The Secret Name of God

I am still amazed by something a friend emailed to me yesterday, a quote from a devotional called Behold and Be Held, the Memorial Name of God, by Aaron Rabin. I can't find this devotional on the web, or I would link to it. I won't quote the whole thing here, lest I infringe on Mr. Rabin's copyright. So I'll just get to the bottom line.

In the devotional, Mr. Rabin refers to the tetragrammaton, YHVH. This is the most holy name of God, given to Moses at the burning bush, the one that most English translations render as “I AM”. The Hebrew letters sound like "Yud Hey Vav Hey". YHVH is also the "forgotten" name of God, which Jews say has a meaning and a pronunciation that was lost because their ancestors have refused to speak it aloud since about a generation before the Roman destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. (To learn more about this, visit this site, and scroll down to "The Name".) Today YHVH is most often rendered as "Yahweh" when written or spoken by Christians and others. It is still never pronounced aloud by Orthodox Jews. “Jehovah” is an older, less accurate rendition. YHVH is also the name most often printed as the LORD (all caps) in English Bibles. (Sometimes "Adonai" is translated that way as well.)

Anyway, in his devotional Mr. Rabin refers to a conversation he had with an Orthodox rabbi, which drove him to question his Christian faith. Here is a quote:

"As I spoke to the Orthodox rabbi and used the Scriptures to support my faith, I felt like a child in a highchair trying to explain the theory of relativity to Albert Einstein. He called me an apostate Jew, accusing me not of finding Messiah but of embracing a pagan religion. He wielded the Scriptures like a sharp sword, slicing my faith - and my heart - into smaller and smaller pieces.

"My testimony, which had always been to me like a beautiful stained glass window that I could gaze at to see the power of God's saving grace, now seemed like a pile of broken glass. My faith was in crisis. I knelt and pleaded with God to restore the joy of His salvation in me."

This is very like the crisis I felt myself after spending years studying the Torah with several rabbis in my home town. (You can read about it here.) Like me, Mr. Rabin turned to the Lord and to the Bible. In the midst of his search for truth, he says the Holy Spirit led him to the story of the burning bush, and the secret name of God, YHVH.

Mr. Rabin investigated the ideographic meaning of the Hebrew letters Yud Hey Vav Hey. An ideogram is a symbol that represents an idea, like those little male and female shaped signs you see on the outside of public restroom doors. This is similar--but not identical--to the Chinese written system, or ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Hebrew letters have had ideographic meanings since ancient times. (Learn more here). I knew this, but I never thought to check the tetragrammaton against those meanings as Mr. Rabin did. When I verified his assertion here, here and here, I was amazed. There are several ideographic meanings for each of the letters. Hey, for example can mean both "window", and "look" or "behold". Vav can mean "hook", "peg", or "nail". But in each case the ideas represented by the letters are closely related. With all of this in mind, using the ideographic meanings of Yud Hey Vav Hey most commonly accepted by Jewish scholars throughout the centuries, I found they absolutely match Rabin's translation.

Symbolically speaking, the most holy name of God, YHVH, can indeed be translated as:

"Behold, the hand. Behold, the nail."

Posted byAthol Dickson at 7:07 AM  


Angela said... March 27, 2008 at 9:01 AM  

I share your awe and wonder, Athol. How rich a treasure is our God and His word! Layers of meaning we haven't even begun to plumb! And through it all, He reveals himself and his plan.

And this is why I write fiction. :-) Trying to paint word pictures that point to the same eternal truths . . . in my own small way.

Thanks so much for sharing this!


gb said... March 27, 2008 at 10:08 AM  

Simply Beautiful.


Brian said... March 27, 2008 at 11:42 AM  

Stop and Marvel.
God is so full of surprises that simultaneously take our breath away and give us life.
Thanks for sharing this.

Kay said... March 27, 2008 at 5:54 PM  

I don't even have words.
Thank you for sharing such a beautiful thought.

Cindy Swanson said... March 28, 2008 at 10:02 AM  

Wow...gave me chills.

Robbie Iobst said... March 28, 2008 at 3:53 PM  

It's perfect, is what it is. Thanks Athol and thanks Mr. Rabin.

John said... April 1, 2008 at 6:39 AM  

Can I simply say, "Wow!"?

Kay said... May 22, 2008 at 6:45 AM  

You may never top this post, but I don't think you should give it up. I'm still looking for more.

Rob said... June 10, 2008 at 3:27 PM  

Mr. Dickson, thank you so much for your comment on my post and for writing your book. It truly opened my eyes in a fresh way. Keep it up!

Seamus Berkeley said... August 18, 2008 at 10:49 AM  

Thanks for writing this explanation of YHVH.

A number of years ago a good friend from Israel gave me one of her clay necklace pieces inscribed with these letters. I have worn it ever since as a reminder of where to keep my mind focused. While I knew the general meaning of the letters, I also knew there was more! Your writing adds a greater depth, appreciation and richness to the reminder.

Anonymous said... March 17, 2010 at 6:51 PM  

Simply awesome! That's our YHVH .....

coming all the way from a muslim country.

Thank you for your sharing. Lovely!


ashita said... December 28, 2010 at 10:08 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
ashita said... December 28, 2010 at 10:09 PM  

I thought your analysis would have been a bit more critical (though I did appreciate the links). I think the translation of YHWH, where each letter reading out Behold the Hand, Behold the Nail is a slight reach. According to this link that translation would utilize symbolic and literal translations of each word, which somehow doesn't sit well with me. But, I also noticed that the yud character means closed hand. So, how can you behold the nail if the hand is closed? I Think there is a deeper meaning of YHWH. I appreciate the links.

Anonymous said... August 2, 2011 at 9:05 PM  

To believers, this is an awesome revelation, that leads to eternal life. To unbelievers, even if someone rises from the dead, they will not believe.

Anonymous said... November 12, 2011 at 10:46 AM  

What does the Yud stand for? You seem to be leaving it out of your translation.

This is all wishful thinking on your part. You are seeing what you want to see.

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