What is God’s Real Name? (Yes! He does have an actual name.) #51

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Today’s Bible readings include Job 20 in which Zophar, Job’s friend, will erroneously tell us that the wicked are always punished while on earth, and their plans never succeed in the long run. Luke 6 contains Luke’s shortened version of the Beatitudes as well as Jesus’ challenge to the Scribes and Pharisees about the Sabbath. 1 Corinthians 7 is a bit of a confusing passage (in places) that has lots of advice on marriage, including: 1. You don’t have to get married, but you certainly can if you want to and you must if you are burning with sexual desire. 2. Husbands and wives have authority over each other’s bodies. The husband has authority over his wife’s body AND the wife has authority over her husband’s body. One implication of this principle is that neither party is allowed to withhold regular sex from the other, with the ONLY exception being a mutually agreed upon break in order to more intentionally seek the Lord for a short season. Our focus passage is in Exodus 3 – the famous Burning Bush passage where God calls Moses and sends him to rescue the Hebrews. In this passage, God reveals His name and His nature to Moses in a deeper way than we have seen before, and our big question today is what is God’s name, and what does His name mean? Let’s read Exodus 3 and then discuss it.

13 Then Moses asked God, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what should I tell them?”14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.

Exodus 3:13-15 CSB

14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation. 16 “Go and assemble the elders of Israel and say to them: Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, has appeared to me and said: I have paid close attention to you and to what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised you that I will bring you up from the misery of Egyptto the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey. 18 They will listen to what you say. Then you, along with the elders of Israel, must go to the king of Egypt and say to him: Yahweh, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Now please let us go on a three-day trip into the wilderness so that we may sacrifice to Yahweh our God.

Exodus 3:14-18 Holman Christian Standard Bible

First and foremost, I need to point out what appears to be a discrepancy, but actually isn’t. The Christian Standard Bible, the translation we are reading through, uses LORD in vs 15 and following of Exodus 3. The Holman Christian Standard Bible, my favorite translation, uses ‘Yahweh’ in vs. 15 and following. What gives? The answer is that God gives Moses His name – His personal name! – in Exodus 3:14, and that name is Yahweh, in the Hebrew. His name means, “I am that I am,” or “I am Because I am.” Most modern Bible translations, the King James Bible included, translates ‘Yahweh’ to LORD with all capitals to indicate that God’s name is being used. Why would they do this? There are a few reasons. For one, most modern Bibles are translations, and therefore they seek to translate every word from one language into another. Occasionally that is difficult when faced with Hapax Legomena (as mentioned in episode 47 ) and when faced with difficult or disputed words like Nephilim, discussed in episode #6. In those cases, translators sometimes resort to transliterations, which is an attempt to take the sound of a word in the source language (such as Biblical Hebrew or Greek) and represent it in the target language (such as English.) This obscures the MEANING of the word, but preserves the SOUND of the word. The trouble with doing this with Yahweh is that our original Hebrew Bibles don’t have vowel sounds, only consonants. Because the early Hebrews refused to say God’s name out loud, we don’t know exactly how the name should be pronounced, because we only have the four Hebrew consonants. Let’s tag in Gotquestions.org to help us understand this dynamic better:

In the original Hebrew, God’s name transliterates to YHWH (sometimes written in the older style as YHVH). This is known as the tetragrammaton (meaning “four letters”). Because of the lack of vowels, Bible scholars debate how the tetragrammaton YHWH was pronounced.The tetragrammaton consists of four Hebrew letters: yodhhewaw, and then he repeated.

Some versions of the Bible translate the tetragrammaton as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah”; most translate it as “LORD” (all capital letters).Contrary to what some Christians believe (and at least one cult), Jehovah is not the Divine Name revealed to Israel. The name Jehovah is a product of mixing different words and different alphabets of different languages.

Due to a fear of accidentally taking God’s name in vain (Leviticus 24:16), the Jews basically quit saying it out loud altogether. Instead, when reading Scripture aloud, the Jews substituted the tetragrammaton YHWH with the word Adonai (“Lord”). Even in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), the translators substituted Kurios (“Lord”) for the Divine Name.

Eventually, the vowels from Adonai (“Lord”) or Elohim (“God”) found their way in between the consonants of YHWH, thus forming YaHWeH. But this interpolation of vowels does not mean that was how God’s name was originally pronounced. In fact, we aren’t entirely sure if YHWH should have two syllables or three.Any number of vowel sounds can be inserted within YHWH, and Jewish scholars are as uncertain of the real pronunciation as Christian scholars are. Jehovah is actually a much later (probably 16th-century) variant. The word Jehovah comes from a three-syllable version of YHWHYeHoWeH. The Y was replaced with a J (although Hebrew does not even have a J sound) and the W with a V, plus the extra vowel in the middle, resulting in JeHoVaH.


God’s name is Yahweh, and – even though we don’t know exactly how to pronounce it, we know what it means – it means that God is the ONLY non-created, non-caused being in the multiverse. Where did God come from? He is, because He is. Who created God? Nobody – He is because He is. How did God become God – He always has been – He is, because He is. We pointed out in episode #31 of this pod that there are many elohims (spiritual beings/gods with a little ‘g’) mentioned in the Bible, but there is only ONE Yahweh. He is the GOD above Gods, LORD of all Lords, KING Of Kings. There is no one beside God – He is that He is.

Interestingly, the name ‘Jesus,’ comes from Yahweh as well. It means, ‘Yahweh Saves,’ or, ‘salvation is of Yahweh.’ And one of the most obvious ways that Jesus told us that He was God was by using God’s name in John 8. John Piper shared about this in a sermon from 2011, and I think that this will be a good closer for us:

So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”

There it is—the clearest, most forthright claim in this Gospel that Jesus is Yahweh, the God of Israel, the great “I am” of Exodus 3:14 and the prophets. If he only wanted to claim pre-existence, he could have said, “Before Abraham was, I was.” But he means to say more than mere pre-existence. He says, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Exodus 3:14: “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’ ”

John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (2000–2014) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2014).

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