that the Tanak writers understood Yahweh to be Elohim's personal Name, and not merely a title. Yet almost all English translations of the Bible have removed His name 6,828 times by inserting LORD in place of the Divine Name. I prayerfully look forward to the day when we can stand united against centuries of suppression and substitution, which has caused us to forget the true meaning of His name, Yahweh.
     And Elohim said further to Mosheh, "Thus you are to say to the children of Yisra'el, 'Yahweh Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Yitshaq, and the Elohim of Ya'aqob, has sent me to you. This is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance to all generations.' (Exodus 3:15, The Scriptures)




"...In essentials we maintain unity, in opinions liberty, and in all things love..."

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