🔼The name YHWH: Summary
- He Who Causes That-Which-Is To Be & He Who Causes That-Which-Can't-Be To Fall
- House Of Information Technology, House Of The Alphabet, House Of The Great Human Library
- From the verb הוה (hawa), which both means to be and to fall.
- From the Hebrew "name" of the alphabet, formed from the three Hebrew vowels, plus the suffix of locality.
🔼The pronunciation of the name YHWH
But the angel of YHWH said to him, "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is incomprehensible?"
The name YHWH is very old and it's generally assumed that the source texts of the Torah already contained it. It is similarly likely that the Book of the Covenant, which Moses read aloud to the Israelites, contained it too (Exodus 24:7).
For reasons we will discuss below, the Name became (or had always been) unpronounceable, and wherever the text called for YHWH, a reader would pronounce the Hebrew word for lord, namely Adonai. In the Middle Ages, the Masoretes began to fear that the traditional pronunciation of the written text might become lost and inserted symbols to help preserve it. That caused the pronunciation of the word Adonai to be linked to the spelling of YHWH, which in turn resulted in the impossible hybrid "name" Jehovah.
🔼The temple of YHWH
The seemingly casual command to 'write' something on all doors (Deuteronomy 6:9) and hands and foreheads (Exodus 13:9) calls in fact for the invention of a writing system that could be mastered by everybody. This is a very big deal, and it resulted in the most powerful tool of data preservation up to this common age.
We moderns are so used to reading and writing that we often forget what an incredible miracle the alphabet is. It took many peoples many millennia to develop it and the main contribution of the Hebrews was the invention of vowel notation. Vowel notation was the capstone that completed the alphabet, and which made the previously esoteric art of writing and reading available to the masses. Prior to vowel notation, script was basically a mnemonic tool that helped specifically trained priests to memorize sacred texts. After it, script allowed anybody to be a priest, and give an entire nation a collective living memory (Exodus 19:6).
The alphabet quite literally allowed nations to become alive and be endowed with a singular living and thinking mind, in precisely the same way in which the Creator had once collected the dust of the earth into a viable body and infused into that body the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). Much later, the Creator would do that exact same thing once again when he gathered believers into a viable body and infused into them the Holy Spirit (compare Genesis 13:16 to Galatians 3:7 and Acts 2:2). YHWH is the second creation name of God, as the Creator's name "changes" from Elohim, the Maker of Elements, to YHWH Elohim, the Applier of Elements in Genesis 2:4 (see for a closer look at this our article on the Chaotic Set Theory).
And sure enough, modern information theory (starting with Claude Shannon in 1948) tells us that, indeed, the universe is basically a data-processing device that began its core business of storing and processing information as soon as there were particles to combine and arrange.
The Hebrew scribes who invented vowel notation didn't create new symbols for vowels but instead used symbols that already existed and until then had only represented consonants, namely the letters י (yod), ה (he), and ו (waw). And to give an example: the word דוד is either the monosyllabic dod, meaning beloved, or it is the disyllabic dawid, which is the name David. These three symbols became the markers for both the Hebrew identity and Hebrew theology, and ultimately formed the name יהוה (YHWH), not unlike the famous Hindu mantra AUM, which also represents the whole of everything whilst consisting of the three basic phonetic components of speech.
The Phoenicians had invented the consonantal alphabet to which the Hebrews added the vowels, and the story of Solomon and Hiram's mostly Phoenician temple in which YHWH came to dwell obviously reflects the birth of modern script (1 Kings 8:10-11). Writing didn't depend on a perishable human brain to retain data, which is why the Psalmist triumphantly exclaimed: "will you not allow your Holy One [i.e. the Word] to undergo decay" (Psalm 16:10, 49:9, Acts 2:27).
The word אל (El) was the name of the prominent Canaanite god, whose name was either derived of or became the common word for god in general. The plural of this word is אלים; gods. With the addition of the letter ה, creating the word אלהים, the Hebrews not only stated essential monotheism (by naming a single God after the plural word "gods") but also marked their God as theirs: Elohim is the singular pantheon of the vowel-people.
🔼Etymology of the name YHWH
The name YHWH may be an artificial construct of the Hebrew language's available vowels, which would be equivalent to our A-E-I-O-U. Better yet, the name YHWH may actually be YHW(H), where the final H is a common suffix that indicates formation (ever-growing place of, ever-expanding house of — a similar final H occurs with the name Pharaoh), and the first three letters the "name" by which the alphabet was known in Hebrew, equivalent to our English "name" for the alphabet: the alpha-beta, or the ABC.
If YHW is indeed the Hebrew way of saying ABC, the reason why the pronunciation of the Name was lost becomes immediately clear: it was never lost because it never existed. Since each of the three letters Y-H-W can either be pronounced as a vowel or as a consonant, the Name has eight possible basic pronunciations (including EEAAOO and Yahoo and YahaWa), and by choosing one we deny the other seven and simultaneously demonstrate that we don't actually know the Name.
And even if the name YHWH existed before the Hebrews began to note vowels (which is probable), they may have chosen for their vowel-symbols the letters that made up the already existing name of their God. That means that the name YHWH may be a proper word, derived of some verb, which subsequently came out existing of only vowels. If that is so, the etymology of YHWH is utterly unclear, and therefore subject to much debate.
The key scene in this respect seems to be Exodus 3:13-15, where God names himself first: אהיה אשר אהיה (I AM WHO I AM), then אהיה (I AM), and finally יהוה (YHWH) and states that this is his name forever and a memorial name to all generations.
It has been long supposed that YHWH was derived from the verb that is used to make I AM, namely היה (haya), meaning to be or to become, or rather from an older form and rare synonym of haya, namely הוה, hawa, hence y-hawa or yahweh, the proper imperfect of the verb, thus rendering the name either BEING or HE IS. (But note that the Hebrew language is far more dynamic than our modern languages. The verb to be indicates an action that intimately reveals the nature of the one who is doing the acting. For more on this, see our article To Be Is To Do):
The verb היה (haya), or its older version הוה (hawa), means to be busy acting out the behavior that defines that which acts. This verb never describes static existence (the dog is outside) but always the performance of a specific behavior that defines whichever is behaving in such a way (the dog is outside barking, sniffing, chasing squirrels, digging up bones and running off the mailman).
Very curiously, the verb הוה (hawa II), which is identical to the older version of the verb that means "to act definingly," appears to mean to fall. This may be an inconvenient coincidence, but much more likely reflects the deep insight that the development of defining behavior inevitably requires the falling away of certain rejected behaviors. This connection between "being" and "falling" may even be among the few driving forces of evolution.
Noun הוה (hawwa) means either a bad kind of desire or lust, or ruin or destruction. Nouns היה (hayya) and הוה (howa) describe destruction, calamity or ruin.
HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament goes even further as it states, "...there is a problem with the pronunciation Yahweh. It is a strange combination of old and late elements.[...] In view of these problems it may be best simply to say that YHWH does not come from the verb hawa at all. [W]e may well hold that YHWH [...] is an old word of unknown origin which sounded something like what the verb hawa sounded in Moses' day. However, if the word were spelled with four letters in Moses' day, we would have expected it to have had more than two syllables, for at that period all the letters were sounded". Meaning: if people in the time of Moses indeed wrote the Name as יהוה, and they would have still pronounced it, it would have sounded like Yahay Wayhay.
In other words, the name YHWH looks like a hybrid of times, as if it cannot be localized but spans centuries of evolving grammar. Then it also looks very much as if it was derived of a verb that means to be, but which is spelled differently than the regular verb to be, and similarly to a verb that means something very bad. Perhaps all this confusion, or rather, this wide pallet of negotiations is what this Name most essentially conveys: existence in its broadest sense, yet unlike any regular human perspective; a blessing to the wise, but the undoing of the wicked.
On the other hand, perhaps the name YHWH means Tom, Dick or Harry in a language that has slipped out of the collective human consciousness and we are left with the echoes of a revelation that was as sincere and confidential as the word abba: daddy.
After all this it should be clear that the name YHWH can't be readily interpreted.
If we're dealing with an expression of the verb הוה (hawa II), and we maintain that this verb means to fall, then YHWH would mean Falling, or He Will Fall or He Will Cause To Fall. This line of reasoning may seem to lack any trace of sound theology, but the divine name Shaddai reflects a similar negative, and may mean My Destroyer. The prophet Isaiah writes, "Wail, for the day of YHWH is near. It will come as destruction (shad) from Shaddai" (Isaiah 13:6).
But perhaps we have the verb הוה (hawa II) all figured wrong, and הוה (hawa II) is the same as הוה (hawa I), meaning to be or to happen. Then YHWH would comfortably mean Being or He Is or He Will Cause To Be.
Here at Abarim Publications we are most charmed by this particular explanation. Time and again the Bible urges its readers to focus only on that which is real, on "That Which Is", and steer clear from mumbo-jumbo, superstitions and nonsense. To the modern world Yahwism may seem like just another religion but to the ancients it wasn't. The Jews were known as the people without a god (meaning without an effigy) and it appears that Christians in the Roman empire may have been accused of atheism (again meaning without a visible deity; see Cassius Dio 67.14).
Even though the name YHWH is etymologically difficult to explain, to a Hebrew audience it may have looked very much like He Who Causes "That Which Is" To Be.
🔼The brilliance of Yahwism
Yahwism, therefore, can be most aptly viewed as a kind of proto-science; it's the syntax of science and focused on reality first and foremost. And no, Yahwism is not a religion that appeared to work really well; it's the syntax of science that worked really well which received the name Yahwism. Where the vast majority of pagan religions venerate society's stratification, Yahwism emphasizes the importance of the individual (hence the idea of YHWH's Christ being Jesus of Nazareth; the quintessential Average Joe). Pagan religion wants blind obedience; Yahwism wants insight and responsibility. Pagan religion wants a reverential and essential gap between the holy and the profane; Yahwism dictates that God wants to fellowship with mankind — and just pause to dwell on that for a bit.
There are over a hundred references in the Old Testament alone of the Lord stating that he will or wants to be with us (Genesis 26:3, Exodus 3:12, 1 Chronicles 28:20, Isaiah 53:5, Job 29:5), and although we moderns are probably used to that idea, there is nothing like this to be found in any of the cultures that surrounded Israel during Biblical times. The name Immanuel expresses purely a Yahwistic concept (Isaiah 7:14), as obviously does the Word of the Lord becoming flesh, dwelling among us (John 1:14), and appointing disciples "that they might be with Him" (Mark 3:14).
Here at Abarim Publications we love science (and if you haven't already, check out our articles on quantum mechanics and chaos theory) but we are privately convinced that there is a greater source of knowledge than science. Or let's rephrase that: it seems to us that Yahwism in its natural form is the great unrecognized foundation of science and any kind of veritable knowledge. We know beyond doubt that there are Yahwists among us who know far more than any scientist; they don't publish and that's why the general public doesn't know about them, but they are there.
Our brains are made up of particles that have been around since the beginning of time, and just like ants must build an ant-hill in obedience to ant DNA, so must mankind come up with a model of reality in obedience to human DNA. In other words: the whole picture lies in our hearts, and that which we call inspiration or having a hunch, or even simply an idea for a hypothesis, comes straight from our heart of hearts (Deuteronomy 30:14, Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 2:15, Hebrews 10:16). The trouble humanity faces is that we've been believing and teaching each other the wrong things; we look in a mirror dimly, so to speak (1 Corinthians 13:12), and our thinking has to be renewed (Romans 12:2).
A mind which is trained in Yahwism will automatically be good at science, whereas a mind which is trained in paganism will automatically jump too quickly to conclusions and will base these conclusions on emotions rather than observations. Whether science will lead to bliss or to destruction depends wholly on whether man worships his knowing self or the Creator (for more on this, see our article on the familiar word Amen).