One of the oldest prayers performed by the Jewish people every morning and night is a prayer called the Shema. It says:
HEAR O Israel, the LORD is our God, the Lord is One. And as for you, you shall LOVE the Lord your God with all your HEART, with all your SOUL, and with all of your STRENGTH.
The second word we are going to study is the word “LORD.” To understand this concept, you need to know this little secret:
God has a name. His name isn’t GOD.
The term “God” is actually a title or office of authority. Also, there is nothing like a capital ‘G’ and small ‘g’ in Hebrew which separated other gods from the Creator of All.
GOD & LORD
God is a title of great authority (A word study that we will definitely present soon enough). The Bible narrates a story of Moses’ first encounter with the LORD. So, Moses noticed a bush that was burning for a while but had not been consumed. He approached the bush and met the LORD.
Now, after God gave him instructions to carry out in Egypt concerning freeing his people – Israel – out of their bondage of slavery. Moses then asked:
“Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
Exodus 3:13 NIV
When Moses met the people of Israel to arrive out God’s instruction. Just mentioning “god” won’t cut it. There are many gods of many nations. They would ask which particular god Moses talked about. The term “god” is just like the term “king.” Every king has an actual name. In the same way, every god has a name. What is this God’s Name?
God answered Moses and told him what His name was. In the Hebrew, God told him:
“Tell the children of Israel, EHYEH has sent me to you..”
The Hebrew word “EHYEH” means “I will be or I AM. This name signifies who God is. His existence is not bound to anyone or anything, even time. God simply IS.
YHWH – HE WILL BE
Now Moses cannot run off to the Israelites and tell them “I WILL BE” has sent him. That would be weird. Only God can say that and the Israelites will think it is Moses claiming to be that God. Instead, God told Moses the version He should say to the people. He told him:
“Say to the Israelites, ‘YAHWEH (LORD), the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation.”
Exodus 3:15 NIV
Moses could tell the people this name YAHWEH (or YHWH) because it means “HE WILL BE or HE IS.”
This was how God revealed His name.
This name has been translated as LORD (all caps in many English versions) thousands of times in the English Bible.
What’s Up With JEHOVAH?
For thousands of years, as many read the Holy Scriptures from the scrolls, whenever they came across the word “YHWH,” they couldn’t say the word.
This is because they revered God’s personal a name so much, and did not want to say it in vain. They would say the word “ADONAY (pronounced Adonai),” instead. This word means LORD. The English Bible translators followed the same custom and replaced the word “YAHWEH” with the word “LORD” (all caps).
Later on, the Jewish scribes did not want to anyone else to accidentally pronounce the name. Here is what they did. When they came across the word YAHWEH, they took the vowels from ADONAY and replaced it with the vowels of YAHWEH (YHWH); thus making it YAHOWAH. This was a visual reminder that when anyone sees YAHOWAH, they would learn to say ADONAY instead.
Later on, Christian scribes came across this word and didn’t know it was an artificial word – they were not to mention that name. So, these Christians began to say it out loud and spell it in their writings. The name later on became what we know to be JEHOVAH.
LORD and lord
Whenever you come across the word LORD (all caps) in your English Bible version, you should now know that it represents the divine name YAHWEH. It is different from the word “lord” (not in all caps) that you see in the scriptures. The word “lord” used is the Hebrew word “adon.” This word simply means lord, leader, master, shepherd or ruler.
The word adon has been used to refer to God many times. One example is this:
“The mountains melt like wax before the LORD (YAHWEH), before the Lord (adon) of all the earth.”
Psalm 97:5 NIV
What you should learn to appreciate is that fact that the Creator of all has a name. Not just a title, a personal name. His name means He is the One who Was, Who Is, and Who forever will Be.
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