A long while back (a couple of years ago) I remember I was chatting online with a Jewish believer who was following some of my blog posts and during the chat I typed the following word: YHWH.
His immediate response was “You know we’re not supposed to write that word out“.
When I asked why, he said because that name is HOLY and we’re not supposed to verbally utter it out loud or even write or type it out.
I was aware of the prohibition against any verbal utterance of YHWH, but was surprised because I wasn’t aware that this prohibition extended to even writing out the Lord’s HOLY Name.
I’ve already expressed my thoughts on this matter and for me it comes down to this.
First, nowhere in Scripture will you find a prohibition against uttering God’s HOLY Name.
Second, if it is such a blasphemy to utter YHWH out loud, then why in the heck did God give us His Holy Name anyway?
In the Tanach, YHWH appears literally thousands of times and get this, up until around 300 BC, the Lord’s personal name WAS uttered out loud by the Jewish religious community.
Third, the Scriptures command us to call on the Name of the Lord!
We’re actually told to call on the Name of the Lord, but how can we do that if there’s a prohibition against saying His Name out loud?
Since the Jews have stopped pronouncing His Name over 2000 years ago, it’s difficult to know with certainty what the correct pronunciation is.
This difficulty is further complicated when we attempt to transliterate the original Hebrew letters into English sounds.
We get so many different variations like YAHWEH or JEHOVAH and so on.
It’s always a difficulty to go from one language to another because the vowel sounds and grammar rules for each language differ.
There are some letters in Hebrew that just don’t have direct English equivalents.
So based on what we know about the Hebrew rules of grammar and vowel sounds, what would be the most appropriate rendering of YHWH?
Well, here’s a fundamental Hebrew grammar rule that I think will come in handy when attempting to solve this perplexing matter.
IF A WORD BEGINS WITH YUD, THEN THE CONSONANTS THAT FOLLOW MUST HAVE A VOWEL SOUND!
Please treat this as a general rule, NOT an absolute rule, because as with all languages there are usually numerous exceptions.
So let’s take a look at the Hebrew word for God’s Name.
From right to left the letters are YUD HEH VAV HEH.
Now if we are going to go by the general rule I just mentioned, this word must have three syllables, right?
Hence, the correct pronunciation would more likely be JEHOVAH.
However, since there’s no “J” sound in the Hebrew, it is more accurately rendered as YEH-HO-VAH.
But this leads us to the next question of why do some folks pronounce YHWH as YAHWEH with two syllables?
Well, many scholars believe that this is just a contraction of YEH-HO-VAH.
Kind of like in English we contract “I would” into “I’d” and “cannot” into “can’t“.
Keep in mind that contractions become custom based on the sound of the word, not on the spelling of the word.
Saying YAHWEH with two syllables is a mistake committed by gentile scholars who didn’t understand Hebrew grammar.
Or they didn’t catch that slight “o” sound in the 3-syllable YEH-HO-VAH.
Published in Jerusalem, Israel on Friday, August 11th, 2017 at BEN AMI Cafe.