Should the Name Be Used?
MANY people do not feel at ease using God’s holy name. Devout Jews see this name in their Bibles, but they feel it should not be pronounced. Many other religious people hesitate to use it.
However, the entire nation of Israel once heard God speak his name. They heard it pronounced correctly. At Mount Sinai they heard it eight times in the Ten Words, or Ten Commandments, that they heard spoken from heaven.—Exodus 20:2-17.
If the translator of your copy of the Bible used God’s name where it appears in the original Hebrew, you will see that those commandments begin with the statement: “I am Jehovah your God, who have brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves. You must not have any other gods against my face.” The Living Bible renders this: “I am Jehovah your God . . . You may worship no other god than me.” (Exodus 20:2, 3) If the translators of your Bible did not use God’s name, they may have put the word “LORD” in capitals to show that The Name appears in the original passage.
There is nothing in the Scriptures that says that this name should not be used. God said not to take his name “in vain,” or “in a worthless way.” But that does not mean that we should not use the name. Rather, it means that servants of Jehovah should not do things that discredit his name.—Exodus 20:7.
Moses, who was used to record this command in the Bible, did not understand it to mean that God’s name should not be used, for he wrote that name many hundreds of times in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Rather than not using the name, Moses said: “Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah. And you must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your vital force.”—Deuteronomy 6:4, 5.
The Bible does not show that this name remained hidden or unpronounced. Instead, it shows that over a period of many centuries it was in common use. The Bible quotes Eve as using it. (Genesis 4:1) Moses says that righteous Abraham used it, that Abraham called “upon the name of Jehovah the indefinitely lasting God,” though that fact is hidden in many modern Bible translations.—Genesis 21:33.
Abraham used Jehovah’s name in talking with the king of Sodom. Sarah used it in conversation with Abraham. Abraham’s servant used it regularly. Jacob, his wife Rachel and her father, Laban, all used God’s name.—Genesis 14:22; 16:2; 24:35, 42, 44; 28:16; 30:24, 27, 30.
Moses was commanded to use God’s name. Moses and Aaron used it in speaking to unbelieving Pharaoh, and Pharaoh used it in replying. He said: “Who is Jehovah, so that I should obey his voice to send Israel away?”—Exodus 5:1-3; 3:15.
Centuries later the people still did not consider Jehovah’s name unspeakable. They used it in talking to Samuel, and he used it in replying. (1 Samuel 12:19, 20) Righteous King David sang it publicly, saying: “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the middle of the congregation I shall praise you. You fearers of Jehovah, praise him!”—Psalm 22:22, 23.
The great prophet Isaiah did not think this name should be ignored. He used it more than 400 times in the Bible book that bears his name.
Isaiah did not tell his Jewish readers not to use God’s name. Rather, he said: “Give thanks to Jehovah, you people! Call upon his name. Make known among the peoples his dealings. Make mention that his name is put on high. Make melody to Jehovah, for he has done surpassingly. This is made known in all the earth.”—Isaiah 12:4, 5.
Does any of this sound as though this mighty name was to be hidden? not be used? be replaced by some other word? Translators who drop God’s name from his own book obviously do not have the appreciation of this name that God-fearing Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Samuel, David and Isaiah had.
The later prophets did not hide this name either, considering it too sacred to use or feeling that earlier Bible writers were wrong and thinking this name should be replaced by some other word. Their messages were filled with such expressions as these: “Hear the word of Jehovah.” “This is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, has said.” “This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah has said.”—Jeremiah 2:4; 19:15; Ezekiel 21:28.
Nor was the use of this name confined to religious matters. Not only was it used by teachers but ordinary people used God’s name in normal conversation. The Bible says that Boaz said to his field workers: “Jehovah be with you.” They would reply: “Jehovah bless you.”—Ruth 2:4.
Archaeologists have found confirmation of the Bible’s statements that the people used this name. In the 1930’s they discovered the Lachish Letters, pottery fragments believed to date from the Babylonian conquest in the seventh century B.C.E. These repeatedly use such expressions as: “May YHWH [Yahweh, or Jehovah] cause my lord to hear this very day tidings of good!”
Even non-Israelites knew and used God’s name. The Gibeonites told Joshua: “Your servants have come in regard to the name of Jehovah your God, because we have heard of his fame and of all that he did in Egypt.” (Joshua 9:9) In the tenth century before our Common Era, Israel’s enemy Mesha, king of Moab, had the name written on the Moabite Stone, rediscovered in 1868 and now displayed in the Louvre museum in Paris.
These facts should not be surprising. Rather than suggesting that this was a private, secret name that should not be used, Moses had told the people: “And all the peoples of the earth will have to see that Jehovah’s name has been called upon you.” (Deuteronomy 28:10) How could that be possible if even worshipers did not use his name?
Rather than being unspeakable, the name was honored, loved, respected. It was used in naming places, and even in naming people. Abraham called the place where he went to sacrifice Isaac “Jehovah-jireh.” (Genesis 22:14) And the following are among well-known Bible names whose meanings involve Jehovah, or Jah, the shorter poetic form of Jehovah’s name: Hezekiah, Isaiah, Josiah, Nehemiah, Obadiah, Zechariah and Zephaniah. People even use God’s name in naming children today. In fact, God’s marvelous name may be included in your own name! Do you know anyone named Joel? His name means, “Jehovah is God.” What about Jonathan? It means, “Jehovah has given.” Joshua means, “Jehovah is salvation.” And anyone who has the common name John has a name that means, “Jehovah has been gracious.”
So despite the belief of some people that God’s name is too sacred to be spoken, and of others that it should be ignored, there is no way it can be left out of the Bible. It is included in all these Biblical names that were used during the many centuries that people not only knew God’s holy name JEHOVAH but used it in prayer, worship and normal conversation.
But what about the Christian Scriptures, often called the New Testament? The name Jehovah is included in the names of Jesus and John, and in the word “Hallelujah,” but why does it not appear more often? The answer to that important question is discussed next.
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How Is the Name Pronounced?
Due to religious disuse, the original pronunciation of the Hebrew word יהוה has been lost. Some scholars prefer to say “Yahweh,” but there is no way of knowing what pronunciation is correct.
However, names are often pronounced differently in different languages. In English we call the first Christian to die for his faith Stephen, but the French call him Étienne. Jesus was called Ye·shuʹaʽ, or Yehohshuʹaʽ, in Hebrew, I·e·sousʹ in Greek.
The fact that we do not pronounce Jesus’ name—or the name of any other person—exactly as it was pronounced in the original language does not make us drop the name. We simply say it as it is pronounced in our language.
Thus, the book Aid to Bible Understanding says: “Since certainty of pronunciation is not now attainable, there seems to be no reason for abandoning in English the well-known form ‘Jehovah’ in favor of some other suggested pronunciation. . . . In English the name ‘Jehovah’ identifies the true God, transmitting this thought more satisfactorily today than any of the suggested substitutes.”—Page 885.
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THEY CALLED GOD BY NAME