Why Do We Sometimes Use Yahweh to Refer to God?
Yahweh is how the Hebrew name for God, as given in Exodus 3:14-15, typically is spelled. The name means “I AM” or “I AM WHO I AM” or “I AM THAT I AM.” When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, God specifically said, “This is My name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.” We often use the name on the site and in our curriculum in an effort to underscore the reality and significance of God’s name, as well as to be obedient to His command.
Yahweh, Jehovah, or Lord
Yahweh is a closer transliteration of the actual Hebrew name. Historically, the name has more often been transliterated as Jehovah. Both are acceptable as long as we understand the usage and where it came from.
Through the centuries, varying translations have treated the Hebrew name in different ways.
The King James and New International versions of Exodus 3:14 actually translates the name so it reads, “I AM THAT I AM.” But, one verse later, the name is translated as LORD, with the “ORD” spelled in small upper case letters. In the King James version you’ll often find Yahweh translated this way while the normal word for Lord (Adonai) is spelled with a lower case “ord.”
The Holman Christian Standard Bible treats the name with a little more clarity. The name in verse 14 is translated as in the King James and New International so it reads, “I AM WHO I AM.” But in verse 15 the name is transliterated so it reads, “Say this to the Israelites: Yahweh, the God of your fathers…”
God’s name, Yahweh, points to His all-sufficiency and sovereignty. Theologians have sought to explore the significance of this name for centuries. The name offers both clarity by being a real name (rather than a title such as “God”) and mystery. The fact that the God of the Bible has a name also points to His personal nature. He is not an unnamed “force” to be manipulated for good or evil. He is who He is and He is NOT something other than who He is.
We don’t suggest trying to explain all of this to young children. We simply believe it’s adequate to use God’s name the same way we use David’s name or Abraham’s name. Such usage will reinforce God’s character and nature while also honoring the commandment He gives us in Exodus 3:15.
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher
See a list of other articles by Rick Edwards.