YHVH is the four letter name of God in the Old Testament. It is called the tetragrammaton….because tetragrammaton means ‘four letters’ in Greek.
Arguments have raged over centuries about what the vowels should be in YHVH:
Some say Yahweh
Some say Yehoshua
Some say Jehovah
Some say Adonai
The issue is not what the vowels are…..the issue is what does YHVH mean, because the name of a person in Biblical culture denoted that person’s character, personality, and nature.
For example, when God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, the change reflected Sarah’s change of attitude and nature.
Sarai means ‘dominator’, ‘ruler’, ‘master’….and Sarah means ‘lady’, ‘mistress’, ‘princess’.
When Sarah realised that Abraham, her husband, should ‘wear the trousers’ in their marriage, she ceased to be the ‘dominator’, ‘ruler’,
and ‘master’ in the marriage.
So, what does YHVH tell us about the nature and character of Jesus our Messiah. To understand the answer we need to look at the Hebrew of YHVH:
The most revealing passage in the Old Testament which explains YHVH is Exodus 3.14-15:
God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’
He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel,
‘I AM has sent me to you.’
God said…. ‘LORD God of your fathers, …has sent me…..
I have set out the transliterated text below:
Pronouns are highlighted in blue and Verbs in red:
A. God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’
Elohim yamar el-Moshe Ahayah ashar ahayah
B. He said, ‘You shall say to the children of Israel,
Yamar t’amar l’beni Ishrael
C. ‘I AM has sent me.’
D. God said, ‘LORD God of your fathers, has sent me.’
Elohim yamar Yahavah Elohi avti shalani
The Pronoun ‘I’ is aleph, and ‘he’ is Yod.
The Verb ‘am’, ‘is’, ‘to be’, is Hayah or havah.
The key to understanding YHVH is in Line D in which the Verb and Pronoun YHVH is translated ‘LORD’ rather than ‘He is’.
The Hebrew verbs hayah and havah mean ‘to exist’, ‘to have being’, ‘to have breath’, because that which exists, has being, has breath. In Hebrew thought, as I have noted, the breath is the character, personality, nature, or the being of someone.
When God says, ‘I AM WHO I AM’, He is saying, ‘I exist’, ‘I am being’, ‘I have breath’.
The third person singular, He is, YHVH, means ‘He exists’, ‘He is Being’, ‘He has breath’.
Therefore, the four letter Hebrew word, YHVH, and translated ‘LORD’ in the Old Testament, means ‘He is Being’.
It is in, and from, YHVH that we, as human beings, derive our being, as the Psalmist notes:
You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made; …my frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, …Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. Psalm 139.13-16
As Job comments in Job 31.15:
Did not He who made me in the womb make them? Did not the same One fashion us in the womb?
As Isaiah prophesies in Isaiah 44.2:
Thus says the LORD (YHVH) who made you and formed you from the womb…
As The LORD YHVH said to the Prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1.5:
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
As the Apostle Paul conformed in Acts 17.28:'
In Him we live and move and have our being,’ ……because ‘He is Being’.