And YHVH shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall YHVH be One, and His Name One. (Zech. 14:9)

There’s an old saying that when the elderly die, a library is lost, and volumes of wisdom and knowledge are gone. Could such be the case with Moses? It has been approximately 3,400 years since the event at the burning bush where YHVH appears to Moses and tells him, firsthand, His Name. Since that time, the Torah that was given to the Israelites has witnessed countless wars, destruction, exile, and malicious alignment by the “lying pen of the scribes (Jer. 8:8)” as well as editing, redacting, and mistranslating by our more modern translators. The tablets that the Ten Commandments are inscribed upon, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Moses Scroll appear to have vanished – at least for now.

What we have today in the form of the Hebrew Bible is due to the tireless efforts of the Masoretes, a group of Jewish scholars who worked in Palestine and Babylon between 6-7 A.D. When copying scrolls, the Masoretes were required to follow strict rules defined in the Talmud: A synagogue roll had to be written on skins of clean animals prepared by a synagogue Jew, only authentic copies were to be recopied, and nothing was to be written based solely on memory. Viewing the text as Sacred, they were reluctant to use vowel pointing. Their method has been proven to be quite accurate due to their meticulous care, and the Masoretic text became universally accepted as the authentic Hebrew Bible.

Preserved in these texts are the Four Hebrew Letters of God’s Name: יְהוָֹה (YHVH/YHWH). It is found nearly 7,000 in the Hebrew Bible, with the most common pronunciations being “Jehovah/Yehovah” and “Yahweh”. What was not preserved, however, is the exact pronunciation and meaning of this most important Hebrew Name. Countless volumes have been written by Hebrew scholars, Sacred Name groups, occultists – you name it (no pun intended), and debates still continue in an effort to come to a solid conclusion, with some of them carrying on the tradition of demonizing those who don’t agree with their theories.

Being what I consider to be an open-minded critical thinker (like most folks in our movement), I have studied the various explanations of YHVH’s Name and meaning; however, I cannot wholeheartedly commit to any one view as being the ultimate, definitive pronunciation and meaning of The Name. I am sure that many of you reading this find themselves in the same situation. As a result, when addressing YHVH in prayer, I sometimes use the ancient El Elyon(Most High God), or more frequently, Almighty. Sometimes I don’t use any words, I simply visualize the Four Letters while praying. Many of my Jewish friends use Adonai (LORD, or Master, or HaShem (The Name).

Here I would like to offer another possibility for consideration. Recently, my studies about hesed (YHVH’s constant mercy and lovingkindness) led me to also research this Hebrew word’s sister – ahava, which means “love”. BTW, I had always thought the similarity between the sound of Yehovah and ahava to be a bit uncanny, but the consonants are different – YHVH uses a “vav” and ahava uses a “veht”. Some scholars explain that this could be a phonetic variant.

Taking a close Iook at Exodus 3:14, when Moses asks God what His Name is, God first answers by saying, אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה‎ (ehyeh asher ehyeh, or I Am what I Am) and then He commands Moses to “tell them Ehyeh sent me unto you.” But afterward there appears to be a switch. In verse 15 God then tells Moses to say to the Israelites:

YHVH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you. This is My Name for ever, and this is My memorial unto all generations.” (Exodus 3:15)

The word ehyeh (I am) contains three of the four letters of the Tetragrammaton (one letter is used twice) and even sounds similar to the pronunciation Yahweh, but it seems as if ehyeh is almost being forced upon the word YHVH.  Also worth noting – the shoresh (root word) for Ehyeh is HYH, while the root word for YHVH is HVH.

In 1956 a Hebrew and Arabic a scholar Shelomo Dov Goitein (1900-1985) suggested that the Name YHWH is actually a Proto-Arabic word, derived from the root HWY – hawaya, which means “love, affection, passion, desire.”

Goitein also suggests, as a possible connection, that in Exodus 34:14 the phrase “YHWH whose name is Jealous” is wrongly translated, and that the word קַנָּא qanna (Jealous) is derived from the Arabic term for passion and really means “The Impassioned One”.

He translates this verse as such:

“For you must not worship any other god, because YHWH, whose Name is Impassioned, is an Impassioned God.” (Exodus 34:14)

Goitein also gives a possible translation of ehyeh asher ehyeh as: “I shall passionately love whom I love”.

We know that Moses dwelt in the house of Jethro the Midianite, tended Jethro’s flocks, and married a Midianite woman. Goitein gives the following reasons for the word being Arabic:

  • The Midianites were a Proto-Arabian tribe living in Arabia and they are related to the Ishmaelites;
  • Midian was nearby or contiguous with Seir, and was a Nomad-land called Yehwa, yhwꜣ(w);
  • In the Hebrew Bible, YHWH Comes from the Edomite South (Deut. 33:2); (Judg. 5:4); (Hab. 3:3).

In reference to the Land of Yehwa: in antiquity, names were sometimes used as a toponym(place name) as well as a theonym (the name of a god). An example is the name Assyria (Assur); it is both the name of Assyria’s chief deity and of their ancient capital city.

Another proponent of this theory is Prof. Israel Knohl, the Yehezkel Kaufmann Professor of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a senior research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute. In his article on, Knohl touches on many of Goitein’s points, adding:

“If YHWH’s origins are in the Nomad-land of Yehwa among the Midianites, then the meaning of the name should be from the Arabic language family rather than the Hebrew language family. This further calls into question the etymology in Exodus 3 of the Tetragrammaton from ה.ו.י, “to be,” since, unlike Hebrew and Aramaic, Proto-Arabic does not have the root ה.ו.י for the word “to be.””

While there were other gods whose names expressed the meaning of love (Er-s), the Name YHVH is exceptional in that it denotes action – love (v), exclusiveness, loyalty, and monotheism.

Why is this important? Whether you call upon YHVH using the Name Yahweh, Yehovah, or perhaps even Yahava – what really matters is that we have carefully thought and talked about the importance of The Name. In the Book of Malachi we read that YHVH is listening and taking note of our exchanges, recording them in a Sefer Zikaron (Book of Remembrance):

“Then they that feared YHVH spoke one with another; and YHVH hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him, for them that feared YHVH, and that thought upon His Name. (Malachi 3:16)

In closing: The Great Commandment instructs us to: “Shema (hear) Israel: YHVH our God, YHVH is One. And you shalt love אָהַבְתָּ (ahavta) YHVH thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Passionately!

Patty Tyler is an independent researcher and a member of the Board of Directors for United Israel World Union. She and her husband David direct the United Israel Center Northeast in Upstate New York.

For further reading:

  1. KOHL, Israel: YHWH: “The Original Arabic Meaning of the Name”, in The;
  2. GOITEN, Shelomo Dov: “YHWH the Passionate: The Monotheistic Meaning and Origin of the Name YHWH,” Vetus Testamentum 6.1 (1956): 1-9. (Contact me for a copy of this paper at:
  3. Page, Barry: The Historical Moses Found.