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From http://www.whoisjesus.com/yhwh-LORD.html

(THE) LORD; KJV, "Jehovah" (je-ho'va; Heb. YHWH, LXX; usually ho Kurios). The name of God most frequently used in the Hebrew Scriptures but commonly represented-- we cannot say rendered-- in the KJV and NIV by LORD.
Pronunciation. The true pronunciation of this name, by which God was known to the Hebrews, has been entirely lost, the Jews themselves scrupulously avoiding every mention of it and substituting in its stead one or other of the words with whose proper vowel points it may happen to be written, usually the name Adonai. They continued to write YHWH, but read Adonai. Where God is called "My Lord Jehovah" (Heb. Adonai YHWH), Elohim was substituted to avoid the double Adonai. When the vowel points were added to the Heb. text the rule, in the case of words written but not read, was to attach to these words the vowels belonging to the words read in place of them. Thus they attached to YHWH the points of 'adonay; hence the form Yehowah and the name Yeh'v'h. The strong probability is that the name Jehovah was anciently pronounced Yahweh, like the Iabe of the Samaritans. This custom, which had its origin in reverence, and has almost degenerated into a superstition, was founded upon an erroneous rendering of <Lev. 24:16>, from which it was inferred that the mere utterance of the name constituted a capital offense. According to Jewish tradition, it was pronounced but once a year by the high priest on the Day of Atonement when he entered the Holy of Holies; but on this point there is some doubt.
For the LeClerc-Haupt-Albright view that Yahweh was originally a causative finite verb see Yahweh.
Import. The passage in <Exo. 3:14> seems to furnish designedly a clue to the meaning of the word. When Moses received his commission to be the deliverer of Israel, the Almighty, who appeared in the burning bush, communicated to him the name that he should give as the credentials of his mission: "God said unto Moses, I am that I am [Heb. 'ehyeh 'asher 'ehyeh]: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I am hath sent me unto you" (KJV).
In both names 'ehyeh and YHWH, the root idea is that of underived existence. When it is said that God's name is He Is, simple being is not all that is affirmed. He is in a sense in which no other being is. He is, and the cause of His being is in Himself. He is because He is. But compare the etymology that Yahweh means "He causes to be"-- "He creates" (P. Haupt and W. F. Albright's view). See Yahweh.
When Made Known. The notice in <Exo. 6:3>, "By my name Jehovah was I not known to them" (KJV), does not imply that the patriarchs were completely ignorant of the existence or the use of the name. It simply means that previous to their deliverance from Egyptian bondage they had no experiential knowledge of such redemption. Under Moses they were to experience such deliverance and have the redemptive power of God made real to them and the redemptive name of God vouchsafed to them. Previously, as shepherds in Palestine, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had known God as El Shaddai ("the Almighty," <Gen. 17:1>, KJV), proving His power, but not in redemption as such.



W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (1975), 1:187-92; J. Kitto, Daily Bible Illustrations (1981), 1:372-74. (from New Unger's Bible Dictionary) (originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (C) 1988.)






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