As we continue our series on the names of God (previous posts have focused on Jehovah Nissi, Jehovha Rapha, Jehovah Jireh and more) today we will examine Yahweh.
Lord, Master, denoting the omnipotence of God, despot, absolute ruler. Translated most often as I am.
Yahweh means “The Lord” – Yahweh is derived from the Hebrew word for “I AM. It is the formal or proper name of THE divine person. It stems from the verb which means to “exist,” or “be.”
When God told Moses to go to Pharaoh and to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses was frightened (I mean, can you imagine??). He needed reassurance and comfort. He needed to know God was bigger than this problem, that He would carry them through, that even if people wouldn’t listen to him, they would listen to the One who sent him. Because His name carried that much awe and honor. He said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, The God of you fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you.” Exodus 3:13-14
God’s name, Yahweh, is one of authority. It is one that holds great power, and says to all who hear, “I AM the One, true God, follow me.” God is still the “Great I AM,” for He never changes. We can trust His loving leadership in our lives, just as Moses did. He calls us for his specific purposes, reminding us that He knows our way and He has a plan.
In the Old Testament Yahweh occurs 6,519 times. This name is used more than any other name of God. Yahweh is first used in Gen 2:4. Yahweh is the promised name of God. This name of God, which (by Jewish tradition) is too holy to voice, is spelled “YHWH” without vowels. YHWH is referred to as the Tetragrammaton (which simply means “the four letters”). YHWH comes from the Hebrew letters: Yud, Hay, Vav, Hay.
While YHWH is first used in Genesis 2, God did not reveal Himself as YHWH until Exodus 3. The modern spelling as “Yahweh” includes vowels to assist in pronunciation. Many pronounce YHWH as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.”
We no longer know for certain the exact pronunciation. During the third century A.D., the Jewish people stopped saying this name in fear of contravening the commandment “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain” (Exd 20:7). As a result of this, Adonai is occasionally a substitute for YHWH.
The following compound names which start with “YHWH” have been shown using “Jehovah.” This is due to the common usage of “Jehovah” in the English of these compound names in the early English translations of the Bible (e.g., the Geneva Bible, the King James Version, etc.).
Exodus 3:14 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.[a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
John 4:24 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Isaiah 41:4 4 Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord—with the first of them and with the last—I am he.”
Psalms 91:14-16 Because he has set his love on Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set Him on high because He has known My name. He shall call on Me and I will answer Him; I will be with Him in distress; I will rescue Him and honor Him. I will satisfy him with length of days and will make him see My salvation.
Isaiah 52:5-6 So then what is to Me here, declares Yahweh? For My people is taken for nothing; his rulers howl, declares Yahweh. And My name is continually despised, every day. So My people shall know My name thus in that day; for I am He speaking. Behold Me!
Perhaps the most well-known name for God in the Old Testament is “Yahweh, ” the special name that demonstrates His covenant lordship over Israel. The Lord revealed this name to Moses at the burning bush in the process of calling him to be His agent for liberating the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, an episode recorded in today’s passage. The Great I am.
That Yahweh means “I Am” tells us several important things about God’s identity. First, it shows that the Lord’s character is unchangeable. We can say of ourselves, “I was x last year, but now I am y, and next week I could be z, ” but not our Creator. Yesterday He says, “I Am,” today He says, “I Am, ” and tomorrow He says, “I Am.”
He cannot learn any new information or become more holy. None of God’s perfections can be subtracted or added to. He can never be anything other than what He is today. There is absolutely no shadow of change for our Creator (James 1:17).
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Importantly, Jesus speaks of Himself in similar terms (the “I Am” sayings of John; see 8:58, for example), which reveals that He is one with the Father and worthy of worship and praise.
A vital difference between God’s essence and our own is also revealed in the name Yahweh. Human beings and the Lord both possess the attribute of “beingness” — we both exist. Yet our being is different than the beigness of God, as we have not always existed.
On the other hand, God is self-existent: He has always been and can never cease to be (Psalm. 90:2). Even the best among us are not absolutely reliable. We can change our minds. We can be caught off guard, grow tired, or run into other circumstances that might prevent us from keeping our promises.
The same thing is not true of our Creator. He is the Rock whose promises cannot fail and who is fully and ultimately dependable. We can stake our very lives on His promises, for He will never, ever fail to keep them.
Questions to Ponder and Discuss
Take a moment to think about how you have changed over the years. Perhaps you are stronger or weaker today than you were ten years ago.
What does it mean when you ask your God, Who are you? and he answers, I AM WHO I AM?
How does hearing God’s name Yahweh make you feel?
What other verses come to mind for you or that you can find relating God as Yahweh or I am?
For more study on the names of God, consider one of these recommended resources:
Because of Him,