God’s Personal Name
After the creation account, God uses a more personal name for Himself: YHWH.3 God first revealed His name, YHWH, to Moses at the burning bush. The literal meaning of Jehovah is, “the self-existent One who reveals Himself, or I AM.”4 God tells us through the prophet Isaiah,
I am the Lord (Jehovah). That is my name.5
Appearing over 6,800 times in the Old Testament, YHWH is the personal name for God, and the one most frequently used for God in the Bible. The exact pronunciation of the Hebrew consonants, YHWH, is unknown since Jews felt the name too holy to utter.
Two possible pronunciations, Yahweh and Jehovah have emerged as the most likely. In this article, we will frequently refer to the Hebrew consonants YHWH as Jehovah, since it is more widely used.
So how did the name, YHWH, become Jehovah? The name came about centuries after Moses by adding certain vowels to the consonants YHWH in an attempt to pronounce it. However, most scholars actually believe a more accurate pronunciation of the name is “Yahweh.”6
Jehovah as a word first appeared around 800 AD, but wasn’t known by most people until the publication of William Tyndale’s Bible in 1530 AD, when he translated the Hebrew word, YHWH: Jehovah.7
The psalmist David had spoken of Jehovah as the One who made the stars. In the book of Isaiah, Jehovah reveals He is both Lord and Creator, the only God who exists.
For this is what the Lord says—he who created the heavens,
he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited—he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.”8
In this passage, YHWH (I AM) tells us that He is the only God, and that He alone made the stars, oceans, flowers, mountains–and us!
Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, Jehovah reveals Himself as the only God who exists. He tells us that He alone is holy, righteous, sovereign and infinite in power, knowledge and wisdom.
God tells Moses that His special name is YHWH, which in this text is translated, “the Lord.”
I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by the name God Almighty, but they did not know me by my name, the Lord.9
Again, we will refer to YHWH as Jehovah. The name Jehovah speaks to the fact that God has always existed, and always will exist.
The amazing thing about Jehovah is that He is uniquely loving and personal, as opposed to being just a force or power. He knows us intimately, yet loves us in spite of our sins and unworthiness. In another psalm, David recounts Jehovah’s personal nature.
Lord, you have examined me and know all about me. You know when I sit down and when I get up. You know my thoughts before I think them. You know where I go and where I lie down. You know everything I do. Lord, even before I say a word, you already know it. You are all around me—in front and in back—and have put your hand on me. Your knowledge is amazing to me; it is more than I can understand.10
David is amazed that Jehovah knows him intimately and personally. He speaks of Jehovah as a God who lovingly cares for him all the time. The entire Bible is the story of God caring for His people, even when they turned their backs on Him.
As an incredible expression of His love, Jehovah extends His hand by becoming our Redeemer. Jehovah is the most personal name for God in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the one He uses for Himself as our Redeemer.