Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

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The meaning of the Divine Name


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וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה

וַיֹּאמֶר, כֹּה תֹאמַר לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

אֶהְיֶה שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם

וַיֹּאמֶר עוֹד אֱלֹהִים אֶל-מֹשֶׁה כֹּה-תֹאמַר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

יהוה אֱלֹהֵי אֲבֹתֵיכֶם אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם אֱלֹהֵי יִצְחָק וֵאלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב

שְׁלָחַנִי אֲלֵיכֶם

זֶה-שְּׁמִי לְעֹלָם  וְזֶה זִכְרִי לְדֹר דֹּר

'And God said unto Moses: 'I AM THAT I AM' [or I will be Who I will be]; and He said: 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: I AM hath sent me unto you.'

'And God said moreover unto Moses: 'Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: The LORD (YHVH), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you; this is My name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations.'

It is common Rabbinic practice now to superstitiously avoid the pronunciation of the Name to hedge the third (not second) commandment.

Josephus writes (Antiq.2.12.4) 'Whereupon God declared to him [Moses] His holy Name, which had never been discovered to men before; concerning which it is not lawful for me to say any more.' It is clear from many passages in the Tenach, that the Name's letters were known from the beginning (Gen.4.1,26), and that the Sacred Name was widely and properly used in Israel (to give just one of 100s of examples, Ruth 3.12) till these unlawful scruples stifled the worshipful employment of the great Name.
Even chapter headings in the Hebrew Bible (the Tenach) avoid combinations like יה to avoid invoking the Divine Name thoughtlessly and are substituted with other letters with the same numerical value. Despite this, the Divine Name is a common component of personal names, especially but not exclusively, after the Exodus (for an example of an exception see Issachar's grandson Rephaiah). The serving PM of Israel's valiant brother, the leader of the Entebbe raid, had a near palindromic example, Yehonatan Natanyahu.

What then was Moses asking in (Exod 3.12) and in what sense had the Name not been known before (Exod.6.2-3)?

A message on the subject.

      יהוה is the sacred personal Name of God, not a title, role of office.

Hebrew names have a meaning, often of great significance to the understanding of the passage in which they occur.

It was Moses' second question to God, when he was commissioned to liberate Israel from Egypt. He knew it was a crucial test he would be posed when he returned claiming a revelation. 'They shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?' Exod.3.13b.

It is also apparent though the letters and pronunciation of the Divine Name had been known and called upon since Creation, its all important meaning had not.

'And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am YHVH:
And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name YHVH was I not known to them.' Exod.6.2-3.

When the Divine reply, by the mouth of the Angel or Messenger of God, out of the midst of the bush came to Moses, light shone into his mind.

'I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.' Exod.3.14.

The connexion between the verb to be and the Divine Name had never been made explicitly before. This unlocked its significance to Moses, and he realised this would provide a full answer that would satisfy the most restive of the children of Israel.

Yet the name does not mean  יִהְיֶה   which would be simply He is.

It's a grave mistake to assume that the sacred Name reflects only God's divine existence (carrying a purely an ontological significance), important though that sense is, being sanctified both by the LXX and by the New Testament. ο ων or to spell out its sense superfluously 'the One who is in being' is the expression by the Jewish translators of the Tenach for 'I AM' and is used un Revelation 1.4 of the Father and 1.8 of the eternal Son. The assertion that God's essence is identical with His existence, which may be founded on this wrong understanding of the Name, leads to the error of Divine Simplicity.

For one thing it is wholly inconsistent with the conjugation of  היה (to be), would have been unconvincing to the captive Hebrews, and makes the common later expression  יהוה צְבָאוֹת (The Lord of Hosts - a reference to the armies of Heaven) sound like an expression of equivalence rather than one of absolute dominion.

היה (to be), is triply weak (gutteral פ, a yod ע and לֹיה) and is not easily conjugated.

Here is the conjugation chart for Lamed Heh verbs, taken from the FSU site  (here).

Albright and other scholars* suggest the meaning of the name is derived the 3rd person singular imperfect Hiphil form of היה.

This seems the correct grammatical solution. The correct pronounciation would  then be יַהְוֶה (Yahveh) or something very similar.

The Hiphil or causative tense of היה is not otherwise utilised, which perhaps explains why this sense of the name was obscure to Moses and his people and the patriarchs before them.

He who brings into being.

This is the essential and eternal character of the Divine Being, not only at Creation, but also within the Godhead. 

This also naturally and properly explains the formal compound:

יהוה צְבָאוֹת

The Lord Who brings even the Hosts of Heaven into Being. Given that astronomers now reckon that there are at least

10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the universe, that is a reasonable starting place  for our worship.

יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בִּן מִרְיָם

The Messiah's Name derived from the Sacred Name

YHVH is salvation, or He will bring salvation into being.

This may be properly spoke of the eternal Father, by appointment, conception and commission, or the eternal Son, by covenant agreement, and by execution in perfect atonement, or the Holy Spirit by its accomplishment by empowering the Son, and effectual application to His seed.

'And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.
Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;
That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.
They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.' (Isa. 49.6-9)

The Name also applies to the eternal essence of the Divine Being.

John 1.18  θεον ουδεις εωρακεν πωποτε ο μονογενης υιος ο ων εις τον κολπον του πατρος εκεινος εξηγησατο

 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is (ο ων) in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

The Divine Son draws His being from the Father by eternal generation, without beginning, without creation, by distinction without separation of the Persons, with the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and by the Son, so that God is One being. It belies the error of simplicity of God's essence

 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matt.28.19)

Divine Wisdom in communion with the Father - a glimpse of this eternal generation

The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth (חוֹלָלְתִּי); when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth (חוֹלָלְתִּי):
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;    Prov.8.22-30.

Eternal Son of the Father

'For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;' John 5.26

Although the passage is usually confined to the Messiah's authority to quicken as a mediator, to which it certainly alludes, here there appears an analogy to the relation between Father and Son too.

The occasion of this statement was the Messiah's unmistakeable profession of Deity expressed in words about the Sabbath, that would have deeply shocked his scholarly hearers,

'My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.' (v.17).

Again in John 6.57.

'As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.'

This shortly after Messiah's promise that, 'I am the living bread which came down from heaven:'

Is this the sense in which the Sacred Name is used as a verb in the third person in conjuction with the abbreviated  version of the Name Yah as a noun, in Isa 26.4?

בִּטְחוּ בַיהוָה עֲדֵי-עַד:  כִּי בְּיָהּ יְהוָה צוּר עוֹלָמִים

A usual translation is: 'Trust ye in the LORD for ever, for the LORD is GOD, an everlasting Rock.'

(AV: Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: {Footnote: everlasting … : Heb. the rock of ages })

However if the full Name is translated as its verb meaning, the second clause might be read,:

'For by Yah He brings forth or gives being to the Rock of Ages.'     (That Rock was Christ).

Perception of the begetting character of the Essence of Deity is a cardinal foundation stone of salvation

Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Messiah? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. 1 Jn.2.22-23.

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.
He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. 1 Jn. 5.9-13.

צוּר יְלָדְךָ, תֶּשִׁי;  וַתִּשְׁכַּח, אֵל מְחֹלְלֶךָ.
Of the Rock that begot thee thou wast unmindful, and didst forget God that bore thee. (Deut .32.18)

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Theology
Ministry of God's Word
Evolution   Rome     EU
Islam/ The Satanic verses
The land of Israel
Christian anti-Semitism

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*W F Albright From the Stone Age to Christianity (Garden City N Y Doubleday & Co, 1957), ρ 259. See also.
D Ν Freedman "The Name of the God of Moses, 'Journal of Biblical Literature 79 (1960) 152-53.
Samuel S Cohon Jewish Theology (Assen, The Netherlands Royal Vangorcum, 1971), ρ197. 

All cited in C. R Gianotti, The Meaning of the Divine Name. Bibliotheca Sacra. Jan-March 1985. Gianotti's proposed support for a phenomenological view of the Name, seems to me to be considerably weaker and less satisfactory.