The 4 Hebrew letters יְהֹוָה are often referred to by biblical scholars as the Tetragrammaton, is merely a Greek term for something with 4 letters. They’re pronounced ‘Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey’ (Yahweh) reading from right to left in Hebrew.
It is worth noting that the Hebrew language is phonetic. This means you look at a written word and know how to pronounce it and upon hearing a word you know how to spell it. In other words, with phonetic languages, there is a direct relationship between the spelling and the sound of a word. Very often in phonetic languages there is a simple rule: one letter one sound. It is important to understand that unlike Hebrew, English is not a phonetic language. We often do not say a word the same way it is spelled in English and we spell not what we say.
Jewish Sages say that the four letters Y-H-W-H, the Tetragrammaton, represent– He was, He is, He will be or, He who existed, He who exists, and He who will exist, hence the idea that the Creator is the Everlasting One.
As Hebrew is read from right to left, the name we know as ‘Yahweh’ shown above, begins with ‘Yud’ on the far right, then ‘Hey’, ‘Vav’, and finally another ‘Hey’.
In the Old Covenant (Tanakh) Yahweh is the personal name of God occuring over 6,800 times and is used more than any other name of God. It appears in every book apart from Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Yahweh is the promised name of God.
As the sacred, personal name of Israel's God, it was eventually spoken aloud only by priests worshiping in the Jerusalem temple. After the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, the name was not pronounced. Adonay was substituted for Yahweh whenever it appeared in the biblical text. Because of this, the correct pronunciation of this name was eventually lost.
This name of God which, by later Jewish tradition, is too holy to voice, is actually spelled YHWH without vowels. Whilst YHWH is first used in Genesis 2:7, God did not reveal Himself as YHWH until Exodus 3:14.
English editions of the Bible usually translate Adonay as Lord and Yahweh as LORD. Yahweh is the name that is most closely linked to God's redeeming acts in the history of His chosen people (see Exodus 3:1-3, Exodus 3:6-8, Exodus 3:10-20). Afraid of profaning this sacred name of God, various rabbinical writers spoke of it as The Name, The Great and Terrible Name, The Unutterable Name, The Ineffable Name (Shem HaMeforash), The Holy Name and The Distinguished Name. Jews refer to the sacred Name as HaShem or 'the Name' שֵׁם (Leviticus 24:16).
YHWH was first rendered Jehovah in the Middle Ages and enshrined as such in the King James Version of the Bible (see Exodus 6:3 KJV; Psalm 83:18 KJV; Isaiah 12:2 KJV; Isaiah 26:4 KJV). This mispronunciation arose when in the tenth-century Jewish scholars began supplying vowels to Hebrew words, which had formerly been written without them. Since Adonai was always substituted for Yahweh (pronounced yah-WEH, as scholars now think) in the biblical text, the Hebrew vowels for Adonai were inserted into the four letters of the Tetragrammaton: YaHoVaH.
The vast majority of Jewish and Christian biblical scholars as well as linguists don't believe Jehovah to be the proper pronunciation of YHWH as there was no true "J" sound in ancient Hebrew. The Hebrew letter vav, which is transliterated as the "W" in YHWH is believed to have originally had a pronunciation closer to "W" rather than that of "V" in Jehovah. Jehovah then is essentially a Germanic pronunciation of the Latinized transliteration of the Hebrew YHWH. The letters of the tetragrammaton, Latinized into JHVH, with vowels inserted popularised through the King James Bible. However, Yahweh or Yehowah is a far more plausible pronunciation.
Yahweh is not a God who is remote or aloof but One who is always near, intervening in history on behalf of His people. The knowledge of God's proper name implies a Covenant Relationship. God's Covenant name is closely associated with his saving acts in Exodus. The name Yahweh evokes images of God's saving power in the lives of His people.
Except for YHWH, the two most-common names or titles for God in the Biblia Hebraica (Hebrew Bible) are Adonai, which expresses authority or the exalted position of God, and Elohim, which expresses concepts of creative divinity.
Apart from the name YHWH, it may be argued that the titles Adonai and Elohim say more about the God of Israel than any other name.
Unfortunately, the translation LORD, which is a title rather than a name, obscures the personal nature of this name for God. Though the meaning of Yahweh is disputed, the mysterious self-description in Exodus 3:14, I AM WHO I AM, may convey the sense not only that God is self-existent but that He is always present with His people. When God commissioned Moses at the burning bush to liberate the Israelites from the slavery inflicted by Pharaoh in Egypt, Moses asked for God’s Name so he would be able to substantiate his God-given role to the Israelites (see Exodus 3:1-15). God simply answered Moses (see Exodus 3:14) saying; ehyeh-asher-ehey (אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה) which is translated as I AM WHO I AM.
Why should Elohim give another word for His Name, unless He wants to reveal something to us? So, the question is; how to pronounce His Name יְהֹוָה He exists?
There is a great deal of speculation as to how to utter the Tetragrammaton, the Name of The Everlasting One. Ironically, all these speculations as to how to pronounce the Tetragrammaton have non-Jewish origin, as their authors are not Jewish. They all embrace Arabic, Aramaic, and even Greek and Roman, but not Hebrew. And these speculations brought forth the transliterations such as: Yahweh, Yahuah, Yahueh, Yahwè, Jahweh, Jahwè, Jahve, etc., as Yahweh being most often used in the Hebrew Roots Movement.
Recall what Elohim commanded Moses in Exodus 3:15 — This is My Name forever, and this is My remembrance to all generations. This translation does not do justice to the Hebrew text because the Hebrew word zichri does not mean my remembrance, but my mention. The text literally says in Hebrew, This is My Name forever, and this is My mention (zichri) to all generations. This translation best reflects the Hebraic culture since Hebrews remember something by mentioning it. Bear in mind that Hebrew is an action oriented language.
Elohim is the name given for God as the Creator of the universe (see Genesis 1:1-2:4a) which implies strength, power and justice. YHWH, however, expresses the notion of God’s intimacy and presence, as YHWH breathed the breath of life into his (Adam’s) nostrils (see Genesis 2:7).
Jewish people stopped saying this name for fear of contravening the commandment; Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God ... (Exodus 20:7). As a result of this, Adonai אֲדֹנָי, meaning Lord, is often a substitute for YHWH.
The Early Semitic pictograph of this first letter is an arm and a hand. The meaning being to work, make and throw; the functions of the hand. However, it can also be used to mean simply ‘Arm’ or ‘Hand’ or both ‘Arm and Hand’. The modern Hebrew name changes from ‘Yad’ to ‘Yud’ and has the English sound ‘y’.
The next letter ‘Hey’ has the English sound ‘h’ or ‘eh’, which in pictographic form depicts a man with raised arms with the various meanings of ‘Look’ or ‘Behold’ as when looking at a great sight. However, it can also mean ‘Breath’ or ‘Sigh’ as one does when looking at a great sight. This letter is commonly used as a prefix to words to mean ‘the’ as in ‘haeretz Yisra'el’ האֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל meaning ‘the land of Israel’. The use of this prefix is to reveal something of importance within the sentence.
The third letter is ‘Vav’, which can have the English sound ‘v’, but the ancient form carried a ‘w’ sound. In pictographic form it represents a ‘tent peg’ or ‘nail’. The meaning is to ‘add’ or ‘secure’. But as with the other pictographs, it can also simply mean ‘peg’ or ‘nail’. The letter is frequently used as a prefix to words to mean ‘and’ in the sense of adding things together.
The final letter is another ‘Hey’ (see above for details).
Consider the meanings of the individual letters of God’s Name, יְהֹוָה, along with their pictographic forms.
Hey ה Vav וָ Hey ה Yud יְ
Man's Arm and Hand
Work, Throw, Worship, Hand, Arm
Man with Raised Arms
Behold, Look, Breath
Tent Peg, Nail
Secure, Add, Peg, Nail
Man with Raised Arms
Behold, Look, Breath
The redemptive plan of God, which defines the entire Bible,
is contained in His name YHWH or as we see it written Yahweh or Yehowah.
The pictographs reveal that the very name of the Father,
carries the burden of the Son, Yeshua Ha-Mashiach,
prophetically written into His Word from the very beginning of Creation
Twice we’re encouraged to Behold
Behold the Hand
Behold the Nail
We Worship and Serve an Awesome God