How can we understand our unfathomable God with our finite minds? Impossible. But like the blind men trying to comprehend the elephant, we can wrap our brains around specific traits of our God. For the next several weeks, I intend to look at the various Old Testament names of God, which also testify of his character.
Most of the Old Testament names of God begin with Jehovah—Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Shalom—which is a variation of the name God calls Himself when He speaks with Moses in Exodus.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?”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.’” Exodus 3:13-14
This name became so highly regarded, that the people seldom spoke it. The original pronunciation of the name was lost. In fact, somewhere along the road of transcribing, God’s name, being regarded as the ultimate in holy, was eliminated from many documents. Today, you can see where His name had been throughout the Old Testament. It was replaced with the all-capital LORD. For instance, this section of Psalm 8:1 “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth.”
As time continued and older documents were found, theologians discovered that the letters YHVH were used in the earliest documents for God’s name. But since there are no vowels in Hebrew, it’s unclear how to pronounce it. Because God’s name is considered so holy, only the high priest was allowed to speak it on Yom Kippur.
So today, for the most part, we speak it as Yahweh. We are likely incorrect since there was no W sound in Hebrew at the time. If you’d like to know more about the details of God’s name, I found lots of data at Hebrew4Christians.com.
What does the pronunciation of God’s name have to do with His character? Well, to me it speaks of His holiness. His own people, back in the day when they saw His very Glory descending like a cloud, had such reverent fear and awe for Him that they dare not utter his name.
And the nature of His name. I AM. Not I was, or I will be. I AM. Makes me think of the way Christ called Himself the Alpha and Omega. “I AM right now, before, beyond, and forever in both directions.”
“I AM WHO I AM.” One of the Bible Commentaries I checked spoke of how these words relayed God’s self-existence. He is of Himself. It went further of how God is the Being of beings. All life comes from Him and through Him. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary)
The Hebrew4Christians site also brought out another aspect of the name that became Jehovah. I wouldn’t have thought of this because of the reverence with which the name is regarded. But the writer at the website compares Yahweh to Elohim, another name of God that I’ll discuss at a later time. But by comparison in the times and situations that the two were used, Yahweh speaks to the mercies of God, the desire to be close to the people He created.
Elohim was the name used during creation, but when the Lord breathed the breath of life into man’s nostrils, He was Yahweh.
The Holy One breaths life into my Spirit. Wow. Just … wow!
Your Turn: What does God’s name, I AM, mean to you?