The first name in the Bible that is used to describe God is Elohim, the arm of God, the Creator and that is in Genesis 1:1. There are many other names/titles/roles, what have you, that we use to describe God or use to talk to Him. But Moses perhaps is the first person that got to actually hear the name of God or maybe just something close to a personal name for the name of God was unpronounceable to mankind. The passage below is from the CJB to show how complicated the sound of His name can be from Exodus 3:13-15. Try other versions and it will all still mean the same.
- Moshe said to God, “Look, when I appear before the people of Isra’el and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?”
- God said to Moshe, “Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh [I am/will be what I am/will be],” and added, “Here is what to say to the people of Isra’el: ‘Ehyeh [I Am or I Will Be] has sent me to you.’”
- God said further to Moshe, “Say this to the people of Isra’el: ‘Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh [Adonai], the God of your fathers, the God of Avraham, the God of Yitz’chak and the God of Ya‘akov, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered generation after generation".
The name that God gave Moses to tell His people who sent him to save them all in the closest English translation was I AM. This means in essence that God aways has been and always will be. From Him all was made. Then God goes on and adds more to His name and sounds it out so it seems for Moses; Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh. These are letters in the Hebrew alphabet and each has a story with them. Jewish people use the name Adonai when referring to the name of God, which is also translated as LORD. But here we see what is also called a tetragrammaton at work. Yud-Heh-Vav-Heh can be written also as YHVH or YHVH, hence Yahweh with the added vowel sounds. In Latin and English it has been translated as to what we know as Jehovah. Through Moses God would save His people from the hands of the Egyptians, a foreshadow of something greater of what was to come. Below is how it would look in Hebrew writing.
Each letter though has its own purpose. Hebrew writing is read from right to left. What you see here is the tertagrammaton Y-H-V-H. In Hebrew schools children are taught that each letter not only has a sound but also has a meaning and a symbol with it. Such as in English we would say A is for Apple although in English there really is no such thing. But A does not have any meaning to it. In Hebrew each letter has three purposes for the language. This is probably what Jesus was doing in the Temple when He was 12 and lost and found by His parents. He was teaching the elders and scribes what the letters really meant. This is also what makes Matthew 5:18 all the more important when Jesus said not the least stroke of the pen would disappear from the Law until all is fulfilled. Below you can see a chart that gives examples of what each letter's symbol and meanings are. If you look the tetragrammaton for Y-H-V-H actually is I-E-U-E on the chart because of the sound the letter makes and not the order of the letters. When put together the letters make a different sound and that is how we get the name we know as Yahweh. The letter Y or Yud's translation is symbolically an arm or open hand and means to work or worship. The H or Heh's translation is symbolically man with arms raised and has a meaning of breath or to reveal. And the V or Vav's symbolically is a tent peg and means to add, secure or hook. You can see where this is going. We worship a God whose hand was pierced with a tent peg and whose arms were raised and when this happens He will be revealed to the world who He is. There is undoubtedly more to this translation. But He who is revealed is Jesus.
When Jesus was crucified the Pharisees were upset with the sign that Pilate hung above His head. He wrote a sign in three languages (Latin, Greek, and Aramaic/Hebrew) that said Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. The Pharisees told Pilate to take down the sign because they did not want people to think they said what was written but that Jesus claimed the charge against Him. But a closer look and we see that the Pharisees were not angry about the sign itself but about what they saw in the sign. In Hebrew the sign read Yeshua HaNazarei V'Melech HaYehudim. Did you see it? Notice the first letter in each word that Pilate wrote. Y-H-V-H. Jesus was revealed as God when He was crucified and saved His people. Just as God's people were saved from the hand of the Egyptians, a symbol of oppression or sin, Jesus came and saved God's people from all sin.
A sign of God's ultimate story of grace and connection with His people.