Some Christians call God the Father Yahweh. Others call Him Jehovah. (By the way, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult, but more on that later.) So what should you call Him? Well, let’s start with how we arrived at the Name Yahweh. It all began with these four ancient Hebrew characters:
This famous string of letters is called the Tetragrammaton. But when we want to write this out in English, which letters should we substitute? There are two different opinions. One group comes up with YHWH, the other comes up with JHVH. At least everyone agrees on the Hs.
The obvious problem now is that we need some vowels if we’re going to all pronounce these names the same way. There were no vowels in the original Hebrew, so we can only guess at how this Name might have been pronounced. The YHWH group came up with Yahweh. The JHVH group came up with Jehovah, and there you have it…well, not quite. Further research will reveal that the Jehovah Name was actually invented centuries after the coming of Christ and that it resulted from an intentional mangling of the text.
Devout Jews who are trying to stick with the tenants of the Old Covenant (via the religion Judaism today) consider the Name of Yahweh to be a very sacred thing. They don’t say it out loud. Instead, the reverential title of Adonay (“Lord”) is substituted whenever one comes to an instance of Yahweh in the Torah.
Now way back during the 6th-10th centuries, a group called the Masoretes came along and intentionally removed the vowels of the Name Yahweh and replaced them with the vowels for the Hebrew word Adonay, thus we came up with YaHoWaH, which later became pronounced as Jehovah. So Jehovah is an artificial mangling of Yahweh. Now you might say, “Who cares?” if you’re an English speaker, because both Names look strange to you. But when we get into meaning, there is a huge difference.
When Yahweh first introduced Himself to Moses, He called Himself “I AM.” In Hebrew, YHWH is the third person singular imperfect form of the verb “to be”, thus YHWH can be translated “He is” or “He lives.” When Yahweh was speaking in the first person, He said “I AM,“ but then He taught Moses to tell people that God’s Name was HE IS.
Now we notice that God’s prophets have a lot of YAH happening at the ends of their names. Let’s look at a few examples:
Zechariah = Zekhar-YAH = YAH remembers.
Isaiah = Yesha-YAH = YAH is salvation.
Zephaniah = Tzefan-YAH = YAH is hidden.
Obadiah = Ovad-YAH = Servant of YAH.
Elijah = Eliyyah = YAH is my God.
Nehemiah = Nechem-YAH = Comforted by YAH.
Here we find that YAH is a common reference to YAHWEH–it’s like His nickname, and we find it used several times in the Old Testament. The Names of God version of the Bible is useful here:
Yah is my strength and my song. He is my Savior. This is my El, and I will praise Him, my father’s Elohim, and I will honor Him. (Ex. 15:2)
I will remember the deeds of Yah. I will remember Your ancient miracles. (Ps. 77:11)
O Yahweh Elohim Tsebaoth, who is like You? Mighty Yah, even Your faithfulness surrounds You. (Ps. 89:8)
Praise Yah because Yahweh is good. Make music to praise His Name because His Name is beautiful. (Ps. 135:3)
Trust Yahweh always, because Yah, Yahweh alone, is an everlasting rock. (Isa. 26:4)
Given all of this, we’re not so comfortable with swapping out YAH for JEH. And things get even more sticky when HOVAH in Hebrew means: ruin, calamity, iniquity, mischief, naughtiness, noisome, perverse thing, and very wickedness (see Strong’s Concordance entries #1943 and 1942). Hm. A little toying around by our Masoretic friends and we end up with a name that has an entirely different meaning than “HE IS.”
Clearly Yahweh is the Name we want to stick with. But if you are a sincere Christian who is used to calling God Jehovah, is He feeling insulted? No, because God looks on the heart and He never misunderstands your intentions. But it is good to understand the history of these words we are using, and of course you always want to be open to God saying that He’d like you to make some changes in the way that you refer to Him. Developing a close relationship with God means caring about His preferences and sincerely wanting to honor Him in all things.
A WORD ABOUT THE WITNESSES
Jehovah’s Witnesses promote themselves as Christians, but in reality they are a cult–and a very nasty one at that. The god they worship–Jehovah–is the only god they recognize, and he is most certainly not our glorious Yahweh. According to Witnesses, Jehovah is the only god in existence. They do not recognize the magnificent Holy Spirit as His own Being. Instead, their idea of a holy spirit is merely some impersonal force exuding from Jehovah. This belief is quite similar to the Old Covenant view of Yahweh, which also viewed the Holy Spirit as a mere extension of Yahweh. We must remember that Yahweh claimed to be the only God in existence for thousands of years. But of course He was lying, which became quite clear when He later revealed the existence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Many today reject the shocking revelations that Yahweh ushered in when He changed His Covenant so they are still clinging to the now erroneous theory that there is only one God. The followers of Judaism do this–they only believe in Yahweh. And the Witnesses do this as well–their Jehovah is the only god they recognize. The Witnesses reject the deity of Christ. To them, Jesus is merely a created being. In fact, He used to be Michael the archangel before He came to earth. They teach that Jesus died on a stake, not a cross, and that His body was utterly destroyed with only His spirit resurrected. He isn’t coming again. But, lucky us, He did return invisibly back in 1914, and soon He and all of His fellow angels will destroy all non-Jehovah’s Witnesses.
How do you get saved if you’re a Witness? Well, first you have to get baptized into their group. Then you have to earn that everlasting life by doing your door-to-door evangelizing. If you sufficiently impress Jehovah with your faith and good works in this life, then after you die, he’ll resurrect you to an earthly paradise. That’s when the 1,000 year reign of Christ begins. During that time, you’d better serve Jehovah perfectly. One mistake, and he’ll annihilate you. But suppose you pass that test somehow. Then Satan gets loosed in the world and he does his best to take you down through trials and testing. If you make it through all of that, Jehovah grants you eternal life. Otherwise, it’s annihilation. Yikes.