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Context

In some parts of the Old Testament, instead of using the Tetragrammaton, the author uses the Tetragrammaton combined with "God" (e.g. ”אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֔ה“ (2 Samuel 7:19 HMT-W4)). The Versions treat the two words uniquely:

Versions

  • LXX: Evidently, the pattern in the LXX is to follow the "when in doubt, throw it out" rule. They translate the two words as "Lord" consistently and sidestep any attempt to translate both words. (e.g. “κύριέ μου” (2 Samuel 7:19 LXXS-T))

  • Peshitta: The Syriac consistently translates the words as "Lord God." (”ܡܪܝܐ ܐܠܗܐ݂“ (2 Samuel 7:20 PESHOT-T))

  • Latin: The Vetus Latina and the Vulgate translate as "Lord God" as well (“Domine Deus” (2 Samuel 7:19 V-LATINA))

English Versions

In our modern English translations, we find two translation choices:

  • "Lord God"
  • "Sovereign LORD"

Question

What is the meaning of having the Tetragrammaton combined with "Lord" (אֲדֹנָ֥י)?

3 Answers 3

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אֲדֹנָי (Adonai) is "lord." Traditionally it replaces the tetragrammaton יְהוִ֔ה (yhwh) so that God's actual name is not pronounced. (In most translations when one reads the phrase "the LORD" in English it is a translation of yhwh). In this case, however, this would result in "Lord the LORD," or "adonai adonai" so it is not a matter of "when in doubt throw it out" but dropping one of the "adonais" to avoid repetition.

Most English translators opt for "Lord God." This too is problematic however, because traditionally "God" is the translation of "elohim" (אֱלֹהִים). A few translators use "Lord YHWH" which would be my personal preference.

1
  • I understand the difference between Lord and God. But is there any extra meaning by adding Lord with the tetragrammaton (אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֔ה)? I get that, when the Masoretes pronounced the word, they spoke "Adonai Elohenu (the Lord, our God)". But adding those two words together, as opposed to just having the tetragrammaton alone—does that mean more?
    – Epimanes
    Dec 8, 2023 at 12:26
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This is a significant matter in the Old Testament as demonstrated by king David when he wrote, "The LORD said unto my Lord..." (Psalm 110:1) and Jesus quoted that to make people in the temple ponder David's Lord being spoken to by the LORD. This flags up a distinction in Lords.

When English translations of the Hebrew Tetragram render it as a capitalized LORD, this speaks of the only true God, the Creator, the one God who is to be worshipped. The Tetragram appears twice in 2 Samuel 7:19. Although I have the Hebrew text in print, right in front of me, I cannot read a word of it (so, please pardon the effrontery of my effort at an answer). Nor can I pop it into this answer via a smart-phone. But I do see the Tetragram twice in that one verse. The English translation is from the Masoretic text. So, I went to a literal English translation, which I understand to have used the Masoretic text, to see what it says:

"And yet this [is] little in Thine eyes, Lord Jehovah, and Thou dost speak also concerning the house of Thy servant afar off; and this is the law of the Man, Lord Jehovah." Young's Literal Translation, 1898 edition.

Another translation that renders the Tetragram as 'Jehovah' on all 6,973 times it appears in the Hebrew Scriptures likewise has 'Lord Jehovah' twice in that verse (N.W.T. 1984 edition).

This means that there is a third (modern) translation choice - Lord Jehovah - in addition to the two given in the question.

My answer is that 'Lord Jehovah' clearly shows the significance of which 'Lord' is meant, for there is more than one 'Lord' detailed in the Hebrew Scriptures. When the Tetragram applies to God the Creator, there can be no ambiguity, just as there is no ambiguity in the Christian Greek Scriptures here:

"For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him." 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 A.V. [Bold emphasis mine.]

Which brings us back to Psalm 110:1 and Jesus' use of it. Truly, "The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed", as the saying goes.

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I answered a similar question on Chistianity.SE, What is the difference between LORD and GOD?:

The all upper-case "LORD" and "GOD" are used where the original Hebrew used the sacred name of god, YHWH (יהוה).

Traditionally, that four letter name ([Tetragrammaton][1]) is not supposed to be pronounced except by the high priests on the Day of Atonement.

To avoid accidentally saying it while reading the Hebrew scriptures, incorrect vowel marks are added to the word, specifically the vowels from "Adonai", meaning "lord". Anyone reading it would know to say "Lord" at that point.

This article, "[Why Does the Old Testament Sometimes Capitalize Lord or God?][2]", includes a summary of the general rules that apply:

  1. When you see LORD, the specific name YHWH is used and it always refers to Him.

  2. When you see lord, the word adonai is used in such a way as to refer to a human master or lord.

  3. When you see Lord, the word adonai is used to refer to the true God.

  4. When you see God, the Hebrew words elohim, el, or eloah are used to refer to the one true God.

  5. When you see god or gods, the Hebrew words elohim, el, or eloah are used to refer to idols, spiritual beings, the objects of other nations’ worship, etc.

  6. When you see Lord GOD, the author has used both adonai and YHWH together.

So, to answer the original question, there is no real difference between "LORD" and "GOD":

  • "LORD" means that "YHWH" is supposed to be said as "lord".
  • "Lord GOD" means that "YHWH" is supposed to be said as "god" (otherwise the first rule would suggest saying "lord lord").

1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetragrammaton
2]: https://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/articles/why-does-the-old-testament-sometimes-capitalize-lord-or-god

1
  • I understand the difference between Lord and God. But is there any extra meaning by adding Lord with the tetragrammaton (אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֔ה)? I get that, when the Masoretes pronounced the word, they spoke "Adonai Elohenu (the Lord, our God)". But adding those two words together, as opposed to just having the tetragrammaton alone—does that mean more? I'm gathering from your answer here, the answer would be "No."
    – Epimanes
    Dec 8, 2023 at 12:29

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