God has a Name. As a matter of fact, the Bible declares it in Exodus 3:15: “Say this to the people of Isra'el: ‘Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh (י - ה - ו - ה), the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Avraham, the Elohim of Yitz’hak and the Elohim of Ya’akov, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation.”
That being the case, then, why do so few people know His Name or bother using it? Traditional Jews, for instance, refuse to write or utter His Name, by rabbinic decree, out of sheer reverence and for fear of breaking the Third Commandment. They prefer, instead, to use titles such “G-d” or “the Almighty” or “Hashem” (which literally means, “The Name”).
But there ARE people who see nothing wrong with writing or using His Name, doing their best to pronounce it, with due respect and reverence, according to their own understanding. Unfortuantely, this includes some really strange English transliterations: “Yahuway”, “Yehuah”, “Yahoah”, “Jehovah”, YaHuWaH”, “Yahwah”, and a host of others that make no sense, whatsoever.
Some even claim to have proof positive on “how to pronounce it” - the most recent being the idea that His Name, יהוה, is written and pronounced “Yehovah.”
Personally, I don’t agree.
Attempting to research the correct pronunciation of the Name quickly leads to a literal quagmire of powerfully expressed, deeply held explanations by “experts” - while actually never rising above opinion. Each expert claims “their pronunciation” is the correct one, never mind that for every “correct” pronunciation there are at least a dozen other “experts” admonishing that that particular pronunciation is wrong.
This very article came about because of a popular “Hebrew Roots” (HR) teacher, a Karaite Yeshua denier who has been, for at least 10 years, pushing the pronunciation of יהוה as “Yehovah”. This HR teacher proudly proclaims that he and his “team” have now “identified” over 1000 Hebrew texts in which one finds the vowel-pointed Name, יהוה, as “Yehovah”. Well … of course they do! In-fact all vowel-pointed Hebrew texts, including the Aleppo Codex from about 930CE, annotate the Name as יְהֹוָה, (or a grammatical variation) which, indeed, is read as “Yehovah” (at least according to modern Hebrew vowel marking). But hold the phone! All vowel-marked Hebrew texts originate from about 800 CE or later, as vowel-marking was not known prior to that era. Vowel-marking was thus established at least 1000 years after the imposed ban on uttering the Name in Judaism!
While the modern vowel-pointed Holy Name, יְהֹוָה, according to Hebrew grammar found in many, many manuscripts, does read as “Yehovah”, there is absolutely no reason to expect that it reflects the proper, actual pronunciation so strongly advocated by this well-known Karaite, HR leader! Even Josephus, in the 1st Century CE (about 2000 years ago) states in his writings that he is not permitted to pronounce (or write) the Name due to the established prohibition - even in his time. Josephus - contrary to our respected, popular Karaite HR personality, was a great, well-known, educated, elite, Levite Priest who no doubt knew and guarded the correct pronunciation! Truly, does anyone, today, believe for one minute, that a rabbinic-generated, Hebrew document, intended for public consumption, containing vowel points, is going to provide the correct pronunciation of יהוה as “Yehovah” when the punishment for uttering the forbidden Name was death? That would be like saying in an official, sanctioned document: “Here’s the correct pronunciation which I am not asking you to say! Don’t dare speak this word which I have herein explained is pronounced: ‘Yehovah’ – but don’t say it.”
Actually, there is ample evidence that יהוה, as vowel pointed in Hebrew texts as יְהֹוָה, is done so to imply another pronunciation altogether. The indicated vowels (which some say are actually impossible vowels for the Tetragrammaton) are only to indicate to the reader that יהוה is to be spoken as “Adonai” and certainly not pronounced as “Yehovah” by the indicated vowels. When the reader encounters “יְהֹוָה”, he is expected to automatically, without further provocation, enunciate the Name as “Adonai” because the vowel markings are not those for יהוה, rather, they are for “Adonai”. Yet the Karaite teacher is out there teaching that יְהֹוָה is decidedly “Yehovah” – claiming it is the true pronunciation of the Name and people are fawning all over him for his teaching.
Indeed another vowel marking of יהוה is found, for example in Ezekiel 2:4, as: יְהֹוִה, and it is clearly not intended to be pronounced (according to the vowels) as “Yehoiah” (יְהֹוִה) – (my admittedly crude attempt at enunciating יהוה with those vowels). Rather, it is only another signal to the reader to say “Elohim” instead of יהוה, as it is written. “Elohim” in Hebrew is אְלֹהִים, containing the same vowels as seen in יְהֹוִה. When one sees “יְהֹוִה”, one is expected, again without provocation, to enunciate “Elohim”, not “Yehoiah”!
The Name is not forbidden
Did you know that nothing in Torah prohibits anyone from pronouncing out loud the Name of יהוה? It’s true! The Name is not forbidden to speak. The rabbinical ban on uttering the Name is man-made, man-conceived. Indeed, there are a number of scriptures which declare that people the world over were expected to know the Name! Here are but a few:
Exodus 3:15 “Say this to the people of Isra'el: 'Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh (י - ה - ו - ה), the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Avraham, the Elohim of Yitz'chak and the Elohim of Ya`akov, has sent me to you.' This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation.”
Exodus 9:26 “…and that My name may be declared throughout all the earth.”
Isaiah 42:8 “I am יהוה, that is My Name, and My esteem I do not give to another, nor My praise to idols.”
Isaiah 52:6 “…My people shall know My name…”
Zephaniah 3:8-9 “For then I will change the peoples, so that they will have pure lips, to call on the name of יהוה, all of them, and serve him with one accord.”
Ezekiel 39:7 “I will make my holy name known among my people Isra'el; I will not allow my holy name to be profaned any longer. Then the Goyim will know that I am יהוה, the Holy One in Isra'el.”
If we are to know His Name, then why don’t we know it today? Why is there even an argument about the proper pronunciation? Why does it remain hidden today?
The answer, in my strongest belief, is that יהוה needs no vowels. (I’m aware that many will scoff at this thought, and that’s fine. I’m writing what I think, not what you think.)
The proper pronunciation is contained within the four Hebrew letters themselves without vowel points. Let me try to explain. I know many will object to the following admittedly simplistic argument, but I am not trying to write a 300 page book on Hebrew Grammar:
“Yod”, in Hebrew is transliterated as a “ya” sound in English. All English words beginning with a “y” have a “ya” sound. That sound may be quickly modified by the next letter, so the result may indeed be a “ye”, “yu”, “yo” or even a “yi” sound as in:
“Yank”, “yard”, “year”, “yesterday”, “yikes”, “yodel”, “yule”. Do you see how the next letter modifies the “y” sound, yet it is always has a “ya” sound?
The point is that in all cases, the English word beginning with “Y” begins with a “ya” sound no matter how it is immediately modified. So, the Hebrew “yod” in יהוה is a “ya” sound-variant expressed in English. So far, the door is still open as to what comes next. That is, we can expect יהוה to begin with a “ya” sound, but we don’t yet know if it will be a “Ya”, “Ye”, etc.
The next letter, the Hebrew “ה” (hey), in יהוה is an “H” sound in English.
Also, depending on which letter precedes or follows the ה, the “sound” may be a “hay”, “hey”, “hi” (short “i”), “hee”, “ho”, “hoo” or “hu”. Here are some English examples of the “h” sound made by the ה:
“Heavy”, “hard”, “heave”, “ho”, “ah”, “have”, “slaughter”, “show”, “pharynx”, “mulched”, “who”, “behind”, “beehive”.
See how the sound of the English “h” is modified by the letter before or after it, and/or its position in the English word? Similarly (though clearly simplistically), this must be considered to understand the sound of the “ה” in יהוה. Here, in יהוה, we have the precedent in scripture that יה, in names is pronounced “Yah”. So we already know the pronunciation of יהוה begins with “Yah…”
The “waw” (and it is a “waw” not “vav” because the “waw” sound is more ancient that a “vav” sound), can be a “wa” sound or a “v” sound (“va”) depending on the placement of the “ו” letter in the word. Examples:
“Hawaii” (some may say “Ha-va-ee”, while others say “Ha-wa-ii”), “wash”, “welcome”, “jaw”, “whacked”, “highway”, “away”.
While sometimes the “w” is a hard sound, at other times it is a softer, “ooah” (wa) sound made with the lips.
Therefore, even in English, we already have more evidence of the pronunciation of יהוה, and we can put it all together!
The full pronunciation of “יהוה” is, with a little practice and consideration is:
“Yahweh” – but not quite sounded-out as you may think! Remember, we are attempting to sound-out the Name, we are NOT “saying” an English word containing these English letters!
In modern English the Name spelled “Yahweh”, (without being informed it is a transliteration of a Hebrew word), sounds much like “Yah-Way”, but that is not quite the proper sound. “Yah” is correct for the first part as substantiated by many, many scriptures. But for the second part, one needs to be more careful. For the second part, you are actually sounding out the combination of הוה (hey-waw-hey) as “ha-whey” but with a very short, almost undetectable “ha” sound followed by a sound much like “whay” (or “whey”, or “oo-way”) but only with the lips and without the sound of the English “w”. One might describe the sound of the second part as “hoo-wey”, as in “ya-hoo-whey” because the “hoo” is so brief, so silent, that it is more like part of a breath – never actually saying “hoo”, rather, simply changing the lips to an “oo” shape as you transition from “Yah” to “wey” – preparing to say “hoo”, but never actually sounding “hoo”: “Yah-(virtually silent “hoo” or “ooh”)-wey”.
So, the resulting pronunciation, without adding any artificial vowel marks whatsoever is this: Breathe-in while saying “Yah”, then breathe-out while saying “whay” (or “whey”) and don’t actually sound the English “w”: “Yah…wey” – just change your lips.
יהוה = “Yahweh”.
Therefore, יהוה is not “Yehovah”, “Yahooah”, Yahoah”, “Jehovah”, “YaHuWaH”, “YaHeWeHe”, or any other of the mind-numbing variants. It is “Yahweh”, plain and simple, before our very eyes in the Hebrew word “יהוה” without any added vowels.
And there you have it – the pronunciation of יהוה, always there before our eyes, never hidden. It is Yahweh.
I am open to civil comments/discussion.