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The Personal Name Yahweh The most common designation for God in the Pentateuch, and in fact the most common Hebrew noun in the Bible, is Yahweh. It is made up of the Hebrew consonants yhwh, called the Tetragrammaton, the “four-letter” word par excellence. The precise pronunciation is uncertain, since during the Second Temple period the name dropped from active use and was replaced by other forms (for a discussion, see 3 below). It is a proper noun comprised of a third-person masculine singular prefix verb from the root hwh/hyh, “be, happen, become” (HALOT 2.502, 511–40). Depending on the stem of the verb, which is uncertain due to the lack of original vocalization, the name could be understood as “he is/becomes/will be (come)” (Qal) or “he causes to be/become” (Hiphil; BDB, 218; cf. detailed discussions of the several meaning options in van der Toorn, 1717–23). The latter seems preferable based on its rendition in Greek (e.g., Iaouai/e [Clement of Alexandria,

Strom. 5.6.34]; Iabe [Hexapla on Ex 6:3; HALOT; van der Toorn, 1711]; Iaw [Baudissin, 2.193–215]) and
Akkadian (Tallqvist, 90–92; Murtonen, 44) and in some biblical names in which forms of it occur (e.g.,

yĕšaʿyāhû, Isaiah [“Yahweh saves”]), though problems remain in the explanation of the name in Exodus 3:13–
15 (see below). The earliest extant occurrence of the name is in the Moabite Stone (ninth century; COS 2.23.138; van der Toorn, 1713), and it also occurs in controversial eighth-century texts from Kuntillet ʿAjrud (COS 2.47.171–72) and Khirbet el-Qom (COS 2.52.180), on seventh-century potsherds from Arad (Aharoni, 30, 35, 42) and in sixth-century texts from Khirbet Beit Lei (COS 2.53.180) and Lachish (ANET, 322; for the use of the name in early Israel, see further Miller, 41–43; for inscriptional use, Davies, 366–67). The name occurs also in several shortened forms. Yhw occurs in names from Hebrew inscriptions from the eighth century on (Davies, 269–70, 273, 365–69 and passim) and is the form of choice in the fifthcentury papyri from Elephantine (e.g., Porten and Yardeni, 1.30, 58, 71; on an ostracon, 4.114), while the ostraca from there generally use yhh (Porten and Yardeni, 4.168, 170, 172, 180). Yhh and yh also occur outside the Bible (Jenni 1997c, 2.522; Davies, 269, 333, 364 and passim). The name yāh occurs twice in Exodus (Ex 15:2; 17:16). Names with possible shortened forms include yĕhôšûaʿ (*Joshua [“Yahweh is salvation”], e.g., Ex 17:9; HALOT) and yôkebed (Jochebed [“Yahweh is glory”], Ex 6:20; Num 26:59). Much more doubtful are ʾoznî (“Yahweh has heard,” Num 26:16, possibly a shortened form of ʾăzanyâ, Neh 10:9 [mt 10:10]; HALOT), ʾayyâ (“Where is Yahweh”; DCH 4.149), buqqî (“proven of Yahweh,” Num 34:22, possibly a shortened form of buqqiyyāhû, 1 Chron 25:4), gĕmallî (“Yahweh has rewarded,” Num 13:12, perhaps a shortened form of gĕmalyāhû, DCH 2.365) and zikrî (“Yahweh remembers,” Ex 6:21, possibly a shortened form of zĕkaryâ, 2 Kings 14:29, itself a bi-form of zĕkaryāhû, Zechariah; for discussions of Yahweh used in personal names, see Tigay 1986, 1987; Fowler). In earlier Ugaritic literature, the name yw in a fragmentary text (KTU has been suggested as being related but probably is not (van der Toorn, 1713). Other shortened forms from Ebla and Mesopotamia have also been suggested (Houtman, 96, 99), though the matter is still under discussion (van der Toorn, 1712–14). The personal name Yahweh seems to be native to Hebrew, since there are no certain occurrences of it outside of Israel prior to the time of Moses (cf. the Egyptian “Shasu-land of Yhw” from the fourteenthcentury text of Amenophis III [Giveon, 26–28]; if this is an earlier use of Yahweh, it would be the selfdesignation of the peoples in the area settled by Israel and later associated directly with Yahweh [cf. de Moor, 111–13]; the occurrence of the name in Genesis, a pre-Mosaic context, will be discussed in 5 below). Its origin is unclear, though ties with Sinai and Midian have suggested that it arose in the south (e.g. Ex 3, 6; Mettinger, 24–28, 39; cf. de Moor). The biblical text gives the name divine recognition, if not divine origin (Ex 6:3). Its sole explanation occurs in Exodus 3:13–15, where God reveals his name to Moses. He is the one who exists (Ex 3:14); he is with the people (Ex 3:12) and wants to be known by them (Ex 3:15). Continued,

Deut 13:17 [mt 13:18].. Gen 2:17). your God. There is a clear identification of Yahweh with El/Elohim (e. Fourth. he also is portrayed as a divine warrior (Ex 15. Israel is particularly mentioned as having this relationship with him (e.. 8:21–22. Ex 3:15–16. cf. where Yahweh occurs in conjunction with “Rock” and ʾēl)..g. 30:3) and provides the means of redemption (e.g. monogamous relationship with his people: “I. This close relationship is portrayed elsewhere through the metaphors of lover (cf. Third the Hebrew grammar of Exodus 20:2 suggests that the commitment is fixed and immutable.4. Fourth Yahweh is also shown as a jealous God (Ex 20:5. 90).. One author has suggested that Yahweh’s decision to allow a world damaged by corruption to continue rather than to destroy it completely (Gen 9:8–17) necessitates his suffering (Fretheim 1984.… The tears of God are the meaning of history” (Wolterstorff. 5:1..g. 6:7. claiming a unique... Another has poignantly put it that “God is love. not some existential concept of being. cf. Deut 1:6) Second. Davies [279] . establishing. exposed to abuse (e. has power and authority beyond that of any human ruler. not only along with those whom he created (Ex 3:7–8) but also because of them (Gen 6:5–8). 259).g. Other Other attributes and aspects of Yahweh can. Deut 21:8. Deut 7:7–9) or parent. Deut 33:5).g. “I might be Yahweh. That is why he suffers. as creator. Yahweh is not some impersonal. allowing a creation to continue after it has shown itself rebellious. an argument against a Hiphil (causative) stem of the verb. This is in an “I-thou” relationship of person with person. Num 15:25–28. Deut 4:24. Ex 6:6. 18:20). This gracious commitment also exists in spite of the people’s condition. Num 23:21. makes Yahweh vulnerable. he is also pictured as pondering or deliberating over decisions (e. Num 14:11–20.g. Lev 4–5. 15:15) and forgiveness (e. 34:14). His commitment (“I am …”) precedes his commandment. Yahweh shows compassion (e. at least from the side of Yahweh. he is said to reign. as shown by the personal pronouns employed..1) is used rather than a conditional clause (e. protecting and uniting his people (Ex 15:18.g. Ex 32:7–14. 15:13.. but important elements of his character can be derived from Exodus 20:2. Gen 1:28. 71–72). Rather than destroying those liable to hurt him. Deut 20:13]). Judg 5:11. Related to this role. contra Albright 1957. Deut 32:18–19. Deut 5:11) and grief (Gen 6:6. Deut 32:6) and mother (implied in Num 11:11–12. 11:6–7) and at times even discussing these decisions with his creatures (e. who brought you out of the land of Egypt.g.g. is the message here (de Vaux.g.. in effect already breaking the first covenant stipulation (Ex 20:3). of course. see also 9:2 with its rewording making more explicit a connotation of military conquest [cf. A verbless clause indicating identification (“I = Yahweh”. This passage does not seem to involve a concept of causing being. In analogy to a human king. including both father (Ex 4:22.” Yahweh has a personal relationship with his people. 34:6–7.. The Bible presents the scene of Moses meeting with Yahweh on Sinai while at the same time the people worship a *golden calf at the foot of the mountain (Ex 32). am your God” (e. Deut 11:25] in which placing someone in one’s hand indicates power of life and death [cf. Fretheim 1984. be derived from other passages. Ex 3:18. Ex 33:18–19.511–40. the introductory verse to the *Decalogue: “I am the Lord [Yahweh] your God. 30:2–3). 112). A full exploration of the nature of the God identified as Yahweh is beyond the scope of this article. and no other. cosmic force. Gen 21:33. if you would only …”).g. This desire for exclusivity between Yahweh and other persons leaves him open to suffering. 3. 5:9). where Yahweh is identified through apposition with ʾel ʿôlām. especially v. out of the house of slavery. cf. Opening himself to his creatures in this way. IBHS §8. Gen 3:22. starting Exodus 20 with a promise of his relationship even before giving any of the expected responses. Ex 33:19. Third. 49–51). Ex 20:7. Deut 9:26. Gen 18:22–32. Second Yahweh is a God of *grace (cf. Ex 32:32. 31).active presence and relationship.g. he is willing to share elements of that authoritative rule with his human creatures (e. which does not occur elsewhere in Hebrew (DCH 2. Although he. later names such as Elijah [“my God is Yahweh”]. giving them not only authority but also procreative ability along with all living creatures. Having authority to command without explicit motivation other than his own will (e. 34:6).

In light of this evidence. Gen 1:26) and as ancient/eternal (Gen 21:33). it is apparent that for those of the period of the Pentateuch. complete separation from sin and all things unclean (e. and more besides. Examples are many. but Deuteronomy 32:6–7 provides a number of these when it speaks of Yahweh in terms also used of Elohim as Father (see 4. 22.g. It should therefore not be surprising that there are many characteristics and actions shared by them. .1 below).lists five nonbiblical inscriptions of “Yahweh your God”). there was no problem identifying one God using several different terms. Gen 14:19. Lev 19:2. 20:26. 21:8). the creator of humanity (qnh. ʿśh.. Another element that is characteristic of Yahweh God’s being is *holiness.