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The Breath of YHWH

April 21, 2022

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One of the special places we visit on our Israel trips is the Garden of Gethsemane. A lot went on there the night before Jesus’ crucifixion. But for this study we’ll concentrate on just one aspect of what happened that fateful night.

The Night Jesus Was Arrested

After eating the Last Supper in the Essene Quarter of the Old City, Jesus and 11 of His disciples walked to the Garden of Gethsemane. There they could easily see some 600 Roman soldiers and members of the Sanhedrin descending from the Antonia Fortress, all carrying torches and lanterns.

Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. John 18:3

There were no walls or barriers between Jesus and the coming mob. Seeing such a humanity descending down the east side of Mt. Moriah toward them, Jesus knew they were coming to arrest Him.

They could have easily run up the Mount of Olives and escaped. I’m sure the 11 were wondering why they weren’t running away.

But Jesus knew this was His night. He was willing to let them take Him. But in one last act He showed Who He was and that He was ALLOWING them to arrest Him.

As they came close enough to talk, Jesus stepped forward and said:

“Whom do you seek?” John 18:4b

They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I Am [He*].” John 18:5

So when He said to them, “I am [He*],” they drew back and fell to the ground. John 18:6

I hope I get to see a replay of that one day. Six hundred men are coming to arrest Jesus and simply by saying “I Am” it knocked each and every one to the ground. How embarrassing would that be for a Roman soldier!

He then allowed them to arrest Him and take Him to Ananias, then Caiaphas and eventually to crucifixion, voluntarily.

But what it tells is the depth of meaning of God’s name. In Exodus 3 Moses asked God what he should call Him:

Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Ex. 3:13-14

God is The Great “I Am.” Who always was and always will be. What power that name has!

Someone recently sent me an anonymous article on the name of God, which describes the original Hebrew of "I Am" as YHWH.

Comprised of the letters Yod, Heh, Vav, Heh.(1) Bible scholars refer to it as the Tetragrammaton, which means "four letters."(1)

Hebrew words have no vowels. Over time well-meaning translators have arbitrarily added an “a” and an “e” to get YaHWeH, so people knew how to pronounce God’s name. But no one really knows what vowels should be added or where.

But Jewish Rabbis teach that the letters YHWH represent breathing sounds, or aspirated consonants. So when you pronounced YHWH without adding the vowels, it actually sounds like breathing.

YH would be the inhale and WH would be exhale. That opens up some interesting applications.

A baby’s first cry, his first breath, would be speaking the name of God.

If you sigh deeply you’re calling God's name. A groan or gasp is calling His name.

Even an atheist would speak His name, unaware that their very breath is giving constant acknowledgment to God.

Likewise, a person leaves this earth with their last breath, when God’s name is no longer filling their lungs.

So when we can’t utter anything else, our cry is calling out His name.

Amazingly, this means while we still have breath we speak His name constantly.

It would mean that YHWH is heard even when we’re quiet.

In sadness, we breathe heavy sighs to the Lord. In joy, we express gratefulness to the Lord.

In fear, we hold our breath and have to be told to breathe slowly to help us calm down.

When a woman is laboring to bring a new life into the world, she is told to concentrate on one activity - audible deep breathing.

When we’re about to do something hard, we take a deep breath to find our courage.

So this means just breathing is giving him praise. Even in the hardest moments!

This should fill you with emotion every time you think of the Word YHWH because God chose to give Himself a name that we can’t help but speak every moment we’re alive.

Whether we’re awake, asleep or just breathing…the Name of God on our lips.

And what’s most interesting is that the Jews go to great lengths to NOT say the name of God (YHWH) out loud, except on the Day of Atonement.

Yet, without realizing it, they’re saying it 24/7!

How cool is that!!


* “He” was added by the NASB translators.

1) https://compass.org/article-a-peek-behind-the-name-of-god/


Additional Resources


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Bill Perkins
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