Why all the Hiding?
So far in this study, we have learned some of the reasons that the Jewish people stopped speaking YHVH – יהוה. First the Greeks and then the Romans banned the use of the Name in public by the Jews. Tachanot were written by the rabbis as a way to preserve the Jewish people alive, and to protect the priests, rabbis, and people from persecution. We discovered that this tradition did not really take hold until well after Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and even after the destruction of the 2nd Temple.
The tachanot seem to be a plausible explanation for why the Jewish people stopped speaking the Tetragrammaton publicly. But why did they also stop speaking it privately or in their synagogues? Why did the early Christians adopt this tradition as well? Why is it hidden so effectively in English translations of the Bible? (It may be hidden in other language translations as well, but I have not verified this.)
In the Hebrew Scriptures, and in the oldest fragments of the Septuagint (LXX), YHVH – יהוה was written, but after the tachanot which banned the speaking of the name were written, it was not pronounced when read aloud. When the vowel pointings (nikud) were added during the ninth and tenth centuries AD by the Masoretes (Jewish scholars from Tiberias, Galilee), they did not put the correct vowel points on the Tetragrammaton so that it could not be read or vocalized properly. The Sacred Name was usually read or spoken as Adonai (Lord). Prior to the nikud system, no Hebrew words had vowels. In fact, in modern Hebrew today, vowel points are usually not included in written text. It is certainly possible for Hebrew to be read and understood without these markings. It is an interesting fact that though the Masoretes made it a practice to use the wrong vowel points on the YHVH when copying the texts, there are hundreds of instances that have been verified in the extant Hebrew manuscripts where they (accidentally or on purpose, we cannot say) included the correct vowel points! If you look up LORD in a Strong’s Concordance, you will see the YHVH (יהוה) correctly pointed. The KJV includes the name Jehovah four times and since the ’J’ originally was pronounced as ’Y’, the KJV translators apparently knew how to pronounce His name!
Since most English translations cover Yehovah with another word, LORD or GOD, most readers are not able to remember (Zecher) the name in their mind when they read it. In fact, unless they read through the explanatory notes at the beginning of some Bibles, they would not even know that LORD stands for God’s unique name! Some explanations given for English Bibles not using YHVH – יהוה are: the Jews considered the name too holy to utter, and substituted Adonai, so the English translators followed this tradition; the Hebrew text does not contain vowels and the Jews have not pronounced it for hundreds of years, so no one knows how to pronounce it; the LXX uses Kurios in place of the Tetragrammaton; the Latin Vulgate uses Dominus. While these explanations seem plausible, they are merely excuses, since Yehovah’s Word does not forbid speaking the Shem HaMeforash, and the Hebrew Scriptures are filled with instances of the YHVH – יהוה on the lips of the people.
Since there are no original manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible in existence today, it is impossible to know with any degree of certainty how the Tetragrammaton was originally written. The stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, written with the finger of Yehovah Himself, are also no longer available for us to see how He wrote His own name. Because of this, I will not presume to tell you to take what has been presented here as doctrine or dogma.
It is my own personal belief that our God has a unique name, that He revealed it to Moses for a reason, that it was important enough to the Father that He included it in His inspired Word 6828 times, that it increases our understanding of Who our Father is when we know and understand His name, and that the name of the Father is in His Son’s name. It is a fact that the Old Testament Scriptures reveal that the Israelites as well as people from other nations spoke His name often, using it in greetings, prayers, and oaths. It is also a fact that the revelation of His name became obscured for a number of possible reasons, none of which are supported by the Old Testament Scriptures themselves, but rather by the traditions of men. I encourage you to use this information as a starting point for further study of your own.
Be a Berean!
“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed…”
Acts 17:10-12a (emphasis mine)
Thanks for wading into deeper waters with me in Part 2! You have accomplished much. You can now recognize where God’s Shem HaMeforash is hidden in our English Bibles. You also learned to say three Hebrew phrases that include God’s divine name. Wait…make that four phrases! Hallelujah! HALLELU-YAH! הָלְלוּ יָהּ
Part 2 has been filled with much information to digest! Thanks for hanging in with me this far! For this reason, I will keep the homework light this week.
I have briefly mentioned the Priestly Blessing in earlier sessions of the study. I have included it below with the cover word LORD, with Yehovah, in Hebrew, and in transliterated form.
- Practice this blessing, saying it with Yehovah.
- Say it to bless your children, your family, your friends. Revelation 1:6 tells us that Jesus has made us kings and priests unto God and the Father, so I believe it is appropriate for you to speak it over them.
- Try saying it in Hebrew using the transliteration below. You will get a real sense of what the Israelites heard spoken over them by the priests regularly in the Temple.
- Read the text of Numbers 6: 22-27 to understand the importance of the speaking of this blessing.
The Priestly Blessing:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Yehovah bless you and keep you;
Yehovah make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
Yehovah lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.
יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהֹוָה וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
יָאֵר יְהֹוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָ
יִשָּׂא יְהֹוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם
ye-va-re-khe-kha ye-ho-vah ve-yish-me-re-kha
ya-eir ye-ho-vah pa-nav e-ley-kha vi-chun-ne-ka
yis-sa ye-ho-vah pa-nav e-ley-kha ve-ya-seim le-kha sha-lom
Better get your wet suit out of storage for Part 3. We are about to take a deep dive!
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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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