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#77 - What is the meaning of JAH as used in Psa 68:4?
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
What is the meaning and origin of "JAH", which is used suddenly and, I think, uncommonly in any other part of the Psalm, but which is used in Psa 68:4.
"Jah" in the King James Version is actually a transliteration of the Hebrew word Yah. It is simply a shortened form of the Hebrew word Yahweh, which the KJV four times transliterates as "Jehovah" and elsewhere translates it as "the Lord," as do most other versions, such as the NAB, NIV, NRSV, REB, and TEV. Where you do see "Jah" is in the word Hallelujah, which means "Praise Yah" or "Praise the Lord." (Actually even Yahweh itself is a representation of the Hebrew tetragram word YHWH, because there were no vowels in the original Hebrew writing.)
Gen 2:4 is the earliest place in the Bible where Yahweh (Jehovah or Lord) is used in the Bible. Here it is usually used in conjunction with Elohim (the Hebrew word translated as "God"), as shown below:
The KJV uses the transliteration "Jah" only once (Psa 68:4), even though it actually appears fifty times in the Hebrew Bible. In the other forty-nine places that Yah is found in the Hebrew text, KJV simply translates it as "the Lord." (See Exo 15:2; 17:16; Psa 68:5,18; 77:11; 89:8; 94:7,12; 102:18; 104:35; 105:45; 106:1,48; 111:1; 112:1, 113:1,9; 115:17,18,18; 116:19; 117:2; 118:5,5,14,17,18,19; 122:4; 130:3; 135:1,3,4,21; 146:1,10; 147:1,20; 148:1,14; 149:1,9; 150:1,6,6; Isa 12:2; 26: 26:4; 38:11,11.)
The KJV actually uses the transliteration "Jehovah" only four times (Exo 6:3, Psa 83:18, Isa 12:2, and Isa 26:4). "Jehovah" also does appears as in three other verses (Gen 22:14, Exo 17:15, and Jud 6:24) in the KJV, as part of the transliteration of the names of three places, Jehovahjireh, Jehovahnissi, and Jehovahshalom, meaning "Yahweh provides," "Yahweh is my banner," and "Yahweh is peace," respectively. In the Bible, there are many proper names that include the shortened form Yah in the original Hebrew names, including Jonathan ("Yah has given"), Jehoshaphat ("Yah has judged"), and Elijah ("God is Yah").
In Psalm 68:4, both Rotherham's Emphasized Bible and in Moulton's Modern Reader Bible use the more correct transliteration, "Yah." Most modern translations just substitute "the Lord," without explaining the shortened Hebrew word from which it was translated. (It might be worth noting here that in addition to the KJV, Mrs. Eddy owned and used the American Standard Version, Rotherham, and Moulton versions of the Bible, all three of which are quoted above. For more a more complete listing of the various Bible versions she used, refer to http://www.bibletexts.com/bl-ver.htm.)
A.A. Anderson (New Century Bible: Psalms, Volume 1, London: Oliphants, 1972, page 485) comments:
Yah, the shorter form of yhwh ('Yahweh'). Some scholars believe that the longer form is the original one, while others, such as yah, yo, yahu, etc., are abbreviations... The other alternative is to assume that one of the shorter forms is the more ancient one. Yah is thought to have been originally a cultic exclamation which was used in worship. It is not, however, the etymology of the word that is all important, but rather the understanding of God associated with his name. Yah is found in OT theophoric names (e.g., Elijah ('eliyyah), in various poetic texts (cf. Exod. 15:2), and in cultic expressions, such as ' Praise the Lord' (i.e. Yah) or 'Hallelujah' (cf. 104:35, 106:1, etc.) The preposition be before yah may be an emphasizing particle...; hence 'his name is none other than Yah'.
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer