In the part 1 of this series we looked at why the name is so important to us, here we now look at exactly what the name is. The answer may be a surprise to you!
What is Yahweh our Elohim?
Names in Hebrew are words bearing meaning, just like any other word in the language. And while in a wider sense these names were conferred by their parents conveying their desires for their children. Every word of the scriptures is inspired by Yahweh. While not everything that has happened in the lives of the people of the Bible are relevant to the purpose of Yahweh, everything that has been recorded is providentially arranged. Every name mentioned in the scriptures is intended by the spirit to add meaning within the context of its recording.
What greater example of this than in the name of our heavenly Father, creator of heaven and earth?
Isa 42:8 I Yahweh: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.
Exodus or שמות Sh’mot, which means “Names”, starts with the names of the children of Israel who were called out of there captivity in the land of Israel. In the third chapter an angel bearing the name Yahweh יַהְוֶה presents himself to Moses and sends moses to his brethren back in Egypt to declare the end of their captivity.
Exo 3:8 – And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
In verse 13, Moses asks Yahweh,
Exo 3:13 – And Moses said unto Elohim, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The Elohim of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What (or why) is his name? what shall I say unto them?
Upon hearing Moses, who was to come in the name of יַהְוֶה Yahweh, the name of the angel at the burning bush. The children of Israel in Egypt would consider the name and try to understand it by comparing it to the root words they already knew (see Hebrew language). Although they had almost certainly heard the Name before, having been used as part of names right from the garden, this was the first time that they had been addressed specifically by יַהְוֵה Yahweh as Yahweh.
Till that point, they had not יָדַע Yada’, experienced the name. Instead they had experienced the title אל שדי Ail Shaday, the nurturing protector (Exo 6:3). By who’s protection they had become a multitudinous nation as the sand of the sea shore (Gen 41:49).
Etymology of יַהְוֵה Yahweh
Some have suggested that the root of the name is hayah היה, “to be”. However there is no means by which to get Yahweh from the root word hayah היה using the normal verbal paradigms. It is suggested that the second yod י of the future tense of hayah היה, which is yih’yeh יהיה, was morphed into a vav ו.
This theory is based on the assumption that Eve’s name was similarity formed using the same morphing process.
Gen 3:20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve (Chavah חַוָּה); because she was the mother of all living(Chay חָֽי or Chayah חיה)
Gesenius thinks that the word chavah חוה originally existed of itself. In fact he even suggests that the word chayah חיה came from chavah חוה, based on his studies of Semitic languages. I personally think that it is difficult to support the suggestion that the one word is derived from other based purely on this verse. There are many examples throughout Scripture where two similar sounding words, sometimes distinguishable only by spelling, are used together in a play of words.
As an aside, it is interesting that Chavah was the mother of all living, just as Yahweh is the mother of all who will be!
There is no need to mess around with the words, a derivation is simple using the verb tables. If we do the same as the children of Israel would likely have done, and try and trace the name back to a root verb. We find that יַהְוֵה Yahweh fits nicely into the strong verb paradigm as a Hifil-Jussive of Havah הוה.
So what does this mean? Hifil is simply the causative mood in Hebrew. So as an example; ‘acal אָכַל, he ate, in it’s Hifil form would be Hi’ecil הִאְכִל, he caused to eat or he fed. In this case, perhaps to feed someone, or command an army to the destruction of the enemy. The same word would do for both, describing a class of action and not just a concrete thing.
Jussive is an emphatic commanding tense. A short and abrupt order to be acted on immediately. So יַהְוֵה Yahweh is an emphatic command to cause … to cause what? to cause to Havah הוה. William Gesenius says that the root idea of the word is to breath, while others say simply to be. Unfortunately there is no way of being certain about the actual meaning of the root, which can only be guessed at by comparing where it is used elsewhere in scripture and how the word is preserved in other sematic languages (the approach of Gesenius).
Hence we have a simple command… cause to breathe! And I’m sure at this stage most of us may well be asking the same question that Moses did… Why is his name? In part 3 we hope to start to answer this question.