our father's holy name
Why Study the Name?
The very first element of our Master’s model prayer expresses the importance and sanctity of our Father’s Name:
“Our Father who art in Heaven, Hallowed by thy Name … “ (Mat. 6:9).
Here, the word “Hallowed” speaks of holiness: to make, or regard as being Holy. Our Father’s Name therefore, is holy, and ought to be regarded as such by those who profess to be his Sons and Daughters through faith in Christ Jesus. The importance of recognising the sanctity and significance of the Name is also expressed through the prophet Malachi, who told how that “a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared Yahweh, and that thought upon his Name. And they shall be mine, saith Yahweh of Hosts” (Mal. 3:16). It is therefore a characteristic of the faithful who belong to the Lord, that they “think upon his Name” – with the implication being that those who do not think upon the Name are not part of the company of the redeemed.
Again, we shall see shortly how that the faithful are separated from the world at large, to become a people who are partakers of the Name. As Simon Peter expressed it:
“God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his Name” (Acts 15:14)
These things then, should motivate us to study the Name of the Most High God. To do so will prepare us to be “a people for his Name” – whereas not to do so, will inevitably mean that we will not be such a people. And finally in connection with this (something we shall return to later) our Lord sent his disciples to preach: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit …” (Mat. 28:19). Bro Thomas translates “in the Name” as “into the Name”. Obedient believers submit to the call of the Gospel, and are baptized into the Name, even as it is written: “The Name of Yahweh is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Prov. 18:10).
What is the Father’s Name?
The starting point in any discussion about our Father’s Name, is to establish exactly what it is. Some claim that the Name is “Jehovah”, others “Yahweh”. We need to determine which is correct, and in so doing we need to consider the origin of the contenders. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has this to say about this issue:
“The Masoretes, who from about the 6th to the 10th century worked to reproduce the original text of the Hebrew Bible, replaced the vowels of the name YHWH with the vowel signs of the Hebrew words Adonai (ie. “Lord”– editor) or Elohim (i.e. God—editor). Thus, the artificial name Jehovah (YeHoWaH) came into being.”
This demonstrates that the name “Jehovah” is not the word used in the original text, but is rather extrapolated from it, by combining other words together. Again, Ungers Bible Dictionary describes a similar point:
“The Hebrew tetragrammaton (YHWH) traditionally pronounced Jehovah is now known to be correctly vocalised Yahweh. New inscriptional evidence from the second and first millennia BC point toward this fact … and has commended itself in the light of the phonetic development and grammatical evidence of increased knowledge of Northwest Semitic and kindred tongues … The Name Yahweh has been found to be unique to Israel and has not been verified as the name of any deity outside Israel.”
By contrast to the word “baal” (Lord), which is used to describe many deities of many nations, the name “Yahweh” is unique to Israel’s God. Wycliffe Bible Encyclopaedia (1975) inform us that:
“The Name PAR EXCELLENCE for the Creator of Israel is Yahweh, found 6, 823 times in the Old Testament. Through Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt, adoption as a nation, and guidance to the Promised Land, the Redeemer-Creator is especially known by THIS NAME.”
Various other writers make the same point as follows:
“One crucial instance of the difficulty offered by a Hebrew term lies in the primitive name given at the Exodus by the Hebrews to their God. Strictly speaking, this ought to be rendered “Yahweh”, which is familiar to modern readers in the erroneous form of “Jehovah.”” (Moffat, the Old Testament: A New Translation)
“The true pronunciation of the name YHWH was never lost. Several early Greek writers of the Christian Church testify that the name was pronounced “Yahweh” (Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol. 7, p. 680)
“Jehovah—the name revealed to Moses at Horeb. It real pronounciation is approximately Yahweh. The name itself was not pronounced Jehovah before the 16th Century” (The Oxford Cyclopedic Concordance).
“Israel regarded their god, Yahweh, a name mistakenly put into the English as Jehovah, as the God of the universe, the maker and ruler of heaven and earth. Other peoples had their gods, but Yahweh was regarded by these monotheists as far more powerful than they.” (A History of Christianity, Kenneth Scott Latourette).
“Jehovah—it is believed that the correct pronunciation of this word is “Yahweh”” (The International Bible Encyclopaedia of King James Version)
From these testimonies therefore, we find that not only is “Jehovah” not part of the original Hebrew text, but it was a later addition, dating back to no earlier than the 16th Century. According to Rotherham, this represents a suppression of the true Name, with “Jehovah” being used instead:
“The Name, in its four essential letters (YHWH), was reverently transcribed by the Hebrew copyist, and therefore was necessarily placed before the eye of the Hebrew reader. The latter, however, was instructed not to pronounce it, but to utter instead a less sacred name—Adonay or Elohim. In this way the Name was not suffered to reach the ear of the listener. To that degree it was suppressed …” (Introduction to the Emphasized Bible).
In his “Introduction”, Rotherham speaks on the Father’s Name at length: the following two paragraphs are particularly pertinent:
“The English versions do nearly the same thing, in rendering the Name as LORD, and occasionally GOD; these terms having their own rightful office to fill as to fitly representing the Hebrew titles Adonay and Elohim and El so that the Tetragrammaton is NEARLY HIDDEN in our public English versions”
“Its suppression was a mistake. So grave a mistake cannot be corrected too soon. An unwarrantable liberty has been taken; the path of humility is to retrace our steps. The fact have only to be known to justify this verdict, and to vindicated the propriety of not employing it in a new and independent translation” (Rotherham, Introduction to the Emphasized Bible”
Not “the LORD”
The Divine Name is rendered “LORD” many times in the English versions, leading some to conclude the word “LORD” is actually the Name itself. An example of this is the passage we cited earlier from Malachi chapter 3:
“they that feared the LORD spake often one to another: and the LORD hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon his name” (Mal. 3:16).
Here, the word “LORD” is rendered in block capitals, which indicates that something more than “lord” is meant by the Hebrew Text. Even the translators that use the word recognise that the Father’s Name is something greater, hence their perceived need to alter the form of the word “lord” in their translated text.
Psalm 68 gives the exhortation:
“Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: Extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name Yah, and rejoice before him” (Psa. 68:4).
Here, the word represented in the AV as “JAH,” reflects the abbreviated Hebrew terms “Yah”. Often, the name “Yahweh” is contracted to “Yah” in the poetry parts of Scripture, and also where it is used in the names of various people, including the prophets. The exhortation is to extol our Creator by the Name He has appropriated to Himself.
Exodus chapter 5 expresses the ignorance of Pharaoh as to the identity of the Hebrew deity:
“And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD (Yahweh), that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD (Yahweh) neither will I let Israel go” (Exo. 5:2).
Notice that here, Pharaoh did not recognise the name “Yahweh”. The Egyptians worshipped many deities, and he would be familiar with the term “Lord” as applicable to his gods. But he did not know “Yahweh”: he had evidently not heard that term before—as we saw earlier, the Name was not known or used outside of the people of Israel. As Paul later wrote:
“though there be many that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Cor. 8:5-6).
The name “Yahweh” therefore, emphasizes the uniqueness of Israel’s God, as distinct from the perceived lordship of the idols that abound in the world at large.
Smith, in his Bible Dictionary refers to this:
“The substitution of the word “Lord” is most unhappy; for, while it in no way represents the meaning of the sacred name, the mind has constantly to guard against a confusion with its lower uses, and above all, the direct personal bearing of the name on the revelation of God … is kept injuriously out of sight” (Smiths Bible Dictionary).
An interesting paragraph occurs in The New International Version Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament thus:
“… Yahweh, the personal Name of (the Creator) is always translated Yahweh, against the practice in the NIV in rendering it as Lord. One the one hand, this prevents confusion of the Name with the title (Adonai) my Lord, for the ideal of Lord is not an integral element of the Name. On the other hand, it may be the use of Yahweh in this work will encourage the reader to use the personal Name of (Yahweh) in prayer and praise, as is intended by the most common imperative in the Scriptures: (HalleluYahweh!) Psalm 104:35: Praise Yahweh”.
The Meaning of the Name:
Returning to Moses before Pharaoh and Israel’s departure from Egypt, we read in Exodus 3, as expressed in the King James translation:
“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name, what shall I say unto them?” And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations” (Exo. 3:15).
Here, the question is raised, What is His Name? To which the answer is given: “I AM THAT I AM” – at least so it is rendered in the AV and other translations. The original Hebrew is eyeh asher eyeh which is future, not present tense: I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE”. Bro John Thomas writes on this matter:
“In regard to this term Eyeh, etymologically and othoepally, I may remark here, that it is the first person singular of the future tense of the verb hayyah, “to be, or become”. It does not mean, and never did, what it is made to signify in the English Version, i.e., “I am” (Eureka, Vol 1 (To explain why we are here speaking of the Hebrew “Ehyeh”: this word means “I will be,” whereas “Yahweh” means “He will be”. Hence the former is the Creator speaking of himself and the latter, our reference to Him)
This point is made by other writers:
“Eyeh is the first-person singular imperfect form of hayah, “to be”. Eyeh is usually translated “I will be,” since the imperfect tense in Hebrew denotes actions that are not yet completed (e.g. Exodus 3:12, “certainly I will be (ehyeh) with thee.” (Seidner, cited by Wikipedia).
“Ehyeh asher eyeh literally translates as “I Will Be What I Will Be,” with attendant theological and mystical implications in Jewish tradition. However, in most English Bibles, in particular the King James Version, this phrace is rendered as I am that I am.” (Wikipedia).
The Jewish Encyclopaedia of 1901 agrees:
“It thus becomes possible to determine with a fair degree of certainty the historical pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, the results agreeing with the statement of Ex. iii.14 in which YHWH terms Himself “I will be”, a phrase which is immediately preceded by the fuller term “I will that I will be,” or, as in the English versions, “I am” and “I am that I am” … This passage is decisive for the pronunciation “Yahweh”; for the etymology was undoubtedly based on the known word” (The Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1901)
A Bible Definition:
Although the point can be made linguistically, the Bible itself defines the meaning of the Name, as it occurs in the name Yahshua, translated “Jesus”. The name Jesus is made from two Hebrew words: Yah = He will (be), and Shuah = save. Hence the name literally means “He will save”. Matthew chapter 1 describes the words of the Angel:
“She shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his Name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Mat. 1:21).
The Son was to be named “Jesus” because “he shall save his people” – notice, that the angel is translating the meaning of Jesus’ Name, by way of expressing his purpose.
In connection with what we have seen thus far, Dr J P Smith writes:
“The words of that passage are in the future tense— “I will be that which I will be;” and most probably it was not itended as a name, but as a declaration of the certain fulfilment of all the promises of God, especially those which related to the deliverance of Israel” (Dr J P Smith, Scripture Testimony to the Messiah).
Clearly, we would not agree with Dr Smith’s assertion that the word “probably was not intended as a name”, but his understanding of the future tense of the term is relevant.
We saw earlier that our Father’s Name signifies “I will be who I will be”. Bro Thomas expounds the passage thus:
“… In the Name and Memorial thus revealed at the bush, the Deity declared that he would be a person or persons not then manifested” (John Thomas).
The Name then is expressive of the Creator’s intention to become manifested in a person(s) in the future. To illustrate the point, we read of Jacob’s words relating his own experiences:
“… with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands” (Gen. 32:10).
This illustrates how an individual can “become” a multitude—it is by a development of an individual to become a great family. Even so, it is our Father’s intention to develop for himself a single family of individuals who show forth his glorious attributes.
The overriding purpose of our Creator is worked out according to the family principle. He will become the Father of a great multitude, firstly in a Son, and then in a multitude. See these two testimonies:
“I will be his Father, and he shall be my son … I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore” (1 Chron. 17:14, cited in Heb. 1:5).
“… ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ …” (Rom. 8:15-17).
Again, the inspired Word describes the Father’s Name as being a family Name—which we implied in our opening remarks:
“He shall be as a son to continue his Father’s Name for ever” (Psa. 72:17 AV marginal rendering)
“… being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they” (Heb. 1:4)
Notice, that the Name is inherited: Christ “hath by inheritance” obtained the Name. He is a Son to perpetuate his Father’s Name for ever, and those who become his brethren, and sons of the Most High God, they shall inherit the Name also—it is their Family Name.
Again, Bro Thomas writes in Eureka,
“Yahweh or Yah, as a noun, and signifying “He who will be,” is the memorial name the Deity chooses to be known by among his people. It reminds them that HE will be manifested in a multitude, and that, in that great multitude which no man can number, or all nations, and kindreds, and people and tongues, which shall stand before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands (Rev. 7:9) – in each and every one of them, “He will be the all things in all” (1 Cor. 15:28), or, as it is expressed in Ephesians 4:6, “there is one Deity and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (John Thomas, Eureka vol. 1).
Should the Name be Spoken?
The issue that often arises, is whether or not we should vocalise the Name in our day. Having established that the Name is not “lord” whether in block capitals or not, the careful Bible Student may well ask the question as to whether or not we should use “Yahweh” in it’s place when reading the Biblical text. And as with all other Bible questions, it is necessary to consult the Scriptures for the answer. Consider the following testimonies:
“… thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Yahweh God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob hath sent me unto you” (Exo. 3:15).
“I will publish the Name of Yahweh: ascribe ye greatness unto our God” (Deut. 32:3).
“I will declare thy Name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee” (Psa. 22:22).
“Sing unto God, sing praises to his Name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his Name Yah, and rejoice before him” (Psa. 68:4).
“O Yahweh our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy Name” (Isa. 26:13).
From these passages, it is evident that the Name should be spoken. It was to be spoken to Pharaoh to identify the Hebrew God. It is to be “published,” “declared” “extolled” and made “mention” of. The issue is often raised as to whether or not we should change the word “LORD” when reading the text, to “Yahweh”. But this is misstating the question: the real issue is the reverse – what authority did the translators have to change “Yahweh” to “LORD” to begin with? We can find none.
Remembering the Name:
There are those who would suppress the use and mention of the Name, who tell us that we should follow the translators lead, and use the word “LORD”. However, such should beware that the incitement to suppress the Father’s Name was a characteristic of false prophets. As the divine word came through Jeremiah the prophet:
“How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? Yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart: which think to cause my people to forget my Name, by the dreams which they tell every man to his neighbour, as their fathers have forgotten my Name for Baal” (Jer. 23:26-27).
Notice that here, they forgot the Name “for Baal”. Interestingly, the word “Baal” is commonly translated “lord” in the Old Testament scriptures. False prophets extoll us to ignore and forget Yahweh’s Name, for the word “lord”! Let us learn from their example of unbelief.
The Name as a Refuge:
We saw at the beginning of our study, that the Name is described as being a place of refuge for those who would escape the corruption that is in the world through lust:
“The Name of Yahweh is a strong tower: the righteous runneth unto it, and is safe” (Prov. 18:10).
But how can a Name provide safety? By constitutionally entering into the Name through Baptism!
“Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit …” (Mat. 28:19).
In the AV, the expression is “baptizing them in the name”, but Bro Thomas shows how that it is more accurate to read “into the Name”. That is, Baptism is the means whereby we become “born again,” into a new family with Christ at its head. And this is the family that bears the Name. Through baptism, we enter the antitypical Ark of salvation, to be delivered from the wrath to come. Instead of seeking to suppress the use of our Father’s Name therefore, we must come to recognise and embrace it’s sanctity and meaning, and become part of the approved many who “think upon” it