How God’s Name Has Been Made Known
THE Bible psalmist David sang: “I will praise the name of God with song.” David knew God’s name, and in a song, he urged: “Blessed be Jehovah . . . Blessed be his glorious name.” (Psalm 69:30; 72:18, 19) The commonly used form of God’s name in English is Jehovah, translated from the Hebrew יהוה, which appears some 7,000 times in the Bible.
In recent centuries God’s name has been used in many places besides the Bible. For example, the Latin words Benedictus Sit Iehova Deus, meaning “May Jehovah God Be Praised,” are found on gold coins that were minted for many years in Switzerland . In fact, within the past several hundred years, God’s name in Hebrew and Latin has appeared on over a thousand different kinds of coins, tokens, medals, and jetons (substitute coins).
What led to such widespread use of the divine name, examples of which can be seen on this page and the accompanying one?
Why the Use of God’s Name?
Beginning in the 16th century, religious battles between Roman Catholics and Protestant Reformers raged throughout Western Europe. Several provincial territories belonging to Spain broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, which had been the dominant religion, preferring instead the Reformed Church. This led to religious civil war. Coins and the images on them were used to transmit the message that God was supporting either one side or the other.
How the Divine Name Was Used
Die engravers represented God’s name, Jehovah, by the four Hebrew letters known as the Tetragrammaton. These are transliterated into English as JHVH or YHWH. Generally, neither die engravers nor the people in general could read Hebrew. So when the Tetragrammaton was copied over and over again, the four Hebrew letters of God’s name came to be written in different ways.
Sweden minted a coin with God’s name on it in about the year 1568 , and Scotland did so about 1591. About 1600, Sweden’s King Charles IX put God’s name—spelled variously as Ihehova, Iehova, and Iehovah—on money . He had one type of coin minted in gold—a magnificent showpiece valued at over four months’ wages for a manual laborer!
More than 60 different so-called Jehovah coins are known from the time of Christian IV, the king of Denmark and Norway, who ruled from 1588 to 1648. By the mid-17th century, “Jehovah coins” also appeared in Poland and Switzerland, and they found their way into Germany as well.
During the Thirty Years’ War, which was fought in Europe from 1618 to 1648 and which began as a religious war, such coins proliferated. After the victorious Battle of Breitenfeld in 1631, Swedish King Gustav II Adolph had coins minted that bore the Tetragrammaton . These were produced in towns such as Erfurt, Fürth, Mainz, and Würzburg. About the same time, Sweden’s allied principalities also began minting coins with God’s name on them.
During the some 150 years after the end of the dreadful Thirty Years’ War, God’s name continued to be struck on coins, medals, and tokens. Such coinage was minted in Austria, France, Mexico, and Russia, among other countries. However, by the early 18th century, God’s name was used in that way less and less often. Eventually, it almost totally disappeared from dies and stamps.
Making God’s Name Known
While God’s name may not be found on currency used today, it is receiving unprecedented proclamation. God long ago chose a people to serve him and said to them: “You are my witnesses, . . . and I am God.” (Isaiah 43:12) No coin can fulfill that vital role. In fact, those who used God’s name on their coins gave a false witness about him, for they were claiming his support in their vicious wars. Today, though, some humans are making God’s name known in the way he approves.
Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage you to learn more about the true God, Jehovah, and what his name stands for. Of him a Bible psalmist wrote: “That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” (Psalm 83:18) Knowledge of Jehovah is vital, as His dear Son revealed when he prayed: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
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Die engraver’s tools for making coins
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Coin 1 and tools: Hans-Peter-Marquardt.net; coin 2: Mit freundlicher Genehmigung Sammlung Julius Hagander
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Coins 3 and 4: Mit freundlicher Genehmigung Sammlung Julius Hagander