settings icon
share icon

What is the meaning of Yahweh? What is the meaning of Jehovah?

meaning of Yahweh, meaning of Jehovah

Yahweh is based on the consonants YHWH, which is one of the names for God used in the Old Testament. In ancient Hebrew, the vowels were not normally written. This would not have been a problem for native speakers and readers. Jehovah is the same name based on the Latin equivalents of the Hebrew letters: JHVH. Jehovah became the English translation of the Latin form of the Hebrew name. For all practical purposes, Jehovah and Yahweh are the simply English and Hebrew pronunciations for God’s name. However, it has become more popular in recent years to use Yahweh instead of Jehovah because it is technically more accurate.

The name Yahweh comes from the Hebrew word for “I am.” When God met Moses at the burning bush and commanded him to go back to Egypt and lead the people out, Moses asked who he should say has sent him. “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.”’ God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: “The LORD [YHWH], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations’” (Exodus 3:14–15).

Several things must be noted here in order to properly understand the significance of the name Yahweh.

First, the tetragrammaton, which is the technical term for the four letters YHWH, is based on the Hebrew word for “being.” It could be translated “I am who I am” or “I will be what I will be” or perhaps even “I am the One who is.” Regardless of the specific translation, the name speaks of the self-existence and self-sufficiency of God. All others are dependent upon Him for life and breath and existence. He is dependent upon no one. It is for this reason that the Jewish leadership in Jesus’ day thought it was scandalous, blasphemous, and worthy of death for Jesus to utter the words “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58–59).

Second, the ancient Hebrew scribes considered God’s name too sacred to write or pronounce. When vowels were later added to the text, the scribes took the vowels from the word adonai, which means “lord” or “master,” and inserted them between the consonants. Instead of pronouncing Yahweh, they simply pronounced the word Adonai. Following this practice, most English versions of the Bible translate YHWH as “LORD” (all capital letters) as seen in Exodus 3:15, above. When the Scripture speaks of the Lord YHWH, then the English versions will have “Lord GOD” with the word God in all capital letters. So, both LORD and GOD in English versions stand for YHWH. The pronunciation yäˌwā is our best estimate of how YHWH would have been pronounced. Since we do not have the original vowels, we cannot know for sure. The significance is in the meaning, not the pronunciation, just as Jehovah is still a sacred name, even if it is not a technically correct spelling.

Yahweh is the covenant name for the God of Israel. In the Exodus passage quoted above, Yahweh says that He is also the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, He never revealed this name to them. He states this explicitly in Exodus 6:2–3: “God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.’” This name was new information given to Moses. While it is used by the “narrator” in Genesis, it is never used by any of the individuals in Genesis before the formation of the nation. Yahweh is linked to the nation of Israel. Other words for God might be considered descriptions, whereas Yahweh, although also descriptive, is His name. It is by this name that He covenants with and leads the nation of Israel.

Yahweh is the name of Israel’s God and the God who came to earth as Jesus Christ, Yahweh in the flesh. Matthew 1:21 says, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” The name Jesus is from the Latin form of the Greek form of Yeshua, which literally means “Yahweh saves.” So Yahweh will save His people from their sins, and simultaneously Jesus will save His people from their sins. This is just one of many instances where Jesus and Yahweh are equated.

Return to:

Questions about God

What is the meaning of Yahweh? What is the meaning of Jehovah?
Subscribe to the

Question of the Week

Get our Questions of the Week delivered right to your inbox!

Follow Us: Facebook icon Twitter icon YouTube icon Pinterest icon Instagram icon
© Copyright 2002-2021 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy
This page last updated: November 23, 2021