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Compound Names of Jehovah (Part 1)


The two most common names of the Lord in the Old Testament are Elohim and YHWH (Yahweh). The first is translated “God”, and the latter is translated “the LORD” (notice the small caps) or “Jehovah”[1] in our English Bibles. Elohim means “supreme one” or “mighty one”, and is the name whereby God is known to all mankind. This name emphasizes God’s incredible majesty and power as the creator and sovereign of the universe. Jehovah, on the other hand, is the covenant name of God expressing personal relationship. It means “He who is,” which is further explained in the burning bush passage when “God said to Moses, “I am I WHO AM” (Ex. 3:14 — Numerical Bible). What grace that the living, unchanging, independent, self-existent, eternal One wants to personally relate to His people! In the Old Testament, He revealed Himself as Jehovah to the individual patriarchs as well as the nation of Israel, with whom He entered into a covenant-relationship. We might say that Elohim is the general name of God, and Jehovah is His personal name.

Let me use my father as a comparison. He is known as “Mr. Bouter” to everyone acquainted with him. But his closest friends and associates call him by his first name, “Arnold”. You see, through their relationship and familiarity with him, they know him by his personal name. The creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 illustrates the same distinction. The word for God used in the primary creation narrative of Genesis 1 to 2:3 is Elohim. Genesis 2:4-25 provides a supplementary account of the sixth day of creation, focusing on God’s gracious relationship with mankind. This is where God is introduced as “the Lord God” (Jehovah Elohim) — not merely God as the supreme creator, but God in relationship with the people He has created. In Genesis 1:1 it says, “God created the heavens and the earth.” But Genesis 2:4 states, “The Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” Notice the different word order. The earth now comes first, for as Jehovah, God’s interest is centered on our little planet.

There are seven[2] well known compound names of Jehovah in the Old Testament. These names more fully express His character of love and how he relates to His own children in grace.

Jehovah-Jireh: “The-Lord-Will-Provide” (Genesis 22:14)

When Isaac asked his father about their sacrifice as they climbed up Mount Moriah, Abraham responded, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen. 22:8). When the fullness of time had come, He did this by giving His one and only Son, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). He now promises to supply all our need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” (Rom. 8:32)? Our heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air. They live in hourly dependence on Him, trusting Him to provide for their future needs. Aren’t we of more value than they? God knows everything we need, so we don’t need to live in worry about the basic necessities of life. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).

[Please see the next two posts by Tim Bouter for the remaining six compound names of Jehovah. (Ed.)]


Endnotes

[1] See Special Note below for the linguistic connection between YHWH, Yahweh, and Jehovah.

[2] Some Bible scholars also include Jehovah-Elohim (The-Lord-God), Jehovah-Tzevaot/Sabaoth (The-Lord-of-Hosts), Jehovah-Elyon (The-Lord-Most-High), Jehovah-Ra’ah/Rohi (The-Lord-Is-My-Shepherd) and Jehovah-Hoseenu (The-Lord-Our-Maker) as compound names of Jehovah.

[3] The vowel points in Hebrew are “hataf patah-holam-quamats.”

Special Note: Linguistic Connection between YHWH, Yahweh, and Jehovah

The original Hebrew written language didn’t have any vowels. The four consonants that spell the divine name YHWH are called the Tetragrammaton (which means “having four letters” in Greek). The most likely pronunciation is “Yahweh.” After the Babylonian exile, the Jews began considering the divine name too sacred to be uttered out of a fear of accidentally blaspheming (Ex. 20:7; Lev. 24:16). They even substituted it with the Hebrew word “Adonay” (“Lord”) when they read the scriptures aloud in their synagogues. Much later, the Masoretes (who worked to reproduce the original text of the Hebrew Bible from the 6th to the 10th centuries) added the vowel points of “Adonay” (“a-o-a”)[3] in-between the consonants of YHWH, although it was still vocalized as “Adonay.” According to Hebrew grammar, the first “a” (composite sheva under the guttural consonant aleph) becomes an “e” (simple sheva under the consonant yod), thus producing “YeHoWaH” in the text. When translating the Hebrew Bible into Latin, the Y and W (which don’t exist in Latin) were substituted with J and V, forming the name “Jehovah.”


By Tim Bouter

Tim Bouter lives in Wolfville (a small university town in the beautiful Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia) with his wife Joy and 4 children. Outside of his busy family life and work as a civil engineer, he spends most of his time reading, mountain biking and rooting for his favorite sports teams. Tim is a regular speaker at the Wolfville Christian Assembly, and runs a weekly Bible Club for kids aged 4-15. Tim is committed to bringing God’s Word in new and fresh ways, and in a manner that ministers to all ages.

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