The Cruel God: Job's Search for the Meaning of Suffering

By Margaret Brackenbury Crook | Go to book overview

Appendix II
Names for God in the Book of Job

There is a certain difference between those names used for God in the Prologue and Epilogue and those used in the Poet's Argument. "The Lord" of the Prologue and Epilogue becomes "the Almighty" of the Argument.

From the days of David and Solomon till the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians--that is, from about 1000 to 587 B.C., just over four hundred years--writers freely used the sacred name Yahweh. It stands in the consonantal Hebrew Text as JHVH. Then there came a time when Hebrew readers preferred not to employ the sacred name, lest their conquerors make light of it. Instead, they used the word Adonai, "Lord." In the later manuscripts, to remind readers of this customary preference, the vowel signs of Adonai were often written in combination with the consonants, JHVH. The result was a word that translators took for Jehovah.

Fortunately, the King James translators generally (and correctly) used the word "Lord" for God, and used Jehovah only occasionally--when, for instance, Adonai and JHVH appear together in the Hebrew. This usage has prevailed in the Revised Standard Version.

Yahweh, which probably means He who causes to be (what comes into existence), is a very old name. It is often coupled with the musical word, Elohîm, a plural form meaning "gods" but used in the Old Testament as an honorific title for the One God. When Jerusalem falls to the Babylonians and the people go into exile, although they still freely employ the term Elohîm, they are reluctant to utter the sacred name Yahweh. They do not wish the name to be derided as that of a deity who cannot defend his territory or save his people from exile. It becomes customary, then, to substitute for Yahweh the term Adonai, which is very properly translated "Lord."

Any wiseman, telling the story of the patient Job in the days

-205-

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