LORD = Jehovah

We are frequently told that Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament (see Bible Dictionary, “Jehovah,” 710–11). But when we open our Bibles, we find little evidence that this is so. 1 What is missing in the translations is clear in the original Hebrew text, where Jehovah, the Savior’s Old Testament name, appears over 5,000 times!

Why then is Jehovah missing from our Bible translations? The answer can be found in the way His name has been treated by Jews since the days of Malachi and Zechariah. Jehovah is the name of God, and devout Jews, out of reverence for Him, never say His name. Instead they substitute Adonai, a Hebrew title meaning “Lord.” 2 So whenever they speak of Him or read aloud His name from scripture, they substitute Adonai (Lord).

LORD (in small capital letters)

King James translators of the Hebrew Bible followed Jewish practice. Instead of printing Jehovah, the name of God, they substituted the English title LORD, printed in small capitals, every time the name Jehovah appeared in the Hebrew text.

Lord (in lowercase letters)

Lord is also printed in lowercase letters (as Lord and lord) in the King James Version of the Bible. Lord is a title that refers to rulers of various kinds—heavenly and earthly—such as God, king, husband, governor, prince, prophet, father, captain, and angel. The heavenly ruler is designated by Lord, the earthly ruler by lord. Neither of these titles, printed in lowercase letters, is a substitution for the name Jehovah. Simply put, LORD equals Jehovah, while Lord or lord refers to an earthly or heavenly ruler.

Knowing the distinction between LORD and Lord helps us understand the story of Hannah and Eli in 1 Samuel 1:1–28 [1 Sam. 1:1–28]. In verse 11, Hannah makes a vow with the LORD for a child. Then when Eli, the high priest, accuses her of being drunk (v. 14), Hannah says, “No, my lord.” Her use of lord shows her reverence for the high priest. Her calling upon the LORD shows her pleading with Jehovah. When we understand the distinctions between LORD, Lord, and lord, we can see what publishers have done. We can find Jesus Christ in the Old Testament by substituting Jehovah for LORD whenever it appears. Then something wonderful happens. Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ, appears from beginning to end of this great book as the God of the Old Testament. 3

The Savior’s ministry on earth did not begin with His birth. He is “the eternal I AM,” the Lord God Omnipotent who appeared to the patriarchs and prophets of old, who delivered Israel from Egypt, who gave the law on Sinai, and who guided and inspired the righteous prophets, priests, seers, judges, and kings of the Old Testament.

[photo] Photo by Kelly Larsen

Keith H. Meservy is an emeritus professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University and a member of the Pleasant View Third Ward, Provo Utah Sharon East Stake.

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    Notes

  1.   1.

    The Old Testament makes merely four direct references to Jehovah and three references to him that are names of altars (see Gen. 22:9, 14; Ex. 6:3; Ex. 17:15; Judg. 6:24; Ps. 83:18; Isa. 12:2; Isa. 26:4).

  2.   2.

    In Hebrew Adonai literally means “My Lord.”

  3.   3.

    In at least three Old Testament passages it appears that LORD applies to Heavenly Father, not Jesus Christ: Ps. 110:1; Ps. 2:7; Isa. 53:10.