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With the term god being a general term for a higher being that is worshiped in any form of religion, our God, the God, has an actual name outside of that: Yahweh, to identify himself as the God above all other Gods. The meaning of Yahweh, God’s name, introduces our God as the one and only God, the king of kings, in everything, everywhere, at all times.
The Meaning of Yahweh
The meaning of Yahweh, the name of the God of the Israelites, means “to be.” It is so simple yet so very powerful, tying in his omnipresence, omniscience, and absolute sovereignty over all of creation into just two words! To be; He is.
Origin of the Name Yahweh
The name Yahweh comes from God’s name in Hebrew, which is YHWH. It was typical for vowels to be left out of words, unwritten in the ancient Hebrew language because of the different lettering (Hebrew has an entirely different alphabet than English).
YHWH is the Hebrew word for “being,” which is then translated to “to be” in English or “I am,” again speaking to the omniscience and omnipresence of the God of the Israelites.
A quick fun fact (maybe one of the only actually interesting “fun facts” you’ll ever hear) about the name Yahweh before translation, YHWH, is that if you try to say it out loud, it just sounds like you are taking a deep breath. But it is not just a breath; it is the breath of life that has been gifted to us by Yahweh. Every time we breathe, a signifier of the life given to us, we breathe God’s name. Isn’t that so cool?
Where is Yahweh in the Bible
So, how do we know the meaning of Yahweh as God’s name? Both the name and the meaning of Yahweh were pulled directly from scripture itself. Yahweh, rather YHWH, is first mentioned in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament when God is speaking to Moses through the burning bush, commanding him to tell the Israelites about him.
In this conversation between God and Moses, we don’t actually see the name Yahweh given as an answer to Moses’ question of what God’s name is. However, the book of Exodus was originally written in Hebrew, as is most of the Old Testament. What we read is the English translation, but if you were to read the Hebrew Bible (I’m jealous of you if you are capable of that), you would see “YHWH” (in Hebrew lettering) in place of “I am who I am.”
So the book of Exodus is where we see what God’s name is, as well as where we get the most accurate possible description of the meaning of the name Yahweh. Yahweh himself says that he is who he is, that he is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and that he is to be remembered throughout the rest of the history of the world. He is the God of you and I, and He is.
We see God naming himself again, through Jesus, in the New Testament book of John.
For context, Jesus’ identity is being questioned by the people of Israel, specifically the Pharisees, who doubted his identity as the Messiah to the point of crucifying him. And all Jesus says as a testament to who he is, was “I am.” The Pharisees were the religious leaders of Israel, so therefore, they had access to the law and the writings of the Old Testament, which means that they knew by these two words that Jesus was declaring himself to be God; they were rejecting their own Messiah.
In those two simple words, “I am” is truly everything that God is, God has been, and what God will be.
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God’s Multiple Names
Yes, God does have multiple names, such as Jehovah or Adonai, that each have different meanings and give testament to the character of our God. However, YHWH is what God names himself in the book of Exodus when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush, which is the first time he was asked how he should be identified.
When you go through all the other names of God and what they mean, the meaning of Yahweh i
You may enjoy this video from The Religion Teacher.
Or one of these recommended resources for further study:
His Name is Yahweh by Neil Snyder Ph.D.
I Know His Name: A Bible Study on the Names of God (InScribed Collection) by Wendy Blight
Knowing God by Name: A Personal Encounter (Bible Study Book) by Mary Kassian
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”