This article we reprint here faithfully is where we obtained a large portion of the linguistic research material used in our Yâ-hwéh Yâhuwshúa`: why these are the correct names document and webpage. We contacted Dr. Rainey personally while he was alive and had two series of correspondence with him and obtained more information from him also besides this. We however do differ in opinion from him in one point, that Yâ-hwéh is not a hiphiyl but a hophal conjugation, resulting in the first vowel point under the Y being a qamats long a rather than a patach short a. The point and explanation about the short Yahu(w) form and the long Yahweh form is very important to understand especially as it is an issue specifically attacked by the many unlearned proponents of false alternative renditions of the tetragrammaton.








How Yahweh Was Pronounced


Ya done it again!  In a footnote to J. Glen Taylor’s article (May/June 1994. p. 53), you say:

“No one knows how YHWH was pronounced, but it is usually vocalized as Yahweh.”

This, despite the fact that you had published my letter, “How was the Tetragrammaton Pronounced?”  (July/August 1985. pp. 78-79), in which I gave the epigraphic and linguistic evidence in support of the pronunciation “Yahweh” (I’m still getting correspondence from all over the world in response to that letter).



First, I mentioned the evidence from Greek transcriptions in religious papyri found in Egypt.  The best of these is Iäouiēe (London Papyri. xlvi, 446-482).  Clement of Alexandria said “The mystic name which is called the tetragram­maton … is pronounced Iaoue, which means ‘Who is, and who shall be.’”

The internal evidence from the Hebrew language is equally strong and confirms the accuracy of the Greek transcriptions.  Yahweh is from a verbal root “hwy,” “to be.”  This root usually shows up in Hebrew as *hwy.  It is a verbal root developed from the third person pronoun, *huwa/*hiya.  The grammatical form of Yahweh is of the third person masculine singular prefix conjugation.  The ya- is the third person masculine singular prefix.

In Jewish tradition, it is forbidden to pronounce the Sacred Name and its true pronunciation is supposed to remain a secret.  The fact is that Jewish tradents (who put the vowel points in the Hebrew text) borrowed the vowels from another word, either adônai “my lord(s),” or elôhîm “God.”  They avoided the very short a vowel in this borrowing because it might have led the synagogue reader to make a mistake and pronounce the correct first syllable of the Sacred Name, namely -ya.  The vocalized form one finds in the Hebrew Bible is usually Y’hôwāh/Jehovah, from which we get in English the form Jehovah.  Y’hôwāh/Jehovah is nothing but an artificial ghost word; it was never used in antiquity.  The synagogue reader saw Y’hôwāh in his text and read it adônai.

The final syllable of Yahweh, -éh is normal for the imperfect indicative form (present-future or past continuous).  A form like yahweh developed from *yahwiyu.  Thisdevelopment of -iyu to h is thoroughly demonstrated for the verbal system in general.  The form yahweh seems to be from the causative stem (hif`îl), and apparently means “He causes to become/be.”

The theophoric component on so many personal names in Judah (i.e., -y­āhû, in such names as Hizqîyāhû [Hezekiah]) is the normal shortened form of a verb like yahwéhFor example, the verb “to do obeisance” in the imperfect is yiŝtahah, while the shortened form (for preterit or jussive) is yiŝtáhû.  In other words yiŝtáhû is to yiŝtahah as yáhû is to yahwéhThis is not hocus-pocus.  Any layman can readily comprehend the equation.

            You don’t like to put linguistic details in BAR.  They’re “too technical.”  But this does not prevent you from printing various items of linguistic misinformation without warning your readership.  Here I


*      An asterisk before a word indicates an undocumented reconstruction (hypothetical).


Illustration, left to right: Hizqîyāhû, miŝttahah, yáhû, yahwéh

(Not in original article)


refer to the description of the final component (not a suffix but a component of personal names found in seal impressions from Dan (March/April 1994, pp. 28, 30).  The theophoric component in Northern Israelite personal names, written –YW on epigraphic texts, was never pronounced -!  The final W did not come into use as a marker for a final ô vowel until the post-Exilic period.  In the eighth and seventh centuries when we have these personal names ending in –YW, the W was a consonant and the pronunciation was -yaw (or yau).  So anyone can see that the difference between northern -yaw and southern -yáhû is not so great, especially since the -h- in the southern form was fairly weak.

Israeli archaeologists avoid Hebrew linguistics like it was poison ivy.  Thus, on the basis of modern pronunciation, without asking any linguist, they have created ghost words like Immadiyo, zkryo or Gaddiyo (in the Samaria Ostraca) in your Dan article cited above.  The –W in those names should be pronounced like the –W in words like raglāw “his (two) feet” (written rglyw), cf. Genesis 24:32 et passim.  Israelis, of course, pronounce that form raglav because of the European background of many “revivers” of modern Hebrew.  Incidentally, that same European background is where we get the V in Jehovah instead of the original W.

Obviously, my letter in 1985 did not impress you.  But the evidence for Yahweh as the correct pronunciation for the Sacred Name is at least as strong as the view that Sennacherib destroyed Lachish Stratum Ill.  The same can be said for the pronun­ciation –yaw and not -yo.  At least you should ask a scholar whose opinion you do appreciate, such as Frank Cross or Joseph Naveh or André Lemaire.

Speaking of Lemaire, I heartily endorse his new reading of bytdwd, “House of David” on the Mesha stele (“‘House of David’ Restored in Moabite Inscription,” May/June 1994).  Furthermore, I have gut feeling that both the Mesha and the Dan inscriptions have to do with events in 853-851 B.C.E., namely the battle in which Ahab, king of Israel, died while his ally, Jehoshaphat, escaped unharmed, and the later invasion of Moab.  I think the king of Damascus (not a vassal of his—as pointed out recently by S. Ahituv in the Israel Exploration Journal) set up the stele in Dan to commemorate that victory.  Likewise, the closing lines of the Mesha stele probably have to do with the Invasion of Moab by Jehoshaphat and Ahab’s son Joram, as depicted in 2 Kings 3.  Many Bible scholars deny that Ahab died a violent death or that Jehoshaphat took part in the war recounted in 2 Kings 3.  After pouring [sic] over all the evidence and



all the arguments for over 20 years, I am convinced that those negative arguments are specious and that the Biblical testimony to both events is reliable, historically and chronologically.  One may refer to maps 126 through 130 in the new revision of The Macmillan Bible Atlas.


Anson F. Rainey

Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Cultures

and Semitic Linguistics

Tel Aviv University



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