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Alexandr Loginov ©, 2017

Holy and awesome is his name

(Psalm 111:9)


One of the most common religious taboos is prohibition on utterance of the name Yahweh, the Biblical God of Israel. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord [Yahweh – יהוה], your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name”. (Ex. 20:7 see also Deut. 5:11) The ban was grounded on the sensible requirement to avoid the sacred name in perjury or false covenant. The adverb “falsely” [lash-sháv – לַשָּׁוְא] can be interpreted as “vain”, “deceitful” and “idle”. The Bible texts confirm this very exegesis of the commandment. “Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God”. (Lev. 19:12; see also Lev. 6:2-5; Is. 48:1; Jer. 5:2, 7:9; Hos. 10:4; Zech. 5:4, 8:17; Mal. 3:5). With the same restriction the name Yahweh was freely used in the swear: “As surely as the Lord who rescues Israel lives, even if the guilt lies with my son Jonathan, he must die.” But not one of them said a word.”(1 Sam. 14:39; see also 1 Sam. 19:6; Ruth 3:13, etc.). Believers in their prayers invocated aloud to their God. “Give praise to the Lord [Yahweh – יהוה], proclaim his name” (Is.12:4); “Then I will purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him shoulder to shoulder” (Zeph. 3:9). The short form of the Tetragrammaton – Yahu,1 was widely used in deriving of theophoric names of the ancient Jewish people, for instance: Hosea – Hoseahu, Isaiah –Isaiahu, etc. In the Judaic convention (in Halakha and Hagada) the Tetragrammaton is named שם המיוחד– Shem Ha-Meyuhad, «the proper name, for the God of Israel only”. However, by the beginning of I Thd. A.D. in the ritual Judaism practice there had appeared some restrictions to calling on the name the Tetragrammaton – priests were only allowed to use it in worship service in the Temple. Some centuries later it was banned completely, and instead of Yahweh they used Adonai or Ha-shem. The pronunciation itself of the four-letter item as the Tetragrammaton as “Yahweh” was offered by the German scientist G. Ewald, and it gradually became dominant in the modern Bible studies.


Beside the short form there exists the full form of the name Yahweh, with the particular sacral significance. “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord [Yahweh], in your presence”.  (Ex. 33:19), - here the deity is called by the proper name Yahweh (יהוה), but one more, particular name is mentioned. It could be learned by only the chosen few at the moment of mystic admition, vision of “gloria”. In religious literature this name was designated with the term Shem ha-Mephorash (שֵם הַמְפוֹרָש). The literal meaning of Shem ha-Mephorash is “the name which is clearly articulated...”, as it is defined in Brockhaus and Efron Jewish Encyclopedia or “name in detail”. This term is used by cabalists and means the secret name of the God. It has 72 words, which were declared the names of angels. These names were “specified” with the most bizarre and tricky method. It was based on 72 letters of Biblical Neo-Hebraic in three verses Exodus2 – 14:19-21. They gave the roots to the “names” supposedly making Shem ha-Mephorash. In order to get the root of the first “name” they linked the first letter of the first word of the verse Ex. 14:19 with the last letter of the last word of Ex. 14:20 and added


1 It is highly likely that the name of the God of Israel was exactly articulated as Yahu. At any rate, it is the only variant of the Tetragrammaton which occurs repeatedly in Elephantine Papyri, the records of the military post of Judaist contractors, who served in the Egypt fortress (the end of V B.C.). The Judaist contractors, having lived long before the ban on use of the sacred name, called their Yahu. Also the self-designation of Yahud is Yehudim, which is based on the name of the deity Yehu (Yahu), but not Yahweh.


2 Obviously, the text was chosen by its title, Exodus in Judaismis called Shmot – “Names”.



the first letter of the first word of Ex. 14:21. The root of the second “name” they received the same way: to the second letter of the first word of Ex. 14:19 they added the next-to-last letter of the last word of the verse Ex. 14:20 and completed with the second letter of the first word of the Ex. 14:21. The same method was used to create the roots of the other “names” which had never existed. Then to the roots they added “godly” suffixes “-iach” and “-el” and received the names of 72 angels supposedly making together the full name of Yahweh.

The 72 invented words are very difficult to remember and, moreover, to repeat aloud correctly, and their creators probably considered the difficulty of the “super name” to be the attribute of gnosis. However, the exceptionally cumbersome artificial construction contradicts the sacred name itself, as Shem ha-Mephorash “means literally the name, clearly articulated…”, the other variants of interpretation are “explained”, “obvious”, “distinct”, “comprehensible”… And how can we consider comprehensible a name of 72 invented words?

Judaic mentors kept to the commandment “to insulate Torah” (Talmud, Avot 1:1), that means they tried to keep adherents of different faith from the information of their doctrinal statement, and the “Name in detail” with the description of the deity must have been hidden in secret with particular care. The statement that Shem ha-Mephorash is presented as a combination of 72 angel names, which is set out in some cabalistic texts, is such protection from curiosity of the profanes.


The fictitious angel name offered by the Middle Ages cabalists only confirms existence of the real “Name in detail” which was tried to hide behind an ornate myth. This name is known by every reader of the Bible, it is represented in the famous scene of Moses’s meeting with the God of Israel who showed his worth in the wonder of Burning Bush. “Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:13-14). In the Judaic original of the name-epithet “I am who I am” they use the verb hаjаh היה – “be”, “exist”, and it is pronounced as ehyeh asher ehyeh (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה). In Septuagint the self-name Yahweh is interpreted as Eγω είμι ό ων. Here we see the name-epithet characterizing the deity in accordance with the conceptualization of believers. All ancient gods had such names-epithets.  For instance, Zeus was called Thunderer (like Jupiter had a name Fulgurator – “Fulminating”), Apollo was “Kithara player” (Kithared), the name-epithet of Demeter was “Fruit Benefactress”, the Egyptian Ptah was “He who is behind the southern wall”, Anubis was “The First of western inhabitants”, etc. Yahweh also had the name-epithet presented Exodus 3:14.

Many exegetes and biblical scholars interpreted the phrase “I am who I am” as reflection of absolute and transcendent existence of the God. Though, such interpretation of the Yahweh name-epithet of the God does not seem valid. “The translators created so-called Septuagint, much to delight of all philosophizing theologians of the Middle Ages, described the famous self-description of the Biblical God ’ehyeh ’asher ’ehyeh in terms of Greek ontologism ego eimi ho on (I am who I am). But the Judaic verb “hayah” does not mean “be” but “be actually present”; it does not characterize some essence but existence. And here the question is about life but not esse; about reality but not essence… The entire idea of Egyptians, Babylonians and Yahud in their utter achievements is not philosophy as the object of the idea is not “genesis” but “life”, not “essence” but “existence”, and it does not use “categories” but indiscrete symbols of human self-awareness-in-the-world. It quintessentially excludes technical and methodical “correctness” of true philosophy” / Sergei Averintsev. Greek "Literature" and Middle Eastern “Philology”/. The mystical characterization of Yahweh, given by the author of Exodus, cannot be explained through the notions appeared some centuries later and used in a different cultural and religious environment.



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