I saw a Bible from the 1950's that used Yahweh throughout. Why the change?
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Concerning the name “Yahweh,” (a.k.a. YHVH) and the title “LORD,” I would like to add some fascinating insights to what has already been stated, using my own personal background knowledge of Hebrew. Let me start with Gen. 6:2-3 from the Complete Jewish Bible by Messianic Jewish author David H. Stern:
“God spoke to Moshe; he said to him, "I am ADONAI. I appeared to Avraham, Yitz'chak and Ya'akov as El Shaddai, although I did not make myself known to them by my name, Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh [ADONAI]."”
Now let me transliterate this verse from the original Hebrew for you here (since the Hebrew fonts will show up in this posting):
"Vay'daber Elohim el-Moshe vay'omer, "Eylayv Ani YHVH. Va'era el- Avraham el-Yitz'chak v'el-Ya'akov b'El Shaddai u'sh'mi YHVH lo nodah'ati lahem.""
Now if you take God’s statement at face value alone and compare it to the words spoken to Abraham in Gen. 15:7, there seems to be a contradiction (even though there really isn't). Indeed, as we examine the original Hebrew texts, we shall notice something peculiar.
"Va'omer eylahv "Ani ADONAI (YHVH) asher hotzeyteecha mey-Ur-Kasdim lateht l'kha eht-ha'aretz hazot l'rish-ta.” (Transliteration, mine)
Stern’s translation again:
[ADONAI said to him, "I am ADONAI, who brought you out from Ur-Kasdim to give you this land as a possession."
As you can see from my transliteration of the Hebrew text, God addresses Abraham here using the name "YHVH." How then can this statement, that God did not reveal his name "YHVH,” then be true? In fact to complicate the mater, in his conversation with God, during the "negotiations" about destroying Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:20-32), we find Abraham specifically addressing God as "YHVH" four times!
In Hebrew thought the name is the embodiment of the character of an individual, based upon who they are, or what they have done, or as we are learning in the case with God, what they will do. In Ex. 3:14, God reveals his nature to Moses in a way that has never been done before in the Torah (Law), up till this point. God tells Moshe that his “name” shall be referred to as,
“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I Am/will be what I Am/will be].”
God continues in verse 15 to say that the God of their fathers Avraham, Isaac, and Jacob is to be remembered forever as “Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh.” This appears to be very strange until we understand that God is about to deliver his people in a way that he has never before performed. Not only is he going to do this, but he will forever be remembered for this deliverance. This is why the phrase “I Am” is not really the best rendering of the Hebrew phrase “Ehyeh.” Rather, the phrase carries with it the idea that God is about to perform a mighty work, never before witnessed by his people (i.e. “I Will Be”).
In conclusion, we see now how this explains why God can make a seemingly odd statement like the one he made in Gen. 15:7; Ex. 6:2-3: God had not yet been revealed to his people Isra'el, including Father Abraham, as "the God who delivered you from the bondage of Egypt."
Why was this title important? God was revealing an aspect of his character that would later play a very important role in the identity of the Isra'el as a Nation. This title would also serve as a reminder to the surrounding nations that "with a great out-stretched arm, ADONAI almighty delivered his beloved people!" To be sure, the reference of our LORD as the "God who delivered [them] from the bondage of Egypt" would become a "household" name of sorts. Fast-forward in the book of Exodus to the "Ten Commandments" (Ex. 20:1, 2) and see if you can find this phrase used to identify God. Thumb through the rest of your TaNaKH (Old Testament) and you will find that this phrase use numerous times.