The True Name of God

The Hebrew Bible

The Torah reading this week is so appropriate for what is going on in the whole world and in the land of Israel, plagues, and being stricken by God both the people and the land of Egypt. The Torah reading is from Exodus chapter 6:2 – 9:35, Vaera, from the prophets, the Haftarah is from Ezekiel 28:25 – 29:21. The reading from the New Testament is from Romans 9:14-23.

The text from Exodus 6:2 starts:

“And God spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them.’” – Exodus 6:2–3 [NKJV]

This beginning of the reading for this next Shabbat is a true bombshell. It is an atomic bomb that the Lord drops on Moses and the children of Israel and in fact on all of us!

Why? Because if we go to the book of Genesis already in the story of Creation we see that the whole chapter 1 of Genesis uses only the name “God” – “Elohim”. However in chapter 2:4 we see a change and the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) appears for the first time in the Bible.

In the book of Genesis alone the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) appears 15 times. In the whole Bible the proper name of God (YHWH) appears 6828 times. The whole story of Genesis has several hundred times, the name of God in the four Hebrew letters.

So, now we come to the book of Exodus and the Lord says to Moses, “I am the Lord (YHWH), but to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, I only appeared as God Almighty (El-Shadai).”

The fathers of the nation, those who had such a personal relationship with the Almighty God, Abraham, that didn’t spare his son Isaac and tied him on the altar ready to sacrifice him, didn’t know the Lord by His most holy name? Let us go to Genesis 22:14 and see what is written there:

“And Abraham called the name of the place, The–Lord–Will–Provide; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’” – Genesis 22:14 [NKJV]

Abraham from his own mouth says: The Lord (YHWH) will provide. So, dear brothers! What is going on here? How could Abraham say the name of the Lord and celebrate that God provided a ram in place of his only son Isaac, and call that place, “The Lord will provide,” and not know the Lord’s name? It is also clear already in the book of Exodus’ earlier chapters that the writer of Exodus knows the Lord’s name to be YHWH.

See for example Exodus 3:13-15:

“Then Moses said to God, ‘Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they 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 children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”’ Moreover God said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: “The Lord 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 to all generations.’” – Exodus 3:13-15 [NKJV]

So, what is going on here? The Torah was written according to tradition by Moses before his climbing Mount Pisga (Nebo) and dying there. When Moses writes the Torah, it is after the events in chapter 6 of the book of Exodus. Moses now knows that the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, didn’t have the full revelation of the Lord, a revelation that Moses and the children of Israel are about to experience personally in the next months.

The name Elohim (God) is generic and plural. The proper name, the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) is unique and special. Outside of Israel there is only one place in the edges of the Arabian desert that this name is found in a small shrine dated to the second millennium B.C.E.

All the rest of the history of this Holy Name of the Lord is only in the possession of Israel. The Lord didn’t risk giving this revelation of His holy name to the patriarchs because they were individuals, their faith was, so to speak, in the family. They were far from being a nation or even a tribe.

To hand the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) name of God to such a relatively small group of people who are not crystalized and ready for such a unique name and so different from the people and neighborhood that they moved in, would have, maybe, been too much for them. El-Shadai – “God Almighty” was not a name so unique in the religious environment of the Land of Canaan or Egypt or even in Ur or Haran in Mesopotamia.

The God El was the father of the Canaanite Pantheon and Shadai is “mountain” or “power”. The name El-Shadai is a kind of generic name very similar to the names of the gods of the nations around.

Now that Moses is about to take on the great empire of Egypt, Pharaoh and His army, and deliver the slaves from Egypt – He and the children of Israel had to have the full force of God’s power and revelation of His holy name.

So, before God launches Moses to face Pharaoh and his court, God gives this revelation to Moses, and tells him, “in all my dealings with the forefathers of this nation, they had a limited revelation of who I really am, now I am revealing to you that I am the master of time and existence, not only a god like all the other gods. I am not an idol like the idols of Canaan and Egypt and Mesopotamia. I am the existence of everything that exists. Everything that your eyes see and even your eyes with which you see is ‘I AM!’”

“The world is the fruit of my ‘existence’ – it came from its beginning out of nothingness into a tangible and functioning atmosphere of life and into a life-giving and life-perpetuating ‘existence!’ You can go and face Pharaoh and all of Egypt because I am ‘YHWH.’”

Just yesterday a friend asked me if I knew how to pronounce the name of the Lord (YHWH). I told him that even in the time of Yeshua and the apostles the vast majority of Israel, including all the great rabbis and leaders of the nation, didn’t know how to pronounce the holy name of God because they couldn’t read it.

In the manuscripts of the Torah and the prophets and the Psalms written by hand by scribes, the four letters that make up the holy name of God were often not written in the Aramaic Hebrew script like the rest of the Torah and the Bible. The four letters were written in the ancient Canaanite script that most of the people, including the rabbis, didn’t know how to pronounce. This is how the name of God was written in the time of Yeshua:


There are these days so many Christian sects (dangerous sects) that pretend to know how to pronounce the holy name of God. They are divisive and aggressive sectarians who fight with each other and with the rest of the believing world as to how to pronounce this holy name.

The main thing that exemplifies these groups is that they are not Jewish, they are not formally educated, and they are very sectarian. Jews, when they read the Torah and come upon the Holy Name of God pronounce it: Adonai (Lord). This is also how the proper English translations have it written: Lord.

There is one more general thing that I would like to share with you! All of the Bible is built on the paradigm of progressive revelation. God does not reveal everything all at once. Revelation is progressive, it is given to us in the Bible on the basis of “Need to Know!” Our forefathers did not know much about the Messiah or a heavenly Kingdom, or about heaven and hell, and judgment day, or the Millennium…

The Lord sends His revelation to His children on a need-to-know basis. He also does not reveal everything right away, not even to the leaders and prophets, but as the information is needed the Lord opens up His secrets and delivers them to His faithful children. Yeshua did the same thing with His disciples and at times He gave them a revelation and told them to keep it to themselves and not share it with unbelievers.

What we are seeing is that this Torah reading is also on a need-to-know basis. Moses doesn’t receive the ultimate detailed plan of God for the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. The Lord gives Moses a step-by-step revelation that He needs to share with Pharaoh. The same is true today.

There are things that are hinted at in scripture that even the most educated leaders in the church can’t really pinpoint and give you a clear and total outline of what God is going to do in the end time or when and how exactly Yeshua will return. The whole doctrine of the so-called Millennium is a cause of division and argument and sectarian attitudes precisely because the Lord didn’t give us a spelled out, clearly outlined, dated, Power Point presentation of when and how, or of what is going to happen when He returns to judge the world.

Anyone today that teaches or says that he knows exactly how and when the Messiah is returning is someone who claims to know more than Yeshua Himself knows. Therefore the only title that I could give such a person would be: False Prophet.

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” – Matthew 24:36 [NKJV]

The day will come when we will all know everything that we need to know, but for now, let us learn of the great works that the Lord did in Egypt before releasing the children of Israel from slavery and bringing them to the Land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Israel as an everlasting inheritance and an eternal possession.

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.