Why is LORD Capitalized in the Old Testament?

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. Psalm 28: 7

Throughout the Old Testament, the word LORD can be found and yes, it should be in all caps. But why?If you’re looking for the Reader’s Digest answer, it’s because this is God’s name. It’s what He calls Himself when speaking to mankind. However, the name of God is so holy, and so deeply respected, that in order to avoid accidentally using His name disrespectfully, the Jewish people actually quit saying it all together. When written, they used no vowels and we are left with “YHWH”. Since it was never said and never written out in entirety, the correct spelling and pronunciation are lost. Today, we translate it as LORD and we fill in the vowels to get Yahweh or Jehovah.

Now, for a fuller story.

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The ancient Hebrew alphabet is extremely phonetic. The way things were spelled often depended on the way the person speaking pronounced the word. Although we don’t vary our spelling, we still have different dialect and speech patterns. For example: if you heard someone from Alabama say the word “car”, it would sound very different from the way someone from Massachusetts says it, right? Imagine the variety of spelling if we spelled phonetically!

This is the problem that some Biblical scholars have in translating parts of the Bible; people sometimes spelled things differently depending on their dialect. For this reason, sometimes God is Yahweh and sometimes Jehovah.

With these dialect issues, the recording of the word was varied. Sometimes when the Hebrew language was written down, “J” and “Y” were interchanged and so were “V” and “W”. For this reason, the translation can be “YHWH” or “JHVH”.

By filling in vowels that we gather from other Hebrew words to “YHWH” or “JHVH” we develop pronounceable words – Yahweh or Jehovah.

Jehovah is almost always the translation we use when we combine it with other qualities of God. The words we use for the LORD is Provider or the LORD will Provide are Jehovah-Jireh. (Genesis 22:14) I have never seen anyone translate it Yahweh-Jireh.

Does this make Jehovah right and Yahweh wrong or vise-versa?pencil-918449_1280No. Many people will argue that one is right and the other is wrong but this is just fruitless and (in my opinion) stupid. It could be argued that both Jehovah and Yahweh are wrong but they are our best conclusion based on the information we have. I don’t think God is so concerned that we get it exactly right. (Don’t throw stones yet) A parent is thrilled when a child says any semblance of a name. My own parents were excited when my youngest sister called me ‘tefy’ even though it was only a shadow of my actual name, ‘Stephanie.’ They were just happy that she could associate a name to a person.

Whether you use Jehovah, Yahweh, or simply LORD, God is thrilled that you are talking to Him. He knows what you are trying to say so didn’t get caught up in the perfection of it or the arguments around translations. Some day, when we get to heaven, we’ll be able to get the perfect pronunciation but for now it’s okay that we get close enough.

My favorite part of these words is the meaning. The best meaning is “I AM” or “The Existing One.” It is reference to God’s eternal nature and His sovereignty over all of heaven and earth. When you look up the word ‘sovereign’ in the dictionary it adds even more. God is independent from us. He needs nothing and no one. He has permanent authority over everything.

He always was and still is and forever will be. God’s very name should remind us how small and finite we are compared to a God that is the Existing One. It is for this reason that we capitalize LORD. It is the most awesome word on this earth and it should catch our attention andΒ  lead us to recognize our own smallness.

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