The Hebrew word yhwh (Yahweh) is the name of God used in the Old Testament, and is often represented as “LORD” in English translations. The etymology of this word is disputed. For example, some scholars think that it might derive from a non-Israelite source, such as the place name yhw found in some ancient Egyptian texts. Others think that it may derive from some archaic word that we no longer know. Given this dispute amongst scholars, we should be cautious about being dogmatic.

The most probable explanation is that the word derives from the verb hawa, which is an alternative to the commonly used verb haya (“to be”). If this is the case then it is likely that the name Yahweh derives from the verb “to be”. This is consistent with God’s revelation to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15:

God said to Moses, “I will be what I will be” (‘ehyeh ser ‘ehyeh). And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I will be (‘ehyeh) has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD (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, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. [ESV adapted]

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