Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Jehovah

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JEHOVAH is the current European transcription of the sacred tetragrammaton יהוה. This was punctuated by the Massorets with the vowels ĕ (for ă), ō, ā of the word Adonai which the later Jews habitually substituted in reading the ineffable name. It is now generally agreed that Jahwé (Yahwé) is the true pronunciation, a conclusion which is supported not only by the linguistic argument derived from the fact that the various contracted forms in which the name appears, either separately (Jah) or in compound proper names (, Jĕho, Jāhu) are all reducible to Jahw, but also by the testimony of ancient tradition (thus Theodoret ascribes the pronunciation αβέ to the Samaritans, Epiphanius gives αβέ or αυέ, and Clement apparently αουέ. Etymologically, Jahwe may be regarded as the imperfect either of Qal or Hiphil of הוה; the former view seems to be that taken in the Pentateuch, but many critics now incline to the other, according to which the name may be translated as meaning “He who causes to be.” It seems to have come to be invested with new and richer meanings as the religion of Israel developed in spirituality and depth; but as the name of the national deity it must have been older than the time of Moses; at least the name of the mother of Moses is compounded with it. It is conceivable that in the earliest period of its history the word was not associated with any idea so high even as that of “creator”; the Hiphil of הוה‬ in the Aramaic sense of “fall” would give “he who causes (rain or lightning) to fall” as the nearest approach to the original meaning. For the later sense of the name Exod. iii. 14 is the locus classicus. The Palestinian tradition finds in this verse the assertion of God’s eternity (comp. Rev. i. 8); the Alexandrian exegesis refers it to his absolute existence. More probably the vague “I will be what I will be” (the emphasis lying on the first verb as in Exod. xxxiii. 19) is used to convey the idea of that all-sufficiency of God’s grace which is wider than the widest faith (comp. Hos. i. 6, 7).

The literature of the subject is immense. Of older books it is enough to refer to the Decas Exercitationum collected by Reland (Utrecht, 1707); for the latest aspects of the questions involved, see Gesenius, Thes., s.v.; Ewald, Gesch., ii. 121 sq.; Lagarde, Psalt. Hieron., (1874), p. 153 sq., and Orientalia, ii. 27 sq.; Schrader in Schenkel’s Bib. Lex., s.v. “Jahve”; W. Aldis Wright in Journ. of Philol., iv. p. 70. Against recent proposals to identify Jahwe with non-Israelite deities, see Baudissin, Studien, i. (Leipsic, 1876); and in favour of derivation from an Assyrian form of the Divine name ia-u (Accadian i), see Delitzsch, Wo lag das Parodies, p. 158 sq., Leipsic, 1881. A summary of recent discussion is given by W. Robertson Smith in Brit. and For. Evang. Rev., January, 1876.