Why pronounce the name יהוה YHWH as יְהוָה Yehowah?
We start by deriving pronunciation from theophoric names…
Many Hebrew names are theophoric names passed down through the generations of family. While the pronunciation of the divine name was not passed down through the generations, these Hebrew names which bear the name of YHWH passed on the pronunciation of their name, which informs us as to the pronunciation and vowels of the name.
“Yehow-” יְהוָ (YHW or יהו) is the prefix of theophoric names.
Y E H O W _ H
|Nathan||He has given||2 Sa 7:2|
|Nathan||-Yah||He has given – Yah||1 Ch 25:2|
|Nathan||-Yahû||He has given – Yah himself||Jer 36:14|
|Yehô-||Nathan||Yehow[ah] – has given||1 Sa 14:6|
|Yô-||Nathan||Y(eh)ow[ah] – has given||1 Sa 14:1|
The name has three syllables.
The divine name is three syllables is indicated by:
- The theophoric names prefixed with the two syllable “Yehow-” rendered for “YHW” means that “YHWH” must be three syllables.
- The poetry in the Psalms require a three syllable pronunciation of the name to properly render the rhyming rhythm.
Thus the popular “Yahweh” cannot be the correct pronunciation because it only has two syllables.
AH _ W A H
“Yah” is a contraction, or elision, of the divine name.
A contraction or elision (e.g. Y’shua from Yehoshua; y’all from you all) is not an abbreviation (e.g. not like Pete from Peter; Ang from Angela). As theophoric names are based on “Yehow”, and “Yah” is a contraction, the last syllable would thus be the “ah” from “Yah”.
Y E H O W A H
Yehudah יהודה is a name patronymically from יהוה.
See how they look the same? They also sound the same. If you remove the “d” sound from Yehudah (Judah), you have a sound very similar to Yehowah as YHWH.
While the transliterated spelling is different, the patronymic name—a name derived from the name of a father or ancestor—sound should be similar.
Sounds like: “Yeh-who-wah”.
The divine name is composed of Hebrew vowel breathing sounds.
The Hebrew Tetragrammaton is composed of semi-vowels which are formed by the unobstructed breath, or breathing sounds. Using the letters “J” or “V” would obstruct the pronunciation of the name from breathing sounds. (Genesis 2:7, Isaiah 42:5, Job 33:4)
Try it—as you breath in hear the air through your lips sound like “ye“—the moment of transition “ho“—immediately followed by your exhale “wah“.
JE H O VA H
The letter “J” did not exist in Bible times.
It began as an decorative I, and came to be a letter only around the year 1600. It is not part of the name “YHWH” which is more than 4,000 years old.
JE H O W A H
Y E H O
Hebrew Scriptures & Vowel Pointings
The participle ho·wehʹ is from the root verb ha·wahʹ, related to the divine name, Yeho·wahʹ.
The edition of the Hebrew text by Ginsburg (Gins.) vowel-points YHWH to read Yeho·wahʹ.
Significantly, the Masoretic vowel points in the Leningrad Codex allow for the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton
Steering Clear of Blasphemous Names
Thus, if we use a “V” instead of the original letter “W” for the latter portion of the name, such as ‘Yahovah’ or ‘God’ you arrive at what quite possibly is a blasphemous [Strong’s #988: slander] name for God. (Revelation 13:5,17:3, 2 Peter 2:10-12) See also havvah: desire, chasm, destruction, and avah: do amiss, bow down, make crooked, commit iniquity, pervert, do perversely, trouble, turn.
I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, and blasphemies against God were written all over it.
Further, “hovah” is used at Isaiah 47:10,11 regarding the fall of “Mystery Babylon, The Great, The Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth”, warning her “Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’ Therefore evil will come on you; you won’t know when it dawns: and mischief will fall on you; you will not be able to put it away: and desolation shall come on you suddenly, which you don’t know.” [cf. Exodus 3:14: “I AM WHO I AM” and Isaiah 45:5,6,21]
Can you “put away” the mischief—the “I am” which is a blasphemous name of Mystery Babylon? Heed the warning: “get out of her, my people”. (Revelation 18:4, cf. Genesis 19:14, Isaiah 48:20, Isaiah 52:11, Jeremiah 50:8, Jeremiah 51:6,9,45, 2 Corinthians 6:17; 2 Thessalonians 2)
I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.
Commentary from Scholars
Meaning & Grammar
Professor James D. Tabor, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who is Bible translator and expert in the Hebrew and Aramaic languages comments:
Frankly, much of this confusion [the disagreement as to whether the third letter of God’s name should be represented as a “V” or a “W,” and the proper vowels] results because of a lack of knowledge of basic Hebrew grammar, as well as the history and development of modern Hebrew. If one understands that the four Hebrew letters (Yod He Vav He) represent four vowels, rather than four consonants, then the Name is best represented by the four sounds I-A-U-E or ee-ah-oo-eh. If you pronounce these quickly you will get the combined sound in English. This appears to agree with Josephus, with the Greek transliterations. It would be written in English as YAHUEH, not strictly YAHWEH, which is the consonantal form. The problem with this proposal is the question of the meaning. These four sounds appear to mean nothing in Hebrew, and they lose their connection with the verb hayah, “to be,” upon which the Divine Name appears to be based. Hebrew names are believed to carry meaning, how much more the case with the very Name of God!
The combination YE-HO-AH makes better grammatical sense. In Hebrew “YE” represents the future or imperfect of the verb “to be,” “HO” represents the present, while “AH” represents the past. In other words, this form of the Name would have specific meaning and not be merely a repetition of vowel sounds. Quite literally YEHOAH means “shall/is/was…” YAH would then be the contracted, or shortened form, of this full Name, taking the first and last sounds together. — Restoring Abrahamic Faith, 1993, p. 11
According to A Biblical Hebrew Reference Grammar, it is not acceptable for two vowels to stand beside each other, therefore the consonantal sound of W has to be pronounced, and YEHOAH becomes YEHOWAH.
George W. Buchanan, wrote in Some Unfinished Business With the Dead Sea Scrolls:
There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that the Jews during the first or second temple pronounced YHWH as Yahweh. But Samaritans had a pronunciation which was not far from Yahweh. When the element YAH occurs in proper names, it is at the end of the name. Looking at proper names in the Tanach, it seems that the first two syllables of YHWH was YAHO or YEHO. It is true that the Masoretic pointing of YHWH is based on the vowels of a substitute, but we must remember that the real pronunciation of YHWH was lost when the Masoretes did their work. Thus they did not necessarily use vowels which were different from the original pronunciation (which they did not know), but they used the vowels from the substitute word. Their use of the vowels YE:H, or occasionally YE:HO at the beginning does not rule out that YE:HO was used in the original pronunciation. In short: The evidence points to a pronunciation during the second temple which is closer to the three syllabic YAHOWA/YEHOWA than to the two-syllabic YAHWEH. — article published in the Revue de Qumrân (1988, 13:49-52), emphasis added.
“In the post-biblical period, reverence for the ineffable name “Yahweh” caused it to be supplanted in synagogue reading (but not in writing) with the noun adonay “my master,” or Lord. Next, when medieval Jewish scholars began to insert vowels to accompany the consonantal OT text, they added to YHWH the Masoretic vowel points for adonay ; and the actual writing became an impossible YaHoWaH.”
Yahowah הָוׂהֲי, derived from the vowel pointing of adonay אֲדֹנָי, does not represent the correct pronunciation—Yehowah, is not derived from the vowel points of adonay, and thus does not suffer from this “impossible” rendering.
French Hebrew scholar Gérard Gertoux, president of the Association Biblique de Recherche d’Anciens Manuscrits in France, and author of The Name of God Y.eH.oW.aH Which Is Pronounced As It Is Written I_Eh_Ou_Ah: Its Story witnesses that this is just a fabrication, it has never been documented. The word “Yahowah” has a blasphemous meaning [as is the transliterated and translated version rendered “God”], and has never been used in any Bibles. Meanwhile, there are several hundreds of theophoric names in the Bible, which retain the vocalization of the Tetragrammaton. For example, the usual name “John” comes from the Hebrew name Yehôhanan, which means “Yehow[ah] has been gracious”.
Flavius Josephus (37-100 CE) wrote that when Romans attacked the Temple, the Jews called upon the fear-inspiring name of God (The Jewish War V:438) and went on to describe “The high priest had his head dressed with a tiara of fine linen embroidered with a purple border, and surrounded by another crown in gold which supported into relief the holy letters; these ones are four vowels.” (The Jewish War V:235; cf. Exodus 28:36-39)
Those Hebrew vowels were ו waw for û, י yod for î, and ה he for final â, which coincides with the four letters of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton.
In The Tower of Siloam, scholar George Wesley Buchanan puts it simply, regarding Yehowah:
“This is the correct pronunciation of the tetragramaton, as is clear from the pronunciation of proper names in the First Testament (FT), poetry, fifth-century Aramaic documents, Greek translations of the name in the Dead Sea Scrolls and church fathers.”
- See Yehowah on Watchtower Online Library. The participle ho·wehʹ is from the root verb ha·wahʹ, related to the divine name,Yeho·wahʹ. The edition of the Hebrew text by Ginsburg (Gins.) vowel-points YHWH to read Yeho·wahʹ. Significantly, the Masoretic vowel points in the Leningrad Codex allow for the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton
—the four Hebrew consonants making up the divine name— as Yehwah’, Yehwih’, and a number of times Yeho·wah’, as in Ge 3:14. “Sovereign Lord Yehowah.” Heb., ʼAdho·naiʹ Yehwihʹ. Where God’s name follows the title ʼAdho·naiʹ, as occurs here, note that the vowel pointing for YHWH changes. Here BHK reads Yehwihʹ instead of Yehwahʹ; whereas Gins. reads Yeho·wihʹ instead of Yeho·wahʹ.
Yehowah יְהוָה in Scripture
Please also see:
- Proofs of the Interpolation of the Vowel-Letters in the Text of the Hebrew Bible and Grounds Thence Derived for a Revision of its Authorized English Version (1857) by Charles William Wall, D.D.
- The Name of God YeHoWaH. Its Story (2002) by Gérard Gertoux
- In Fame Only: A Historical Record of the Divine Name, by Gérard Gertoux
- Un Nome eccellente, by Gérard Gertoux
- The Tower of Siloam (2003) by George Wesley Buchanan, published in The Expository Times, Vol. 115 No. 2 (November 2003): 37-45
- ‘Some Unfinished Business with the Dead Sea Scrolls’, Revue de Qumrân (1988, 13:49-52) (Mémorial Jean Carmignac (ed.), F. Garcia Martinez et E. Peuch (Paris, 1988), pp. 411–20.