Greetings from The Second Book of Samuel! Saul has fallen on his sword, David is still not king of all of Israel and is just the king of Judah alone. He’s got two wives (three technically). The Phillistines are dopin’ around like knights in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. God is a little less active than he has been up to this point. The Jews are a little disjointed and separated. And the line between good and evil, right and wrong, are blurry as hell.
I wanted to take a break and talk about a cool little thing in the Bible that I’ve been noticing. It has to do with what we call….
THE NAME OF GOD.
Big stuff, right? Or maybe you are wondering why this is something that needs to be talked about. The name of God is …… God……right?
Well lets take a look.
Here is a glossary of terms we’ll be working with:
Lets start with LORD. This is the personal name of the God of Israel. So when you’re actually reading your Bible (you’re reading your Bible right? RIGHT?) and you see the word lord in ALL CAPS, you can know that we are talking about GOD.
Now that, obviously, is the English version. The Hebrew is actually “EHYEH”. Let me see if I can show you how to pronounce this. Its like…. “EHch Yehc” Got it? Good. So when God first spoke this word he presumably spoke it just like that, “EHch Yehc” because he spoke it to Moses, who spoke and understood Hebrew.
So what does it mean?
It means “I WILL BE” or the KJV translates it to “I AM”. Just typing this makes me tear up. Just imagine it. God speaking to you. You ask him what you should call him because you’ve never met him before. And he says, “Just call me I AM”, or if you rather, “Just call me I WILL BE”. You may be confused because in our modern culture it doesn’t make sense for someone to be named “IS” or like “HERE”. But think about it. Moses lives in a time when gods are a dime a dozen. Some are just little idols. Some are powerful. But all are angry and require subjective subservience of their subjects. Things like human sacrifice and violence. And you never knew when they were appeased or when they would strike, or when they would change their mind.
You never knew if your god was on your side or against you. It could change day to day.
Then this God comes along. Moses is scared. Moses realizes that he is in the presence of a superior being. He asks what he should call this God.
“I WILL BE” “I AM”
How beautiful! Right out of the gate He is saying, ” I am the God who has always been (I’m literally tearing up and sniffling writing this), who is, and who will always be. I am the one. I am it. I am now and I am always. You can count on me.”
It’s just so beautiful!
Okay, now. Moses knows the name of God now, the great I AM. But he does not go into Egypt claiming that “I WILL BE is here to free His people!” God give Moses another term to use when talking about I AM.
This is the Hebrew for “He Will Be”. This is the one. YAHWEH is the term used for God over 6,000 times in the Old Testament alone. So when you want to know what the ancient prophets said when they said ‘God’, you can know they said YAHWEH (pronounced Ya-way)
Now I don’t know when this happened or who decided it, but at some point after this Moses encounter, maybe as late as around the time of Ezra, the Hebrew people stopped saying the name YAHWEH out loud out of respect for God. So they started verbally replacing the word YAHWEH with the word ADONAI, which is just the standard Hebrew word for ‘lord’ (like Lord of the flies or something). And this is the way its been ever since, through the Greek translation at the Library of Alexandria to the KJV. When the original word was YAHWEH, its gets replaced with LORD (all caps)… which means…. follow me here…….. God.
Lets take it one step further.
The ancient Jews were known for going above and beyond when it comes to reverence for their God. So just changing the name wasn’t enough. They wanted to create a sort of code to create a new name for the symbol of God just in case anyone got close to even accidentally misusing the true name of God. The name they came up with?
Its a combination of YAHWEH and ADONAI. Just a symbol. But over the years, translation after translation, the fact that this wasn’t even a real word got lost and when the Bible finally settled into its English skin a wholly fabricated word came to represent the name of God. Can you guess what it is? Lets sound out the above word together….
Yah – ho – Wuh
Ding! Ding! Ding! This word is a translation of a translation of a visual symbol of a place holder word for the real name of God.
So lets recap:
LORD: Refers to God
Lord: Refers to a lord, a king, and sometimes God in poetry (Ex. “Lord of Lords”)
I AM/I WILL BE: the name of God
Jehovah: A newer translation of the name of God
This world is full of changes. Nothing is certain. Sometimes we all feel like Eleven just chilling in the Upside Down. Things can get crazy. What you thought you knew may not be what you know tomorrow. Even the name of God can change over and over again.
But one things remains. There is a divine being who wants us to know that HE IS, HE HAS ALWAYS BEEN, HE WILL FOREVER BE.
And he wants very much for us to believe that he really is who he says he is.