Friday, 6 April 2012

Does 'Hovah' really mean 'a ruin, disaster'?

Does 'Hovah' mean 'a ruin, disaster' in Strong's Concordance?

Many opposer’s have tried to use this clever tactic to make users of the name Jehovah question the use of that transliteration of the Divine name.

I was asked, Why do you use the name 'Jehovah' when 'hovah' in the Strong's Concordance means 'a ruin, disaster'. 

If  'hovah' does mean 'a ruin, disaster' in Strong's concordance then 'Jehovah' or 'Yehovah' can not mean 'he causes to become' or 'he is, he was, he will be' but rather something more negative like he causes or is a disaster.....or can it?!

Before my own limited evidence I will quote from a Hebrew Scholar Nehemia Gordon (who holds a Masters Degree in Biblical Studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a bachelors Degree in Archaeology) whose book I have just read, Shattering the conspiracy of silence.

"...the rather silly claim that Yehovah יהוה comes from the Hebrew word HOVAH הוה meaning “disaster.” As I have explained in the past, this would be like saying that the word “assume” comes from the English words “ass,” “you,” and “me.” I call this “Hovah-logic,” which is defined as “knowing just enough Hebrew to be a disaster to yourself and others.”
In reality, Yehovah comes from the root HYH היה, meaning “to be,” whereas the word HOVAH (disaster) comes from the root HVH הוה. The two words only sound similar to someone blissfully ignorant of Hebrew grammar. For those who actually know Hebrew, Hoveh is a perfectly normal word meaning “he is” and Hovah is the feminine form meaning “she is” (both from HYH). Yehovah comes from Hoveh/ Hovah (“he/ she that is”). Neither has anything to do with the word “HOVAH” meaning “disaster” (from HVH).
My Laotian friend provides another example from Hebrew of how disastrous Hovah-logic can be. The Hebrew word for elephant, “PIL” פיל, sounds similar to “PILegesh” פילגש, meaning “concubine.” Using Hovah-logic, you could come up with some bizarre explanations. You might break down the word PILegesh into two words: PIL “elephant” and the verb GESH meaning “approach!” You could then say that ancient concubines were immensely fat and their paramours would shout at them, “Pil, Gesh!” “Approach, elephant!” As silly as this sounds, it’s actually more plausible than the name Yehovah having anything to do with the word for “disaster!”. "


This question almost invariably comes from people who either don't know Hebrew or know just enough to be dangerous to themselves. I'm not putting these people down. I applaud them for trying to understand Hebrew the best they can with the limited tools available to them. This is just me venting my frustration at having to explain basic Hebrew grammatical concepts.

The question starts off with the observation that the Hebrew word hovah means "disaster, calamity". This word appears three times in the Tanach, once in Isaiah and twice in a single verse in Ezekiel:

"Evil is coming upon you which you will not know how to charm away; disaster (hovah) is falling upon you which you will not be able to appease; coming upon you suddenly is ruin of which you know nothing." (Ezekiel 7:26)

(Isaiah 47:11) "Calamity (hovah) shall follow calamity (hovah), and rumor follow rumor. Then they shall seek vision from the prophet in vain; instruction shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the elders." 

Since hovah means "disaster" or "calamity", the question goes, doesn't this mean that Yehovah also means "disaster" or "calamity". 

I guess this makes sense to those innocent of basic Hebrew grammar but in the Hebrew language this makes no sense. This would be like saying that the English word "assume" is derived from the word "ass" because when you ass­u­me you make an ass of you and me. Someone actually told me this many years ago and they were dead serious. Of course, an examination of any historical English dictionary will reveal that "assume" actually comes from the Latin verb "assume(re)" and not from the English word for a donkey.

Let's look at some Hebrew basics before we get ourselves in trouble assuming. With a few exceptions, every word in the Hebrew language has a three ­letter root, something proven in the 11th century by the Spanish rabbi Yonah Ibn Janah. Modern linguistics has confirmed this, observing that the three ­letter root is a basic characteristic of all Semitic languages. Most Hebrew roots are "whole" roots meaning all three letters of the root are present regardless of how the root is used in different grammatical forms. 

For example, the Hebrew root SH.M.R. has the basic meaning "to guard". Hebrew can use this root in dozens of ways, each with a different shade of meaning, such as the verbs SHaMaRti "I guarded" and hiShaMeR "be careful" (be on guard), the noun miSHMeRet meaning "duty" (which a person has to be on guard to keep), and the names SheMeR and SHoMRon. As a "whole" root, the letters shin mem resh are always present in words derived from this root. The opposite of a "whole" root is a "hollow" root.

In "hollow" roots, one or more of the three letters of the root can be absent in certain grammatical forms. For example, the root BNH בנה" to build" loses the third letter of the root in the verb baniti (spelled BNYty בניתי" (I built". In this form of the verb, the H of BNH drops and is replaced by a Yod. If you didn't know about hollow verbs and saw the word baniti you might think the root was BNY בני when in fact it is BNH בנה.

You're probably thinking, "When is he gonna talk about the name?!"

Ok, here goes. The name Yehovah derives from the three­letter root HYH which means "to be". We know this from Exodus 3:14 in which the Almighty explains his name as "Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh". The word Ehyeh is an "imperfect" verb from the root HYH meaning "to be". In later Hebrew, the "imperfect" form took on the meaning of "future" but in Biblical Hebrew it primarily expresses a repetitive action. In plain English, Ehyeh means "I am now and I will continue to be in the future". This is why Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh can be translated as "I am that which I am" but also as "I will be that which I will be". Both of these translations are correct even if they are a bit inaccurate. An accurate translation would be: "I am now and will continue to be in the future that which I am now and will be continue to be in the future". That's quite a mouthful and you can see why most translations prefer to dumb it down. 

The word eHYeH has all three letters of the root HYH which may lead you to conclude that HYH is a "whole" root. However, in other forms of the verb, the second and third letter drop which means it is a "hollow" root. For example, HaYiti (spelled HYYty הייתי" (I was" is missing the third letter of the root H and in its place has a Yod. On the other hand, the masculine singular imperative Heveh (pronounced Heh Vay) "be!" is missing the second letter of the root and in its place has a Vav. 

This last piece of information is crucial becomes it means in certain forms the root looks like HVH even though in fact it is HYH. This can be confusing because there is an unrelated root which really is HVH and which has an entirely different meaning from HYH. Don't worry, I'm almost done with the crash course in Hebrew grammar.

Now back to the name. Yehovah comes from the same root as Ehyeh: the hollow root HYH. Yehovah is actually a combination of three verb­forms: Hayah "he was", Hoveh "he is", and Yih'yeh "he is now and will continue to be in the future". Together Hayah, Hoveh, and Yih'yeh combine into the name Yehovah. But does the meaning of the name tell us its pronunciation? Not necessarily. Many ancient Hebrew names stray from the vowel patterns found in common nouns and verbs. For example, my name Nehemia (pronounced N'chem­Yah) means "Yah comforts". However, if I said "Yah comforts" in a regular Biblical Hebrew sentence it would be Nee­chaym Yah. Why is my name pronounced N'chem­Yah and not Nee­Chaym­Yah? As we say in Hebrew: Kachah! Just because!

Hebrew names don't follow the same rules as common nouns and verbs. Deal with it! The bottom line is the meaning of YHVH as "he that was, he that is, and he that will be" doesn't tell us how to pronounce the name. The pronunciation Yehovah is based on Hebrew Masoretic manuscripts, but for that you'll have to read Keith's little study.

Let's get back to the hollow verbs. We saw that "Yehovah" comes from the hollow root HYH and as a result the Y can be replaced with a V in certain forms. To the untrained eye this makes it look like the root is HVH when in fact it is HYH. Remember the word Hovah meaning "disaster"? That word actually does come from the root HVH, which means "destruction". There is no connection between the name Yehovah and the word hovah because they are from two unrelated Hebrew roots: HYH "to be" and HVH "destruction". Pronouncing the name as Yehovah doesn't change this situation. Even though Yehovah sounds like it contains the word hovah "disaster" within it, this is a pure coincidence, just like the word "assume" which sounds like it contains the word "ass" in it. It doesn't mean that Yehovah means "disaster" nor does it mean Yehovah is connected in any way to the word for "disaster". If you assume that to be the case, then you're just making an ass of yourself. 

First I will show you what is Truthful about the question then I will show you what is twisted.

These are the Hebrew words and lexical numbers from Strong's concordance involved in this argument.

הוָֹה Lexical number H1943
Transliteration = hovah
Meaning = Misfortune, calamity, adversity.

יְהֹוָה Lexical number H3068
Transliteration = Yehovah
Meaning = Jehovah, name of the supreme God of the Hebrews.

הָיָה Lexical number H1961
Transliteration = hayah
Meaning = To be, to become, exist.

הָוָה Lexical number H1933
Transliteration = hava'
Meaning = Shall be, may be, will occur.

Basically the lexical number for the Tetragrammaton יְהֹוָה in the Strong's concordance is H3068, and that reference lists the root word (how we make up the preceding word) as H1961 'hayah, to become', which comes from the Primitive root H1933 'hava', Shall be', and that is the finishing point for the four letters יְהֹוָה in the Strong's concordance.

So if the Tetragrammaton is transliterated as Yehovah which comes from the root 'to become', why does the hovah bit of Yehovah mean 'misfortune, calamity'?

This is because, hovah is a transliteration in itself that is NEVER applied to יְהֹוָה in the Hebrew text. Each Hebrew word comes from a root verb or noun, hovah is a feminine noun that actually comes from the root havvah which means 'wickedness, mischief'.

To show this in scripture, Strong's lists two texts where hovah is used, but there is no sign of the Divine name.

Isaiah 47:11 and Ezekiel 7:26

Isa 47:11 KJV with Strong's Hebrew lexical references

..and mischiefH1943 shall fallH5307 uponH5921 thee;”

Did you see that H1943 hovah is used for mischief and not for the Divine name.

Here is the full verse in Hebrew, notice NO Tetragrammaton יְהוָה just hovah H1943 הֹוָה,

 וּבָא עָלַיִךְ רָעָה, לֹא תֵדְעִי שַׁחְרָהּ, וְתִפֹּל עָלַיִךְ הֹוָה, לֹא תוּכְלִי כַּפְּרָהּ; וְתָבֹא עָלַיִךְ פִּתְאֹם שֹׁאָה, לֹא תֵדָעִי.

The NWT puts it this way

..And upon you calamity (hovah) must come”

This verse is better because it has two references in one verse, H1943 and H1961.

Ezekiel 7:26 KJV with Strong's Hebrew lexical references

MischiefH1943 shall comeH935 uponH5921 mischief,H1943 and rumourH8052 shall beH1961 uponH413 rumour;H8052

In the Hebrew text it is clear there is no Tetragrammaton יְהוָה just hovah הֹוָה, and hava הְיֶה

 הֹוָה עַל-הֹוָה תָּבוֹא, וּשְׁמֻעָה אֶל-שְׁמוּעָה תִּהְיֶה; וּבִקְשׁוּ חָזוֹן, מִנָּבִיא--וְתוֹרָה תֹּאבַד

Again the NWT puts it this way

There will come adversity (hovah) upon adversity (hovah), and there will occur (hava) report upon report

Here are two verses in English then in Hebrew that have hovah (calamity, mischief) first then the Tetragrammaton יְהֹוָה (Jehovah) in the next verse, proving they are not the same or have the same meaning or are in anyway linked, except, as in these two verses when they are in the same chapter!

Ezekiel 7:26,27


26 There will come adversity upon adversity, and there will occur report upon report, and people will actually seek a vision from a prophet, and the law itself will perish from a priest and counsel from elderly men. 27 The king himself will go into mourning; even a chieftain will clothe himself with desolation, and the very hands of the people of the land will get disturbed. According to their way I shall act toward them, and with their judgments I shall judge them; and they will have to know that I am Jehovah.’”

KJV with strongs Hebrew lixical refererences

MischiefH1943 shall comeH935 uponH5921 mischief,H1943 and rumourH8052 shall beH1961 uponH413 rumour;H8052 then shall they seekH1245 a visionH2377 of the prophet;H4480 H5030 but the lawH8451 shall perishH6 from the priest,H4480 H3548 and counselH6098 from the ancients.H4480 H2205
The kingH4428 shall mourn,H56 and the princeH5387 shall be clothedH3847 with desolation,H8077 and the handsH3027 of the peopleH5971 of the landH776 shall be troubled:H926 I will doH6213 unto them after their way,H4480 H1870 and according to their desertsH4941 will I judgeH8199 them; and they shall knowH3045 thatH3588 IH589 am the LORD.H3068

Hebrew text
Remember Hebrew is read from right to left. Notice the first word is calamity הֹוָה and the last word is Jehovah יְהוָה

 הֹוָה עַל-הֹוָה תָּבוֹא, וּשְׁמֻעָה אֶל-שְׁמוּעָה תִּהְיֶה; וּבִקְשׁוּ חָזוֹן, מִנָּבִיא--וְתוֹרָה תֹּאבַד מִכֹּהֵן, וְעֵצָה מִזְּקֵנִים.

 הַמֶּלֶךְ יִתְאַבָּל, וְנָשִׂיא יִלְבַּשׁ שְׁמָמָה, וִידֵי עַם-הָאָרֶץ, תִּבָּהַלְנָה; מִדַּרְכָּם אֶעֱשֶׂה אֹתָם, וּבְמִשְׁפְּטֵיהֶם אֶשְׁפְּטֵם, וְיָדְעוּ, כִּי-אֲנִי יְהוָה.

So we can clearly see that the Hebrew word Transliterated into hovah is used for words like calamity and mischief but it isnt used or linked in any way to the Tetragrammaton thus to Jehovah.

References for Hebrew Text ,
for KJV with Strong's References
for Strong's Concordance online