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Josephus, who as a priest knew the pronunciation of the name, declares that religion forbids him to divulge it; Philo calls it ineffable, and says that it is lawful for those only whose ears and tongues are purified by wisdom to hear and utter it in a holy place that is, for priests in the Temple ; and in another passage, commenting on Lev. Various motives may have concurred to bring about the suppression of the name.

An instinctive feeling that a proper name for God implicitly recognizes the existence of other gods may have had some influence; reverence and the fear lest the holy name should be profaned among the heathen were potent reasons; but probably the most cogent motive was the desire to prevent the abuse of the name in magic. If so, the secrecy had the opposite effect; the name of the god of the Jews was one of the great names, in magic, heathen as well as Jewish, and miraculous efficacy was attributed to the mere utterance of it.

In the liturgy of the Temple the name was pronounced in the priestly benediction Num. In the last generations before the fall of Jerusalem, however, it was pronounced in a low tone so that the sounds were lost in the chant of the priests. The tradition that the utterance of the name in the daily benedictions ceased with the death of Simeon the Just, two centuries or more before the Christian era, perhaps arose from a misunderstanding of MenaIioth, Iob; in any case it cannot stand against the testimony of older and more authoritative texts.

Nor was the knowledge confined to these pious circles; the name continued to be employed by healers, exorcists and magicians, and has been preserved in many places in magical papyri. The vehemence with which the utterance of the name is denounced in the Mishna He who pronounces the Name with its own letters has no part in the world to come! The Samaritans, who otherwise shared the scruples of the Jews about the utterance of the name, seem to have used it in judicial oaths to the scandal of the rabbis.

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The early Christian scholars, who inquired what was the true name of the God of, the Old Testament, had therefore no great difficulty in getting the information they sought. Clement of Alexandria d. There is no reason to impugn the soundness of this substantially consentient testimony to the pronunciation Yahweh or Jahveh, coming as it does through several independent channels. It is confirmed by grammatical considerations. The name Jhvh enters into the composition of many proper names of persons in the Old Testament, either as the initial element, in the form Jeho- or Jo- as in Jehoram, Joram , or as the final element, in the form - jahu or - jah as in Adonijahu, Adonijah.

These various forms are perfectly regular if the divine name was Yahweh, and, taken altogether, they cannot be explained on any other hypothesis. Recent scholars, accordingly, with but few exceptions, are agreed that the ancient pronunciation of the name was Yahweh the first h sounded at the end of the syllable. Genebrardus seems to have been the first to suggest the pronunciation Iahud, [16] but it was not until the 19th century that it became generally accepted.

Jahveh or Yahweh is apparently an example of a common type of Hebrew proper names which have the form of the 3rd pers. The ancient explanations of the name proceed from Exod.

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The Palestinian interpreters found in this the promise that God would be with his people cf. Both interpretations "He who is always the same " and "He who is absolutely, the truly existent " import into the name all that they profess to find in it; the one, the religious faith in God's unchanging fidelity to his people, the other, a philosophical conception of absolute being which is foreign both to the meaning of the Hebrew verb and to the force of the Jense employed Modern scholars have sometimes found in the name the expression of the aseity [18] of God; sometimes of his reality, in contrast to the imaginary gods of the heathen.

Another explanation which appears first in Jewish authors of the middle ages and has found wide acceptance in recent times derives the name from the causative of the verb; He who causes things to be, gives them being, or calls events into existence, brings them to pass; with many individual modifications of interpretation—creator, life-giver, fulfiller of promises. This assumption that Yahweh is derived from the verb "to be", as seems to be implied in Exod.

And, inasmuch as nowhere in the Old Testament, outside of Exod. It is obvious that if the derivation be correct, the significance of the name, which in itself denotes only "He falls" or "He fells", must be learned, if at all, from early Israelitish conceptions of the nature of Yahweh rather than from etymology.

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The revelation of the name to Moses was made at a mountain sacred to Yahweh the mountain of God far to the south of Palestine, in a region where the forefathers of the Israelites had never roamed, and in the territory of other tribes; and long after the settlement in Canaan this region continued to be regarded as the abode of Yahweh Judg.

Moses is closely connected with the tribes in the vicinity of the holy mountain; according to one account, he married a daughter of the priest of Midian Exod. It appears, therefore, that in the tradition followed by the Israelite historian the tribes within whose pasture lands the mountain of God stood were worshippers of Yahweh before the time of Moses; and the surmise that the name Yahweh belongs to their speech, rather than to that of Israel, has considerable probability.

One of these tribes was Midian, in whose land the mountain of God lay. The Kenites also, with whom another tradition connects Moses, seem to have been worshippers of Yahweh. From some of these peoples and at one of these holy places, a group of Israelite tribes adopted the religion of Yahweh, the God who, by the hand of Moses, had delivered them from Egypt.

The tribes of this region probably belonged to some branch of the great Arab stock, and the name Yahweh has, accordingly, been connected with the Arabic hawd, "the void" between heaven and earth , "the atmosphere," or with the verb hawd, cognate with Heb. There is, however, no certain. But one theory which has had considerable currency requires notice, namely, that Yahweh, or Yahu, Yaho, [23] is the name of a god worshipped throughout the whole, or a great part, of the area occupied by the Western Semites. There remain, however, some cases in which it is highly probable that names of nonIsraelites are really compounded with Yahweh.

The most conspicuous of these is the king of Hamath who in the inscriptions of Sargon B. Azriyau of Jaudi, also, in inscriptions of Tiglath-Pileser B. The reading of the names is, however, extremely uncertain, not to say improbable, and the far-reaching inferences drawn from them carry no conviction. In a tablet attributed to the I4th century B. The reading is, however, only one of several possibilities. The fact that the full form Yahweh appears, whereas in Hebrew proper names only the shorter Yahu and Yah occur, weighs somewhat against the interpretation, as it does against Delitzsch's reading of his tablets.


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It would not be at all surprising if, in the great movements of populations and shifting of ascendancy which lie beyond our historical horizon, the worship of Yahweh should have been established in regions remote from those which it occupied in historical times; but nothing which we now know warrants the opinion that his worship was ever general among the Western Semites. Many attempts have been made to trace the West Semitic Yahu back to Babylonia. Thus Delitzsch formerly derived the name from an Akkadian god, I or Ia; or from the Semitic nominative ending, Yau; [27] but this deity has since disappeared from the pantheon of Assyriologists.

The combination of Yah with Ea, one of the great Babylonian gods, seems to have a peculiar fascination for amateurs, by whom it is periodically discovered.

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Scholars are now agreed that, so far as Yahu or Yah occurs in Babylonian texts, it is as the name of a foreign god. Assuming that Yahweh was primitively a nature god, scholars in the 19th century discussed the question over what sphere of nature he originally presided. According to some he was the god of consuming fire; others saw in him the bright sky, or the heaven; still others recognized in him a storm god, a theory with which the derivation of the name from Heb.

The association of Yahweh with storm and fire is frequent in the Old Testament; the thunder is the voice of Yahweh, the lightning his arrows, the rainbow his bow. The revelation at Sinai is amid the awe-inspiring phenomena of tempest.