The Grandest Name of All
“You must tell the Israelites this, that it is JEHOVAH the God of their forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, who has sent you to them. This is my name for ever; this is my title in every generation.”—EXODUS 3:15, The New English Bible.
1. Of what value is a name, in comparison with other words that might be used to identify a person?
EACH of us has a name. Our name identifies us as a person. Hearing the name of someone you strongly dislike produces negative feelings, while the name of someone you dearly love prompts pleasant, happy thoughts. In addition to your name, there are other words that describe narrower aspects of your life. The same person may be called Professor, Boss, Dad or Grandpa, depending on the circumstances. Each of these words can prompt different thoughts about the person, calling attention to a different facet of his life. But his name reminds us of the whole person—all his aspects, everything we know about him.
2, 3. How could the words we use to identify God affect our thinking about him?
2 Does the same principle apply to our thinking about God? Does what you call him have at least some effect on your view of the Creator?
3 The words “Creator” and “Almighty” call attention to certain aspects of his activity. “Lord” refers to his authority. “God” describes him as having more than human attributes and power. The reader of the French translations by Segond and Darby, who sees God’s name changed to l’Éternel (the Eternal) may have a somewhat different picture of God than the reader of English Bibles whose translators have changed God’s name to “the LORD.” Thus, one religious writer said: “The introduction of God’s personal name into Christian worship and theology could have surprising and creative results.”
4. (a) What can be said about the various words we use in speaking of God? (b) How extensively is his name used in the Scriptures?
4 The various words that describe God—Lord, Almighty, the Creator—are correct. They are used in the Bible. However, there is a word that the Bible uses more often than any of these. It is God’s personal NAME, and that name should remind us of all the things we know about him. That name, which today is commonly pronounced Jehovah, or Yahweh, occurs in the original text of the Bible far more often than does any other word for God. The Comprehensive Concordance of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures takes 43 columns to list each time the word “God” or “God’s” is used in the Bible, but 77 columns to list each time “Jehovah” or “Jehovah’s” appears.
5. (a) What does Exodus 3:15 tell us about God’s name? (b) What can be said about the pronunciation “Jehovah”?
5 This name was not chosen by humans. The Bible says that God chose it, and that he said it should be used. He said: “You must tell the Israelites this, that it is JEHOVAH the God of their forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, who has sent you to them. This is my name for ever; this is my title in every generation.” (Exodus 3:15, NE) Why does this widely accepted modern translation use the name Jehovah in this text? Because this is the customary English pronunciation of God’s name that appears thousands of times in the original Hebrew Bible.
6. What is another advantage of using God’s name?
6 When the Bible uses a name for God, this helps us to think of him not just as a force but as a personality. It helps us to draw closer to him. God seems distant to many people. Yet the apostle Paul wrote: “In fact, he is not far off from each one of us.”—Acts 17:27.
Your Reaction to the Name
7, 8. What reaction do you have to hearing the name Jehovah? Why?
7 What is your reaction when you hear this name that the Bible uses for God? Does it prompt negative thoughts or pleasant, happy ones? Have you been taught to react negatively to the name by which God said he should be known, or does it produce a feeling of heartfelt appreciation, as the Bible shows it should?
8 Hearing the name Jehovah should make us think of the Creator of heaven and earth. In the original Hebrew, the Bible says: “Jehovah God [Jehovah Elohim] made earth and heaven.” It also says: “And Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” (Genesis 2:4, 7) Thus, we owe Him our life. His creating made your own existence possible. Does that fact affect the reaction you have when you hear God’s name?
9. Of what else should this name remind us?
9 More than being the Creator, he is the Purposer. It is believed that the name Jehovah means “He causes to become.” He causes himself to become whatever is required so that, without fail, his purposes and promises will be accomplished.
10. What is the meaning of Exodus 6:3?
10 Jehovah told Moses: “I used to appear to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty, but as respects my name Jehovah I did not make myself known to them.” (Exodus 6:3) Did this mean that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never heard this name? No, it could not mean that, for Jehovah had earlier told Moses that he was the God of these three men. (Exodus 3:15) Further, as the earlier article “Should the Name Be Used?” (page 4) shows, these faithful servants used that name continually. But the name was about to be revealed in a new way. What they had not known was the added meaning this name would take on once people had seen the extent to which Jehovah would go to see that his promises and purposes were fulfilled.
11. How were the Israelites about to know Jehovah in a more meaningful way than their forefathers had?
11 What purposes? The people were about to witness the awe-inspiring Ten Plagues. They were about to be brought dryshod through the Red Sea. They would have the Law given under awesome circumstances at Mount Sinai. They would be protected through the “great and fear-inspiring wilderness” and be brought into the Promised Land. —Deuteronomy 1:19; Exodus 6:7, 8; 14:21-25; 19:16-19.
His Loving Acts
12, 13. What are some of the things the Bible tells us about Jehovah’s loving acts?
12 The entire Bible narrative explains the Creator. It relates his faithfulness, uprightness and justice. The Bible says: “Good and upright is Jehovah.” It says: “O how great his goodness is!” “The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.”—Psalm 25:8; Zechariah 9:17; Deuteronomy 32:4.
13 The Bible presents Jehovah as King (Psalm 10:16; Daniel 4:34), Judge (Psalm 50:6; 98:9), Father (Isaiah 64:8; Matthew 6:6-9), Husband (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:14), Teacher (Psalm 71:17; Isaiah 50:4; 54:13) and Helper (Psalm 30:2; 115:9-13; 121:2). His name should remind us of his loving acts, of the fact that he has established right principles and that he has the right to require the obedience and devotion of his earthly children. The Scriptures say: “Jehovah is known by the judgment that he has executed.” “Jehovah is guarding all those loving him, but all the wicked ones he will annihilate.”—Psalm 9:16; 145:20.
14. (a) How did the writers and singers of the Psalms show their confidence in Jehovah? (b) What do the Proverbs show about him?
14 This name appears 749 times in the complete Bible book of Psalms. The psalms, or songs of praise, were sung by joyful worshipers who gave “thanks to the name of Jehovah” at the temple in Jerusalem. (Psalm 122:1-4) The writers and singers of the psalms knew Jehovah’s name (Psalm 9:10), trusted in his name (33:21), called on his name (80:18; 105:1), gave thanks to his holy name (106:47), sought help in his name (124:8) and continually praised his name (68:4; 135:3). His was not a hidden name but a beloved name. (Psalm 89:1; 92:1-5) Not only did Jehovah perform the loving acts praised in the Psalms but he inspired the wisdom recorded in the Bible book of Proverbs. It says: “For Jehovah himself gives wisdom; out of his mouth there are knowledge and discernment.” (Proverbs 2:6) If your translation of the Bible uses “LORD” in these passages, be assured that in the original Hebrew, God’s name appears in each of them.
15 The name should remind us of the entire ensemble of history, prophecy, laws and wisdom that are outlined in the Bible. It should remind us of astounding prophecies that dealt with the major course of world history. Jehovah caused historic events to occur in such a way that his prophecies would be fulfilled on Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome, and on down through our turbulent 20th century and beyond.—Daniel, chapters 2, 7, 8.a
Jesus and the Father’s Name
16. (a) How should Jesus’ earthly sojourn affect our appreciation of his Father, Jehovah God? (b) How, in particular, did Jesus make his Father’s name known?
16 The warm feeling of appreciation that the divine name Jehovah should bring to our hearts should include an even more important fact—that he miraculously sent to earth his “Firstborn,” “the Word,” who became Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 1:6; John 1:1-3; Romans 5:6-8) In prayer to his heavenly Father, Jesus said: “I have made your name manifest to the men you gave me out of the world. . . . And I have made your name known to them and will make it known.” (John 17:6, 26) It was not that his followers did not already know God’s name. As shown in the article “God’s Name in the Christian Scriptures” (page 7), they saw this name both in their Hebrew Bible scrolls and in the Greek Bible translation they used. But as a result of Jesus’ teaching, the name took on added meaning—just as it had done as a result of Jehovah’s acts back in Moses’ day. Jesus marvelously expanded our knowledge and appreciation of Jehovah, of his personality and of his purposes. We know Jehovah’s name in a far grander way through Jesus, who said: “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me.” Jesus provided the ransom and the way of approach to the Father. Thus Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”—John 7:16; 14:6.
17. What heavenly use of God’s name was foretold in the book of Revelation?
17 In the Bible book of Revelation, which records John’s vision of events in our day, Jehovah’s name is still being praised. When Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion, is destroyed, a great crowd in heaven utters the exultant cry: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.” Then “the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who is seated on the throne, saying, ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’” (Revelation 19:1, 4, Revised Standard Version) What does “Hallelujah” mean? We have already seen, back on page 4, that “Jah” is a shorter poetic form for “Jehovah.” Thus, The Random House Dictionary of the English Language says that “Hallelujah” is from the Hebrew for “Praise (ye) Jehovah.” So God is worshiped in heaven with the cry: “Praise Jehovah!”
18. What does knowing things Jehovah has done “for the sake of his name” help us to appreciate?
18 God’s name should be used. It should remind us of his works and his loving-kindness. The Bible tells us that he did these great things “for the sake of his name, so as to make his mightiness known.” (Psalm 106:8) The marvelous works he performed “for the sake of his name” were not done out of egotism but to help us appreciate that he is God, that he has the right to tell us what to do, and that we can have absolute confidence in the accomplishment of his promises. (1 Samuel 12:22) Thus he said: “Remember the first things of a long time ago, that I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me; the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done; the One saying, ‘My own counsel will stand, and everything that is my delight I shall do’; . . . I have even spoken it; I shall also bring it in. I have formed it, I shall also do it.”—Isaiah 46:9-11.
19. What assuring statement did Joshua make about the reliability of God’s Word?
19 Centuries earlier Joshua had reminded the Israelites: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.”—Joshua 23:14.
20. What are some of the things of which the name Jehovah reminds you?
20 Are all these things involved in your impression of Jehovah? Does hearing his name remind you of his works, his power, his almightiness, his trustworthiness and the truth of his promises? Do you associate his name with The God who causes himself to become whatever is required so that his purposes will be accomplished? Do you think of Jehovah’s sending Jesus to earth to vindicate God’s name, to teach us about his Father and to provide the ransom for all who will accept it? And do your feelings about Jehovah include your appreciation of his promises of a righteous future for a cleansed earth?—2 Peter 3:13.
21. How can our attitude be like that of righteous King David?
21 Knowledge of the things Jehovah has done produces faith. Faith prompts us to action. We use his name, speak of his deeds, offer ourselves willingly as his servants, and we look forward to the fulfillment of his great and unfailing purpose to rid the earth of wickedness and to establish righteous new conditions for obedient mankind. Having such faith, and acting upon it, we can say as did righteous King David: “The praise of Jehovah my mouth will speak; and let all flesh bless his holy name to time indefinite, even forever.”—Psalm 145:21.
a For a discussion of many of these prophecies, see the book “Your Will Be Done on Earth,” published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
By way of review—
□ What is the value of a name, in contrast with some other word that might identify a person?
□ Of what should the name Jehovah remind us?
□ How did Jesus’ teaching increase our appreciation of the name Jehovah?
□ How are works Jehovah performed “for the sake of his name” of great benefit to us?
[Box on page 12]
The person whose name we do not know always remains more or less a stranger. When God invites us to use his name, it is an act of divine friendship
[Picture on page 11]
How did God’s saving the Israelites through the Red Sea make his name known to them?