Exodus 3:14–15, I AM THAT I AM. The name YHVH is Elohim’s memorial name forever. It reflects that fact that he is; that he is undefinable in human terms, and that he has always existed. This is the name by which he is to be remembered (not forgotten as is the case with the ineffable name concept of the rabbinic Jews whereby the names of deity are forbidden to be used).
In nearly all Bibles, whenever the tetragrammaton occurs, it has been substituted by the English word Lord. In some Bibles, Lord is written in all capital letters (i.e. LORD) to show that it’s the Hebrew word YHVH. This name has a variety of meanings including “the existing one” and “I am that I am.”
YHVH reveals his personal name in Exodus 3:14 and 15 where we read:
14 And Elohim said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM (EHYEH ASHER EHYEH): and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM (EHYEH VHVT) hath sent me unto you. 15 And Elohim said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, YHVH (vuvh) the Elohim of your fathers, the Elohim of Abraham, the Elohim of Isaac, and the Elohim of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name [Heb. shem] for ever, and this is my memorial [Heb. zeker] unto all generations.
Here are some examples of how various Bible versions translate the name of YHVH:
- I Am That I Am (KJV)
- I Am Who I Am (NAS, NIV, NKJV
- I Am That Which I Am (YLT)
- I Shall Be As I Shall Be (The ArtScroll Stone Edition Tanach)
- I Will Be What I Will Be (The Gutnick Edition Chumash, JPS)
- I Will Be There Howsoever I Will Be There (The Schocken Bible)
- I Am the Being (LXX, Brenton)
Exodus 3:15 states that YHVH is the name Moses was to use when referring to I AM THAT I AM. Both the former and latter are forms of the Hebrew verb hayah meaning “to be.” YHVH instructed that YHVH was to be his memorial name forever. In other words, humans were to use YHVH to remember him by. There is no indication here that it was YHVH’s intention that his name was to be forgotten or hidden through euphemisation. The word memorial is the Hebrew word zeker (Strong’s H2143) and means “remembrance, memory.”
It must be noted here that we don’t refer to YHVH as I Am, for were we to do so it would be necessary to say “I Am,” and in all reality, we aren’t the I Am, but YHVH is the I Am. Just so there is no confusion when communicating YHVH’s name in every day speech, the Bible uses, not the Hebrew ehyeh meaning “I Am,” but the form of the verb which means “He Is.” In this way, every time we say his name we’re glorifying him, and not inadvertently glorifying ourselves.
The name YHVH, referred to as the tetragrammaton, is the personal name of the Creator and occurs some 6800 times in the Tanakh. The exact pronunciation of this name has been lost down through the ages, and there is debate among well-meaning individuals on how to pronounce this four consonant Hebrew name. Because there are now vowels in this name, scholars can only speculate and make educated guesses about what the vowels between the consonants should be. In this author’s opinion, the most likely candidate for the tetragrammaton’s pronunciation based on all the ancient historical, linguistic and literary evidence currently available is Yehovah and not Yehowah, Yahweh, Yahuweh or Yahveh.
Now for some BREAKTHROUGH INFORMATION!—
Is the Sixth Letter in the Hebrew Alphabet Pronounced Vav or Waw? How Does This Affect the Pronunciation of YHVH/YHWH?
The following article is from research by Hebrew linguistic scholar, Nehemia Gordon (https://www.nehemiaswall.com/wow-its-a-vav).
Several biblical texts prove that the letter vav/waw—the sixth letter in the Hebrew alphabet was pronounced as vav, not waw. This being the case, this has tremendous ramifications how to pronounce the personal name of Elohim—YHVH called the tetragrammaton. This information would, therefore invalidate the idea that the tetragrammaton is written YHWH as opposed to YHVH. Moreover, this information would also invalidate the several common modern pronunciations of the tetragrammaton including Yahweh, Yehowah, Y’huwah, or any other pronunciation that contains a w sound.
One proof is found in Ezekiel 23:35 and 43:13. In the former, we find the phrase, “And you threw me behind your back.” The word back in this verse is spelled gimmel–vav–kaf soffit (kaf is the suffix meaning “your”). In the latter verse, we find the phrase, “And this is the back of the altar.” The word back is spelled gimmel–vet (or a soft bet). Here are two examples of the same word spelled with different letters, but sounding the same. In Ezekiel’s mind, the vet and the vav were interchangeable sounds, proving that vav was pronounced as a v and not as a w. The Hebrew word gav in these two verses in Ezekiel are spelled as such in the Aleppo Codex (the second oldest complete Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament on earth today and is dated to 1040 to 1050 A.D.)—the former with a vet and the latter with a vav. This is irrefutable proof that in ancient biblical times vav was pronounced as vav, not as waw.
Ezekiel wasn’t the only biblical author to spell gav with a vav. See 1 Kgs 14:9 where gav is spelled gimmel–vav–kaf soffit (kaf is the suffix meaning “your”). The same spelling is confirmed in the Aleppo Codex as well.
We see the same thing in Neh 9:26 where gav is spelled with a vav (gimmel–vet–mem soffit). This is confirmed in the Leningrad Codex (the oldest complete Hebrew manuscripts of the Tanakh on earth today and is dated to 1008 A.D.).
These examples prove that in the time of the Tanakh, the Hebrew word for gav could be spelled both ways—with a soft bet (or vet) and with vav pronounced as a v, not a w. This is proof positive that in Bible times there were Jews that pronounced vav with a v. Were there also Jews at this time that pronounced it with a w? Perhaps, but if so, the evidence hasn’t been produced from the ancient Hebraic, Jewish texts of the Tanakh. On the other hand, it is a fact that there were Jews living in Arab countries during the common or modern (A.D.) era who were influenced by or who spoke Arabic that pronounced vav was a waw, but this is due to the influence of Arabic language, which pronounces vav as a waw. This is because there is no v sound in Arabic.
Another later proof that vet and vav were interchangeable to ancient Hebrew speakers is found in the Mishnah (AD 200) relating to the spelling of the town of Yavneh. The v in Yavneh is sometimes spelled with a vav and sometimes with a vet. These spelling variants are found in the Mishnah RH 4:2 (Kaufmann MS. A50 76v) and Avot 4:4 (Kaufmann MS. A50 171v). Another example of the interchangeable vav-vet is found iun the same MS where the word geese is sometimes spelled with both letters (Shabbat 24:3 and Hullin 12:2).
Further proof that the ancient Jews pronounced vav with a v and not a w are found in some Jewish poetry from the 6th century AD by Elazar Kalir and Yanai Israel. For example, Kalir (who lived in Tiberias, Israel) rhymes (via alliteration or the repeating of consonantal sounds) the words Levi and navi. Levi he spells with a vav and navi he spells with a vet. What makes this poem so compelling is that he uses words containing the letter vet eight times, and the ninth time he uses a vav in place of a vet (in the word Levi). The rhyming in this poem would make no sense at all to have nine v sounds and then a w sound if vav were pronounced as a w instead of a v (MS Oxford, Bodleian 2714, fol52a) This poem is actually based on Jer 23:8–9, which prophesies the ingathering of the exiles. Similarly, Yanai in one of his poems rhymes y’chaveh (tell) with ye’aveh (swell). The former word is spelled with a vav, while the latter word is spelled with a vet (MS Cambridge University, Taylor-Schecter H17–4).
Based on this evidence, the name Yehovah is the proper pronunciation, not Yehowah. Additionally, this evidence invalidates the popular belief among many scholars and laypeople as well that YHVH is pronounced as Yahweh, since the w sound didn’t exist among ancient biblical Hebrew speakers. The historical evidence points to the fact that the w sound came into Hebrew much later in the common (post biblical) era and was due to the influence of the Arabic language upon Jewish, Hebrew language speakers.