YHVH – He WILL BE
“This (He WILL BE) is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.”
The Hebrew word meaning “My name” is a very special Hebrew word, שְּׁמִ֣י,“Shema,” which appears 55 times in the Old Testament. Exodus 3:15 is the second time it appears, and from here on, שְּׁמִ֣י is only used when describing the name YHVH. YHVH is used some 6,218 times in the Old Testament.
Understanding the meaning of YHVH is of great importance in understanding the truth of the Bible. Over the years, many people have become very confused about the name YHVH. As we mentioned in Chapter 7, the basic rules of Hebrew Grammar tell us it simply means “He WILL BE.”
The Jewish people themselves have been unable to understand why the creator of the universe would call Himself “He WILL BE.”
As a result, they tried to change His name to “I AM” or “He WHO IS.”
He WHO IS?
When the Jewish people translated the Old Testament into Greek in 200 BC, they called I WILL BE, “He WHO IS,” ο ων, and they replaced YHVH with “Kurios” in the Greek, or “Adonai” in Hebrew, meaning “Lord.”
Here is the Greek Septuagint of Jesus’ day, translated into English:
And Moses said to God, “Behold, I shall go forth to the children of Israel, and shall say to them, ‘The God of our fathers has sent me to you’; and they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?”
And God spoke to Moses, saying, “I am He WHO IS ο ων”; and He said, “Thus shall you likewise say to the children of Israel, I have sent you.”
And God said again to Moses, “Thus shalt thou say to the sons of Israel, ‘The Lord God of our fathers, the God of Abraham, and God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, has sent me to you: this is my name for ever, and my memorial to generations of generations.’”
Perhaps as a result of this Greek translation, there is a theory that YHVH is a qal (basic stem) verb inflection, meaning He WHO IS. 1
J.W. Etheridge told us the name YEHOVAH is a combination of the past, present, and future verb forms of the root verb HAVAH:
But amid all these variations as to the mode in which it (YHVH) should be syllabled, the real meaning of the name is not seriously obscured. The basis of it stands sure, in the Hebrew verb hayah, “to be”; a verb of which there are two forms, hayah and havah, the latter being the more ancient. It is that which appears in the name Jehovah; a circumstance which should be taken into account in examining one of the questions of the day on the antiquity of the name.
Now, of the preterite (past tense) hayah or havah, “He was,” the third person future, masculine, is Yihyeh, or Yihveh, “He will be”; a form of the verb which certainly gives that of the title YHVH. In this point of view, as predicating futurity of existence, it is held to express, in the third person, “He will be”; that which the Almighty affirmed of Himself (Exo 3:14) in the first person, Ehyeh, “I will be.” But the futurity of existence here proclaimed is not that of one who is only to be hereafter; it is the permanent existence of a Being who now Is, and who ever has Been. For the form Yihveh is held to be equivalent with Ye-havah, the prefix of the future combined with the preterite root, to indicate the permanence of One who has ever existed. He who Was and Is, is He who Will Be. The punctuation of the Name as Yehovah is an attempt to express the fulness of this truth, in aduniting the three elements of the verb “to Be.” Thus Yehe (Yeheveh), “He will be” Hoveh, “He is”; Havah, “He was.”2
J.W. Etheridge explained the thinking of the Jewish people. Why would God call Himself “He WILL BE?” Here, we understand their tradition that YHVH must relate to past, present, and future.
Of course, the obvious challenge we must give to J.W. Etheridge is whether God really spoke to Moses using a theoretical verb form, YE-HAVAH? And how would Moses have heard it?
Later, the Jewish people could not believe that God named the Angel, He WILL BE. They thought that God was naming Himself. They wondered why God, who has existed for eternity, would be called “He WILL BE.” As a result of their confusion, they “forgot” His name.
The amusing response to their forgetfulness came from the invisible God in the Book of Revelation, when He called Himself: “WHO WAS, WHO IS, and WHO IS TO COME” (Revelation 1: 8; 4:8).
Man’s desire to know God’s name
HAVAH and HAYAH both mean “to be.”
YHVH simply means “He WILL BE” in basic Hebrew grammar.
Today, those who support the pronunciations of YHVH as “YEHOVAH” and “YAHWEH” now deny that there is any connection of the name YHVH with the verb “to be.” However, supporters of the pronunciation Y’HU do recognize that YHVH simply means “He WILL BE.”
Based purely on Hebrew pronunciation rules, YHVH should be pronounced YEHEVEH or YEHEWEH.
Let us briefly explain the pronunciations YAHWEH and YEHOVAH (JEHOVAH) and why the supporters of these names deny any connection of YHVH with the verb “to be.” Then we will discuss the pronunciations YEHEVEH and Y’HU.
The main reason we cannot be certain of the correct pronunciation of YHVH is because the Hebrew Bible is written with only consonants.
However, in the sixth century, vowel markings were added by the Masoretic scribes below the consonants, YHVH, to aide pronunciation. In the ninth century, vowel markings were added that spelled “YEHOVAH.” The earliest markings produced YEHVAH, and many believe the “o” that was later added came from the vowels of Adonai.
But Nehemia Gordon, a Kariate Jew and renowned Hebrew scholar, says the vowels in YEHOVAH are not the same as Adonai. Also, according to Nehemia, there is no such thing as a silent “H” in the middle of a word in Biblical Hebrew. The scribes initially omitted the “o,” which was a common practice to indicate that a word should not be pronounced. The “o” that was added later came from their true understanding of the pronunciation and had nothing to do with “Adonai.” He also believes that the letters YHVH have nothing to do with the verb HAVAH. 3
Nehemia is one of many who have noted the impossibility of another theory for the pronunciation of YHVH in Moses’ time, YAHWEH.
William Gesenius (1786–1842) developed a theory based on the pronunciation YABE, by the Samaritans. He theorized that YHVH was pronounced YAHWEH, and that it was a Hifil verb form of HAVAH “to be” meaning “he who causes to be.” A Hifil verb form is causative action with active voice. The vowel points he proposed are shown below יהוה, reading right to left.
Gesenius’ theory is not accepted by Hebrew scholars today, who say that no Hifil verb form existed for HAVAH in Biblical Hebrew, or was even possible at the time within the consonants of YHVH. Today, the world-recognized HALOT Lexicon 4 has concluded the name YAHWEH has nothing to do with the verb HAVAH, but continues to support YAHWEH as the pronunciation of YHVH in the post-Davidic periodic, only on the basis that it is similar to YABE, which we will discuss at the end.
Today, both the supporters of the pronunciation YAHWEH and Yehovah say that YHVH has nothing to do with the verb HAVAH, “to be.” But, from our study, we know that YHVH has everything to do with the verb “HAVAH.”
Those familiar with Hebrew Grammar can tell you YHVH as “He WILL BE” should be pronounced Yihveh, or in Biblical Hebrew YEHEVEH (or possibly YEHEWEH).
Today, many believe the Masoretic vowel markings for the substitutionary non-divine form of He WILL BE, “Y’HU,” in Ecclesiastes Chapter 11 verse 3, formed the “substitutionary” pronunciation of YHVH.
Because Clement of Alexandria, a Gentile Church Father of 200 A.D., was once thought to have written YAHWEH, as Iaoue, in his Stomata. However, all now agree the most reliable manuscript evidence shows Iaou, YAHU, which is essentially Y’hu.
Y’hu, found in Ecclesiastes, reads, “In the place where the tree falls, there it shall be יְהֽוּא.” The pronunciation here is Y’hu: the final consonant א is silent, leaving only יְהֽוּ to pronounce. The third consonant is converted to a vowel of “u” sound.
יְהֽוּ becomes “Yahu” when used to represent the divine name at the end of the names Michaiah, in 2 Chronicles 17:7 (Mikayahu – Strongs 4322), and Eliyahu (Elijah) in 1 Kings 17. And, most significantly, Yahu corresponds to the pronunciation “Iaou” recorded by Clement of Alexandria in his Stomata.
In the past, many believed the name “YAH” was proof that God’s name in the Old Testament was YAHWEH. But now all scholars agree that YAHWEH could not have been the pronunciation of YHVH in Moses’ time.
Some say the pronunciation YAH may have come from the root verb of I WILL BE, אֶֽהְיֶ֣ה HAYAH. And many believe the pronunciation of I WILL BE, EHYEH, 3,500 years ago, was more likely AIA, AHAYAH, as related by Theoderet of Cyrus (393–453 A.D.).
YAH is actually good support for the pronunciation of YHVH as “Y’hu”: YAHOO.
When Moses and the people of Israel escaped from Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel sang a song in which he used the name YAH:
I will sing to the Lord,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!
The LORD (YAH יָ֔הּ) is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
He is my God (Eli אֵלִי֙), and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
The LORD is a man of war;
The LORD is His name.
The name YAH appeared as the name of God in the Old Testament 48 times, and it was also used to form other names.
In the Song of Moses above, we’ve highlighted the expression Eli and the expression YAH. This is where the name of the prophet Elijah comes from, which means “YAH is My God.”
From YAH comes the name of other prophets like Isaiah (Salvation of YAH) and Jeremiah (Whom YAH has appointed, or exalted) and the word “HalleluYAH!”
We can see יָ֔הּ is always used as the suffix. Those who support the pronunciation Y’hu say the entire “name” YHVH forms the suffix of names like Eliyahu (Elijah) in 1 Kings 17.
Why did the Jewish people forget the pronunciation and meaning of YHVH?
Many believe the Jewish people were afraid to pronounce the name of God and take it in vain, and so they replaced YHVH with the expression “Adonai”—LORD—when they translated the Greek Septuagint.
That seems correct, but through the Prophet Jeremiah, YHVH told us the Israelite fathers forgot His name for Baal, which means Lord.6
“How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.”(Jeremiah 23:26-27).
Through Jeremiah, He said that false prophets and spiritual adultery caused the people to forget His name.
Through Hosea, He said He would no longer be their “I WILL BE,” because of their spiritual adultery: “For you are not My people, And I will not be your God” (Hosea 1:9).
Literally, in Hebrew, He said, “I not I WILL BE to you shall be” (enki lo EHYEH אֶהְיֶ֥ה lakem).
We know what we worship
On August 8, 2008, the Catholic Church issued letters following a directive from the Vatican prohibiting the use of the name YAHWEH in songs and prayers. The official reason given was the tradition of the non-pronunciation of the sacred name. But many suspect the real reason was growing uncertainty about the legitimacy of YAHWEH as the true name of God.
Justin Martyr began Chapter 63 of his First Apology with: “And all the Jews even now teach that the nameless God spoke to Moses.”
So we must wonder why today, two thousand years later, so many people believe that the name of God is YAHWEH or YEHOVAH, and why do they insist on these as the names of God?
All of this comes back to man’s desire to know God’s real name. Because, all of us are interested in our eternal security, and we believe, that if we know God, then He will know us.
Still today YAHWEH is regarded by most Western Christians as the true name of God.
But where did YAHWEH come from?
Epiphanius, Bishop of Sardis (320–403 A.D.) said that an early Christian sect used a two-vowel pronunciation “YABE.”7
Theoderet, his contemporary, told us YABE came from the Samaritans.
Therefore, William Gesenius developed a theory of a name YAHWEH, based on the pronunciation YABE, by the Samaritans.
The Jews knew that God did not give His name at the burning bush, He simply said, “I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE.”
But the Samaritans were ignorant of the origins of their faith. They followed a mixture of Judaism and pagan practices (like many Christians today).
Nehemia Gordon believes the Samaritans called God “YAFEH,” meaning “beautiful one,” which may have been heard as “YABE.” In fact, we are not sure why they called God “YABE.”
The Jews avoided the Samaritans, because they regarded their religion as corrupt. Jesus highlighted the imperfectness of their religion, when He said to the Samaritan woman, “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).
Jesus went on to tell her that “God is Spirit.”
“God is spirit and those who worship Him, must worship in Spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
Like the Samaritans, the Gentile Church also created a different picture of God, which imagined a three-person God in heaven, three persons, all of whom are called YAHWEH or Y’HU or JEHOVAH.
They became confused, looking for the name of God in the letters YHVH, because YHVH said, “This is My name forever.” But the Jews understood that YHVH was not really a name; God simply called Himself “He WILL BE” or “I WILL BE.”
Once we return to the teachings of the Apostles, we will enter into a greater and more profound understanding of the relationship between Christ and God. It will be no surprise that the invisible God and His image must always share the same name—even the name of Jesus, or Joshua, of whom God said, “My name is in him.”
My name is in Him
The revelation that Joshua was the true name of the invisible God is found in Exodus 23:20–23:
“Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.”
Who led the Israelites into the Promised Land, to war against the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites?
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel . . .”
So they answered Joshua, saying, “All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death” (Joshua 1:1-2, 16-18).
The name of Joshua in Greek is Jesus. This name was actually created by Moses.
In Numbers 13:16, Moses changed the name of his successor to Yehoshua (Joshua) from Hoshea, meaning “Salvation.”
It appears that Moses just added a “Yod” to Hoshea הוֹשֵעַ to create יְהוֹשֻֽׁעַ׃ Yehoshua.
Yehoshua is an earlier form of the name Yeshua, which in Greek is “JESUS.”
The addition of a Yod, from YHVH, created the name: God saves.
In the Gospel of Matthew, the name of Jesus was explained this way: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
It is no accident that Moses renamed His earthly successor, “Joshua” (Numbers 13:16) for his spiritual successor would also be named Joshua, in Greek “JESUS.” As the Apostle John said, “the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
Justin Martyr told us that through this passage, God Himself secretly revealed His name as Jesus.10
God used the Angel of YHVH as a metaphor for Joshua, to tell the people that if they do not listen to Joshua their sin will not be pardoned. “The Angel” is the Spirit of Christ. Of course, the Spirit of Christ is the Holy Spirit who has been given the power to remit sins; see John 5:22, and 20:22–23.
God was also warning the Israelites that they must listen to Christ, or their sins would not be forgiven.
- The New Brown–Driver–Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon with an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic by Frances Brown, with the cooperation of S.R. Driver and Charles Briggs (1907), p. 217ff (entry יהוה listed under root הוה). ↩
- J.W. Etheridge. Glossary of the translation of The Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the Pentateuch; with the fragments of the Jerusalem Targum from the Chaldee. ↩
- Nehemia Gordon, www.karaite-korner.org, “The Pronunciation of the Name.” ↩
- The HALOT (Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament) and the New Brown-Driver-Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon are the recognized English-Hebrew Lexicons used by scholars. ↩
- Michael McHugh, My Name Forever, paragraph 39 ↩
- Strongs 1167, owner or Lord ↩
- Epiph. 34:20f:JE9. p. 161 ↩
- Theoderet wrote in Greek, literally he wrote AIA; there is no H in Greek like in English. ↩
- Theoderet of Cyrus, Question 15 in Exodus 7 ↩
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 75 ↩