So far in our study, we have learned God’s name is Yehovah – יהוה and that it has been hidden behind LORD or GOD in most English Bible translations.
In this section, we will look at how the Shem HaMeforash was used by God’s covenant people prior to the Babylonian captivity. I will use LORD in the verses below to help you get used to recognizing it as the cover for Yehovah, since this is how you will most often encounter it. When you encounter LORD, think and/or say aloud, ”Yehovah.” It may take quite some time before it becomes a habit to read LORD as YEHOVAH.
How was God’s unique name used in Biblical times?
The first recorded spoken use of YHVH – יהוה by a human being is found in Genesis 4:1. Eve says after the birth of the first human child, Cain, “I have gotten a man from the LORD.”
Genesis 4:26 records that after Enos was born to Seth, men began to call upon the name of the LORD.
Noah blessed God in Genesis 9:26. He said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem…” right after he had cursed Canaan.
In Genesis 12:8, Abram built an altar to the LORD between Bethel and Ai, and called on the name of the LORD.
In Genesis 14:22, Abram identified his God by the four-letter name to the king of Sodom, so this king would not mistake Abram’s God with the pagan god who was also called the most high god. ”…I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High (El Elyon), Possessor of heaven and earth”
Abram first addressed God as Adonai YHVH (my Lord Yehovah) in Genesis 15:2. This appears in English translations as Lord GOD.
The Israelites used the name Yehovah in common speech, in their greetings, blessings, and oaths. Below are a few examples.
And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, The LORD be with you.
And they answered him, The LORD bless thee.
This was a common greeting among the Jews in the Old Testament times. It was said often among them. Today, we say “God bless you.” Now, we can say,
Yehovah bless you!
The Israelites also commonly swore by Yehovah. They would say,
“As the LORD lives!”
Variations of this are: As the LORD God of Israel lives, As the LORD thy God lives, As the LORD of hosts lives.
When Boaz promised Ruth that he would fulfill the role of kinsman redeemer to her, he said,
“Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that… if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth…”
Even Achish, the king of the Philistines, swore by Yehovah in this same way:
“Then Achish called David, and said unto him, Surely, as the LORD liveth, thou hast been upright, and thy going out and thy coming in with me in the host is good in my sight: for I have not found evil in thee since the day of thy coming unto me unto this day…”
I Samuel 29:6
King David often swore by Yehovah. He used this oath when Nathan, the prophet, came to him with the story about the rich man who stole a poor man’s pet sheep to feed a traveling stranger, rather than taking one from his own huge flock, just before Nathan revealed to him that the story was about him and his affair with Bathsheba. David said,
“As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:”
II Samuel 12:5
In the book of Jeremiah, God speaks about the wicked nations that have come against Israel and taken them into captivity, and He says that if they will learn to swear by His name Yehovah, in the same way that these nations have taught God’s people to swear by Baal, that He will join them to His people. It is evident that part of the sin of Israel and Judah was learning the ways of the nations around them, which included swearing by the name of the god of the heathens, Baal. This brought Yehovah’s judgment upon them. But Yehovah says that if these heathen nations will learn His ways, including to swear by His name, He will bring them into His fold!
“And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth (חי-יהוה); as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people.”
It is apparent from the above examples that to swear by His name, Yehovah, is not prohibited in the law. This is very important! They were instructed to swear by His name. The prohibition was against swearing falsely. Even today in a court of law, people swear on the Bible to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me, God.” If you swear such an oath, you had better tell the truth, or else you will have sworn falsely and committed perjury. I wonder what a judge today would say if someone swore this oath in the courtroom—“so help me, Yehovah!”
“Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve Him, and shalt swear by His name.”
“Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; Him shalt thou serve, and to Him shalt thou cleave, and swear by His name.”
Pronunciation Tip: If you would like to try out the Hebrew phrases mentioned above, please note that in the pronunciation key beneath the Hebrew words, the bold syllables are accented, ”kh” and ”ch” have a guttural, clearing the throat sort of sound (much like Bach or Loch), and the ”ay” in Chay has a long ”i” sound.
Below are a number of verses that include the phrase, ”the name of the LORD.”
- Read through each verse carefully, substituting Yehovah each time you encounter the cover word LORD.
- Pay close attention the the phrase, ”the name of the LORD.” The proper way to read this is, ”the name Yehovah.”
- Record what you learn about the name Yehovah from these verses. (Example, His name is a strong tower we can run to for safety.)
- How does God feel about His name?
- How are God’s people to use His name?
- Who blessed the people in the name Yehovah?
Exodus 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.
Exodus 33:19 And He said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
Deuteronomy 21:5 And the priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the LORD thy God hath chosen to minister unto Him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried:
Deuteronomy 32:3-4 For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.
I Samuel 17:45 Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, Whom thou hast defied.
II Samuel 6:18 And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt offerings and peace offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts.
I Kings 18:24 And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
Psalm 118:26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.
Psalm 124:8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
Proverbs 18:10 The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it, and is safe.
(Click to hear this verse set to music. It is a great praise song. Simply sing Yehovah for ”of the LORD” each time.)
Joel 2:26, 32 And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and My people shall never be ashamed. 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 who the LORD shall call.
Zephaniah 3:9 For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one accord.
- Read also 1 Samuel 20:42a; 1 Kings 8:20; Job 1:211; Psalm 116:13, 17; Psalm 118:10; Isaiah 56:6-7. What do you learn about the name of the LORD in these verses?
- What is the significance of the Aaronic Blessing found in Numbers 6:22-27? (See below)
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ”Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, ‘The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.’ So shall they put My name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
The verses below contain the oath, “As the LORD lives.”
- Once again, substitute Yehovah for LORD.
- Try saying, “Chay Yehovah” —חַי-יְהֹוָה — as a way to experience how the Israelites used God’s name in everyday life. (See pronunciation tip above.)
- Notice who is speaking this oath in each of the verses. Is it a king, a prophet, a soldier, a servant, a woman?
I Samuel 14:39 For, as the LORD liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die. But there was not a man among all the people that answered him.
I Samuel 14:45 And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel? God forbid: as the LORD liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day. So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not.
I Kings 17:1 And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
I Kings 17:12 And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die.
II Kings 2:2 And Elijah said unto Elisha, Tarry here, I pray thee; for the LORD hath sent me to Bethel. And Elisha said unto him, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. So they went down to Bethel.
II Kings 4:30 And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.
Jeremiah 38:16 So Zedekiah the king sware secretly unto Jeremiah, saying, As the LORD liveth, that made us this soul, I will not put thee to death, neither will I give thee into the hand of these men that seek thy life.
- Look for other instances of this phrase in the Old Testament, and notice who is speaking. (blueletterbible.org is a good tool to search for phrases.)
- Whenever you have the opportunity to greet someone with a blessing, try saying, ”Yehovah bless you!” in place of, ”God bless you!” You might get some funny looks, but it may open the door to share what you are learning about the Name!
Whew! That was a lot of homework. Yehovah bless you for your diligence in learning about His glorious name! Join me in Part 2-C as we continue to dive into deeper waters.
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Feature Image background by titoOns via CanvaPro; Scripture photography by Lisa Urbani; Hebrew calligraphy by Melody Cash.
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