“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah” Psalm 46:10–11

While each name of God reveals the excellences of God, three have very special significance to those who know Him through faith in His Son: Adonai, Jehovah (Yahweh), and Jesus.

The names Elohim and El (along with its compounds) were utilized by the peoples around Israel. Unique to the Israel of the Old Testament are Adonai and Jehovah. Adon was a word used of people possessing authority. The Israelites elevated the term and used it to identify God as the Ultimate Authority, the Lord of all the earth, the general idea found in our passage in Psalm 6. Joshua uses the term in 3:11, “Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into Jordan.” His basic meaning is to say that the God of Israel is not a localized god, as the pagans believed of their gods, but He is Lord of all creation, and of His people in particular.

Adonai is actually the plural of Adon. It could be translated “my Lords.” As always, our Lord God is superlative in His excellence and His uniqueness over all creation. The name Adonai is generally translated “Lord” in our English texts. It is distinguished from “LORD,” which is the English translation of Jehovah when it is found in the Hebrew text.

Adonai is the Old Testament counterpart to the New Testament word kurios which describes the relationship between the master and the slave. Robert Lightner explains that the master-slave relationship meant a two-way relationship. He said that the master expected obedience and the slave expected provision. “In Old Testament times the slave was the absolute possession of his master, having no rights of his own. His chief business was to carry out the wishes of his master.” By the same token, “the slave had no worry of his own. It was the master’s business to provide food, shelter, and the necessities of life. Since the slave is the possession of the master, his needs become the master’s. Obedience is the only condition for this provision. This truth is marvelously displayed in Paul, who was himself a bond slave, when he assured the Philippians that God would supply all their needs (Philippians 4:19).” No wonder the Children of Israel, as well as every New Testament saint, reveres God as Lord!

Jehovah (Yahweh) is the most common name for God in the Old Testament. It occurs 6,823 times! The name consists of the four consonants YHWH and the vowels have been supplied by borrowing the vowels from Adonai, rendered Jehovah or Yahweh, depending upon the translation (Exodus 6:2ff, 15:1ff). The root word is the verb “to be.” It means “I Am That I Am” or better, “I Shall Be What I Shall Be.” Both translations indicate that He is the totally self-sufficient One, retaining unfettered liberty and unadulterated self-dependence.

The first use is found in Genesis 2:4, “This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens….” From this use it is evident that God’s people knew this name of God from the beginning, but it was specially introduced as unique to God’s people in the Exodus. Jehovah came to signify the covenant-keeping loyalty of God to His people. Eichrodt suggests that this name of God emphasizes “the concrete nearness and irruptive reality of God” in comparison to the other names that emphasize the rule, guidance, exaltedness and eternality of God. In other words, the name Jehovah to His people means He is the God of salvation, in the name Jehovah saving grace is made visible!

Exodus unfolds the specifically redemptive role Jehovah takes in the mighty acts He performs. Deliverance from slavery in Egypt, delivery of His people through the wilderness, and delivery of His people to the Promised Land surely picture the spiritual pilgrimage of His saints through the ages.

Like the name El, the name Jehovah is also often paired with other words to indicate God’s redemptive work. Jehovah Jireh is translated “the LORD Will Provide,” in Genesis 22:13f. There appears to be a play on words as jireh can also be translated, “will see” or “be seen.” It indicates that God will provide and in so doing He will be seen to provide!

Several other compounds with Jehovah can be found in the Scriptures. Jehovah Nissi (the LORD Is My Banner) is seen in Exodus 17:15. It is used of God at the defeat of the Amalekites. Jehovah is the One who gives victory and He is the standard, or banner, around which we are to rally. Jehovah Shalom (the LORD Is Peace) is found in Judges 6:24 where wary Gideon is met by the angel and told to take courage and be obedient. Jehovah Sabaoth (the LORD of Hosts), He is the Captain of heaven’s armies (Joshua 5:14). Jehovah Raah (the LORD Is My Shepherd) for He is the Good, Great, and Chief Shepherd (Psalm 23). Jehovah Rapha (the LORD Our Healer) is found in Exodus 15:26.

Jehovah Tsidkenu (the LORD Our Righteousness) is particularly interesting. It occurs in Jeremiah 23:6 referring to the future Davidic king who rules over restored Israel, the righteous Monarch. In the grand scheme of prophecy He is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who will rule in the Millennial Kingdom of the book of Revelation! This same Jesus (meaning Jehovah Saves!) is also our Lord of Righteousness and Savior (Matthew 1:21). 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” What a privilege to know and to serve the Most High God! Trust and obey.