What Does “Yahweh” Really Mean?

What does Yahweh mean

Yahweh, Yahweh

Always pain before a child is born

Yahweh, Yahweh

Still, I’m waiting for the dawn


These words were sung by popular 90’s band U2. At the time, nobody knew what Yahweh even meant. The song seemed rather random, as many of U2’s works were at the time. And, while many of U2’s fans did not understand the song’s meaning, the writers did. They were referencing God, and only the Christians and Jews recognized it.

So, what does Yahweh really mean?

Almost every English translation of the Bible writes Yahweh as “Lord”. The actual Hebrew meaning of the word translates quite literally to “I am”, as most famously used in Exodus 3:14.

God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”

Exodus 3:14 ESV

The usage of the phrase is used only by God, for it is a description of His attributes. The early Jews understood this, as they treated the word with reverence and respect, believing it too sacred to be verbally uttered. This provides a reason for the pandemonium among Jesus’ disciples in John 8:58.

So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

John 8:57-58 ESV

Simply uttering this statement would have thrown the men present into an uproar, for it was quite literally a claim of Godhood. While we as Christians know that this statement was more than just the claim of a madman, the disciples at that time would have deserted Jesus on this claim alone, thinking him mad.

Now, when used by Christ, the term “I am” was more than just a name. It was a description. As I wrote in my previous blog post “What the Holiness of God Taught Us About Speech“, descriptive names have power. Even the word “God” has powerful connotations, and that is just one of his hundreds of names.

Many new Christians or unbelievers get tripped up on the sheer number of God’s names, complaining that they cannot worship someone without a single name. Sadly, they fail to realize that many of these names are descriptions. A few are listed below.

  • El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
  • El Elyon (The Most High God)
  • Adonai (Lord, Master)
  • Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)
  • Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
  • Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
  • Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
  • Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)

Yahweh, on the other hand, is different. Known as the Tetragrammaton, the name encompasses all of God’s attributes, including the following ten. Try to look for the link between the attributes, each pointing to the next.

1: Everything begins through God, but He never began. He has always existed, and while this is a real head-scratcher for some, it is simple: God has always been. Nothing created Him, and nothing can destroy Him. He exists out of time and is not controlled by it. He is.

2: God will never end. He is completely and fully eternal. Nothing can kill or destroy Him; He exists and always will.

3: God is reality. Everything in existence has come through Him and is thus encompassed by Him. Without God, there is nothing, and because there was nothing before creation, He exists outside of creation.

4: God is completely independent. He relies on nothing, but everything relies on Him.

5: Everything relies on God. Without God, there is nothing. All of creation came into being through Him, and if He chose to take it away, He could. He holds the very molecules together, and if it were not for His power, the planets’ very orbits would disintegrate. He is greater than the planets, and as the creator of the very sun that we revolve around, He could destroy them in an instant.

6: God is so much greater than the universe, it is indescribable. Even our amazement at the sun and the stars is paltry compared to our future amazement by Christ. Nothing is as stunning as Him.

7: God is unchanging. This is a crucial part of His character, and it helps us trust that He will always forgive our sins. Because He did so before, he will continue to do so again. He was the same yesterday, is the same today, and will be the same tomorrow. He does not change.

8: God is the standard of everything good. He is love, beauty, grace, peace, truth, holiness, and righteousness. There is no need to measure these when Christ is the ultimate standard. When compared to Him, everything outside of Him falls short.

9: God is restrained by nothing. Existing within His un-changingness, He is not bound by law because everything He does is perfect, sinless, and right. He cannot sin, and therefore He cannot act wrongly.

10: Nothing is as important as God. He is the most singular, valuable, and real being in existence, and nothing else matters except Him. “He is more worthy of interest and attention and admiration and enjoyment than all other realities, including the entire universe” (Piper).

“Nothing is as important as God. He is the most singular, valuable, and real being in existence, and nothing else matters except Him.”

Upon understanding the true meaning of the term “Yahweh”, many might follow the footsteps of the Jews in deciding to never utter the word out loud. This, however, takes the full focus away from the actual name itself.

Today, Christ’s name is treated as an everyday word. God has become a swear word, as I wrote in the aforementioned blog post on holiness, found by clicking here. The common usage of God’s name has indeed become concerning, but this shouldn’t prevent Christians from using it correctly. Furthermore, Christians should be able to use all of God’s names correctly, speaking them without fear. While there is a time and place for respect, this should not prevent Christians from using God’s name within the correct boundaries.

Yahweh is quite possibly the greatest name for God. After all, it encompasses everything He is. Growing and learning in our knowledge of the word will bring us closer to Christ, and as we better understand His attributes, we will better understand His sacrifice. Praise to Yahweh!

Alright, that’s all for today. Thanks so much for reading! If you enjoyed this post, make sure to click that Follow button below (or to the right). Then, when I release new posts like this, you’ll get notified. Thanks again, and I hope you have a fantastic day!

Piper, John. “Ten Things “Yahweh” Means”. DesiringGod, 5 August 2019, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/10-things-yahweh-means

All scriptural quotations taken from the English Standard Version.

Disclaimer: The ten points presented above were originally preached by John Piper. All quotations and paraphrase taken from his article “Ten Things Yahweh Really Means”.

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21 thoughts on “What Does “Yahweh” Really Mean?

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  10. Thanks for the lesson. Another way to derive meaning from ‘YHWH’ is to use the (1) Hebrew letter meanings.. In Hebrew, ‘Y’ means ‘work; ‘H’ means ‘reveal’; and ‘W’ means ‘connect (to God). You could therefore interpret YHWH to mean, “Through work, a connection to God is revealed.”

    Liked by 1 person

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