Copyright 2013-2017 Proclaim His Holy Name Ministries
In this article we will show what we believe is the proper pronunciation of YHVH. In most languages this would not pose a serious issue. However, the written Hebrew language does not contain any vowels (a,e,i,o,u)-only consonants. Even though vowel markings were added between the 7th and 9th century A.D. by the Masoretes (Jewish scribes from the Karaite sect) there is much disagreement regarding the true pronunciation of the name of YHVH. Many argue, in fact, that the Name should not be uttered since the correct pronunciation is supposedly unknown. However, that would be like a father telling his young son who is learning to talk to shut his mouth since he did not pronounce the word "Daddy" perfectly the first time.
In determining the correct pronunciation of the Name we can look at various clues that will help us eliminate words that are unlikely to be correct as well as clues that will help us identify the more probable candidates.
The first clue involves the letter "J." Since the letter "J" does not exist in the Hebrew language, and did not even appear in the English language until the 1500's, the name that some use for the Creator--Jehovah--is highly unlikely to be the proper pronunciation of YHVH. In other words when the High Priest performed the required ceremony in the Holy of Holies at the Temple on Yom Kippur he did not say the word "Jehovah" because he did not speak any words with the "J" sound. This is not meant to disrespect those who use this name for the Creator however we believe that "Jehovah" can safely be removed from the list of probable pronunciations for the Name.
The next clue in uncovering the proper pronunciation of the Name is found by examining an English verse and its Hebrew original:
Sing unto Elohim, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.
- Psalms 68:4
When the vowel markings are factored into the Hebrew, HLLYH becomes Hal-lu-yah which in English is pronounced Hallelujah (notice the "y" sound is swapped with the "j" sound when translated into English). Since we know that the "j" sound doesn't exist in the Hebrew language the actual pronunciation of the last syllable is "YAH." "Praise ye the LORD" is actually "Praise ye YHVH" or in Hebrew "hallu-YAH" where YAH is the short form of the Creator's true name.
We could stop here, and like a child learning to speak, we could use the shortened name of YAH and be accurately referring to our Father. However, even as a child's speech progresses, we too will attempt to uncover the full pronunciation of the Name by first assuming that YAH is a prefix (created from the first two letters of YHVH) and then examining the remaining two letters of the Tetragrammaton; Vav and Hey.
If we take the remaining two letters (Vav and Hey) and review the five possible vowel combinations (a,e,i,o,u), we find the following syllables: vah, veh, vih, voh, and vuh. However, since some linguists consider the "V" in Hebrew to be interchangeable with the "W" then we actually have five additional syllables to consider: wah, weh, wih, woh, and wuh.
The next step is to take the ten syllables above and prefix them with YAH to determine the full name, e.g., YAH-vah, YAH-veh, YAH-wah, YAH-weh. Although logical this would be an incorrect action because in the Hebrew language the letter Hey is never left without a vowel sound to connect two syllables (in our case Yod-Hey + Vav-Hey). Therefore, the actual correct step is to take the first syllable YAH along with the ten possibilities above and use a vowel to connect them as in Yah-a-vah or Yah-e-vah, etc. Taking the "H" from YAH and each vowel sound together with the 10 fragments above we get the following possible 50 two-syllable endings:
Havah, Haveh, Havih, Havoh Havuh
Hevah, Heveh, Hevih, Hevoh, Hevuh
Hivah, Hiveh, Hivih, Hivoh, Hivuh
Hovah, Hoveh, Hovih, Hovoh, Hovuh
Huvah, Huveh, Huvih, Huvoh, Huvuh
Hawah, Haweh, Hawih, Hawoh, Hawuh
Hewah, Heweh, Hewih, Hewoh, Hewuh
Hiwah, Hiweh, Hiwih, Hiwoh, Hiwuh
Howah, Howeh, Howih, Howoh, Howuh
Huwah, Huweh, Huwih, Huwoh, Huwuh
Of these 50 possibilities only two provide Hebrew meanings. They are "havah" and "hovah." At first "hovah" appears to be the answer as in YAHOVAH (or with the "J" Jahovah as in Jehovah), but the apparent meaning of "hovah" is: "to ruin, disaster" (Strong's #1943), therefore "hovah" does not seem to be the proper suffix for the Creator's name. The second choice, "havah" means: "to be, to become, to exist" (Strong's #1933b). Thus YAHAVAH is much more in line with the focus of the Creator's name. Especially when you consider that when He was asked what His name was by Moses, the Creator answered, "I AM THAT I AM" (Exodus 3:14).
However, there is the possibility that an ancient practice of abbreviation that revolves around the contraction of names will provide more clues regarding the pronunciation of the Name. Rather than considering YAH to be drawn from the first two letters of Elohim's name (YHVH) we must consider that YAH is actually a contracted form of YHVH that is formed by a combination of the first and the last letters of YHVH along with the vowel "a." The possibility that YAH is a contraction rather than the first syllable of YHVH's name is supported by the fact that many Hebrew names use the syllable YAH as a suffix rather than as a prefix as seen in the following chart:
By Peter and Linda Miller-Russo
In Psalms 68:4 the short form of the Creator's name appears to be translated into English as JAH. As we've just discussed however, there is no "J" sound in the Hebrew language--so the translation is incorrect. The original Hebrew letters translated to JAH are Yod and Hey (YH). Dropping the "J" sound and replacing with the "Y" sound from YH the short name of the Creator is YAH. In fact, transliterated Hebrew to English Bibles translate the Hebrew as YAH not JAH.
Another important clue is found in the Hebrew word that most of us know as "hallelujah" which is translated as "Praise ye the LORD" in most English Bibles:
Praise ye the LORD [Hallelujah]. O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
- Psalms 106:1
The Hebrew text translated as "Praise ye the LORD" is shown broken down into Hebrew and English in the following table:
If the YAH in Psalms 68:4 and in halleluYAH is a contraction of YHVH's name rather than the first syllable of His name then just what is the first syllable?
There are four possibilities: YeH, YiH, YoH, and YuH. Of these the most likely candidate is YeH. In the same way as YaH is used as a suffix in Hebrew naming, YeH is often used as a prefix. This type of naming is called "Theophoric" naming. Some Biblical examples of this type of naming are shown in the following chart:
Both of these charts seem to favor the use of YEH rather than YAH as the first syllable of Elohim's name-this means that rather than the name YAHavah we would pronounce Elohim's name as YEHavah.
But what about YEHOVAH? YEHAVAH is so close to the generally accepted name JEHOVAH (Yehovah in Hebrew) that we know we must delve deeper and examine another clue regarding the Name.
If we examine "hovah" again we see that it was initially rejected because it appears to mean "ruin and disaster" whereas "havah" means "to be." However, upon further examination we find that hovah's root word in Hebrew is "havah" or "hayah" as in "to be, or to happen." Therefore "YeHOVAH" does have a meaning that makes sense for the Creator's name. Yet perhaps the strongest evidence in favor of "hovah" (as in YE-ho-vah) is that in Hebrew "YE" is the future tense of "to be" as in "shall", "HO" is the present tense of "to be" as in "is", and "AH" is the past tense of "to be" as in "was." Thus YE-HO-AH can mean "who was, who is, and who shall be." This is in perfect alignment with YHVH's own words, "I am that I am." When we insert the VAV (V sound) we have the pronunciation of:
Can we be absolutely sure that Elohim's name is pronounced as YEHOVAH? The answer is unfortunately no. One thing is certain though--the Name does have a pronunciation. We can also be certain that the common people of ancient Israel knew the pronunciation of Elohim's name for the Word clearly shows this. In the book of Ruth we see that Boaz (King David's great-grandfather) greeted field workers with the name of YEHOVAH:
And, behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said unto the reapers, YEHOVAH be with you. And they answered him, YEHOVAH bless thee.
- Ruth 2:4
The fact that the pronunciation of the Name has apparently been lost over the centuries is a sad testimonial to the failings of the priestly class of Judaism- whether accidental or by intention. The nation that was to be-and someday will be-a nation of priests to the world failed to follow YEHOVAH's desire for His name to be known and used:
Thou shalt fear YEHOVAH thy Elohim; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.
- Deuteronomy 10:20
How can we all swear by His name if we don't know how to pronounce it? Perhaps there is some Jewish sect that has preserved the Name's pronunciation and will uncover it and share it with the world someday. Maybe this will happen on the day that the third Temple in Jerusalem is dedicated. Until then, we should speak His name to the best of our abilities as we reach out to our Creator, our Father, YEHOVAH.
In a previous article we have explained how the name of the Father was translated as "the LORD" from the Hebrew letters Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey or YHVH: