A 4th century BCE drachm (quarter shekel) coin from the Persian province of Yehud Medinata, possibly representing Yahweh seated on a winged and wheeled sun-throne.[1][2]

Yahweh[Notes 1] was the national god of the Iron Age kingdoms of Israel (Samaria) and Judah.[3] His exact origins are disputed, although they reach back to the early Iron Age and even the Late Bronze:[4][5] his name may have begun as an epithet of El, head of the Bronze Age Canaanite pantheon,[6] but the earliest plausible mentions of Yahweh are in Egyptian texts that refer to a similar-sounding place name associated with the Shasu nomads of the southern Transjordan.[7]

In the oldest biblical literature, Yahweh is a typical ancient Near Eastern "divine warrior", who leads the heavenly army against Israel's enemies;[8] he later became the main god of the Kingdom of Israel (Samaria) and of Judah,[9] and over time the royal court and temple promoted Yahweh as the god of the entire cosmos, possessing all the positive qualities previously attributed to the other gods and goddesses.[10][11] By the end of the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE), the very existence of foreign gods was denied, and Yahweh was proclaimed as the creator of the cosmos and the true god of all the world.[11]

Bronze Age origins

There is almost no agreement on the origins of Yahweh.[12] His name 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).[13][14]

He does not appear to have been a Canaanite god, although the Israelites were originally Canaanites.[15][16][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.[17][12] 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.[18][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),[19][20] the Shasu being nomads from Midian and Edom in northern Arabia.[21] 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.[22][23] There is considerable but not universal support for this view,[24] but it raises the question of how he made his way to the north.[25] The widely accepted Kenite hypothesis holds that traders brought Yahweh to Israel along the caravan routes between Egypt and Canaan.[26] 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.[25] 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.[27][28]

Other Languages
беларуская: Яхве
български: Яхве
བོད་ཡིག: ཡ་ཝེ།
eesti: Jahve
español: Yahweh
Esperanto: Biblia Javeo
euskara: Yahveh
فارسی: یهوه
français: Yahweh
한국어: 야훼
հայերեն: Յահվե
हिन्दी: यहोवा
Bahasa Indonesia: Yahweh
interlingua: Jahveh
italiano: Yahweh
עברית: יהוה
Кыргызча: Яхве
lietuvių: Jahvė
lingála: Yawé
Malagasy: Iahveh
日本語: ヤハウェ
norsk: Jahve
polski: Jahwe
português: Javé
русский: Яхве
slovenščina: Jahve
српски / srpski: Јахве
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Jahve
suomi: Jahve
svenska: Jahve
Tagalog: Yahweh
தமிழ்: யாவே
Türkçe: Yahveh
українська: Ягве
اردو: یہوواہ
Tiếng Việt: Yahweh
中文: 雅威