8

While reading Psalm 68 this morning, I came across this verse which uses the name "JAH":

Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him. (KJV Psalm 68:4)

Elsewhere in the KJV the Psalms use the title 'God' but in chapter 68 verse 4 it uses the name 'JAH'.

The NIV, ESV, and NLT all say "His name is the LORD".

I am familiar with the explanations that YHWH, the name of God, is unpronouncable and that the Divine Name was not to be spoken aloud. I also understand why the Divine Name has been substituted with 'God' or 'the Lord' in most English translation.

I found a related question in Biblical Hermeneutics but I was unable to understand the answers given, mainly because I know nothing about Hebrew in particular and grammar in general. In Psalm 68:4 and Psalm 135:1 how are contractions formed in Hebrew and how does YHWH become Yah?

I would like to avoid convoluted explanations and keep this question simple if possible - what is the reasoning or explanation behind the KJV translating the name of God as Jah in Psalm 68:4? Is the manuscript being used here in the KJV different to the manuscripts being used in other translations? And why only in this one verse?

Edit: I went back to the question I referred to and found this:

Psalm 68:4 expresses the name of God as Yah. This seems obvious related to the name of God as he expounded it to Moses in Exodus 3:14. We also see the two directly connected in passages such as Psalm 135:1:

Praise Yah!

Praise the name of YHWH!

Praise him, you servants of YHWH,

Brown-Driver-Briggs says Yah is a contracted form of YHWH bearing all the full meaning of YHWH, but it does not delineate how this process occurs. The same source indicates that this is a poetic form used in song. A glance at the references to the 48 passages in which it occurs affirms this. What is the grammatical/linguistic process of Hebrew contractions and how specifically does YHWH contract to Yah?

It seems to me that within the Psalms, the contracted form of Yah has to do with it being a literary poetical form. Does that sound right?

1
  • 2
    Young has Sing ye to God -- praise His name, Raise up a highway for Him who is riding in deserts, In Jah `is' His name, and exult before Him. Robert Young is very particular about divine names and elsewhere has 'Jehovah'. So I suspect that more than just the idiosyncrasy of the individual KJV translator responsible for the psalm is at play here. I wait for some expert Hebrew advice . . . . . .but in the meantime +1 upvoted.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 23, 2023 at 12:08

3 Answers 3

6

This is rather uncomplicated. The name יָהּ (Yah) is simply a shortened form of יְהוָֹה (YHWH), the latter is called, "The Tetragrammaton" = "four letters" denoting the sacred name of God. The shortened form, יָהּ (Yah), occurs about 40 times in the OT: Ex 15:2, 17:16, Ps 68:4, 18, 77:11, 89:8, 94:7, 12, 102:18, 104:35, 105:45, 106:48, 111:1, 112:1, 113:1, 9, 115:17, 18, 116:19, 117:2, 118:5, 14, 17, 18, 19, 122:4, 130:3, 135:1, 3, 4, 21, 146:1, 10, 147:1, 20, 148:1, 14, 149:1, 9, 150:1, 6, Isa 12:2, 28:4, 38:11.

It is immediately clear that the use of this shortened form of the tetragrammaton is predominately used in the Psalms and prophetic-poetic passages, and thus appears to be a more poetic form of the sacred name.

In almost all cases, modern versions translate this name as "LORD", as does the KJV with the single, inexplicable exception of Ps 68:4. Just why the KJV translators made this exception is one of the many inconsistencies of the KJV. Even the NKJV perpetuates this exception.

2
  • Very nice answer. But note that, in many of the instances you cite in the Psalms, the "short form" is used in the compound expression, ַֽלְלוּ־יָֽהּ, which can be traditionally transliterated to "Hallelujah." But that is, in itself, traditionally translated as "Praise the LORD." Mar 22 at 11:42
  • @AdrianMole - good comment. Agreed
    – Dottard
    Mar 22 at 20:38
3

I expect opinions on this question to vary, and perhaps there is no firm answer. From my 2+ years of Hebrew study, the following represents my own conclusions.

There are only a handful of verses with YAH for God in Hebrew.

Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH (בְּיָ֥הּ/by/in YAH), and rejoice before him. (Psalm 68:4, KJV)

Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD (יָ֭הּ/YAH), unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD (יְהוָֽה/YAHWEH). (Psalm 122:4, KJV)

Praise the LORD (יָהּ/YAH); for the LORD (יְהוָ֑ה/YAHWEH) is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant. (Psalm 135:3, KJV)

Psalm 68:4 is the only one of these that does not also use "Yahweh" in its full spelling. The other verses help to demonstrate the intent of the shortened usage, and it is probably as much for variety as anything.

Hebrew, like many languages, does have some contractions. For example, the full word for "that/which/who" in Hebrew is "אֲשֶׁ֥ר/asher". However, there are contracted forms for this common word, such as "שַׁ/she" which might be prefixed to another word (more than one contracted form exists).

In this case with "YAH", the spelling is rather special. If one looks closely, one can see a dagesh (a dot near the center of the letter) in the heh.

Yet, as even Wikipedia notes, "The following letters, the gutturals, almost never have a dagesh: aleph א‎, he ה‎, chet ח‎, ayin ע‎, resh ר‎."

יָ֭הּ

But there it is!

The dagesh serves two possible purposes in Hebrew (just one at a time): 1) It can change the phoneme of certain consonants, such as V --> B, F --> P, etc. (soft consonants become stronger); or 2) It can double the consonant, e.g. B --> BB, which also affects pronunciation, and affects syllabication.

So the dagesh in the "H" of YAH implies it should be doubled. It might even be akin to the period used for an abbreviation of a word in English, e.g. "yr." for "year".

Seeing as the word is used in parallel with the full spelling of "Yahweh," it would be illogical to conclude this was an early form of avoiding the pronunciation or spelling of God's name.

My conclusion is that it is simply an abbreviated form, used for variety so as not to sound too repetitive, akin to using "God" and "Lord" interchangeably in English when speaking so as not to be overly repetitive.

6
  • Thank you so much for an explanation I can follow! I understand that the Hebrew language is difficult to master. As for 'the phoneme of certain consonants' I can relate this to shorthand where some sounds are soft and other sound are hard. For example, 'pee' is soft but 'bee' is heavy; 'tee' is soft but 'dee' is heavy; 'eff' is soft but 'vee' is heavy. These pairings of sounds use the same pencil stroke but are distinguished by either a light stroke or a heavy stroke. So here, in Spalm 68:4 we have an abbreviated form which introduces variety within the Psalm and avoids repetition. Nice!
    – Lesley
    Mar 23, 2023 at 17:41
  • 1
    @Lesley The distinction caused by the dagesh is not one of voicing (p ~ b, f ~ v), but of manner of articulation (f ~ p, v ~ b)
    – AAM111
    Mar 23, 2023 at 22:05
  • 1
    This is factually incorrect - as I have documented below, there are actually many places where "Yah" is used. Please check to your facts. There are many places that do NOT have YHWH in it full spelling.
    – Dottard
    Mar 24, 2023 at 7:14
  • 2
    @Biblasia - I was actually taking issue with your erroneous statement that, "Psalm 68:4 is the only one of these that does not also use "Yahweh" in its full spelling." THAT, is factually incorrect.
    – Dottard
    Mar 24, 2023 at 8:24
  • 1
    @Biblasia - look at the other 30+ texts that do not have YHWH in its full spelling.
    – Dottard
    Mar 24, 2023 at 8:29
0

Isaiah 42:8

I am Yahuah that is my name.

Replacing the name of The Most High, El Shaddai with the lord is neither translating nor transliterating. His name is to be prayed to, worshipped, sung to, called upon, etc, this is a scriptural fact. HalleluYah transliterates to praise Yah. His name has been made known by Him and we are to know it. I am not any kind of Hebrew expert but between the short form poetic Yah in Psalm 68:4 and HalleluYah, it is safe to say Yah is the shortened poetic form of His name. Second, is the yod hey wah dalet hey transliterated from Hebrew to the name of the tribe of Yahudah remove the dalet and you have the pronunciation of Y.

1
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Jan 17 at 5:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.