The proponents of this name believe the key to the proper pronunciation of YHWH can be found in the name Judah i.e. Yehudah YHWDH. Since His people are called by His name (2 Chronicles 7:14), then it must be hidden in the name Judah right? Not so fast… Numbers 6:27 says: “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” Lets analyze this verse in the Masoretic text. In Hebrew it says: “בְּנֵ֣י bene יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל Yisrael” This means the “sons of Israel.” The sons of Israel encompass all the children of Jacob (tribes of Israel) not just Judah. This isn’t some special directive and secret code explaining the name Judah’s vowels hold the key to the true pronunciation.
But for arguments sake let’s remove the dalet from Yehudah יְהוּדָה and see what happens. If you know Hebrew Grammar you will instantly notice a problem here: יְהוָּה The vowel shureq is now coupled with a qamets, this is a violation. A Hebrew consonant always has to have a vowel with it, not two vowels in a row. Lets say you decided to put the qamets vowel under the final heh, now you just changed the pronunciation to Yehuha because at the ending of a Hebrew word, the consonant is always read before the vowel.
If the problematic Hebrew grammar wasn’t enough, we also see another glaring issue. There is a shewa under the yod which gives the Yeh sound, not the “Yah” sound. So not only must we remove the dalet, we then need to interject a different vowel in the first syllable that doesn’t exist? There is no indication at all in the Hebrew word origin that there is a contraction of the tetragrammaton like we see in the name Joshua for instance. Yehudah simply means “praised.” For those who have a basic understanding of Hebrew it is evident that the hoops we need to jump through to fabricate this name makes it nonsensical.
We received a comment from a proponent of this form that if the sound of the first heh is “ah,” (which we just proved isn’t in the Hebrew) then the second heh must also have the same sound. So since we are making things up, let’s say there was an “a” vowel before the heh, does this prove anything? No, there are many vowel combinations in Hebrew, the idea that if the first syllable has an ah sound, then the second syllable must also have an ah sound shows a striking ignorance of the language. The yod can take any number of vowel combinations and it does all through the Hebrew. The Hebrew Grammar book “The Berlitz Hebrew Self-Teacher” on page 73 reveals: “There are, however, four letters which can be used as vowels. h and a may have the vowel sound of ah or eh, w that of oo or oh, and y of ee or eh.” To just assume the second heh is pronounced the same as the first heh is frankly ridiculous.
In Hebrew the “ah” ending is feminine in its conjunctive form like Ishah אִשָּׁ֔ה (women) opposed to Ish אִישׁ (man). The Hebrew word Yapheh which sounds similar to the name Yahweh is used to describe David (1 Samuel 17:42) יָפֶה (beautiful) in the masculine form. The feminine form of this Hebrew word is Yaphah יָפָ֖ה like we see in reference to Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:1. It is very unlikely the name of the creator of the universe would have a feminine form of the name like you see in Yahuah or Yehovah.
Typically, those who employ the hard “who” sound tend to over-emphasize the sound of the “U” as well—Yah-WHO-ah (or -eh). The letter in question, the waw and third letter of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, is represented by the W. In Biblical Hebrew the yod, heh, and waw are all weak letters and the waw had a soft pronunciation anciently. Much of this confusion is interjecting modern Hebrew pronunciation into the Hebrew which was spoken in first Temple times. We can see this soft form in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Three parts of the Tetragrammaton YAHW is written in Greek in plate 378, fragment 15 for Leviticus 3:12. Later in biblical translations this was changed to Kyrios or lord but in the Masoretic text this remains YHWH with the Kativ vowels for Adonai. The Greek letters Iota, Alpha and Omega translate to Yahw (Yao). The Greek Omega (o equivelent) has the sound of “w” like in the word raw. The translator here could have used the upsilon, which anciently had the “u” sound like the word ruse or the German brüder but instead used the softer “o” sound like in the word “tone.”
The American Heritage Dictionary says that the W came to be pronounced as a V in later Latin (proof that “Yahveh” is historically impossible). Then this source says under the letter U, “The letter U originated in the early Middle Ages as a cursive version of V.” The w (waw) in Biblical Hebrew is a weak letter, almost a guttural, and is nearly swallowed, the opposite of over-emphasis given by some to the u (oo) sound. Who pronounces “answer” as “ans-OO-er”? In the book How the Hebrew Language Grew, Edward Horowitz, pg. 29 explains how many English words with the equivalent letter ‘w’ is silent and follows the same pattern as the Hebrew “waw.” Examples include, “answer, sword, law, two, write, etc.” “…the sound of w a long time ago wasn’t “vav” at all but “w” and “w” is weak…The Yemenite Jews of Arabia who retain an ancient, correct, and pure pronunciation of Hebrew still pronounce the w as “w” –as does Arabic, the close sister language of Hebrew,” pp. 29-30. Hebrew words like yawm > yom [יוֹם] “day” or even the Hebrew word for peace shalom שׁלום shows this soft inflection.
We asked Stephen Fassberg PhD of the Hebrew University and one of the world’s leading Dead Sea Scrolls scholars what the “waw” sounded like anciently, he responded: “There is no doubt whatsoever that vav was pronounced “w” in the Hebrew of the First Temple period and in Semitic languages.”
An interesting note is the syllabification of the name in either two or three syllables. The three syllable forms Ya-hu-ah or Ye-ho-vah cannot be breathed. It is possible the name Yah-weh can be breathed in its two syllable form, as you inhale “Yah” and exhale “Weh.” You cannot do this with the three syllable Yah(who)ah. In Psalm 150:6 scripture says: “Let every thing that hath breath praise Yahweh. HalleluYah.” Psalm 150:6 still retains the short form Yah in the Masoretic text vowel pointed with the mapiq to Yah (indicating the heh is aspirated) showing the importance of the name in relation to breath. The Jewish prayer book the Siddur says, “Nishmat kol chai tivarekh et-shimcha, YHWH elohenu” — The Breath of all life praises your Name, YHWH our Elohim,”
The Greek shows that the last syllable is pronounced with a short “e” sound: ee-ah-oo-eh like Theodoret’s Iabe. There is Iaoue from Clement of Alexandria. An interesting extra-biblical find is the Nag Hammadi Apocryphon of John (written in Greek by Gnostic Christians). Since it was known to the church father Irenaeus, it is estimated to have been written 120-180 CE. In the text we find the name “Yawe” occurring alongside Eloim and also Yaw.
The Encyclopedia Judaica notes that the true pronunciation of Yahweh’s Name was never lost, being pronounced “Yahweh. There is a reason the name was “never lost” and the Jewish Encyclopedia clarifies this regarding the Samaritans, who were chastised by the Jews for using the true pronunciation Yahweh in the Jerusalem Talmud. “These details indicate that the long-sanctioned dread of uttering the Shem ha-Meforash (the explicit name) was by no means without exceptions, and that the correct pronunciation was not unknown. Abba Saul (2d cent.) condemned the profanation of the Tetragrammaton by classing those “that speak the Name according to its letters” (יהוה) with those who have no part in the future world (Sanh. x. 1); and according to ‘Ab. Zarah 17b, one of the martyrs of Hadrian’s time, Hananiah b. Teradion, was burned at the stake because he so uttered the Name. A Palestinian amora of the third century (Mana the Elder) exemplified the apothegm of Abba Saul (Yer. Sanh. 28b, above) by the statement, “as, for instance, the Samaritans who swear”; he meant thereby that in their oaths the Samaritans pronounce the Tetragrammaton exactly as it is written. According to Theodoret, the Greek Church father, who flourished in the fifth century, they gave it the sound of Ἰαβέ (see Löw, “Gesammelte Schriften,” i. 193). See reference
Note: The Samaritans in most instances pronounce bet, vet, waw, pe and fe as a “b”. We often see as an alternative transcription in Greek sources. There was no Greek equivalent of [w], so they used a vowel combination to represent this. “Iaoue” (presumably Ἰαουέ) phonetically Yahweh if the w bears the sound of English: [jɑ-wɛ’].
The Masoretes used an orthographic device known as Kativ Kere in the text to hide the true vowels of the name Yahweh. Ketiv means read and Kere means written. They inserted the vowels for Adonai, Elohim and variants in the Tetragrammaton so every time they would see those associative vowels they would either read Elohim or Adonai. Amazingly, you can prove the vowel combinations of Yahweh by simple deduction. If Yahweh is the true name you would not expect to see the “Yah” and “Weh” vowels in any form by the Masoretes and this is exactly what you see notice:
יְהוָה – Yehwah (Genesis 2:4)
יְהֹוָה – Yehowah (Genesis 3:14)
יֱהֹוִה – Yehowih (Judges 16:28)
יֱהוִה – Yehwih (Genesis 15:2)
יְהֹוִה – Yehowih (1Kings 2:26)
יְהוִה – Yehwih (Ezekiel 24:24)
With all this criteria examined there is only one name that has been preserved in history with manuscript documentation from various sources, that meets the rules of Hebrew Grammar and also the vowel deduction of Kativ Kere and that name is Yahweh.
The name Yahweh is not made-up by scholars as we hear from time to time. (See image from Friedrich Delitzsch book Babel and Bible Page 71) These tablets are from the time of Hammurabi (1750 BCE) in Cuneiform which does contain vowels. Keep in mind this is 3300 years before the Aleppo Codex and verifies the Samaritan pronunciation Yahweh and the Nag Hammadi, as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls Plate 378 Fragment 15.
Mari Tablets: https://biblicalarchaeologygraves.blogspot.com/2014/12/bonus-14-mari-tablets.html
(Akkadian Text: ARM 23, 86:7, ARM 23, 448:13)
Other sources: Yahweh’s name found in Ethiopic Manuscript
S.R. Driver. Recent Theories on the Origin and Nature of the Tetragrammaton, 1883. Essays in Biblical Archaeology and Criticism. Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1885, p20. https://archive.org/details/studiabiblicaes01oxfogoog/page/20/mode/1up?view=theater