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Y is for Yahweh

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you. ‘And they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, IAM WHO I AM. [Exodus 3:13-14]
The Holy Name of God, Yahweh, was first revealed to Moses at the Burning Bush. When Moses meets with God, and is commissioned to go back to Egypt, he asks God his name. The reply is, “I am who I am.” The phrase given in Hebrew is “ehyeh ‘asher ehyeh”. Yahweh comes from this this word ‘ehyeh. It can actually have more than one meaning. It can be like the above translation, “I am” or it could be “I will be”. Some scholars also think it might mean “I create.”

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you. ‘And they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, IAM WHO I AM. [Exodus 3:13-14]
The Holy Name of God, Yahweh, was first revealed to Moses at the Burning Bush. When Moses meets with God, and is commissioned to go back to Egypt, he asks God his name. The reply is, “I am who I am.” The phrase given in Hebrew is “ehyeh ‘asher ehyeh”. Yahweh comes from this this word ‘ehyeh. It can actually have more than one meaning. It can be like the above translation, “I am” or it could be “I will be”. Some scholars also think it might mean “I create.” 

We might think, why did Moses ask for a name? We might be tempted to repeat the famous question of Shakespeare’s Juliet, “What’s in a name?” For us, a name is just a label.
But for the ancient Israelites, a person’s name was much more than just a label. A name was filled with power and it revealed something of the person. If you wanted to know someone personally you needed to know their name. Therefore, in a world where people thought there were many gods, Moses and the Israelites would have wanted to know God’s name in order to call upon him in worship and for help. In giving them a name, God was making a special relationship, a covenant to use a word from the Bible, with them.
During the time of the second Temple in Jerusalem - that’s from about 500BC to 62AD, Jewish people stopped using the name Yahweh because it was considered too holy. Instead they used another word, Adonai, which means Lord. This is still done today in many Bibles. Instead of writing Yahweh, they write THE LORD, in capital letters like this.
To make matters more complicated, you may have heard of the name Jehovah. This comes from a mix up. When the Hebrew language was first written down they did not use any vowels and so they only wrote YHWH for Yahweh. About seven hundred years ago someone combined YHWH with the vowels from Adonai and came up with Yahowaih, which then became Jehovah in English.
As I write this it is two days after Easter. During the next two months of the Easter season we will say or sing Alleluia may times. Alleluia can also be written Halleluyah which shows a bit more clearly what it means;
Hallelu yah - Praise Yah!
where Yah is a shortening of Yahweh.
The word Yahweh is only one of many things that we take from the Jewish faith and tradition. In fact, for the first few decades of the Church’s existence it was not at all clear that Christianity would become a separate religion. Many early Christians believed that in order to become a Christian someone had first to become a Jew. There was great debate in the church and we can see evidence of it in the book of Acts and in Saint Paul’s letters. This issue was resolved in what we now call the Council of Jerusalem which we read about in Acts 15.
It is the origins of Christianity in Judaism which makes the persecution of Jewish people by Christians, across the centuries, particularly shameful. We should never forget the massive debt we Christians owe Judaism, not least that our Saviour was a Jew himself. As one of the collects from Good Friday says,


Lord God of Abraham,
Bless the children of your covenant,
both Jew and Christian;
take from us all blindness and bitterness of heart, and hasten the coming of your kingdom,

when Israel shall be saved, the Gentiles gather in
and we shall dwell together in mutual love and peace,

under the one God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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