Bronze Age origins
There is almost no agreement on the origins and meaning of Yahweh's name; it is not attested other than among the Israelites, and seems not to have any reasonable etymology (Ehyeh ašer ehyeh, or "I Am that I Am", the explanation presented in Exodus 3:14, appears to be a late theological gloss invented to explain Yahweh's name at a time when the meaning had been lost).
The Israelites were originally Canaanites, but Yahweh does not appear to have been a Canaanite god.[Notes 2] The head of the Canaanite pantheon was El, and one theory holds that the word Yahweh is based on the Hebrew root HYH/HWH, meaning "cause to exist," as a shortened form of the phrase ˀel ḏū yahwī ṣabaˀôt, (Phoenician: 𐤀𐤋 𐤃 𐤉𐤄𐤅𐤄 𐤑𐤁𐤀𐤕) "El who creates the hosts", meaning the heavenly host accompanying El as he marched beside the earthly armies of Israel. The argument has numerous weaknesses, including, among others, the dissimilar characters of the two gods, and the fact that el dū yahwī ṣaba’ôt is nowhere attested either inside or outside the Bible.[Notes 3]
The oldest plausible recorded occurrence of Yahweh is as a place-name, "land of Shasu of yhw", in an Egyptian inscription from the time of Amenhotep III (1402–1363 BCE), the Shasu being nomads from Midian and Edom in northern Arabia. In this case a plausible etymology for the name could be from the root HWY, which would yield the meaning "he blows", appropriate to a weather divinity. There is considerable but not universal support for this view, but it raises the question of how he made his way to the north. The widely accepted Kenite hypothesis holds that traders brought Yahweh to Israel along the caravan routes between Egypt and Canaan. The strength of the Kenite hypothesis is that it ties together various points of data, such as the absence of Yahweh from Canaan, his links with Edom and Midian in the biblical stories, and the Kenite or Midianite ties of Moses. However, while it is entirely plausible that the Kenites and others may have introduced Yahweh to Israel, it is unlikely that they did so outside the borders of Israel or under the aegis of Moses, as the Exodus story has it.