I came across the following from an unofficial/unverified source:

Yahu An alternative spelling and pronunciation of Yahweh, found (spelled YHW) on a circa 800 B.C.E. ostracon from Kuntillet Ajrud and (spelled YHW and YHH) in the documents written by Aramaic-speaking fifth-century B.C.E. Jews living in Elephantine in Egypt. The form Yahu is also used in biblical theophoric names (names that include the name of a god) like Yeho-natan (Jonathan; Judges 18:30) and Yesha-yahu (Isaiah). Although most scholars take Yahu to be a short form of Yahweh, it might also be an earlier form of the divine name.3[2]

This strikes me as significant, because, His name is sometimes rendered Yah in the Hebrew text, said by some to be pronounced, yâhh/yaw.


Psalms 68: 4 Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name YAH, And rejoice before Him.

Isaiah 12: 2 Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ' For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.' "

Isaiah 26: 4 Trust in the LORD forever, For in YAH, the LORD, is everlasting strength.

Isaiah 38: 11 I said, " I shall not see YAH, The LORD in the land of the living; I shall observe man no more among the inhabitants of the world.

Both YHWH and YAH are said to be His name. Is it possible that neither YHWH nor Yah is a contraction nor expansion of the other, but that both the same only in a different language?

Can anyone confirm/verify that there are manuscripts that contain the divine name as Yahu YHH and elaborate on this for me? More specifically: Is this how His name is rendered in all cases in these manuscripts or only in some passages? How does Exodus 3:15 read in these manuscripts?
Exactly how is His name rendered in the script of these documents?


Exodus 3
14 And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' " 15 Moreover God said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.' 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, 'The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, "I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt;

[2]: See Lienhard Delekat, “Yáho-Yahwáe und die alttestamentlichen Gottesnamenkorrekturen,” in Tradition und Glaube, ed. Gert Jeremias et al. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1971), pp. 23-75.

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    There's not a double ה. Rather the ה has a mappik in it, thus הּ, as in יָהּ. However, it doesn't mean the ה should be pronounced as הה. Rather, it means that the ה should be vocalized, whereas name without it, the ה is simply unvocalized. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mappiq – user862 Dec 3 '14 at 21:30
  • Thank you for clarifying that. Just out of curiosity, if you know off the top of your head, are there other words that end with a vocalized ה like that? That is difficult to even do much less in the context of singing (where this mostly occurs). – user2027 Dec 3 '14 at 21:47
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    Another word (off top of my head) is גֹּבַהּ, meaning "height." – user862 Dec 3 '14 at 23:01
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    + See the related question: "Does Song of Songs 8:6 contain a reference to YHWH?": "...How is -yah best understood here?" – Dɑvïd Dec 3 '14 at 23:32
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    You might want to consider ancient Jewish Biblical commentators who found that when the Divine four-letter Name was used, God would be acting with his attribute of Mercy, and that when Elokim (for religious reasons I've changed the h to a k) is used, God is acting in a more judgmental capacity. From that analysis there are very interesting insights that can be reached. – Bruce James Dec 4 '14 at 14:59

These variations in the divine name are not so much about different languages, but different phases of Hebrew. See the YHWH article by Freedman, O'Connor & Ringgren in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, (Eerdmans, 1986), vol. 5, pp. 500-521.

The "contracted" forms are usually used in theophoric names:

  • at the beginning:
  • at the end:
    • -yahû as in אֲדֹנִיָּהוּ, Adonijah (ʾădōniyyāhû, 1 Kings 1:8)
    • -yāh as in חִזְקִיָּה, Hezekiah (ḥizqiyyāh, 2 Kings 18:13)

The short form yah also appears in certain hymnic settings (as noted by OP), with many scholars finding the oldest poem in which this occurs to be Psalm 68:4, 18 (vv. 5 and 15 in Hebrew - see also Rashi's comment on v. 5).

On the form יהּ and its pronunciation:1 הּ (with the internal "dot", which here is a mappiq) means that it should not be understood to represent a vowel, thus יהּ = yāh [note final "h", where it has consonantal force: it is not quiescent], but not .2

The TDOT article also points out (p. 504) that both yhh and yhw spellings are known from the Aramaic papyri of Elephantine (c. 5th C. BCE). The "Elephantine Papyri" are not biblical manuscripts, however. This invaluable corpus from a Jewish community in Egypt is comprised of personal letters and legal documents (for the most part, also one or two "literary" texts). For full details, see Bezalel Porten's fundamental treatment.

N.b., Exodus 3:14 does not use the divine name; that only comes in Exodus 3:15, and it appears there in its normal four-letter ("tetragram") form. Perhaps it would be of interest to note that on those occasions when YHWH is identified as the divine name (יְהוָה שְׁמוֹ, yhwh šəmô = "YHWH is his name!", Exod. 15:3; Jer. 33:2; Amos 5:8; 9:6) it is always the full form of the Tetragram.

From other extra-biblical evidence, the "blessing" inscriptions from Kuntillet 'Ajrud each use the full yhwh form of the divine name: "I bless you by YHWH of Samaria and his asherah" or the like.3

There has been much scholarly discussion, of course. By way of further reading, Tryggve Mettinger's In Search of God: The Meaning and Message of the Everlasting Names (Fortress, 1988, 2005) has much of interest on this topic; it should be available in college or seminary libraries. See also e.g., Josef Tropper, "Der Gottesname *Yahwa", Vetus Testamentum, 51/1 (2001): 81-106.

See also the related question: "Is יהוה ever transliterated in the Septuagint?", where the Qumran evidence shows the older alphabetic form of writing Y-H-W-H.


  1. For other names compounded with an element of the divine name, see also the entries that follow the יהּ entry in the listing of Brown-Driver-Briggs provided.
  2. For an explanation of the use of mappiq, see Gesenius-Kautzsch-Cowley, Hebrew Grammar, §14a, on Mappîq and Rāphè.
  3. For image and discussion, see Othmar Keel and Christoph Uehlinger, Gods, Goddesses, And Images of God (Fortress Press, 1998), esp. p. 214; see also David Noel Freedman, "Yahweh of Samaria and His Asherah", The Biblical Archaeologist 50/4 (1987): 241-249.
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  • The source of the author's information is Here is the source for the quote in the question: 3 See Lienhard Delekat, “Yáho-Yahwáe und die alttestamentlichen Gottesnamenkorrekturen,” in Tradition und Glaube, ed. Gert Jeremias et al. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1971), pp. 23-75. Is this a credible source? – user2027 Dec 4 '14 at 0:48
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    @Sarah - yes, Delekat's work is "credible". You can see some later uses of it on Google Scholar. | And have modified answer to clarify on Elephantine (plus one or two other tweaks). – Dɑvïd Dec 4 '14 at 9:16

Great references @David, but after the exile there appears to be a linguistic aspect to the variations. We can begin by separating the historical phases—pre-exilic, exilic, and post-exilic periods.

Many have puzzled over all the variations of the name, because if derived from it they should somehow “resemble” the full name itself (and only one does this—the poetic form Yāh with stress lengthening). They all do not: beginning yəhô-, -, and at end -yā́hû, and -yāh.

Firstly, in the pre-exilic period both the full name YHWH and abbreviations are found, but to understand both Hebrew orthography, Neo-Assyrian transcriptions, and the religious contexts of Yahweh all help. YHWH (not yāhû) appears clearly (but syncretistically) at Kuntilet Ajrud (9th-8th century B.C.E.). The instances of “YHW” are where the final /h/ seems missing and Gogle restores it (Sandra Gogle, A Grammar of Epigraphic Hebrew [Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1998], 414–415). Mesha stele (9th century B.C.E), Arad, and Lachish (8th to 6th century) give clear use of YHWH.

Inscriptions attest to mostly two abbreviated forms of the name Yahweh—in northern Israel only -yw- at beginning and end of names (Samaria ostraca); in Judah mostly -yhw- also at beginning and end (but for a short time also -yw- in eighth century). See Ran Zadok, The Pre-Hellenistic Israelite Anthroponymy and Prosopography (Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters, 1988), 184. Throughout the earlier to the later periods we always find the initial long yhw- consistently with /w/ visible, not defective (and hence not vocalic), and by the sixth century in Judah only the ubiquitous long -yhw- is found, indicating yahw. The short form then of yw-/-yw (also not defective) found mostly in northern Israel appears derived from it, but with dropping of /h/ (yaw). The /h/ made no difference in sound, only in an indication of the source—Yahweh. Also, Neo-Assyrian (Zadok, Pre-Hellenistic, 302) shows West Semitic consonantal /w/ and vocalic /ū/ both spelled exactly with vowel (and <ú>) (ḫa-za-qi-ia-a-u LÚ ia-ú-da-a-a—Hazaqyahw Yahudaya). Also, it couldn’t represent /h/. Thus, the pre-exilic period attests to only YHWH in both secular and religious uses, with no mystery about use in Judah or “ineffability.”

The same cannot be said in exile. When one peruses the book of Daniel an interesting phenomenon can be discerned—the name Yahweh is never found in the Aramaic portions (Dan 2:18–20), only the terms Elah and Elah of Heaven (like in Ezra and Aramaic-speaking Elephantine Jews). In the Hebrew section of Daniel, however, the name Yahweh is found (Dan 9), which is not a Hellenistic pesher practice. Yet, in Aramaic we never find a Yāhū.

Transcriptions of "Jehoiachin" and "Judah" from Weidner Texts Neo-Babylonian Transcriptions from Weidner Texts
It is at the beginning of the exile we first certainly find the spelling yāhū in the famous Neo-Babylonian cuneiform ration tablets that mention King Jehoiachin. The key is in the strange spelling ia-ku-ú-ki-nu for the king and the name Judah also strangely found as ia-ku-du, with /h/ represented by < k >. This is not the usual way to transcribe either. We saw in Neo-Assyrian above how Hazakyahw and Yahûdāh were transcribed (without /h/ represented). But now, in both these the < k > ensures our only vocalization of the /h/ in the Hebrew name is in a pronunciation /hu/, transforming our abbreviated name yhw (now /w/ = /ū/—as a mater lexionis). Nevertheless, in Neo-Babylonian two differences that help us confirm the correct form of the king’s name are that the Babylonian scribes now use the grapheme <ḫ> to indicate the true aspirated /h/ sound (which didn’t happen in Neo-Assyrian), and they use < ma > to indicate consonantal /w/ (again a new thing). These ensure the vocalizations in the table above, as in Yāhûd (< Yahûdāh) and šalamyahw above. But, by 583 B.C.E. we do find the regular spelling ia(?)-a-ḫu- (/h/ represented by /ḫ/) for the first time applied to personal names as well, continuing the practice of yahu- (like in ia-ku-ú-ki-nu). See Ran Zadok, The Earliest Diaspora: Israelites and Judeans in Pre-Hellenistic Mesopotamia (Tel Aviv, 2002), 28. This is the ubiquitous form then on. But, yāhū is still only found in personal names not yet independently.

One may ask, if Yahweh led to -yahw- (and reflected by ia-ʾ-ú-) where then did yāhū- in names originate? These cuneiform texts give the answer, where we see the strange spelling of < k > for /hu/ in ia-ku-ú-ki-nu and in ia-ku-du for Yāhûd, shortened form of Yahûdāh, seen in Ezra 5:1 (the /a/ typically being left off in Hellenistic period). It was inspired by the spelling of the geographic name spelled in cuneiform sometimes like the abbreviated name as in Text A, [KU]R ia-ú-du, and the king’s name spelled ia-ʾ-ú-kīnu(DU). In other words -yāhû- in names came from Yāhûd. The goal was to protect the form of Yahweh from being accidentally spoken in personal names in foreign tongues (as in a possible ia-a-ú-ia-ki-nu = yahwiakin).

This brings us to the post-Exilic period where the Elephantine Jews did use Yāhû as the name of the deity (but we never find YHWH), because this yāhû in names was assumed to be the Judean deity in Babylonia. But most Judeans, knowing the origin, opted for the other shortened abbreviation of Yahweh, not yahw, but stressed final Yāh (and only final) (a poetic abbreviation of Yahweh–Exo 15:2), which stressed would then sound exactly like yahw (/aw/ in auto not in cow). This is why on a personal name spelled in a cuneiform document as pi-il-ia-a-ma there was the same name spelled in Aramaic on the endorsement on the outside plyh, which shows ia-a-ma = yh. See Matthew Stolper, “A Note on Yahwistic Personal Names in the Murašû Texts,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 222 (1976): 27. But, ia-a-ma actually indicates yahw but only in Hebrew.

Since the Bible was primarily written in Hebrew the name YHWH is intact and we never find independent YHW (yāhû). But our difficulty lies in personal names, where two things happened: a pronunciation shift occurred but later at the end of the fourth century, and a “leveling” occurred of the consonantal distribution, with a similar intent as in the exilic period, protection of the “ineffable” name.

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