God’s Name to His People

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ God’s Name to His People

Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am about to come to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ And they will say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
And God furthermore said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘Yahweh, 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, and this is My memorial-name from generation to generation.”
Exodus 3:13–15 LSB

You’ve probably noticed that when I’ve quoted Old Testament passages from the Legacy Standard Bible the use of Yahweh for God’s name rather than Jehovah or LORD. In his book, Psalms By The Day: A New Devotional Translation, Alec Motyer also uses Yahweh and Yah. He writes:

The divine name ‘Yahweh’ will at first sound strange in your ears, being used to the established (but mistaken) English convention of repre­senting the name as ‘the Lord’. We who are of an older generation will remember the days when calling someone by their Christian name was a privilege granted not to be presumed upon. It meant something to us when a senior friend said, ‘Please call me by my Christian name’; the relationship had ripened into a new intimacy and privilege. So it was in Genesis 4:26 when people began to call their God by his personal name; so it was even more when the significance of that Name was revealed to Moses (Exod. 3:15). A totally false sense of reverence later said ‘The Name is too holy for us to use,’ and the custom was introduced of representing it as ‘the Lord’. No, no. He has granted us the privilege, and we should learn (belatedly) to live in the benefit of it. Hebrew has two main nouns for ‘God’. There is a plural elohim, God in the fullness of the divine attributes ― for simplicity I translate this as ‘God’ ― and the singular el which I translate as ‘transcendent God’. But there is only one ‘Name’. ‘God’ is what he is; Yahweh is who he is.”1

In their foreward to the LSB, the translators explain the meaning of Yahweh and their decision to use it.

In the Scriptures, the name of God is significant and under­standably so. Traditionally, the translation “God” renders the Hebrew word Elohim. Likewise, the word “Lord” is a translation of Adonai. In the LSB, God’s covenant name is rendered as Yahweh. The meaning and implication of this name is God’s self-deriving, ongoing, and never-ending existence. Exodus 3:14–15 shows that God Himself considered it important for His people to know His name. The effect of revealing God’s name is His distinction from other gods and His expression of intimacy with the nation of Israel. Such a dynamic is a prevalent characteristic of the Scriptures as Yahweh appears in the OT over 6,800 times.

In addition to Yahweh, the full name of God, the OT also includes references to God by a shorter version of His name, Yah. By itself, God’s name “Yah” may not be as familiar, but the appearance of it is recog­nizable in Hebrew names and words (e.g. Zechar-iah, meaning Yah remembers, and Hallelu-jah, meaning praise Yah!). God’s shortened name “Yah” is predominantly found in poetry and praise.

…Preserving this in translation foundationally records what is present in the OT text. It also allows proper distinction between God’s personal name and the title “Lord” (Adonai), which emphasizes God’s authority. Even more, it helps the reader to engage God with the name which He gifted to His people. Thus, the reintroduction of God’s personal name into the translation of the OT is a feature that enhances the precision, intensity, and clarity of the biblical text in English.

The NT uses the term “Lord” ([the Greek word] Kurios) to translate Yahweh. The LSB maintains the translation “Lord” and does not change those instances to Yahweh. In cases when “Lord” explicitly translates Yahweh in a quotation of the OT, a footnote is provided stating such. Nevertheless, the LSB maintains the translation of “Lord” in the NT for the same reason it upholds Yahweh in the OT: because that is what is written in the original text. Just as translations preserve the distinct wording between an OT passage and its quotation in the NT, so this distinction is preserved.

While there may be several factors behind this shift from Yahweh to Lord, for the apostles, one purpose centers on the declaration that Jesus Christ is Lord. Because the NT writers rendered Yahweh as Lord, they showed that Jesus is both Lord over all (even over Caesar, Acts 25:26) and none other than Yahweh Himself (Acts 2:25, 34, 36). Hence, the term “Lord” is a profound title showing Christ’s supremacy in heaven and earth. That being said, the significance of this title presumes that one understands the movement from Yahweh to Lord. By rendering what is written in both OT and NT, one can observe this shift and the fullness of its theological import.2

When I started reading Alec Motyer’s translation of Psalms in his book, and the Legacy Standard Bible translation, seeing the word Yahweh did at first seem strange to me. When I started studying the Psalms in the Legacy Standard Bible is when I begin to appreciate its use and love the depth of personal meaning it gave to a passage as I read. It is a con­stant reminder of God’s covenant with His people; it brought to my mind and heart anew His personal care and promises to me as one of His own.

I will continue to use the Legacy Standard Bible translation, and I hope as you read and come across the word Yahweh, you will remember it is God’s personal name to His people, and you will grow in your undestanding of who He is and in your love for Him.

Moses and the Burning BushRichard Simon. (CC BY-SA 2.0). Cropped.
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
1Alec Motyer, Psalms By The Day: A New Devotional Translation (Christian Focus Publications Ltd, Ross-shire, Scotland, U.K. 2016) 10.
2Foreward to the Legacy Standard Bible. Retrieved 03 January 2023.

Copyright ©2023 Iwana Carpenter

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