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YHVH, Adonai, Jehovah, LORD
by Wayne Blank
The YHVH was, after about 300 BC, held in such high regard by Jews, in accordance with a "take no chances" interpretation of The Third Commandment (see the Fact Finder question below) to not use The Name of God in vain, that it was not spoken at all (an attitude that is quite correct if not taken to extremes that God never intended in His Command - many righteous people of Bible History did speak the Name of YHVH, to other people, as well as to YHVH Himself, without offense). The only exception was the high priest (see Levites and Aaron) on The Day Of Atonement when he entered into the Most Holy Place of the Temple (see Temples). Also, whenever YHVH occurred in the Scriptures, they pronounced it, as is still done today, "Adonai" (i.e. "Lord"), thus replacing the YHVH with Adonai.
This practice was carried over into The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament which was done by Greek-speaking Hebrew scholars) where the YHVH was translated as the Greek word Kurios i.e. Lord. This was further carried into modern times where English-language Bibles now commonly translate the YHVH as all-capitals LORD. One of the major exceptions was the American Standard Version (ASV) of 1901 that uses "Jehovah" when translating the YHVH.
Abraham and "Jehovah"
Although Jesus Christ plainly, and authoritatively, stated, centuries after Abraham, that no man has seen God (The Father i.e. John 1:18), a number of people of the Old Testament (including Jacob, Moses, Hagar and seventy of the elders of Israel) did see, and speak with, and even eat with, YHVH, or Jehovah. Examples involving Abraham, from the American Standard Version:
It was "Jehovah" who made the Covenant with Abraham:
"And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, Jehovah appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou perfect. And I will make My covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the father of a multitude of nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for the father of a multitude of nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish My covenant between Me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." (Genesis 17:1-8 ASV)
It was "Jehovah" who ate with Abraham:
"And Jehovah appeared unto him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men [i.e. Jehovah and two angels - see verse below] stood over against him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favor in Thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from Thy servant: let now a little water be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: and I will fetch a morsel of bread, and strengthen Ye Your heart; after that Ye shall pass on: forasmuch as Ye are come to Your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto the servant; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat." (Genesis 18:1-8 ASV)
It was "Jehovah" that Abraham bargained with to save any righteous people found in Sodom, and it was "Jehovah" that destroyed Sodom:
"And the men [i.e. the two angels] turned from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before Jehovah. And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt Thou consume the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there are fifty righteous within the city: wilt Thou consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? ... And the two angels came to Sodom at even ... The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot came unto Zoar. Then Jehovah rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Jehovah out of heaven; and he overthrew those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground." (Genesis 18:22-24, 19:1,23-25 ASV)
Fact Finder: What are the two very different ways that The Lord's Name are taken "in vain"?