Importance of the Personal Name of God
Importance of the Personal Name of God
The only personal name of God is JEHOVAH (Ps. 83:18, KJV) or Yahweh (New Jerusalem Bible). The deliberate substitution of 'LORD' for that holy name in most English Bibles is a grave error.
The Israelites used the only personal name of God [YHWH in Hebrew] profusely (in prayer, and respectfully in everyday language [see end note] - see King David's words, for example). We are instructed in scripture to call upon that name and to invoke it.
There is nothing wrong with also calling him 'Father' or ‘God,’ but to completely ignore the name (whether ‘Jehovah’ or ‘Yahweh’ in English), as much of Christendom has, is scripturally wrong.
Ex. 3:15 -
Jehovah [YHWH], .... This is My name forever, and this is My memorial from generation to generation. - LITV (Green)
“Jehovah, .... This is My name forever and by this I am to be remembered through all generations.” - MLB.
“Jehovah ... This is my eternal name, to be used throughout all generations.” - LB.
“Jehovah ... this is my name forever.” - Byington.
“Jehovah, ... this is my name forever” - ASV.
“Jehovah, .... This is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” - Darby.
“Yahweh [YHWH] .... This is my name for all time, and thus I am to be invoked for all generations to come.” - JB and NJB.
1 Chron. 16:8 -
“O give thanks unto Jehovah, call upon his name; Make known his doings among the peoples.” - ASV.
“Give thanks to Yahweh, call his name aloud, proclaim his deeds to the peoples [‘among the nations’ - NAB (1991); MLB; GNB; ‘world’ - LB].” - NJB.
“O give thanks to Jehovah, call upon His name” - KJIIV.
“Give thanks to Jehovah, call in His name” - Young’s.
“... call upon him by his name” - The Septuagint, Zondervan Publ., 1970.
Is. 12:4 -
“And in that day shall ye say, Give thanks unto Jehovah, call upon his name, declare his doings among the peoples, make mention that his name is exalted.” - ASV.
“And, that day, you will say, ‘Praise Yahweh, invoke his name. Proclaim his deeds to the people [‘nations’, RSV, NRSV, MLB, NAB (1991), GNB; ‘world’, LB], declare his name sublime.’” - NJB.
“call his name aloud.” - JB.
“invoke him by name” - NEB & REB.
“call aloud upon his name” [Boate to onoma autou, literally: “call aloud his name”] - The Septuagint, Zondervan Publ., 1970.
Zeph. 3:9 - “For then will I turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve him with one consent.” - ASV.
“Yes, then [the last days] I shall purge the lips of the peoples, so that all may invoke the name of Yahweh.” - NJB, c.f. JB.
Joel 2:26, 32 - “And ye ... shall praise the name of Jehovah your God .... And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered.” - ASV.
“You WILL ... praise the name of Yahweh your God .... All who call on [‘invoke’ - REB] the name of Yahweh will be saved” - NJB.
Here, like knowing God (Jn 17:3; 2 Thess. 1:8, 9), calling on (or invoking) Jehovah’s name is an essential part of the road that leads to life.
Since it is a requirement to call upon, or invoke the name Jehovah, the knowledge and use of that name IS essential (as made known in the OT at least)! And, like knowing God, “calling upon his name, Jehovah” includes much more than merely pronouncing his name aloud in prayer. But, nevertheless, it does include the knowledge and use of his personal name, Jehovah (or Yahweh).
For example, Elijah, in his famous demonstration of who the only true God is, told the priests of Baal, “Call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of Jehovah: and the God that answers by fire, let him be God.”
So how did the priests of Baal call on the name of their god?
“And they ... called on the name of Baal ... saying ‘O Baal, hear us.’” And how did Elijah call on the name of Jehovah? “O Jehovah .... Hear me, O Jehovah, hear me, that this people may know that thou, Jehovah, art God.... And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said [aloud, uncoded, in plain language], ‘Jehovah, he is God’” - ASV, 1 Ki.18:24, 26, 36-39. - Obviously, calling on (or invoking) the name of Jehovah includes the reverent use of that only personal name of the true God!
Many other scriptures throughout the OT declare the extreme importance (to God and us) of our knowing and declaring and calling upon the name Jehovah:
Jer. 16:19, 21 -
“O Jehovah ... unto thee shall the nations come from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Our fathers have inherited nought but lies ... and they will know that my name is Jehovah.” - ASV.
“and they shall know that My name is Jehovah.” - KJIIV & MKJV.
“and they will be certain that my name is [Jehovah].” - BBE.
“and they shall know that my name is Jehovah.” - Darby.
“and they shall know that my name is JEHOVAH.” - Webster.
“and they shall learn that My name is [Jehovah]. – Tanakh.
Zech. 13:9 -
“They shall call upon my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God.” - ASV.
“They shall call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, It is My people, and they shall say, Jehovah is my God.” - KJIIV.
“They shall call on my name, and I will answer them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God.” - Darby.
“They will invoke me by name, … And they will declare, [Jehovah] is our God” – Tanakh.
Notice the parallelism: ‘They shall call upon my name’ is paralleled with ‘Jehovah is my God.”
Ezek. 39:7 -
“And my holy name will I make known ... and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah” - ASV.
“The nations will know that I am Yahweh” - NJB.
“I will make My holy name known among My people Israel, and never again will I let My holy name be profaned. And the nations shall know that I [Jehovah] am holy in Israel.” – Tanakh.
Ps. 83:16, 18 -
“Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, [O Jehovah].... that men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.” - KJV.
“Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name .... Let them be ashamed and troubled forever; yea, let them be put to shame, and lost; so that men may know that Your name is JEHOVAH, that You alone are the Most High over all the earth.” - MKJV.
“Cover their faces with shame so that they seek Your name, O [Jehovah] …. May they know that Your name, Yours alone, is [Jehovah], supreme over all the earth.” – Tanakh.
We are to know and use Jehovah’s name, but we must not misunderstand how extremely important it is to Him (and to us). One of God’s Ten Commandments, for example commands:
“You shall not misuse the name of Yahweh [YHWH] your God, for Yahweh will not leave unpunished anyone who misuses his name.” - Ex. 20:7, NJB [also see NRSV, NIV, NEB, REB, GNB, NLV, ETRV].
God certainly didn’t say, “Don’t ever use my Holy Name”! By direct Bible statements and commands and by the clear, thousand-fold repeated examples of all the prophets of God in the OT we know that God’s Holy Name must be known and used by his people - for all generations. Instead, this Scripture shows the extreme importance of that name (would God really punish anyone who deceitfully misuses his name if that name weren’t extremely important?) and that it must be used in a manner that shows its great importance.
Notice how two of the most-respected, “orthodox,” trinitarian Bible study publications address this extremely important issue:
“Of primary significance is the name of Yahweh [or Jehovah] which he himself made known in his revelation (Gen. 17:1; Exod. 3:14 [and 3:15]; 6:2...). One of the most fundamental and essential features of the biblical revelation is the fact that God is not without a name: he has a personal name [Jehovah or Yahweh], by which he can, and is to be, invoked.” - p. 649, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 2, Zondervan, 1986.
And the New Bible Dictionary, Tyndale House Publ., 1984, after telling us on p. 812 that God changed his previously ‘external’ relationship with mankind by revealing his PERSONAL NAME to his people and thereby established with them “the highly personal relationship to a God who has given his people the liberty to call him by name,” further states:
“The name of God is described as his ‘holy name’ more often than all other adjectival qualifications [titles, descriptions, etc.] taken together. It was this sense of the sacredness of the name that finally led to the obtuse [stupid] refusal to use ‘Yahweh’, leading as it has done to a deep loss of the sense of the divine name in [English-language Bibles].” - p. 813, section d.
Also, the trinitarian Today’s Dictionary of the Bible (Bethany House, 1982) says:
“Jeho’vah, the special and significant name (not merely an appellative title such as Lord [or God]) by which God revealed himself .... The Hebrew name ‘Jehovah’ is generally translated [in most English Bibles] by the word ‘LORD’ printed in small capitals to distinguish it from the [honest] rendering of the Hebrew Adonai and the Greek Kurios, which are also rendered ‘Lord,’ but in the usual type.” - p. 330.
Even trinitarian translator and scholar Jay P. Green writes in the Preface of his The Interlinear Bible:
“The only personal name of God that belongs to Him alone was rendered either Jehovah or, in its shortened form, Jah. We preferred the transliteration JHWH (thus Jehovah) over YHWH (or Yahweh) because this is established English usage for Bible names beginning with this letter (e.g., Jacob and Joseph). - p. v, Baker Book House, 1982.
“Jehovah denotes specifically the one true God, whose people the Jews were, and who made them the guardians of his truth. .... The substitution of the word Lord is most unhappy, for it in no way represents the meaning of the sacred name.” - p. 220, Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Hendrickson Publ.
And the translators of the highly-praised American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901 wrote about their translation:
“The change ... which substitutes ‘Jehovah’ for ‘LORD’ and ‘GOD’ (printed in small capitals) - is one which will be unwelcome to many, because of the frequency and familiarity of the terms displaced. But the American Revisers, after a careful consideration, were brought to the unanimous conviction that a Jewish superstition, which regarded the Divine Name as too sacred to be uttered, ought no longer to dominate in the English or any other version of the Old Testament.... This personal name, with its wealth of sacred associations, is now restored to the place in the sacred text to which it has an unquestionable claim.” - Preface, p. iv, American Standard Version, Thomas Nelson and Sons.
Commenting on this restoration of God's personal name in the ASV, The Presbyterian and Reformed Review said in 1902:
"We cannot understand how there can be any difference of opinion as to the rightness of this step. This is the Lord's personal name, by which He has elected to be known by His people: the loss suffered by transmuting it into His descriptive title seems to us immense. To be sure there are disputes as to the true form of the name, and nobody supposes that 'Jehovah' is that true form. But it has the value of the true form to the English reader; and it would be mere pedantry to substitute for it Yahwe or any other forms now used with more or less inaccuracy by scholastic writers. We account it no small gain for the English reader of the Old Testament that he will for the first time in this popular version meet statedly with 'Jehovah' and learn all that 'Jehovah' has been to and done for His people."
19 O Jehovah, my strength and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the nations shall come to You from the ends of the earth and say, Our fathers have inherited only lies, vanity, and there is no profit in them. …. 21 And, behold, I will make them know; this time I will cause them to know My hand and My might; and they shall know that My name is Jehovah. - Jer. 16:19, 21, LITV.
“God said further to Moses, You tell the Israelites: JEHOVAH ... has sent me to you. This is My name forever and by this I am to be remembered through all generations.” - Ex. 3:15, MLB (Cf. NEB, LB, ASV, KJIIV).
“Fill their faces with shame; that they may seek thy name, [O Jehovah - ASV] .... That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth.” - Ps. 83:16, 18, KJV, LB.
ASV - Ezekiel 39:6, 7 “And I will send a fire on Magog, and on them that dwell securely in the isles; and they shall know that I am Jehovah . And my holy name will I make known in the midst of my people Israel; neither will I suffer my holy name to be profaned any more: and the nations shall know that I am Jehovah.” - American Standard Version.
We see that in the very first section of the Jewish Mishnah (Darby's translation) the decree that "a man should salute his fellow with [the use of] the Name [of God]," the example of Boaz (Ru 2:4) then being cited. - Berakhot 9:5.
Ruth 2:4 - "And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, Jehovah be with you. And they answered him, Jehovah bless you." - The Interlinear Bible (J.P. Green), Baker Book House.
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