We learn from these two amulets that people—at least some people—chose to refer to God by the more intimate term YHWH (יהוה).  These four letters are unpronounceable and untranslatable. This anomaly stems from the fact that biblical Hebrew is written with only consonants, and no vowels.  So, there are any number of combinations of sounds that you could make from YHWH. Nobody knows the correct one.

English translations have always rendered YHWH as “The Lord”, which is not a translation at all, of course, but just a way of getting around the problem.  The Hebrew word for “the Lord” is /adonai/(אדוני/)/—a special variation of the usual word for Mr. or Sir. “Jehovah” is what comes out when you take the  vowels of /adonai/ and put them on the consonants of YHWH.

We learn here that the intimate name YHWH was in popular use in the days of the Bible, because here it is on these amulets. We do not know how much or in what proportions this name was used in comparison with the other Biblical designation of God, /elohim/(אלוהים).

Author: Walter Zanger

Photos courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.