God's name is the most frequently used noun in the Hebrew Bible, occurring over 6,800 times. It is spelled with only four consonants: Yud, Hey, Vav, Hey (יְהוָה), and is called the “Four-Letter” name of God, or the “Tetragrammaton” in Greek.[i] This is God’s written name because He is the Word of God, and we know that Yeshua is the word of God who came in human form.[ii] In other words, God’s written word came to life. Hence, the “word became flesh.”
The Jewish sages tell us the four letters represent: Hayah, Hoveh, and Yiyeh, which means: He was, He is, and He will be. Overlaying this with the four consonants gives us God’s name as three-in-one: Yehovah, Yehoveh, and Yehovih.
Simply understood, the name describes that God is the all-encompassing one—the Alpha and the Omega, the Aleph and the Taph, the beginning through the end, the past, present, and future. Just as Yeshua’s name means salvation, God’s name means that He is everything. His name characterizes who He is. However, the name is phonetically unpronounceable because we cannot pronounce three variants concurrently.
A friend of mine recently shared with me what the Lord told him about His name. The Lord said to him: “You cannot pronounce my name until you realize that you cannot pronounce my name.” A puzzling statement, until my friend discovered through our conversation, that God’s name is phonetically unpronounceable. No wonder Yeshua spoke in parables.
So, how then could the high priest in the Temple pronounce the name of God on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement? Well, He probably did not. I surmise that God had to speak through him to utter His Holy name to the Jewish people. Therefore, the priest was merely God’s conduit for the Holy Spirit to bless Israel.
There is a mysterious correlation between the Shechinah, the Holy Spirit, and the Divine Light or glory of God (Kavod). However, they are not necessarily the same. All of them signify some form of Divine Immanence.[iii]
Our Sages tell us that: “The Shechinah spoke from the throat of Moses.” They believed that Moses was so translucent because of his utmost humility towards God, that when he prophesied he did not just relay God’s message, but rather the Shechinah spoke directly through his mouth.
Likewise, with all the prophets and those possessed of the Holy Spirit, we see that it was the supernal voice and speech of God that vested itself in their actual voice and speech, for it is written, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2).
Paul affirmed this when he said, “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers” (Acts 28:25, NKJV).[iv] We also see this happening on the Day of Pentecost, as it is written, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).
Imagine serving in the Temple and having the Shechinah, the manifest presence of God uttering His unpronounceable name through you? I cannot. No wonder the high priest could die if he were unclean when he entered the Holy of Holies. The sages do not attempt to pronounce any variant of God’s name to prevent its defilement (the 3rd commandment).
However, nothing in the Torah prohibits a person from pronouncing the name of God.[v] Many common Hebrew names contain Yah or Yahu, which are part of God's four-letter name. And, the name was pronounced as part of daily services in the temple. Presently, the Temple Institute in Jerusalem is training a new generation of priests (Kohanim) to pray the Aaronic blessing using the full name of God for service in the future temple. [vi] Unfortunately, I have not been able to hear exactly how they pronounce it.
There is strong evidence in favor of pronouncing God’s name as Hovah (as in Ye-ho-vah). This because in Hebrew Ye is the future tense of “to be” as in “shall.” Ho is the present tense of “to be” as in “is.” And, ah is the past tense of “to be” as in “was.” Thus Ye-ho-ah can mean “who was, who is, and who shall be.” This is in perfect alignment with God’s own words, “I am that I am.” When we insert the Vav (V sound), we have the pronunciation of Ye-ho-v-ah.
There is much debate about the actual pronunciation of the Lord’s name, and from the above, we can see why. The most important thing to realize that YHVH (יְהוָה) is His name, and we must read His word from that place of intimacy. Christ has torn the veil that separated us from God, and now we have access to seek the face and speak the name of our Heavenly Father.
It is acceptable to use the words God and Lord, which I often do in public prayer. However, these titles feel rather cold or generic to me and do not speak to God’s sovereignty and authority. They also neglect the intimate attributes of His character attached to His name, directing us to speak about God rather than speaking to Him face to face.
In my prayers, I often use the name Yehovah or Yahueh, leaving the “V” silent, making a sound, which to me, resonates with the breath of God. There is no right or wrong, and these are just my personal preferences. However, I do pray that one day the Holy Spirit will utter through me, His phonetically unpronounceable name. “But the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
[i] Sumner, Paul. HaShem — The Name. Hebrew Streams.
[ii] John 1:14.
[iii] Encyclopedia Britannica.
[iv] All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Bible (NKJV) unless otherwise noted, Thomas Nelson Inc., 1982.
[v] Rich, Tracey R. The Name of G-d. 1996-2011. Judaism 101.
[vi] Numbers 6:24-26.