Do We Really Know the Pronunciation?
Below is the name of the Almighty written in Hebrew. It seems to be an accepted fact that the correct pronunciation of His name is “Yahweh”. This is apparently so because “most scholars” say that this pronunciation is correct. But what are the facts?
Do We Really Know the Pronunciation?
Proverbs 25:2 It is the honor of the Almighty to conceal a thing; But the honor of kings is to search out a matter.
Biblical Hebrew is a difficult subject for most of us. We therefore usually rely on research done by others, and trust that their conclusions are correct. When something is controversial, like the origin of the heavenly Father’s name, most of us usually accept the conclusion of those scholars who are in the majority, without actually checking out their research for ourselves. Why is this? The reason seems to be that people are intimidated by the technical nature of ancient Hebrew. But, does this need to be the case? Let’s take a look at the facts surrounding the Heavenly Father’s Name…
In Strong’s Concordance, it states that (YHWH), Hebrew 3068, comes from the verb root (hayah), Hebrew 1961 [the verb “to be”]. That is impossible however, since the tetragrammaton would then be spelled * *(yhyh) instead of (YHWH). [*third person masculine singular imperfect form]
The Theological Word Book of the Old Testament (word #484) says that (hawah) is the older form of this verb root. In the same article, it says, “An alternative of the pronunciation of the tetragrammaton should be mentioned. Actually, there is a problem with the pronunciation “Yahweh.” It is a strange combination of old and late elements. The first extra-biblical occurrence of the name is in the Moabite Stone of about 850 b.c. At that time, vowel letters were just beginning to be used in Hebrew. If (YHWH) represents a spelling earlier than 900 b.c. (as would seem most likely), the final (h) would have been pronounced.”
The pronunciation Yahweh indeed comes from the verb root (hawah), but this is not the most ancient form of the verb “to be”. Prior to this, the verb was spelled (hwy). This root also would be impossible for the tetragrammaton, since it would give a spelling of (yhwy) instead of (YHWH).
In the “Biblical Archaeology Review” of Sept – Oct ’94, Anson F. Rainey, a professor of Semitic linguistics at Tel Aviv University, confirms this. He states, “A form like yahweh developed from yahwiyu ” (editor’s note: Yahwiyu is a hypothetical pronunciation).
It can be seen that Anson Rainey shows, by implication, that the Hebrew spelling of the tetragrammaton was originally different than it is at present. This however, would not be in line with the statement found at Exodus 3:15. Here, says…
“this  is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.”
In the book, “A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew” by C.L. Seow, it states that nouns with an “eh” ending originally ended with a (w) or a (y).
Since we do not believe that the name of the Almighty has changed in spelling or pronunciation, we do not believe that his name can have the pronunciation of yahweh. In other words, even though words in the Hebrew language have changed or evolved, we do not believe that this is true of the Heavenly Father’s name. Also, even if it were possible for the spelling of the tetragrammaton to have changed, the pronunciation still would not have originally been yahweh.
Another excerpt from the Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, under #484, says: “The “w” of Yahweh, represents a pre-mosaic pronunciation but the final “eh” represents probably a post-davidic form. In view of these problems it may be best simply to say that (YHWH) does not come from the verb (hawah) (presumably hawaya in its early form) at all. There are many places in the OT where it is now recognized that the parallel of a name and its meaning is not necessarily etymological. For instance, 1st Samuel 1:20 probably does not mean that the name Samuel is derived from the verb‘shama’ “to hear.” Genesis 11:9 does not mean that Babel comes from the verb babel “confusion” but only that the two words sound something alike. Likewise Jacob is said to mean both “heel” (Gen 25:26) and “supplanter” (Gen 27:36). There are many other examples of this device which is to be taken as paronomasia, a play on words, rather than an etymology. Therefore, we may well hold that YHWH does not come from the verb hawa which is cited in the first person ‘ehyeh’ “I will be, “but is an old word of unknown origin which sounded something like what the verb hawa sounded in Moses’ day. In this case we do not know what the pronunciation was; we can only speculate. However, if the word were spelled with four letters in Moses’ day, we would expect it to have had more than two syllables, for at that period there were no vowel letters [written]. All letters were sounded”. [including the final (h), whereas the final “h” in the pronunciation “Yahweh” is silent, meaning that it is used as a vowel]
So what about the pronunciation Yahweh?
In our search for truth, we do not want to leave any stone unturned. The following information is something that needs to be prayerfully considered.
In Roman mythology, the idol “Jupiter” is the same as the idol “Zeus” in Greek mythology. According to Latin grammar, Jove is the ablative case of Jupiter. In Classical Latin, the pronunciation of Jove (Iove) is Y-A-W-E, with the “j” (i) sounding like a “y”, the “o” being a short sound [like the “o” in “Bob”] the “v” sounds like a “w”, and the “e” sounds like “eh”. These sounds can be verified at the following sites:
The Oxford Latin Dictionary, under the heading “Iuppiter” [Jupiter] shows that it originates from dieu = god, pater = father with other Latin forms dies, deus [Greek “Zeus”]. This dictionary spells Jove as 4 vowels “Ioue”, which is reminiscent of Josephus’ claim of the tetragrammaton being 4 vowels [supposedly Iaue].
The following is taken from an article entitled, “Paradox of the Anonymous Name” by Gérard GERTOUX, a Hebrew scholar in France, a specialist of the Tetragram; He has been president of the Association Biblique de Recherche d’Anciens Manuscrits since 1991…
Flavius Josephus, who understood the priesthood of this time very well, made it clear that at the time the Romans attacked the Temple, the Jews called upon the fear-inspiring name of [Elohim] (The Jewish War V:438). He wrote he had no right to reveal this name to his reader (Jewish Antiquities II:275), however he did give information of primary importance on the very pronunciation he wanted to conceal. However, in his work The Jewish War V:235 he stated: «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 had in relief the sacred letters; these ones are four vowels» This description is excellent; moreover, it completes the one found in Exodus 28:36-39. However, as we know, there are no vowels in Hebrew, but only consonants. Regrettably, instead of explaining this apparent abnormality, certain commentators (influenced by the form Yahweh) mislead the readers of Josephus by indicating in a note, that this reading was IAUE. Now, it is obvious that the ‘sacred letters’ indicated the Tetragram written in paleo-Hebrew, not Greek. Furthermore, in Hebrew these consonants Y, W, H, do serve as vowels; they are in fact called ‘mothers of reading’ (matres lectionis). The writings of Qumrân show that in the first century Y used as vowel served only to indicate the sounds I and É, W served only for the sounds Ô and U, and a final H served for the sound A. These equivalences may be verified in thousands of words. Additionally, the H was used as a vowel only at the end of words, never within them. So, to read the name YHWH as four vowels would be IHUA that is IEUA, because between two vowels, the H is heard as a slight E.
The preceding was taken from an article entitled “Paradox of the Anonymous Name”, located at:
A translation of the Bible called, “The Word of Yahweh” (first edition), from the Assembly of Yahweh, in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, has the following footnote. It is found on page 1106 and is a footnote for Acts 14:12. It is footnote #81 and is for the word “Jupiter”. It reads as follows:
The Greek text has Zeus here. Some English translations say Jupiter, which is Latin. The Aramaic text says, “Mariah Elaha”! It is interesting to note that “Jove” is another name for Jupiter, and would be written “IOUE” [Latin], which is close to “IAUE” [Greek]. Josephus, a historian of Yahshua’s time, said that the name of our Heavenly Father is written as four vowels: “IAUE”!
So, what we have established thus far, is the fact that the original pronunciation of the Heavenly Father was probably not “yawe or yaway”, whereas the pronunciation of “Jove”, the idol of the Romans, was very likely pronounced “yawe or yaway”. We need to prayerfully ask for wisdom concerning this matter.
What is the Correct Pronunciation?
If the name is not from the verb root (hawah), how should it then be pronounced? It is a fact that anciently, each of the 4 letters of the Tetragrammaton would have been pronounced as consonants, with the final (hei) being sharply audible (Weingreen, author of, “A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew”).
The question is, what vowels accompanied these 4 consonants? It says in Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, Page 35, Section 7:1, “The original vowels in Hebrew [understood, not written], as in the other Semitic tongues, are a, i, u. [The vowels] e and o always arise from an obscuring or contraction of these three pure sounds.”
Therefore, since the name YHWH is the most ancient of all names, it seems unlikely that it would contain either of the vowel sounds ‘e’ or ‘o’.
It also shows in biblical Hebrew Grammar books that gutturals (such as ) have a preference for an “ah” vowel before them, and sometimes after them (see: A Grammar for Biblical Hebrew p.280). There is strong evidence for “Yah” at the beginning of . The form (YaHU) is often found at both the beginning and ending of many ancient personal names in Hebrew. The pronunciation YaHuWaH is a definite possibility. The only way to be sure however, will be for Almighty Himself to reveal it. We hope that you will commit this matter to serious prayer.
In conclusion, let us keep in mind, that however we pronounce the tetragrammaton, the most important thing for us to do, is to show that we love YHWH by keeping his commandments:
Psalm 111:10 The fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.
Study compiled by YermeYah
Last updated: 4th day, 2nd month, 2007