Ah, the Tetragrammaton! “The what?” You might ask. It’s necessary to go back in time to the ancient Hebrew language of the Old Testament to understand this one. Here’s a little Hebrew breakdown of this verse for you:
What we call the Tetragrammaton consists of four Hebrew letters that are represented in the diagram above that are sometimes translated, “Yahweh.” YHWH are the letters in English. This term first appears in Exodus 3:14 where God explains to Moses who he is. Sometimes this is translated as, “I am who I am.”
Now that I have confused you further, I hope you’ll keep reading. In ancient times people did not speak God’s name. Yes, this reminds us of not speaking Voldemort’s name in the Harry Potter series. Both of these were not spoken out of fear but out of very different kinds of fear. Voldemort is feared because he is evil. God is feared for much greater reasons. God is perfect, good and holy. God knows all. Fear of God is more about respect, not terror. No one is even certain how the Tetragrammaton was pronounced.
This word communicates that God is self-sufficient and self-existent. God is essentially undefinable! There are no human words capable of capturing God’s essence perfectly. We have given God so many names to try and remedy the impossible. The Bible is full of names for God to try and describe God. Here are some:
El Shaddai – Lord God Almighty
Jehovah Rapha – The Lord who heals
El Olam – The Everlasting God
Emmanuel – God with us
And the list here can go on and on! What’s the point? God is not confined to our human minds and cannot be fully described through the confines of human language. Sometimes YHWH is translated in these ways, “He who is,” “He who brings being into being,” and “I Am who I Am.”
I’m certain I haven’t made God any less mysterious for you. I know God is God and I am not. There’s no other being just like God. Some realms of understanding might be there for us to just acknowledge we’ll never know it all. Thankfully we aren’t meant to Be God anyway.