What’s in a Divine Name?

“‘But,’ said Moses to God, ‘if I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what do I tell them?’

God replied to Moses: I am who I am. Then he added: This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.

God spoke further to Moses: This is what you will say to the Israelites: The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.

This is my name forever; this is my title for all generations.”

(Exodus 3:13-15)

This discourse is a little confusing, to say the least. When Moses asks what God’s name is, he isn’t given a straight answer, and that’s no accident. There is a great deal of meaning and also mystery behind God’s answer, and Cale dissected the significance of names in this segment of The Faith Explained.

“I think there is supposed to be something mysterious about this,” said Cale. “We can’t quite get a full handle on God. If we could, we would, in some way, have control over Him. This is what’s intriguing about the revealing of the name.”

While that may seem presumptuous, we only have to look back at Genesis for the truth to this claim. In Chapter 23 of Genesis, we witness Jacob wrestle the angel until the break of dawn. When the sun rose, the angel implored Jacob to let him go, for he had bested the angel. He asked for Jacob’s name in order to bestow a blessing on him, and he renamed him Israel, for he had grappled with divine and human beings.

“Jacob then asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ He answered, ‘Why do you ask for my name?’ With that, he blessed him.

Jacob named the place Peniel, ‘because I have seen God face to face,’ he said, ‘yet my life has been spared.’” (Genesis 23:30-31)

Names bear power. During exorcisms, exorcists will often ask the name of the demon. As in scripture, we see various names for demons, and Jesus uses their name as knowledge and power over them. In an interview with Aleteia, exorcist Father Cesar Truqui revealed why exorcists ask for demon’s names:

“The Ritual requires it, for a specific purpose. Naming something, or knowing its name, means having power over that thing. In fact, God gives Adam the power to name things. At the instant that the demon reveals his name, it shows that he has been weakened; if he doesn’t say it, he is still strong.”

The tetragrammaton is the set of four Hebrew letters that make up the name of God, typically translated into English as YHWH. Because the Hebrew people strictly observe this idea that names bear power, they do not pronounce His name. Instead, they will either use “Adonai”, which means “My Lord”, or “HaShem”, which means “The Name”. In Hebrew, if you combine the vowels of Adonai with YHWH, you arrive at another Hebrew name for God, Yahowah, pronounced “Jehovah”. That combination results in an appropriate way to refer to God, rather than the forbidden YHWH.

In scripture, we also see the name “Elohim” for God, “El” for short. The Hewish people often named themselves using “El” as a suffix. For example, Raphael (God heals), Daniel (Judge of God), Samuel (Name of God), Michael (Who is like God?), and, of course, Immanuel (God is with us).

Tune in to The Faith Explained weekdays at 12:30pm CT

John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.