What's in a Name?
David Ray. That's my name. It means, "beloved; wise, protection" (or something like that).
What does your name mean?
It's an interesting thing, the meaning of names. Especially in the Bible, names take on great significance. Especially when it comes to the names of God.
If God were to show up in your life today with a name tag on His lapel, I wonder what name would be on that name tag?
In the Old Testament there are quite a few compound names for God that are included in the text. Each one reveals or accentuates some specific quality about God that is worth our notice.
The following names and descriptions of God are taken from a brief daily radio program that I produce weekly for WAAI 100.9 FM. It's called, "Minute of Mercy" and can also be found on SoundCloud. I have reedited the scripts for this format.
Recently a friend asked me a question about the names of God. It occurred to me that a little study on the compound names of God is surely in order. Here are the results of my study.
Jehovah: The proper place to start a study such as this is to mention the definition of what could be called the primary name for God; Jehovah… sometimes pronounced Yahweh. This name is sometimes called the tetragrammaton. In Hebrew it is spelled with four letters equal in English to YHWH. The root of this name is the Hebrew word for “being.” So, it can be translated “I am who I am” or “I will be what I will be” or even “I am the One who is.” Jehovah is the self-existent one, or the source of all being. He just is.
Jehovah-Jireh: There is a good Christian song that is popularly sung in many churches right now. The song is called, "Jireh." It comes from one of the compound names for God: Jehovah-Jireh. The name means, The LORD will Provide. God is our provider. God provided a wife for Adam, a substitute for Isaac, a whale for Jonah, a body for His Son, a place for His children, & a way of salvation for any & all who will call out to Him for forgiveness & life. We understand the nature & meaning of provision. For example: a husband & father is rightly aware of his obligation to provide for his family. Aren’t you thankful that our God is both willing & able to provide.
Jehovah-Rapha (or Yahweh-Rapha) means, “The Lord who heals.” That is, God is our Healer. He heals all our diseases. Psalm 103:3 says that He is the One “Who forgives all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases…” Those 2 things go together, of course. Sin is both wrong and it is destructive. God takes care of both problems. He forgives us, and He heals us. He fixes the damage that sin brings. Even if it is His will for me to die from some life-stealing disease, I will awake in His presence fully healed. And, in the my resurrected body I will enjoy full health forever, as will all of God’s dear children.
Jehovah-Nissi (or Yahweh-Nissi) means, “the Lord is our banner.” The name Jehovah-Nissi can only be found in the Bible in one place, in Exodus 17:15. But once is enough. Moses recognized that the name Jehovah-Nissi was a proper name for God after God gave him and Joshua victory over the mighty Amalekites. Of course, God wasn’t just the reason to fight and the cause of victory for Israel, all of God’s children in every era can only be winners as we honor the name of the Lord and rally to Him as our Banner. We stand and fight under His name and look to Him as our only source of power and deliverance from our enemies.
Jehovah-Saboath is the Lord of hosts. That is, He is the God of angel armies. He is the God who wars & wins. Victory is His. Conquest is from Him alone. Triumph is only found by those who are on His side. The phrase “Lord of hosts” is found 1,308 times in the Bible. That is noteworthy. Especially since other names for God are found far, far less. For example, Jehovah-Jireh is only found once. There is a popular Christian song that simply says, “This is how I fight my battles. It may look like I'm surrounded, but I'm surrounded by You.” If God be for us, who can be against us. If He is on our side, that’s all that matters.
Jehovah-Zidkenu is a name for God that means, the Lord our Righteousness. In Jeremiah 23:5-6 we read, “Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King will reign and prosper, and will execute judgment and justice in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely: and this is His name whereby He will be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” What a marvelous truth! I am not righteous. I’ve never been righteous. My righteousness never measures up and never impresses God. But the righteousness of Christ given to me? That is enough!
Jehovah-Shammah means, the Lord, the Ever-present. It is the last phrase in the mighty book of Ezekiel the prophet. It is the name that will be given to Jerusalem during the millennial kingdom. When Jesus is reigning in person in righteousness and holiness, His city will be known as the place where He is. But of course, we don’t have to wait until that day to enjoy this reality. Remember the question in the old hymn, “You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!” I have His presence ever with me & in me; as does every believer in this age. This should be our reputation as individuals, & especially the reputation of our church.
Jehovah-Shalom means, the Lord our peace. This is the name Judge Gideon gave to the altar he built after meeting the angel of God. Gideon had been frightened by the encounter, but clearly believed God’s word to Him. The word was that God did not have damage in mind for Gideon, but blessing. The message was a message of peace, even though Gideon was being singled out to lead God’s people into battle. It reminds me of the message of the angels at the time of the birth of the Christ-child: “Peace on earth; goodwill toward men.” That was true despite the fact that Jesus came to bring a sword, not peace. It takes both, in order.
Jehovah Elohim: When you encounter the phrase “the LORD God” in your Bible in the Old Testament, the Hebrew behind that phrase is Jehovah Elohim. Elohim is a plural masculine noun that is used hundreds and hundreds of times in the Old Testament in reference to the God who created all things. The name points to His divinity. It points to the fact that He is the ultimate ruler and judge. It is a name of authority, power, and strength. It is a name that reminds of us of the elevated position He holds as the superlative of all superlatives. It is a name which we are called on to respect, honor, and trust. The Lord, He is God! The Lord, He is God!
Jehovah El Elyon: In Genesis 14:22 Abraham “…said to the king of Sodom, I have lifted up my hand to the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven and earth…” The name Abraham used for God in this context was Jehovah El Elyon; that is, the Lord Most High. This name points to the fact that God is the actual and rightful owner of all things. There is no one higher than He. This is not just some kind of reference to His location, but to the transcendent position He holds as the possessor of heaven and earth. As such, there is none like Him. There is nothing and nobody that can be compared to Him. He is the Highest; the best; the most!
Adonia Jehovah: When you run into the phase Lord GOD in the Bible, and the word Lord is not in all capital letters, the Hebrew word behind the word Lord is Adonia. So, in that case the name for God is Adonia Jehovah. It is a proper name for God that shows great reverence. It is said that this word denotes the fact that God is our rightful master. He is the one in charge. He is the one who has the right to tell us what we should and should not do. He has the right to do with us whatever He chooses to do. He is the master. We are His servants. We have no rights outside of those that He gives to us. He is the one who calls all the shots.
Jehovah El Olam: In Genesis 21:33 we read where Abraham called God, the LORD, the everlasting God; that is Jehovah El Olam. One thing is obvious as we travel through this life: everything is transient. Nothing is permanent. Some things last longer than other things, but everything is passing away. But God stands in contradistinction to all things. He is Jehovah El Olam - the One who lasts and lasts and lasts and keeps on lasting forever. There has never been a time when He wasn’t. There will never be a time when He isn’t. He exists in perpetuity. He is the most ancient of all. And He will never cease. He is older than time itself.
Jehovah Kaddesh: As we continue our examination of the various compound names for God in the Old Testament, let's look at the name Jehovah Kaddesh. The name means, “The Lord, Our Sanctification.” In Exodus 31:13 this description is one which God gives for Himself. There it is recorded that He says, “I am the LORD who sanctifies you.” Perhaps you know that sanctification is the act of God whereby He set’s us apart from all others. The whole world sits rotting in its own filth and wickedness. When Jesus came into the world, He came into a world that was already condemned. But He came to sanctify us.
Jehovah Shaphat: In the book of the Judges, one of the great judges of Israel (a man named Jephthah) used the name Jehovah Shaphat in reference to the God of Israel. Jephthah was communicating with the king of Ammon at the time. The title he used is translated into English as, “The LORD the Judge.” It’s noteworthy that Jephthah the judge turned the attention toward God by rightly calling Him The Judge. In 1st Corinthians 4:7 the Apostle Paul asks, "What do you have that you did not receive?” It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is, “Nothing!” Everything we have, we have been given by God. In this case, even the role of judging others.
Jehovah Raah: While you might not realize it, you are likely very familiar with the title for God, Jehovah Raah. This compound name for God comes from Psalm 23:1 - the LORD is my Shepherd. He watches over me. He cares for me. He leads me. He provides for me. He loves me. Yesterday I heard a famous Christian say, “God loves me for who I am.” That is not exactly true. Actually, God loves you despite who you are. You are not lovable. Neither am I. None of us are. Yet as His chosen sheep, He loves us. He loves us because of who He is, not because of who we are. We are not the good sheep; He is the Good Shepherd.
Jehovah Asa: If you were reared in church, you are likely familiar with the chorus from Psalm 95:6, “Come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.” That is the LORD our God; He is our Maker. He made us. There is so much that extends forth from this great compound name of God; Jehovah Asa. Because He made us, we belong to Him. Because He made us, He can do as He pleases with us. Because He made us, He is the one we must go to for repair. Because He made us, He is greater than us. Because He made us, He voluntarily takes responsibility for us. Because He made us, we worship Him.
I'm not Hebrew scholar. I'm not even a good Hebrew student. I likely miss-pronounce every Hebrew word that I try to read. But I do have dictionaries and commentaries, and I was greatly blessed over the past month by my weekly explorations of some of the various names of God found in the Hebrew Bible; the portion of our Bible which we call the Old Testament. I hope you found this brief survey inspiring and instructive as well.
The LORD our God is so great that no list of names that we could compile could ever possibly tell the whole story of His greatness, but it is my prayer that at the least this list points us all in the right direction. I hope it has helped you to worship Jehovah.