Name: shem, masculine noun (Strong’s 8034).
Sounds like: shem (rhymes with them)
This is My Name
Exodus 15:2-3 (Song of Moses)
“YHWH is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise Him; my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
YHWH is a warrior; YHWH is His name [YHWH sh’moh].”
Name is a common word found over 860 times in the Hebrew Bible, but it’s more than just a popular word. Yes, it was commonly used to denote what somebody was called, such as his name is Jesse, but names in the Bible were often pregnant with meaning. For example, God told Hosea to name his third child Lo-ammi, meaning “not my people” (Hosea 1:8-9), which was a devastating name to bear. In contrast, the prophet Obadiah (Oved’Yah) meant “Servant of Yah(weh)” which was a fitting moniker for a prophet.
But things got a little stickier when it came to the name of God. Most Jewish people, and some Messianic Jews, will not say or write Yahweh. Instead they substitute the tetragrammaton (YHWH) with the word HaShem, meaning, literally, TheName. Although I respect their decision, I do not personally follow this practise.
The custom of verbally removing YHWH and saying HaShem or Adonai instead has somehow shifted across cultural barriers and has influenced centuries of Biblical translators to remove the word Yahweh/YHWH and replace it with The LORD.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will recognize that I have reversed this custom by removing the phrase The LORD and replacing it with YHWH. I do this for two main reasons.
First, I find that the text becomes more personal, and touching, and profound when I hear God’s name instead of His generic title The LORD which, to me, feels a bit clinical.. Psalm 8 begins and ends with the sentence, “YHWH, our Lord, how majestic is Your name [shim’ka] in all the earth” (Psalm 8:1,9). That sentence starts off announcing His name and then ends by praising His name. It is a powerful and passionate sentence, and I think it loses something in translation when we read “LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name…”
Moses sought to find out God’s name so that he could share it with the people, and God happily provided the answer. Ehyeh (EHYH) was what He called Himself (I Am who I Am) but the people, in proper grammatical fashion, would call Him YHWH (He is who He is or He will be who He will be):
Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name [mah sh’moh]?’ What shall I say to them?”
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “This is what you shall say to the sons of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God furthermore said to Moses, “This is what you shall say to the sons of Israel: ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever [sh’mi l-olam] , and this is my Memorial to generations of generations.”
Moses was to tell the people that their God’s name was YHWH. He was the great and forever Existence, the One who was, and is, and would be forevermore. He was YHWH and His name was to be called upon throughout the generations.
For various reasons the Jewish people, out of overwhelming respect and reverence for their God, decided that His name should be unpronounceable, never to be uttered. Even the word God was adjusted to G-d, in order to reflect their reverence. In the Tanakh (Hebrew Old Testament) the Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey (often referred to as the Tetragrammaton) remained, but upon reading the text out loud Adonai was substituted in the place of YHWH. Essentially God’s name was removed and replaced with a title.
On the flip side, God’s great enemy was given the title HaSatan which literally means TheAdversary, but for some reason in English we have removed his title and given him the name “Satan”. We’ve personalized the Enemy and formalized our Creator and Saviour. I find this a grave disservice which puts a barrier on the relationship between God and His people. By giving God a title and the Enemy a name, we may find it easier to connect with our enemy and harder to draw close to God.
This is merely my personal feeling about the subject. I understand the desire to give the greatest amount of respect to our glorious Creator. He deserves our most humble adoration, but I find that the greatest way to show respect to someone is to use their name, not their title. It’s more personal, and impactful, and meaningful, and can still be said with reverence and awe, which only strengthens the bond of familiarity and love.
YHWH Himself said that He calls us by our name:
Isaiah 43:1 (see also Exodus 33:12-19)
But now, this is what YHWH says, He who is your Creator, Jacob, and He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name [v-shim’ka]; you are Mine!”
YHWH knows the name of every human He created on earth, because He loves them. Similarly, He knows the name of every being in His heavenly kingdom:
Raise your eyes on high and see who has created these (heavenly) Hosts, the One who brings out their multitude by number, He calls them all by name [b-shem]; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.
God understood that the people wanted to know His name. He announced His name to Moses, but the people also sought the name of YHWH’s Anointed One… the one who would Save them.
When Mary was visited by Gabriel she was told she was expecting a Child and that the Child was sent by God to Save the people. For that reason, He was to be given the name Yeshua, meaning Salvation or Yah Saves, because He would be the Saviour. Yeshua would live up to His name!
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
A name is a very personal thing. It is a unique part of our identity and it carries meaning when someone calls out our name. We come across many people in our day to day lives and many of them don’t know our names at all. If they need our attention, they may cry out, “hey, you!”, but it is all the more meaningful when someone calls out your personal name.
God knows our name. That’s an incredible thought. We live on a planet with a multi-billion people, and yet God knows each and everyone by name. We know His name and He knows ours. That’s the foundation of a beautiful relationship.
The Name: Ha-Shem
Although millions of Jews around the world use HaShem to identify their G-d, the phrase HaShem only shows up four times in the Bible. In fact, the main impetus to stop saying the Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey out loud comes from a passage in Leviticus. As the story goes, a man with an Egyptian father and an Israelite mother blasphemed the Name [HaShem] and cursed (Leviticus 24:11a). Not sure what to do about the situation, the people brought the man to Moses:
Then YHWH spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring the one who has cursed outside the camp, and have all who heard him lay their hands on his head; then have all the congregation stone him. You shall also speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If anyone curses his God, then he will bear the responsibility for his sin. Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of YHWH [shem YHWH] must be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The stranger as well as the native, when he blasphemes (the) Name [shem], shall be put to death.”
This was a serious reaction to someone who cursed God’s name. It was equivalent to being a traitor and it led to death. When Yeshua (Jesus) ministered to the people, He was repeatedly accused of blasphemy and it did, ultimately, lead to His death (see Matthew 26:59-66).
Regardless, it was this Levitical passage that cemented the Jewish decision to refuse to say God’s name in fear of inadvertently becoming irreverent or blasphemous.
There are three other times HaShem was used in the Bible. Twice ha-shem was used to denote the reputation of a group. In Genesis 6, the nephilim were described as, mighty men who were of old, men of renown [the name: ha-shem] (Genesis 6:4b).
Literally the nephilim were men of the name, meaning individuals of great reputation. In a similar fashion, the prophet Ezekiel used ha-shem to describe idol worshippers:
You have become guilty by the blood which you have shed, and you have become defiled by your idols which you have made. So you have brought your days closer and have come to your years; therefore I have made you a disgrace to the nations, and an object of mocking to all the lands. Those who are near and those who are far from you will make fun of you, you of ill repute [literally, you of the unclean name: t’mey’at ha-shem], full of turmoil.
These idol worshippers were followers of “the name unclean” or in our vernacular, “the unclean name”. This unclean name was in opposition to YHWH; in other words Ezekiel was insinuating that the “the adversary” (the unclean name) was behind idol worship. These idol worshippers followed the t’mey’at ha-shem (the unclean name) not YHWH, the Name above all names.
The writer of Deuteronomy used HaShem to denote the glorious and awesome Creator God:
Deuteronomy 28:58-59, 64-66
“If you are not careful to follow all the words of this Law that are written in this book, to fear this glorious and awesome Name, YHWH your God [et ha-Shem, YHWH eloheka], then YHWH will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses…
…Furthermore, YHWH will scatter you among all the peoples, from one end of the earth to the other; and there you will serve other gods, made of wood and stone, which you and your fathers have not known. Among those nations you will find no peace, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there YHWH will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. So your lives will be hanging in doubt before you; and you will be terrified night and day, and have no assurance of your life.
This was a warning: follow all the words of YHWH and have abundant respect for the glorious and awesome name of YHWH your God. If you do not, life will be doubtful, without assurance, and filled with despair. There were bleak repercussions to be experienced if you did not listen to the Name YHWH and follow His Word.
Call on His Name
YHWH created humans to reflect His glory and He wanted them to call on His name for help and guidance, so that they could reflect God’s glory. Early in the story of human history we hear the words, Then people began to call upon the name of YHWH [b-shem YHWH] (Genesis 4:26b).
This was the introduction of a group of people calling on God’s name for guidance and help. From this starting point, calling on the Name of YHWH was a repeated theme:
1 Chronicles 16:8-11 (see also Psalm 105:1-4)
Give thanks to YHWH, call upon His name [bi-sh’moh]; make His deeds known among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; speak of all His wonders.
Boast in His Holy Name [b-shem qad’shoh], let the heart of those who seek YHWH be joyful.
Seek YHWH and His strength; seek His face continually.
The people were to call on the name of YHWH, they were also to praise His name:
YHWH is great in Zion, and He is exalted above all the peoples.
May they praise Your great and awesome name [shim’ka gadol w-nowra]. Holy is He!
Psalm 20:5a, 7-9
[David:] We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God [u-v-shem Elohenu] we will set up our banners…
…Some praise their chariots and some their horses, but we will praise the name of YHWH [b-shem YHWH], our God. They have bowed down and fallen, but we have risen and stood upright.
Save us, YHWH; may the King answer us on the day we call.
Individuals could also call upon YHWH in prayer; they could have a personal moment with their Creator:
I love YHWH, because He hears my voice and my pleas. Because He has inclined His ear to me, therefore I will call upon Him as long as I live.
The snares of death encompassed me and the terrors of Sheol came upon me; I found distress and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of YHWH [u-v-shem YHWH]: “Please, YHWH, save my life!”
David had the gift of prayer. He repeatedly talked to God:
[David:] In You, YHWH, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; in Your righteousness rescue me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be a rock of strength for me, a stronghold to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress; for the sake of Your name [shim’ka] You will lead me and guide me. You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, for You are my strength.
Into Your hand I entrust my spirit; You have redeemed me, YHWH, God of truth.
[David:] I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing Your praises before the gods.
I will bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name [et sh’meka] for Your mercy and Your truth; for You have made Your word great according to all Your name [shim’ka].
On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.
[David:] I will exalt You, my God, the King, and I will bless Your name [shim’ka] forever and ever.
Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name [shim’ka] forever and ever.
I will Make Your Name Great
The people learned quickly to call out to the name of YHWH for help. By calling upon His name they could become bold Image bearers of God, reflecting His glory to the world around them. This was what YHWH wanted for His people. He wanted their name to be great because they were to be reflections of Him. YHWH said to Abram:
[YHWH to Abram:] And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name [sh’meka] great; and you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
YHWH’s people would have a great name when they lived out His plans for them. At their best, the people listened to YHWH, followed His words and praised His holy Name.
A House for My Name
The relationship between YHWH and David was strong, and David wanted to show his love and appreciation by building a Temple dedicated to the name of YHWH, but God had different plans. David wouldn’t build a house for YHWH, instead YHWH would build a house for David:
2 Samuel 7:11b-14a
“YHWH declares to you that He Himself will establish a house for you. And when your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He will build a house for My Name [li-sh’mi], and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he will be My son.”
This was why Yeshua (Jesus) called Himself the Temple (see John 2:18-22). He housed the name of YHWH within Him and He would be the eternal structure that we could always rely on.
The bricks and mortar Temple eventually did get built by Solomon, and YHWH offered the same promise to Solomon that He had given to David. Solomon’s throne would be established and upheld forever, but for the Temple to remain standing, Solomon and his people would have to follow YHWH’s commandments. If they did not, Solomon’s Temple, which bore the name of YHWH, would fall to ruins:
1 Kings 9:6-9 (see also 2 Chronicles 7:19-22)
[YHWH to Solomon:] “But if you or your sons indeed turn away from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have placed before you, but you go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut Israel off from the land which I have given them, and the house which I have consecrated for My name [li-sh’mi], I will expel from My sight. So Israel will become a saying and an object of derision among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by it will be appalled and hiss and say, ‘Why has YHWH done such a thing to this land and this house?’ And they will say, ‘Because they abandoned YHWH their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped and served them, for that reason YHWH has brought all this adversity on them.’”
God’s name could not stay with those who abandoned Him. His name resides with Him, so those who walked away from YHWH walked away from His name:
Malachi 1:6-7a, 11, 14
[YHWH:] “A son honours his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honour? And if I am a master, where is My respect?’ says YHWH of armies to you, the priests who despise My name [sh’mi]! But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name [sh’meka]?’
[YHWH:]“You are presenting defiled food upon My altar… For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name [sh’mi] shall be great among the nations, and in every place frankincense is going to be offered to My name [li-sh’mi], and a grain offering that is pure; for My name [sh’mi] shall be great among the nations,” says YHWH of armies…
…But cursed be the swindler who has a male in his flock and vows it, but sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord, for I am a great King,” says YHWH of armies, “and My name [u-sh’mi] is feared among the nations.”
The people abandoned God and abandoned His Name, but when Yeshua sent the Spirit of YHWH to live within the people, they (like Yeshua) bore the Name of God. They could not walk away from it. They could try to ignore it, but the Spirit held the Name of YHWH within them. This was why Yeshua commissioned the Spirit to fill up His people:
John 14:16-17, 26-27a
[Jesus:] “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, so that He may be with you forever; the Helper is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him; but you know Him because He remains with you and will be in you… the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name [Greek: en to onomati mou], He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you. Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.”
The Father would send the Spirit in Yeshua’s name, and then Yeshua would send His disciples out to baptise in the name of YHWH, Yeshua, and the Spirit:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name [Greek: eis to onoma] of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Through YHWH, Yeshua and the Spirit, we become the House for YHWH’s Name. That’s a very important task that we’ve all been assigned. We’re not just Image bearers of YHWH, we are His Name bearers too.
What is your name?
There are a few times in the Bible where we read that someone was re-named. Jacob was one of those people. He wrestled with a mysterious “man” and the man asked Jacob to reveal his name. Jacob replied and “the man” gave him a new name:
Then he said, “Your name [shim’ka] shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have contended with God and with men, and have prevailed.”
And Jacob asked him and said, “Please tell me your name [sh’meka].”
But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name [li-sh’mi]?” And he blessed him there.
So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been spared.”
Jacob’s name was changed from Heel-grabber to God-wrestler, and he recognized that this was no mere man in front of him. He saw God, face to face.
Jacob (now known as Israel) wanted to know the name of the God-Man with whom he wrestled. He wasn’t given an answer, and he wasn’t the only human to be denied the answer to this question. Samson’s parents met the Angel (messenger) of YHWH and they asked about His name:
And Manoah said to the Angel of YHWH, “What is your name [sh’meka], so that when your words are fulfilled, we may honour you?”
But the Angel of YHWH said to him, “Why do you ask my name [li-sh’mi], for it is wonderful?”
That was an enigmatic answer. Was His name Wonderful or was it too wonderful to say? It would take a few centuries for an answer to be provided to Manoah’s question.
The Name above all Names
YHWH’s greatest Messenger, the one who would bear His image to perfection, was YHWH’s Messiah, His Anointed One… the One that God would send to be the Saviour-Redeemer of the people. Isaiah announced that this special Anointed One would come as a Child with a royal list of names:
Isaiah 9:2, 6
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them…
…For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called [wai’yi’kra sh’moh] Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Long before the time of Isaiah, YHWH spoke of an Angel (a messenger) who would guard the people and lead them to the place of YHWH’s preparation:
Exodus 23:20-22 (see also Deuteronomy 18:18-19)
“Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be attentive to him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your rebellion, since My name is in him. But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.”
The people were to obey this Messenger sent by God, because YHWH said, “My name is in him”.
Yeshua’s name meant Salvation or Yah Saves, as mentioned earlier, but He was also to be called Emmanuel, meaning God with us (Matthew 1:23). Yeshua told the people that He came to the people bearing His Father’s name:
[Jesus:] “You examine the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is those very Scriptures that testify about Me; and yet you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people; but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. I have come in My Father’s name [Greeek: to onomati], and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name [Greek: en to onomati], you will receive him. How can you believe, when you accept glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?”
Yeshua made a strong point. We accept people who rely on their own name for power, but do we accept the One who came in the name of YHWH?
Yeshua was enveloped in the power of YHWH; He was the living, walking, breathing power of YHWH’s name. When He taught others to pray He started the prayer praising God’s name:
[Jesus:] “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name [Greek: to onoma sou].’”
We commonly say, in your Name we pray, because there is hallowed, reverent, power in the Name of YHWH:
Who is among you who fears YHWH? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light?
Let him trust in the name of YHWH [b-shem] and rely on his God.
We may suffer and walk in darkness, but if we respect YHWH, listen to Him, obey Him, and put our trust in the Name of our Saviour then, and only then, we will find the light.
Yeshua came to bring the light of the Kingdom to all people, and to free them from the shackles of death. He was, and is, the light-bringer and the life-bringer, the Name above all names:
And being found in appearance as a man, He [Jesus] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross. For this reason also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name [Greek: to onoma to hyper pan onoma], so that at the name [Greek: to onomati] of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Yeshua was the Name above all names. Long before Yeshua graced the earth, Moses desperately wanted to experience the glory of YHWH:
Then Moses said [to YHWH], “Please, show me Your glory!”
And He [YHWH] said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of YHWH [b-shem YHWH] before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion to whom I will show compassion. But,” He added, “You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live.”
This was a strange passage. YHWH said He would proclaim the name of YHWH. Was he self-promoting or was there something else going on here? Clearly there was a separation between God and Moses, a barrier, but YHWH would introduce someone who would tear down the barrier. This Name-bearer, proclaimed by YHWH, would bring salvation to anyone who wanted it:
Joel 2:32a (see also Romans 10:13)
“And it will come about that everyone who calls on the name of YHWH [b-shem YHWH] will be saved.”
By Yeshua’s sacrifice we can walk into the heavenly Kingdom at the end of our days, and look into the face of YHWH our Creator. He broke the barrier and opened up the Kingdom gates. But we have to walk our walk, here on earth. In the name of YHWH, we must follow Him onto the path that leads to freedom. The gates are open, but we still have to get to them.
Though all the peoples walk, each in the name of his god [b-shem elohaw], as for us, we will walk in the name of YHWH our God [b-shem YHWH Elohenu] forever and ever.
YHWH proclaimed His Name in His Son, His perfect reflection on earth, so that by His sacrifice we, as His Name-bearers, would be able to walk through the Kingdom gates and be in the Presence of YHWH, face to face. What a beautiful day that will be. Praise YHWH, praise His Name!
Next week: Bricks and Mortar
4 thoughts on “HaShem: Bearing the NAME”
I am overjoyed that you posted this. Thank you! Perhaps your good effort will encourage God-fearing people of all stripes to use the wonderful name of Yehovah as He instructed us! It is a tragedy that his name has been blotted out of most Bible translations 6827 times.
Thank you Ellen! I agree wholeheartedly! 🙂 Sarah
Wonderful! I can’t tell you how pleased I am to read this for my own confirmation! The Spirit has led me to Know His True Name and this is confirmation. When I learned YHWH’s name and Yahshua I immediately bought a new Bible (Holy Name version) which was only available online. I had a sense of urgency for people and began to tell everyone I know but no one seemed too impressed. So I began to wonder/pray if I was led astray. The 3rd commandment in my new Bible says “Thou shall not TAKE AWAY the Name of Yahweh thy Elohim to bring it to nought..” which is very different from most versions stating to not take His Name in vain. Praise and Glory be to YHWH! His Name “YAH” is shared in “YAHshua/Yeshua’s Name” and He is the J(Y)oshua from the OT who rescues His people and takes to the promised land. Many of the prophet names end in “Yah” and HalleluYAH! Translations may have purposely changed but YHWH never will! People need to be aware!! This is SO SO IMPORTANT! Awesome Blog!!
Thank you, Carrie! I share your feelings!