Sacred Names – Important to Use?
Sacred names, in the thinking of many, are the only ones to use for God. Of course, there are many different ideas of what those correct names are. Unfortunately, that has even led to divisions within spiritual groups.
This page is a supplement to the definition page for “name.“ It provides additional evidence that the significance of many references to “name” in scripture (especially divine or sacred names) is the connection to the character of the individual represented by that name. This also helps to clarify that the name-character connection is of greater importance than the connection between a name and the right form of or pronunciation of that name as advocated by many sacred-name promoters.
Please note that, while I would never fault anyone for using what they believe to be the most-correct divine names, I simply want to make the point that name often represents character. Understanding that will help us to reflect His name in our own characters.
Names are Significant
A very significant event was reflected (prophesied actually) in the name Methuselah for which the margin of the KJV gives the meaning: “at his death the sending forth of waters” and Methuselah died just before the flood.
Many, many names in the Bible are significant because the names are related to their characters or to significant events occurring when they were named.
God even changed people’s names to reflect later changes in their characters (Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul). Obviously, God attaches more significance to names than just a label to identify. Many mentions of God’s name or titles for Him are references to His reputation, character or perhaps both, depending on the context.
On my other website, I discuss in detail the significance of the name Israel.
Profaning God’s Sacred Name
There are a number of verses which refer to the act of profaning the sacred name of God. In some minds, this may mean using the wrong name, mispronouncing the name or perhaps speaking against the name. However, I tend to think that, in many examples, it has the meaning of misrepresenting the character of the one who has that name. Let’s look at some examples of profaning God’s name and see what actually happened that profaned His name.
“And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name.” (Lev 20:3)
This verse makes a direct connection between the offering of children to Molech and profaning God’s name.
Leviticus 21 and 22 list a number of considerations for the practices of the priests of Israel. They were, as the highest representatives of their God, to reflect the character of a holy God in all aspects of their lives.
“They [the priests] shall be holy unto their God, and not profane the name of their God: for the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and the bread of their God, they do offer: therefore they shall be holy.” (Lev 21:6)
“Speak unto Aaron and to his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they profane not my holy name in those things which they hallow unto me: I am the LORD.” (Lev 22:2)
Those verses speak of the need for holiness of the priests, God’s representatives to the people. Other verses in those chapters detail ways in which the priests might be defiled. Activities they were to do or not do are listed but there was no mention of their use or misuse of the actual sacred names.
“For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off. 10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. 11 For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.” (Isa 48:9-11)
Here are some other versions of verse 11
“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isa 48:11, NIV)
“I will rescue you for my sake— yes, for my own sake! I will not let my reputation be tarnished, and I will not share my glory with idols!” (Isa 48:11, NLT)
God was refining His representatives so that His name would not be polluted by their otherwise-unrefined state. We could ask was God more concerned about Himself or was He protecting His reputation because He knew that only in being attracted to and connected to Him, the source of life, could people be blessed? Being a God of infinite love, He is always more concerned about others than about Himself
“Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying, 14 At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear. 15 And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name: 16 But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom ye had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.” (Jer 34:13-16)
God’s name was polluted by Israel’s treatment of their servants and handmaids.
“Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. 8 But they rebelled against me, and would not hearken unto me: they did not every man cast away the abominations of their eyes, neither did they forsake the idols of Egypt: then I said, I will pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. 9 But I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen, among whom they were, in whose sight I made myself known unto them, in bringing them forth out of the land of Egypt.” (Eze 20:7-9)
God’s name was being polluted by Israel continuing to worship the God’s of Egypt rather than showing that they considered the God of heaven who had brought they out of Egypt to be worthy of their trust. This is further shown by verse 39:
“As for you, O house of Israel, thus saith the Lord GOD; Go ye, serve ye every one his idols, and hereafter also, if ye will not hearken unto me: but pollute ye my holy name no more with your gifts, and with your idols.” (Eze 20:39)
God’s name was polluted by their worship of idols, not by using the wrong name for God.
Ezekiel 36 speaks of Israel defiling their land “by their own way and by their doings” (v17). As a result, they were scattered among the heathen (v19) among whom they profaned God’s name when they claimed to be His people (v20) not when they mispronounced His name. God would sanctify (or make holy; perhaps, restore the reputation of) His name when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes (v23). And He would do this by bringing them back to their land and cleansing them from their filthiness (v24-25). God’s name would no longer be profaned when the people were made holy.
“Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. … And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. 20 And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land. … And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” (Eze 36:17, 19-20, 23-25)
Ezekiel 43 gives another example of Israel defiling God’s name by their actions:
“And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel for ever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcases of their kings in their high places. 8 In their setting of their threshold by my thresholds, and their post by my posts, and the wall between me and them, they have even defiled my holy name by their abominations that they have committed: wherefore I have consumed them in mine anger.” (Eze 43:7-8)
The defiling was by “their whoredom” by “the carcases of their kings” and by unspecified other abominations. There is no mention of a problem with their use or misuse of sacred names.
Malachi 1 is yet another example of defiling or profaning sacred God’s name:
“A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? and if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? saith the LORD of hosts. … But ye have profaned it [God’s name], in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible.” (Mal 1:6-8, 12)
In that case, they were profaning or despising God’s name (really, God Himself) by bringing blemished animals as sacrifices. It was like they were saying God (Him, His character, His name) was not worthy of their best.
So there are a number of examples where the name of God was profaned by specific activities. I know of NO examples of the Bible saying anyone profaned God’s name by mispronouncing it. In fact, it could be reasoned that, if they were saying something negative about God while using some other name for Him, they would, in a sense, be protecting God’s holy name because the other people would associate their sins with the name being used and not the name of the true God.
What Did Jesus Say About His Father’s Name?
“I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” (John 5:43)
This may have been a reference to the Jews’ expectations of the promised Messiah. There had been and would continue to be others who would claim Messiahship and show aspects of character (for example, a spirit of defiance against Rome) that the people would receive. But most would not receive Christ because He did not meet their expectations of the Messiah not because of His name, which was a common name at that time. Colossians 4:11 records another individual with that name. Joshua of the book of Joshua is the same name (Acts 7:45, Heb 4:8)
“I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.” (John 17:6)
What does that mean? How would Jesus manifest His Father’s name?
“Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (John 12:27-32)
In the following verse, the Father’s name is glorified by what He is seen to do.
“Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” (Rev 15:4)
Names Can be More than Labels
“In our modern western culture a name is nothing more than an identifier, really no different than being assigned a number. The Hebrew word for a name is shem. But, in the ancient Hebrew culture shem is much more than just a name; it is the ‘breath’ of the individual. To the Hebrews the breath is more than just the exchange of air in the lungs, it is his ‘character,’ the internal qualities of an individual that make him unique. This idea of the word shem meaning character can be seen in 1 Kings 4:31: ‘and his fame was in all the nations round about.’ Here, the word fame is understood as his ‘character.'” (https://shamar.org/articles/taking_gods_name_in_vain.html)
“And he shall deliver their kings into thine hand, and thou shalt destroy their name from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them.” (Deut 7:24)
“When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;” (Deut 7:1)
In such cases, what was being destroyed was not the names themselves (those names are still mentioned in our Bibles today) but the people represented by the names.
Did They Know His Name or Not?
“And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH [Strong’s H3068] was I not known to them.” (Exo 6:3)
The apparent meaning cannot be the true meaning as other verses show that He was known to them:
“And he said unto him [Abraham], I am the LORD [Strong’s H3068] that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it.” (Gen 15:7)
“And [Isaac] he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD [Strong’s H3068], and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well.” (Gen 26:25)
“And, behold, the LORD [Strong’s H3068] stood above it, and said [to Jacob], I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;” (Gen 28:13)
Moses indicated that God was known by His name from very early in Earth’s history:
“And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.” (Gen 4:1)
“And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.” (Gen 4:26)
Therefore, “by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them” cannot be referring to simply a knowledge of the name’ it must be referring to something else, possibly His character or some aspect of it.
We are to Make Known God’s Name/Character
“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,” (Eph 3:10)
It is the wisdom of God not the name of God that was to be made known.
“(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” (2 Cor 10:4-5)
“The knowledge of God” is much more than the knowledge of His name. There are many people who I know of by name through the news etc but I have no personal knowledge of them or their characters and have never even met them.
“Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.” (Heb 3:10)
We all know of “Christians” who know the name but do not exhibit (or even try to) the character associated with that name. If such think they are Christians they are kidding themselves. Whatever name they use for God, they are not making either His ways or His name known. The problem is that people want to understand God according to their own ways of thinking and acting without realizing that, in many cases, He does things differently.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:8-9)
Salvation in His Name
“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.” (Psa 91:14)
“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Acts 2:21)
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
“To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43)
“These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” (1 John 5:13)
Notice, it says “believe on” not pronounce right. Of course, it is not believing that His name is whatever the correct form happens to be but believing or trusting in Him, His character and principles and that He loves and will save you. People are not saved because they have somehow learned the correct way to say a name.
Salvation by a correct knowledge of the name would exclude salvation for millions of people who were born before Christ or those since who did not have opportunity to hear of the Savior.
A Big Name?
“And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee.” (2 Sam 7:26)
“Let it even be established, that thy name may be magnified for ever, saying, The LORD of hosts is the God of Israel, even a God to Israel: and let the house of David thy servant be established before thee.” (1 Chron 17:24)
Here it is “name” meaning reputation that is becoming magnified or well-known or well-respected.
Not a Good-luck Charm
“And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
“If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” (John 15:7)
“And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24 Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:23-24)
Literally, those verses say that whatever we ask for in His name, we will receive. Christians commonly end a prayer of request (or most any prayer) with “in Jesus’ name, amen.” It seems they are asking in His name and yet often do not receive. Could it be that asking in His name means that the person asking/praying have or reflect the name/character of Jesus?
Further Thoughts on the Meaning of “Name”
“Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and the Father’s name on their foreheads.” (Rev 14:1)
“On their foreheads” is really a reference to in their minds; a knowledge of His character. They are thinking in a manner consistent with God’s ways.
Remember the miraculous event at Pentecost?
“And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” (Acts 2:8)
In the messages they heard, there would surely have been uses of God’s name. If each person heard in their own tongue or language wouldn’t they have heard different sounds?
“Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.” (Rev 3:4)
Names “have not defiled their garments”! Do names wear clothes? Of course, the “few names” are the names of a few people.
“And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.” (Psa 9:10)
This verse shows that knowing God’s “name” and trusting in Him are the same thing. There have been and will be many people who know God’s name but who will not put their trust in Him. When the Bible says “there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12) it is not the name itself but the One designated by that name who saves. The devil and his angels surely know the correct name of the Savior and it will not save them.
“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.” (Psa 91:14)
Are people saved because they know God’s name? A person could know God’s name and the exact pronunciation and still be lost? Right? Is salvation just the matter of being fortunate enough to have gotten in on a little secret password?
If God Requires a Certain Pronunciation, Then What About?
The argument that we should always use the name “Yahweh” when speaking of God’s name can be extended to say we should always also write it in the original language as the Hebrew letters yod hey vav hey as follows (written from right to left):
And, in fact, that was not the original Hebrew. There was a middle Hebrew where Yahweh would be spelled:
And even before that there was the very-pictographic ancient or paleo Hebrew:
Transliteration is the transfer of the sounds of a word from one language to another. Yahweh would not be spelled Y-a-h-w-e-h in many other languages – they don’t even use those letters. Here is a small sampling of the words for Yahweh, God and Jesus in a few different languages:
Are those translations wrong? No; here is a definition of “translation”:
“Translation (def) the rendering of something into another language or into one’s own from another language.” (www.dictionary.com)
Language Variations and Limitations
Some sounds cannot even be pronounced in other languages or by different people groups. Here is one Biblical example:
“And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and went northward, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee? we will burn thine house upon thee with fire. 2 And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon; and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands. 3 And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivered them into my hand: wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against me? 4 Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites. 5 And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay;” (Jud 12:1-5)
The next verse describes the test required of any suspected Ephraimiate:
“Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.” (Jud 12:6)
People have died because they could not pronounce a word in a certain way.
Transitions from the Original to Today’s Forms
(This section is largely drawn from an article Whose Name Is It Anyway? by Trent Wilde)
There are logical reasons for the transitions from original forms of divine names to what is commonly used today.
Hebrew to Greek
Yeshua to Yeshu to Yesou to Iesou to Iesous
- The “a” sound was dropped because there is no Greek equivalent for the Hebrew Ayin (ע)
- The “sh” sound was replaced with an “s” sound since that is the closest Greek equivalent for a Hebrew Shin (שׁ)
- The “ye” was changed into a “ie” for the same reason
- The “s” at the end was added to distinguish the word as a proper masculine noun, rather than a common noun.
Greek to English
Iesous to Iesus to Jesus
At this stage, we lost the “o” as can be seen in a 1611 KJV, and soon after the “j” was put in place of the “i.” The reason for this is that in Germanic languages, the letter “j” is frequently used for the “y” sound.
The idea that the name Jesus came about as a result of a sinister plot to hide the name Yeshua is, at best, not factual. A quick look at how the name Joshua is transliterated into Greek in both the Septuagint and the New Testament will reveal that the “change” of the name Yeshua began even before the Messiah walked the earth and with good motives at that. (See Acts 7:45; Heb. 4:8; as well as occurrences of the word Joshua in the Septuagint, e.g. Josh. 1:1)
Baal Used for God
It is said that Baal means Lord and that it is therefore wrong to refer to our Creator by that title. The problem is that the word baal is a common Hebrew noun and is actually applied to Yahweh in the Bible:
“For thy Maker is thine husband (Hebrew: baal); the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.” (Isa 54:5)
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband (Hebrew: baal) unto them, saith the LORD:” (Jer 31:31-32)
“And it shall be at that day, saith the Lord, that thou shalt call me Ishi; and shalt call me no more Baali. For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.” (Hosea 2:16-17)
This verse is interpreted as meaning that we have been calling Yahweh Baal (Lord) and He is going to take that name out of our mouth and cause us to call him by his true name, Yahweh. Sadly, this interpretation strips the passage from its true lesson. The key is found in the word Ishi, which means husband. The truth is, this passage is simply saying that The Lord has been but a ruling master to us (a lord), but is soon to be as a husband. So rather than describing a change of wording in how we address the most High, it is describing the change in relationship between the Lord and his people.
Sacred Names Summary
When one considers the points raised above and looks carefully at scripture, it will be obvious that there is more than one correct way to refer to God. Various names and titles are used for deity to teach us different things about Him. In fact, there is one website that lists 953 names and titles for God.
What was a sinister plot and has been from the beginning is the very-purposeful misrepresentation of the character of God and His law. God is not willing that any should perish:
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9)
The battle over correct names and pronunciations is, to a large extent, a side track, a diversion of the enemy. The real issue is all about Yahweh’s character. We become in character like the character we worship. While not irrelevant, the exact pronunciation we use is of lesser importance.
Finally, Jesus invited us to address God as “Our Father.” That suggests the importance of relationship.