Adonai, YHWH, HaShem?

Set Apart Ministries Position on the Use of the Hebrew Name of Our God: Adonai, YHWH, HaShem?

As we have studied the Hebrew roots of our faith, we have become more familiar with Judaism. There we see that the usual tradition is to refer to our Elohim with a substitute name such as Adonai or HaShem, meaning Lord or Master and The Name.

We have understood that this practice has come from the concern about using the Name correctly in accordance with the command:

"And you shall not profane My holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am the Lord who hallows you"

Leviticus 22: 34

And three further reinforcements to the command:

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Exodus 20:7

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold [him] guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Deuteronomy 5:11

For they speak against thee wickedly, [and] thine enemies take [thy name] in vain. Psalm 139: 20

Lest I be full, and deny [thee], and say, Who [is] the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God [in vain]. Proverbs 30:9

The Hebrew term is transliterated as: Chillul HaShem meaning desecration of the Name. It is a term used in Judaism that refers to any act or behavior that would cast shame or disrepute to a belief in Elohim, our God. It may also be used of similar shameful acts or behavior that would reflect badly on any part of Torah teachings, or even of Jewish law or community. If you do an internet search on the term, you will find some interesting commentaries. Some even question whether what would be considered as shameful among fellow Jewish believers would be viewed equally as badly if it were done among the goyim, or people of other nations. It does appear that there is some discussion as to whether or not desecration of the Name is the only or primary issue or whether it might also include anything that would be generally anti-semitic in nature.

We do not wish to be in danger of using His Name in vain! Nor do we wish to be discourteous or hostile to our brother, Judah.

In American Christianity, we had been accustomed to referring to Him as God or Lord and Father. We have no objection to using these Names, though we recognize that they are more like titles, as they do describe Him in various ways. However, there remains a concern if these are the ONLY ways we call on Him!

There is an additional concern. We understand that our Abba has provided His Name so that we MAY use it call on Him and to honor Him!

And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this [is] my name for ever, and this [is] my memorial unto all generations. Exodus 3:15

Thy name, O LORD, [endureth] for ever; [and] thy memorial, O LORD, throughout all generations. Psalm 135:13

The word translated as “LORD” is YHWH, or Yehovah, or any of the various transliterations; Strong’s # 3068, “the existing One” from the root word “haya” Strong’s #1961, meaning to be, to become, come to pass, exist.

The word translated as “God” is from the Hebrew word transliterated as Elohim, Strong’s # 430 meaning rulers, judges, god, goddess, the one true god.

The word translated as “memorial” is from the Hebrew word, zeker, Strong’s 2143, meaning a memorial, remembrance. This word is from zakar, Strong’s 2142, a primitive root. It means to remember, recall, call to mind; to cause to remember, to mention, to record, to make a memorial, to make remembrance.

We have understood that in Judaism, the custom is to avoid using the Name, YHWH, or Yahweh, or any of its various transliterations in order to avoid misusing it. Yet, we understand that our God gave us His Name as a memorial so that we would remember Him. It seems clear to us that the custom of avoidance of the use of His Name is rooted in a fear bond type relationship, the potential of doing wrong. It is our understanding that decisions based in this kind of fear bond are not necessarily wise or appropriate. (See further information on this kind of fear bond here.)

Andre Roosma, a Dutch colleague, has done an extensive study on the Name and had some similar conclusions, though in much greater detail. His work can be found in both Dutch and English in his article entitled: The Magnificent and Most Lovely Name of the God Who Was there, Who Is There and Who Will be There.

See the last appendix for comments on Chillul haShem, page 64.

In America today, the use of the generic terms “God” and “Lord” have all but replaced the Name of our God, YHWH, or Yahweh, to the point that most Christians do not even really know that His Name IS YHWH! The connection to the God of Israel is obscured. Along with that, the more general words, “god” and “lord” can be applied to anyone viewed as authoritative.

We see a contradiction and problem here.

The Jews custom has been to avoid using the Name, except in prayer, in order to avoid breaking a commandment not to misuse the Name.

Not using the Name has led to a confusion and distancing from the true character and identity of our Elohim Who is THE God of Israel.

So we are faced with this situation:

  1. Continue the tradition of not using the Name of YHWH in order to not offend the Jews, substituting Adonai or Lord or HaShem, which are generic terms.
  2. Continue the tradition of not using the Name of YHWH and continue the identity confusion which certainly does not honor His command to keep His Name as a memorial.

So, in effect, the choice is: honor what we view as a fear-bond based decision by doing as the Jews do so as not to offend them OR honor the love-based command to keep and call on His Name as a memorial to all generations.

NOTE: we certainly agree that the Fear of Elohim is the beginning of wisdom. The kind of fear bonds we are talking about here are not seen as the same thing. This is more fully explained in the link provided above.

When it comes down to a choice between offending a people group, the Jews, or offending our Elohim, we would prefer to honor our Elohim and NOT offend Him!

Therefore, for our community, we have elected to call on the Name of YHWH by His Memorial Name as He commanded us to do rather than continue the identity confusion or the honoring of a fear bond-based tradition common in Judaism.

Once again, we do not wish to offend our brother Judah, and we do not refuse to use the titles Adonai or HaShem at times but we are more concerned lest we offend our Elohim and concerned that His true identity be made clear.

How Shall We Call Him? Messiah's Name