THE SECOND NAME OF GOD
The second Name employed by God to identify Himself to the Jewish people and to the World is יהוה (see Genesis 2:4). This Name is never written with meaningful diacritical symbols, thereby preventing anyone living Today from knowing how to pronounce the Name. Consequently, this Ineffable Name is known as the Tetragrammaton (i.e., the “Four Letters”) and is reverentially pronounced as “Adonai” (meaning “My Lord”), while being rendered for translation purposes as “HaShem” (meaning “The Name”).
It is generally agreed among Hebrew Bible scholars that the Name of God יהוה is derived from the Hebrew-language verb להיות (meaning “to be” or “to exist”), based upon the following passage from the Hebrew Bible:
Moses said to the [one and only] God, “Behold, when I come to the Children of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘God of your forefathers has sent me unto you’, and they say to me, ‘What is His Name?’ -- what shall I say unto them?” And God said to Moses, “I Shall Be Who I Shall Be” [alternative translation: “I Shall Exist As I Shall Exist”]; and He [God] said, “So shall you say to the Children of Israel, ‘I Shall Be has sent me unto you.’ [alternative translation: ‘I Shall Exist has sent me unto you.’]” And God further said to Moses, “So [also] shall you say to the Children of Israel, ‘HaShem, God of your forefathers -- God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob -- has sent me unto you.’ This is My Name forever, and this is My Remembrance from generation to generation.” (Exodus 3:13-15)
In this passage, God first identifies Himself as אהיה (“I Shall Be” or “I Shall Exist”), being the future tense of the first person singular form of the verb להיות, and He then conflates His Name אהיה with His Name יהוה (rendered in the passage as “HaShem”) by instructing Moses to essentially declare that both Names have sent Moses to the Jewish people. Notwithstanding the Divine Conflation, one Name is not an anagram of the other Name, as the Name of God אהיה contains an “aleph” (but not a “vav”), while the Name of God יהוה contains a “vav” (but not an “aleph”). However, all of the letters of the Name of God יהוה can be found interspersed among the three tenses of the third person singular form of the verb להיות, reflecting recognition of the Eternal Nature of God from the perspective of the Jewish people, to wit: היה (“He [always] Was”); הווה (“He [always] Is”); and יהיה (“He [always] Shall Be”).
Does knowing the likely etymology of the Tetragrammaton teach us how to pronounce this Name? Possibly. I will return to this question.
There seems to be a linguistic connection between the Name of God יהוה and the Name of God אלוה (first appearing in Deuteronomy 32:15), as (1) the first two letters of each Name of God, to wit: יה and אל, each constitute, in and of themselves, a Name of God (first appearing, respectively, in Exodus 15:2 and in Genesis 14:18), and (2) the last two letters of each Name of God, to wit: וה, are identical. Accordingly, due to these similarities in function and structure, I was initially inclined to believe that the Name of God יהוה would most likely be pronounced with the same vocalization as the Name of God אלוה, traditionally pronounced as Eloah. If so, this would render the pronunciation of the Name of God יהוה as Yehoah -- a Name that projects Power and evokes Awe. Moreover, this pronunciation of the Name incorporates sounds from all three tenses of the third person singular form of להיות, to wit: Ye (from the future tense: יהיה) Ho (from the present tense: הווה) Ah (from the past tense: היה).
However, then I recalled the following passage from the Hebrew Bible concerning the fateful encounter between God and the Prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb:
And He [God] said [to Elijah], “Go out [from the cave] and stand on the mountain before HaShem”; and behold, [Elijah perceived] HaShem passing by, and a great and powerful Wind, smashing mountains and breaking boulders, before HaShem; [but he realized that] HaShem is not in the Wind; and after the Wind, an Earthquake, [but he realized that] God is not in the Earthquake. And, after the Earthquake, a Fire, [but he realized that] HaShem is not in the Fire; and after the Fire, a quiet slender Voice. And it happened that when Elijah heard [this Voice], he wrapped his face in his mantle, and he went out and stood by the entrance of the cave; and behold, [there appeared] unto him a Voice saying, “Why are you here, Elijah?” (I Kings 19:11-13)
And I thought that perhaps the Name of God יהוה is not intended to project Power or evoke Awe. Instead, perhaps this second-revealed Name is intended to represent the quiet slender Voice of God that Elijah encountered on Mount Horeb. Perhaps, by the earlier conflation of His Name אהיה with His Name יהוה, God meant to convey to the Jewish people that the Name of God יהוה is supposed to be pronounced with the same vocalization as the Name of God אהיה, traditionally pronounced as Ehiyeh. If so, this would render the pronunciation of the Name of God יהוה as Yehiweh -- a Name that ends in a Whisper.
And there is yet another possibility. Perhaps, like Quantum Theory (which seeks to explain the duality of the subatomic object, sometimes presenting itself as a particle and sometimes presenting itself as a wave), the Name of God יהוה exists as an Aural Duality, being sometimes pronounceable as Yehoah and sometimes pronounceable as Yehiweh.
Obviously, no one can know whether Yehoah and/or Yehiweh (or any other theorized pronunciation) is correct.
Perhaps, when the Messiah comes, he will enlighten us. May it be so!
© Mark Rosenblit