NOTE TO ALL ORTHODOX JEWISH READERS: THIS POST CONTAINS THE NAME OF HASHEM IN BOTH ENGLISH AND HEBREW: IF YOU WOULD BE OFFENDED TO READ IT PLEASE SKIP THIS ENTRY AS IT IS NEVER OUR INTENTION TO OFFEND!
When looking at the first commandment, Christian readers need to understand that in the ancient Hebrew manuscript, the division of the commandments differs from that found in most Christian Bibles. When separated this way, as it still is in all Jewish Bibles, the first commandment, looks like this:
“I am יחוח , your Elohim who has brought you out of from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.”
Now we can easily see what it is telling us to do, to remember who He is and what He has done for His people! A similar comparison is a parent telling a child, “I am your Father/Mother!” The implied command is that the child needs to acknowledge their authority and obey them. If we understand this commandment as one calling us to recognize His authority, His character, and His name, this ties back into His introduction to Moses back at the burning bush. In Exodus 3 He introduces Himself as,
“YHVH, the Elohe of Abraham, the Elohe of Issac, and the Elohe of Jacob....This is My Name FOREVER, and this is how I SHOULD BE REMEMBERED from generation to generation” Exodus 3:15
Being one of the first things He tells Moses about His Name, as well as the first thing He later commands the entire Hebrew Nation (and now to us) to acknowledge, it deserves our attention. It may be something we should strongly consider when discussing the use (and or misuse) of His Name. In the original Hebrew, as any interlinear version or concordance will show, it is not 'HaShem' or 'Adonai' that was written, but the Hebrew word listed as #3068 in the Strong's Concordance. The ineffable Name, the Tetragrammaton, consists of the four Hebrew consonants Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey
Although Orthodox Jews forbid the speaking or writing of The Name, nowhere does the Bible expressly prohibit its use. Many devout men throughout the Tanakh called on it passionately, and it appears nearly 7,000 times in the original Hebrew text. Over time, the Rabbis decided the name was too holy to risk being profaned and carefully protected it behind substituted titles such as Adonai (Master), HaShem (The Name), and God. These titles have been used as substitutes for His Name for so long, that the actual original pronunciation is still a matter of some debate among Hebrew scholars. There's an incredible amount of controversy that has arisen recently with its use. As Gentile Christians have discovered it, or variations of it, some have declared that using any other term to refer to Him is a grave sin for which believers will be damned. They seem to forget that YHVH is an Elohim of chesed, or mercy. We have also encountered those who try to belittle the importance of His Set-Apart Name, saying He does not care what we call Him. These people are ignoring the last part of the verse, where He conveys a desire to be REMEMBERED or perhaps most literally MENTIONED or MEMORIALIZED as YHVH1!
We have tremendous love and respect for His Name and its RIGHT use, which is in reading His Word, in praise, prayers, and fellowship. Above all, it is critical no matter how we might pronounce it that we do so with respect and reverence for its set-apart nature, and the power it has to invoke His presence! We also think it is essential to show respect to our Orthodox Jewish brothers and sisters, and their views on its use, which are rooted in thousands of years of study. For this reason, one should be careful not to speak it aloud before those whom it might offend. This is the reason for the disclaimer we added to the heading of this Journal Entry. This commandment being the first says a lot in and of itself. Generally speaking, the first thing on a list is considered the TOP Priority. Still, some Christians will insist that His name is unimportant, as He 'knows our hearts.'
The Name is not important. He knows our hearts!
What does YHVH say about His Name, though? Is this perspective based on the Word of our Creator, or on the doctrines of man? YHVH highlights the importance of His Name repetitively in the Scriptures. Many of the Prophets also confirm its significance. It seems The Most High does know our stubborn hearts, and thus gives us ample advice about how important it is to reverence His Name.
“ And Elohim said to Moses again, You shall say this to the sons of Israel, YHVH the Elohe of Abraham, the Elohe of Issac, and the Elohe of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My Name FOREVER, and this is how I SHOULD BE REMEMBERED from generation to generation.” Exodus 3:15
Throughout the Scriptures, those who had a personal relationship and had chosen to enter into and remain in covenant relationship to YEHOVAH knew and used HIS NAME, RESPECTFULLY, FREQUENTLY, PASSIONATELY, and without SHAME OR FEAR! Considering all of this, can we honestly say His Name is unimportant?
Why would two of the ten commandments deal with His Name, if it was not relevant to Him? Why did He state it almost 7,000 times in Scripture if it was insignificant?
David delighted in the praise and glorification of His Father's Name. If it was unimportant or He didn't want us ever to call on it, why would He have revealed it to us at all? Christians may also wonder why Yeshua makes a statement in the gospels about revealing The Father's Name2 to his disciples if it was insignificant? It seems more likely that our lack of perspective on its importance and use is what is in error here. He revealed His Name to us though He could have easily kept it hidden. He reveals His name to us in the Scriptures, and commands that this is His Name FOREVER, so how can it have been lost?
The Name is too Holy to be used by “common people.”
One of the other main arguments we have encountered against using His Name comes from well-meaning Orthodox or Messianic Jews who insist it is too holy to use. Rather than argue our perspective on it, we will turn again to the Scriptures. Adam and Eve knew and used the Name (Gen 4:1). In Genesis 4:26, we learn that at the time that Seth began to have sons, 'It was begun to call to the name of YEHOVAH' This is a phrase that is synonymous with worship of Him. To Call on His Name IS to WORSHIP HIM! As we look through the Scriptures, we will see that YHVH continually reveals Himself, His Name, and His plans for humanity to ALL the Prophets. In turn, they call on His Name, glorifying Him, and making known His Name! Abraham3 Issac4, Moses5, and even the lowly slave girl and concubine, Hagar6, all called upon the Name of YHVH. Rather than responding with anger or punishment, He blessed and comforted those who called upon His Name. Even in the case of Hagar, who was certainly not endowed with the qualities of holiness we associate with the priesthood, still, He comforts her.
While there are countless examples of people who called on His Name without fear or shame, perhaps the best case can be made by looking at the life and Psalms of David. Far from seeing the Name as an untouchable, unspeakable word, David, as a simple shepherd, sang Psalms so beautiful they would drive the spirit of adversity away from King Saul7. Amazingly, almost all8 of them have one thing in common; they all confess the Name! The first Psalm of David recorded in the Scriptures is found in 2 Samuel 22 (which is also recorded as Psalm 18). In it, David sings,
“I call on YEHOVAH, the one to be praised; and I shall be saved from my enemies!”
2 Samuel 22:4
David equates calling upon the Name with salvation, an interesting parallel later extemporized upon by the prophet Joel,
“For it shall be, all who shall call upon the name of YHVH shall be saved. For salvation shall be in Mt. Zion and in Jerusalem, as YHVH has said...”
The Song of Moshe (Moses) found in Deuteronomy 32 proclaims the name,
“...Because I will proclaim the name of YHVH: ascribe ye greatness unto our Elohe”
If it seems as though these men are drawing on a shared source, it is because they are, the Holy Spirit! It is surprising Christians do not more readily grasp the blessing and sanctity of the Name of Our Elohim. It is a familiar enough concept in the power ascribed to the name of “Jesus.” Throughout the Psalms, David promotes the use of The Name as a refuge, a rock, a shield, a fortress, and a+ bastion of salvation. He extorts faithful believers to call upon it, praise it, magnify, extol and glorify it!
“With all my heart, I will thank You, Oh YEHOVAH, my Elohim; and I will glorify Your Name forevermore.” Psalms 86:9
David understood that YHVH's Name was powerful and relevant. In fact the primary focus of the Psalms seems to be glorifying The Name of YHVH. Since this was the original praise and Worship Hymnal, this is unsurprising. David was not alone, either. Every prophet and righteous man throughout the Scriptures called upon His glorious Name! While some may argue that we are not prophets nor righteous like those men, we would remind them about David's humble origins as a shepherd boy, and Hagar, who was not even a Jewess, but an Egyptian concubine. We are all are sinners and fall short of the awesome glory of The Most High. He is not afterall, Elohe of the righteous only, but of the broken and contrite as well9.
For those who are eager for scholarly research, coupled with an amazing testimony that led to uncovering the TRUE pronunciation of His Name by a Karaite Jew unafraid to proclaim it, we highly recommend “Shattering the Conspiracy of Silence” by Nehemia Gordon 10. For those who prefer to hear it from a Christian perspective, check out “His Hallowed Name Revealed Again” by Keith Johnson11. These are both amazing books with a wealth of knowledge and inspiration!
The argument about the possible mispronunciation of the Name is circular reasoning, and when evaluated honestly, cannot be used to defend calling Him 'God' which is an intentional mispronunciation/substitution of His name. We will address this topic in a future journal entry that looks at the 3rd commandment. Here we will leave off by saying the love, respect and honor we show one another is the heart of the Torah, so insisting others use the particular pronunciation of His Name or title is divisive and thus counter to Torah. That said the right use of His Name in a prayerful, private or instructional context to those with ears to hear can be uplifting so long as it is never done in a self-righteous manner. For those who want to know what the correct pronounciation is all we can say is SEEK AND YOU SHALL FIND..... there is a ton of research and no small amount of pride and personal opinion wrapped up in this endeavor however. That being the case in our own five years of research and looking with an open mind at all we can find on the topic we feel the information resented by Nehemia Gordon of Makor Hebrew Foundations is the most thorough, ad thus accurate source because he skips all the translations and goes straight to the Hebrew Manuscripts and in so doing he discovered that filling in the missing vowels gives us the Name:
1- For more information from Hebrew Scholar, Nehemia Gordon, and others please visit www.nehemiaswall.org
2 - See John 17:6
3 - Genesis 13:4, 21:33
4 - Genesis 26:25
5 - Exodus 17:15, Deuteronomy 32:3
6 - Genesis 16:13, 21:16
7 - Samuel 6:14-23
8 - Technically there are 17 Psalms that do not contain the name, but that is still nearly 90%!!!!! Worth noting!
9- Psalm 51:17
10 - See www.nehemiaswall.com
11 - See www.biblicalfoundationsacademy.com
Forest & Andrea Acker